Water Recycler (Grey Water)





Introduction: Water Recycler (Grey Water)

The area that I live in has been in a drought for a year or more. As such we now have water restrictions on washing the car, watering the garden etc. Initially I set up a drainage hose from the washing machine outlet to containers outside to enable me to collect the waste water so I could water the garden. This process worked fine except for the back breaking work of emptying the waste water (grey water) onto various places in the garden.

The next stage was to develop an automatic system that would distribute the grey water into the garden and have the following features.
1) Filter the water before sending it to the garden.
2) Automatic pump to allow water to be delivered to the high end of the garden.
3) Timer to prevent water stagnating in the tank.

The system uses a wheeled trash bin which is made out of 5mm thick plastic (nice and sturdy). Grey water comes into the top of the bin into a filter. When the bin fills to around 3/4 full, a water level switch triggers the pump controller to turn on the pump sitting at the bottom of the bin. The pump continues to operate until the lower water level switch is triggered.

The pump controller also has some logic built into the program to detect if water is in the bin but not high enough to operate the high water level switch. If this situation occurs, at 10 hour timer is started. If the water stays in the bin for 10 hours the pump will start and empty the bin. This stops the water from stagnating. I also have another timer that detects the run time of the pump. If the pump runs for longer than an hour (without any of the level switches being triggered) then the fault LED will be lit and all pumping will stop. This would indicate that the output pipe is blocked.

Step 1: The Schematic of the Pump Controller.

The pump controller is built around a PICAXE 8m PIC. The reason I chose this particular PIC is that it is programmed in BASIC and is cheap ($4 AUD) and I can't program in C to save myself.

There are 3 float sensor switches used in the project. Two of these float sensor switches detect high and low water levels of the tank. The third sensor detects when the water filter needs a clean.

The controller also drives 3 LED's that are mounted on a remote indicator panel in the laundry that indicates pump running, filter clean required & fault condition.

The transformer I used in the project has a 24VAC tap that I was going to use to power some water solenoids. Any voltage from 12VAC to 18VAC can power the circuit. The voltage regulator doesn't get hot as the PIC only draws a few milliamps. I also use a resistor to reduce the unregulated voltage to the pump relay which may need to be altered depending on the relay voltage.

Step 2: Make the PCB.

Make your PCB. I used the tried and tested toner transfer method. The attached schematic & PCB were done in Eagle. I'm just learning Eagle so please excuse my mistakes. I placed vias on most of the pads to increase there size. I found I just couldn't get the DRC rules right so I found this method easier.

Parts List
1x 8 pin IC socket.
1x 7805 5v regulator.
1x 1amp bridge rectifier.
2x PCB mount fuse holders for M205 fuse.
1x 500mA M205 fuse.
3x BC639 transistors.
12V relay with switch contacts rated at 240VAC 10 Amps.
3x 3way PCB screw terminal blocks 5mm spacing.
2x 2way PCB screw terminal blocks 5mm spacing.
1x 1N4004 diode.
1x 1000uf 35v (or higher) electrolytic capacitor.
6x 2.7K resistors 1/4 watt.
3x 10K resistors 1/4 watt.
1x 100nf ceramic or mylar capacitor.
1x 180ohm 1 watt resistor - note resistance and wattage may need to be varied due to supply voltage.
2x 5mm green LEDs.
1x 5mm red LED.
1x 5mm amber LED.
1x weatherproof box to house the controller.
1x small box to house the 3 status LEDs.
4x waterproof cable grommets with internal rubber glands.
Various size cable ties, heat shrink.

Parts list for the PIC programmer circuit
1x 10K resistor.
1x 22K resistor.
1x 9 PIN female DB connector (this connects to your PC / MAC).

Step 3: Programming the PIC

The PICAXE-8M is programmed via the serial port of your PC. The PICAXE editor and data sheets can be obtained from the following URL:-

The code is easily modified however I didn't put any "in circuit" program headers on the PCB so you'll have to take the PIC out to re-program.

The schematic & PCB could be used for other switching / sensor purposes with the required code changes made.

