McKINNEY, Texas Even with 16 acres worth of sleek new cars on the lot at Pat Lobb Toyota in McKinney, a slightly less-shiny silver number on the side of the dealership may be the coolest, most profitable piece of machinery on the premises.

In the seven years we have been in business, we have probably saved about $600,000 in what would have been water bill charges, boasted sales manager Robert Castle, referring to a nearly 9,000 gallon tank that provides all the landscaping water for the entire property.

Right now it s got about nine feet of water in it, he estimated.

Over the years, the tank has collected not just rain water, but also thousands of gallons of condensation coming from the air conditioning units that keep customers cool inside the showroom, which is always nice and chilly.

You have to at least have 72... that s traditional, Castle said. But here in Texas, it s more like 65 before you say, 'Okay, I m okay.' When it s humid and stuff like that, there is a lot of condensation. You may as well capture it and do something with it.

A growing number of homeowners are figuring that out, too.

At the Texas A&M AgrilLfe Extension in Dallas, they teach people how to configure barrels to capture water from home air conditioning units.

We turn it horizontal and feed the pipe directly into the barrel, and you can run a spigot off it, said Patrick Dickinson.

And for $50, they ll send you home with one of the barrels to collect your a/c condensate. You might be surprised how much water your unit is pulling out of the air and dripping out (usually down the sewer drain) as you re keeping cool inside.

Five to 20 gallons a day, depending on the size home and A/C unit you have, Dickinson explained.

Harvesting all those drops could provide up to 600 extra gallons of water a month for your flower beds. Of course, that won t cut your water bill enough to save for one of those new cars back at the dealership, but it just might save some struggling spots in your landscape.


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