Rain Barrels

Save water to keep your garden happy and healthy

Rain Barrels - Buying Guide

Watering your lawn and garden can account for up to 40% of your total household water use. A rain barrel collects and stores rainwater from your roof that would otherwise be lost to runoff and diverted to storm drains and streams for later use in your yard and garden. They are especially useful during droughts or during water restrictions. This guide will teach you all about the many benefits of using rain barrels.

Types

Choose from plastic, ceramic, wooden, stone or metal rain barrels. Pick the type that best matches your home’s exterior style.

Residential rain barrels range from small 15-gallon models to larger commercial sizes designed to hold up to 1,000 gallons. Some modular cistern designs have greater storage capacities for larger agricultural and industrial operations.

They are also typically opaque to prevent the exposure of stored water to sunlight. This decreases the growth of algae inside the barrel.

Plastic and polyethylene

Plastic and polyethylene

  • Most popular options
  • Light weight and inexpensive
  • Available in a wide assortment of shapes and colors
  • Deteriorates in sun and elements, so they must be located in an area with adequate UV protection
Ceramic clay or stone

Ceramic clay or stone

  • Ideal for capturing smaller amounts of rain water
  • Can be highly decorative and make attractive additions to flower and small vegetable gardens
  • Installation can sometimes be difficult due to the unwieldy nature of natural or ceramic stone
Wooden

Wooden

  • Add a real rustic feel to homes and gardens
  • No possibility of B.P.A contamination
  • Have heavier catchment systems are heavier
  • Typically more expensive than plastic
  • Available in hardwoods such as oak, beechwood, and hickory, as well as long-lasting woods like cedar
Galvanized metal

Galvanized metal

  • Usually incorporate flexible membrane liners
  • Ideal for large rainwater storage systems
  • Intended as more permanent fixtures
  • Not very aesthetically appealing for normal residential settings

All About Rainwater Harvesting

Learn about rainwater storage, filtration, distribution, conveyance and collection.

Storage

In arid areas where rainfall is light and drought is common, large storage tanks can be expensive but well worth the money. If rain falls often in your region, consider a smaller system like a rain barrel to handle your watering needs during the occasional dry spell.

Make sure that your rainwater collection devices are covered and tightly sealed. This helps minimize mosquito populations and prevents the devices from becoming a drowning hazard to small children. Tightly secure your storage device to the ground so that it won't easily fall over. One gallon of water weighs over 8 pounds, so even a half-full 55-gallon drum can be a crushing hazard.

Filtration

In arid areas where rainfall is light and drought is common, large storage tanks can be expensive but well worth the money. If rain falls often in your region, consider a smaller system like a rain barrel to handle your watering needs during the occasional dry spell.

Make sure that your rainwater collection devices are covered and tightly sealed. This helps minimize mosquito populations and prevents the devices from becoming a drowning hazard to small children. Tightly secure your storage device to the ground so that it won't easily fall over. One gallon of water weighs over 8 pounds, so even a half-full 55-gallon drum can be a crushing hazard.

Distribution

Once you have filtered the water in your rainwater storage tank, you can retrieve it with a manual hand pump, electric pump or through a spigot. Most of the rainwater storage tanks available to homeowners come equipped with a standard garden spigot near the bottom of the tank where you can easily hook up a garden hose.

For larger irrigation systems or systems where most water is stored below grade, a pump is generally required to get the water out of the storage tank. There are two pump types, manual and electrical. Hand pumps require manual energy and aren’t as convenient as electrical pumps which cost more, but will enable you to water plants in a raised or hanging location with ease.

Conveyance

With a rainwater harvesting system, the water must be moved from the collection system to the filtration and storage tank before you can use it. For standard roof-collecting systems, gutters are the first part of the conveyance stage. The most common place to tap into a conventional gutter system is at the downspouts. From there the water can be diverted directly into a rain barrel or storage container.

You can cut the existing downspout and attach it directly to a filtering device, or you can install a downspout diverter to direct excess water down and away from your home when the rain barrel is full.

Collection Calculations

The amount of water you can collect from a rainwater collection system is determined primarily by the rainfall in your region and the size of your roof. One inch of rainfall over a square foot results in approximately 0.6 gallons of water.

So the accepted rule of measurement is calculate how many inches of rain you get in an average month, multiple that by 0.6, then multiply by the width of your home’s roof that drains into your barrel in feet.

So here’s the formula:

Rain caught in June (in gallons) = (inches of rainfall in June) x 0.6 x (width of home in feet)

Installation & Maintenance

When it comes to maintaining your rain collection system, no matter where it is located, there are certain initial and ongoing steps that should be conducted to keep your system operating properly.

  • For safety and to minimize intrusion by animals or breeding of mosquitoes, make sure to that the collection system has a cover that adequately encloses the unit.
  • Maintain a debris-free conveyance system. This would include inspecting gutters and downspouts.
  • Regular cleanings will prevent blockage.
  • Periodically flush debris from container bottom.
  • Inspect your system after a heavy rain and at the end of the rainy season for leaks, overflows or water in inappropriate areas.
  • Look for any occurrences of overflow and determine a plan for addressing the harvesting of this excess water if appropriate. An additional collection system or overflow container may be needed.
  • Winterize your rain barrel system when temperatures are below 41-deg. F or 5-deg. C by completely draining the barrel. If storing outside, be sure to turn the barrel upside down and place a heavy object on top to keep it from blowing away. Emptied rain barrels can also be stored in a shed, garage or basement during the winter months.
  • Rain barrels are for water collection and outdoor use only. Rainwater harvested from roofs can contain animal and bird feces, windblown dust, pesticides and particles from pollution making it unsuitable for drinking. No other uses are recommended.
  • Protect your home’s siding with a sheet of wood inserted between the downspout and the siding to prevent damage.
  • Downspout edges may be sharp. Wear protective gloves when cutting and handling downspouts to avoid cuts or scratches. Always wear safety glasses when doing cutting or drilling to prevent eye injuries.