Here's the BASIC code:-

;Grey water controller MK2

symbol PUMP=0 ; name output 0 as the PUMP
symbol ERROR_LED=1 ; name the output 1 as the error (fault) LED

;high waterfloat switch = input 3, low water float switch = input 4

let dirs=%0000111
let pins=%0000000 ;ensure all outputs low

;float switches are inverse logic, a 0 means it is turned on
if input3=0 and input4=0 then debounce ;high water float mark
if input4=0 then inc_timer ;low water float mark
goto main_loop

let w0=w0+1
if w0=36000 then start_pump ;if water is in the tank for 10 hours, start pump
pause 1000 ;pause 1 second
goto main_loop

pause 500
if input3=1 then main_loop ;check if the float is still high

high PUMP ;turn on pump relay

if input4=1 then stop_pump ;check to see if low water
if w1=3600 then pump_error ;error if pumps operates continuously for more than 60 minutes
let w1=w1+1
pause 1000
goto pump_loop

low PUMP ;stop pump
let w0=0 ;reset stale water counter
let w1=0 ;reset error counter
goto main_loop

low PUMP ;stop the pump

if input4=1 then exit_loop ;stay errored until tank empty
pause 500
pause 500
goto error_loop

let w0=0 ;reset counters
let w1=0
low ERROR_LED ;reset error LED
goto main_loop

I set up the following circuit up on a prototyping board to program the PIC.

Step 4: The Mechanicals of the Project.

The pump I chose was a submersible type designed for dirty water. It was suppose to operate in the vertical position but it would not reliably deliver water after a few months of operation. I tracked the issue down to air in the impeller chamber. There was a small ball bearing that was suppose to let air escape and close the bleed hole when the pump was running. However grey water has soap in it. After some months this ball bearing was stuck in its hole preventing air escaping from the chamber.

The solution was to put the pump on its side to prevent air pockets from being created. A year later I think this mounting method was not in the best interest of the pump. The pump seems to have lost its punch, it still delivers water but not like it use to. I suspect the pump being on it side has let water seep into the motor bearings (only a theory).

The pump is mounted on a aluminum frame. The frame is secured to the bin at the top of the frame. This was done so that the bin is watertight. Any mounting holes in the bin are above the high water line. Also mounted on the aluminum frame is the 2 water level switches. These are sealed magnet & reed switch units and can be purchased at spa shops or here in Australia at Jaycar http://jaycar.com.au or Altronics http://www.altronics.com.au.

To stop the pump from sliding around at the bottom of the bin it is cable tied to the aluminum frame.

Step 5: Wiring It All Up.

The following instructions show how to wire up the controller to the pump and remote indicator panel.

For the power cord I used a power extension lead and chopped it in half. This method left me with a molded power socket for the lead that goes to the pump. That way I didn't need to butcher the existing power cord on the pump. Alternatively you could mount a power socket on the case of the controller.

Please ensure that the earth wire (green/yellow stripe) is connected from the power cord through to the lead going to the pump. To join the earth wires together I used a crimp lug that was then bolted to the transformer chassis (using star washer to ensure a good connection to the metal).

The transformer I used had flexible leads so I crimped the 3 neutral wires (blue) together using an insulated joiner (then heatshrink was placed over it).

To connect the 3 LED's on the remote indicator panel you need 4 wires. You can use Cat5 or phone cable. I also had a power LED that is mounted in the controller box itself (not remotely).

The remote indicator panel is made from a hobby box that you can purchase from electronic stores like Jaycar, Altronics, Dick Smith, Radio Shack etc. The lettering I used was Letraset rub on lettering. The weatherproof polycarbonate box was purchased from an electronic supply store. Ensure that it can be sealed to prevent rain from getting in.

Since you will be having a pump that is submerged in water you must power the controller / pump from a safety switch protected power outlet. You can find cheap extension cords that have a safety switch built into the plug.

Step 6: Setting It Up Outside

I installed the Grey Water recycling bin up the side of the house that has all the plumbing. The recycler needs a sewage inlet that the overflow pipe can connect to. It also needs a hose run from the outlet of the washing machine to the inlet (top) of the bin. You can connect your shower or bath to the bin but this would require major plumbing alterations. Also hear in Australia any permanent plumbing needs to be carried out by a licensed plumber. You also must not use the recycler for Black Water e.g. water from sinks & toilets for obvious smelly reasons.

