Rain barrels collect and store stormwater runoff from your roof. They attach directly to a downspout and fill automatically with every rainfall. Once the barrel is full, water will be diverted through the remaining downspout, avoiding spillover. Water collected in a rain barrel can be used in various ways! You can water your lawns or garden, wash your car, and when connected to residential plumbing you can also use this water for flushing toilets and washing clothes.
- Ensure that the ground is firm and level, which can be achieved using patio stone as a base. Fill the bottom of the rain barrel with 2-3 inches of water to test stability.
- If you will be using the stormwater for watering plants, consider raising the base on cinder blocks to leave room for a watering can beneath the spigot or to improve the gravitational flow of water through a hose.
- Locate a garden at least six feet from your foundation to where an overflow hose can divert excess water.
- No space for a rain barrel next to your downspout? Connect a long overflow hose between your downspout diverter and distant rain barrel. Keep in mind that the hose will become weighed down with water, so be sure to connect the hose to the wall using hooks or clamps.
Rain barrels can be purchased fairly inexpensively from your local hardware store. You can also build your own rain barrel using a food-grade plastic barrel and a few pieces of hardware. The installation of most purchased rain barrels will involve cutting your downspout slightly above the barrel lid, and inserting a diverter.
Creating Your Own Rain Barrel
Items you will need:
- A barrel
- PVC reducer coupling (4″ to 3″)
- 4″ hose clamp
- Spigot with an o-ring and faucet lock nut
- Screen material
- Downspout diverter
- Silicone caulking
- Tool to cut 3″ circles
- Thoroughly clean the barrel.
- Secure the lid in place and make a hole with a 3″ diameter in the lid near the edge of the barrel. It is important to have the hole near the edge of the barrel to allow the downspout to easily be redirected.
- Insert the narrow end of the PVC reducer into the hole.
- Fit the screen material across the wide end of the reducer and secure with the hose clamp. The screen will help keep out insects, leaves and other debris.
- Drill a smaller hole the size of your spigot 1/4 of the way up the barrel.
- Remove the lid.
- Inset the spigot with the faucet on the outside of the barrel. On the inside of the barrel, put some silicon sealant around the threaded end of the faucet and slip the o-ring around the end. Secure the spigot by screwing on the faucet lock nut.
- Replace the lid.
- Install the diverter on your downspout and attach it to your rain barrel. Make sure your diverter is never higher than your rain barrel. Once the barrel is full, the back pressure will cause the water to continue down the downspout, but if the diverter is higher than your barrel it could cause it to overflow.
- Remember to disconnect your rain barrel in the winter months. Water expands when it freezes and could damage the components of the rain barrel.
Connecting Rain Barrels in Series
Typically, a good rain can easily fill more than one rain barrel. Connecting two or more rain barrels is a simple way to increase your capacity to store rainwater.
- Clear an area large enough to place the second rain barrel beside the first.
- Make a level platform for the second rain barrel, at an equal or lower height than the first barrel.
- Connect the overflow from the first rain barrel to the second rain barrel.
- Direct the overflow of the second rain barrel towards vegetation or down a gentle slope at least 1.8 meters from your foundation. It is not recommended to direct overflow to paved surfaces as this may cause cracking and guides run-off towards municipal storm sewers.
- Spigots for attaching hoses or filling watering cans.
- Filters to improve water quality.
- Overflow spout, installed above any connector pipes to allow for maximum collection.
- Mesh to prevent children and animals from getting into the water, and to prevent mosquitoes and other insects from breeding in the barrel’s standing water.
- Patio stone, bricks or other solid surface to prevent a full, heavy barrel from sinking into wet ground.
- Cinder blocks or other elevated surface to allow gravity to increase water pressure.
Rain barrels require minimal maintenance, but there are a few practices that will improve the way they function.
- To reduce clogging, clean eaves troughs, which reduce the maintenance required and prevent moisture-retaining debris from collecting.
- Use collected water between each rain event to allow for maximum water storage.
- Disconnect the downspout and drain the rain barrel before winter to prevent ice from forming and cracking the barrel. Barrels should be stored upside down in a shed or sheltered area during winter months to prevent snow and ice damage.