The outlet of the recycler is feed into the garden via 19mm (3/4" I think) garden poly tubing. This is nice and cheap. In the garden I have buried slotted poly drainage pipe which the Grey Water empties into. You can't use sprinklers as the soap in the water will clog any small nozzles and also spraying the water could be a health hazard as any water left in the tubing will become stagnant. There is also the risk of inhaling waterborne bacteria so don't use sprinklers.

I have also noticed a range of low pressure drip hoses designed for tank water / gravity feed irrigation systems. I'm not too sure how long these hoses would last with the soap content in the water. They also could be used to deliver the water to the required locations in the garden.



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    Hi sir what would be the possible recommendation for this device to make a new improvement and make it more useful?

    My plants love greywater! It's not recommended to use greywater on food crops that grow underground (carrots, potatoes, etc), but in general it is fine to use on the garden. The plants like the nutrients. I have a low tech system that delivers my laundry water to berry bushes and cherry trees: I am careful to use only Eco soap with no salts or phosphates and have a three way valve to send the water to the sewer if I need to use bleach or am washing something that's not good for them. My plants are very happy and growing like crazy!

    What about using the dish-washer and clothes washing machines' waste water to flush your toilets .... hygienic too !


    Good to see someone thinking ahead. You could use a similar system to pump grey water with a submersible pump. You could use a pump with a rigid float and a timer on the power source. This way you could set the system up with a much lower volume of water to get it started. It would also save you having to design a controller but it looks like you are pretty good with that anyway :)

    Since you have an interest in sustainability, you might like this as well.


    Does this project have a purification or afitration device.

    does it have to run on ac i was thinking running it on solar pannels

    1 reply

    Just connect the 12VDC (I'm assuming the output is 12V) from the solar panel up to the AC terminals on the PCB. Don't use the AC transformer. This will then feed 12VDC strait into the voltage regulator. Don't worry about the polarity of the 12V from the solar panel as the bridge rectifier in the circuit will sort it out. Note that you may need to replace the resistor just above the relay with a wire link as I originally used a 12V relay which was running off 20V. Use a 12VDC pump.


    for those interested in grey-water systems, check out Art Ludwig's 'laundry to landscape' system. It's similar to slemke's but uses the washing machine pump to directly deliver the water to the mulch-beds, bypassing the need for a sump/bilge pump. I believe Art also uses a fairly large bore pipe to avoid lint blockages.

    Here's the link... http://www.oasisdesign.net/greywater/laundry/index.php

    Grey is now the new green. Grey water, if utilised immediately in exits your bathroom, is considered safe. However we need to be responsible with our grey water and how we use it. Go easy on chemicals in the bathroom when cleaning the bath and shower. Divert the grey water to the sewer if you have a family member with a "funny tummy" and never use a fine mist sprayer to irrigate with. Choose a low pressure pump with a sprayer that results in large water droplets. This consideration will prevent your grey water entering your neighbors garden as well as public walkways and storm water drains. As far as expense is concerned a good grey water product, one that does not store water but simply filters and diverts, should cost no more than $400.

    could you use grey water from the balcony? that would be rare but would still be good

    3 replies

    is your picture a penguin from miniclip.com and the game club penguin?


    it has its own official site though

    This is a beautiful setup. Mine works off two trash cans, a hose and gravity. I simply haul my hose to the plants and set the timer on my watch. Our well went dry a year after we bought our home, so we haul in our own water. With a family of 7 we generate a lot of laundry & now we have a nice green landscape with a little bit of work. I do not recommend Borax . I have tested it two times, it will kill the plants. I use bleach occasionally ,so I don't worry about it. If it was regular I wouldn't dump it on your plants though.

    It seems like putting soapy water into the garden is going to have a detrimental impact on plant growth.

    2 replies

    no in fact it will help as when you buy wetta soil and other wetting agents they contain similar materials and the soapy water is good to get rid of aphids

    Actually, the soap (phosphate or otherwise) is a great fertilizer for your lawn or garden. You have to make sure you switch to organic soaps, use NO bleach or powdered detergents (which contain heavy salts) in order to use this system. But liquid detergent can be great plant food in a system like this. What you don't want to do is put grey water ON the plants, but water the ground by running the outflow into a shallow pit next to the plants, which is filled with bark, stones or other porous materials.