Rain Barrels. You hear it, and think, I’ve heard of that. What is that? Well, if you own a home, or even a rental property, maybe you should do a little research, or hey, I’ll do it for you. Just think of how often you use your hose in your yard to wash the sidewalk, water the grass, water the plants, or fill your little pond. How many gallons are you using, and how cool would it be to use free water? Think of every time it rains, how nice it would be to use THAT water on a hot dry day, water that is literally going down the drain. Well, with the rising price of city water and drought restrictions now facing much of the United States during the hot summer months, more and more homeowners in our own modern society are turning to collecting rainwater to save money and protect this precious natural resource. For little money ($70 – $180 for a good one) and little time to set up, you can be using the earth’s free goodies in no time.
The construction of a rain barrel is quite simple. It’s a barrel, (clearly) with a filter/ screen at the top to keep out leaves, bugs, and other debris, that you place your downspout from your roof right on top of, and a spout to release the water that you can hook a hose up to. There are over flow valves, so you don’t end up with a big messy puddle under the barrel if you get too much rain. Check out this PDF File for specific construction. This Wood Rain Barrel below is a great example of a finished product.
Other than helping the planet, using a rain barrel is a great way to put money in your pocket. It’s easy to get started! You can purchase a rain barrel online or from some hardware stores, in 30 – 80 gallon sizes. For an example, the Recycled Plastic Whiskey Barrel is a great way to collect water. It’s got 50 gallons of space, and its made of earth friendly recycled plastic, since wood rots and is susceptible to being eaten by bugs, and plastic isn’t. It’s got a flat back to fit snugly up to a house, and leaving little room for weeds to grow. There are two overflow outlets built into the rain barrel; one on the front and one recessed at the back. The overflow valve can also be left sealed for maximum capacity in the rain barrel. If the barrel fills up with the valve sealed, it will overflow out of the secondary opening in the front. On arrival, the rear outlet is sealed with plastic from the mold. It’s light weight at only 19 lbs, 3′ tall, and 2′ wide at it’s widest. It will also blend into most homes as not to look tacky. And the retail price is only $160. Not to bad for all the water you will save!
Setting up your barrel can be quite simple. If you don’t have downspouts in obvious places, you can often still use one. You just have to find one of those troughs where two parts of the roof come together and water pours out whenever it rains. Place the rain barrel under one of those spots, and you’ll get plenty of water. Otherwise, you may need to dis-assemble part of your downspout to shorten it or re-route it to make sure your barrel can fit snugly underneath it with the downspout sitting on top.
This Garden Water Saver Attachment is an excellent choice in that it attached inline between joints of your spout and once your rain barrel is full water is automatically directed back out through the original spout. It does require a small amount of cutting with tin snips in order to fit properly. Check out this great Fiskars Rain Barrel site for many cool options and accessories.
It is important that the concentrated water flow be directed away from the house or into the barrel as too much water in one place near the house could result in foundation damage. So if you go on vacation, make sure to divert the water flow from the barrel until you return. Also, it is unwise to simply let the water fall from gutter into the barrel for any significant distance. For this particular installation the best solution was to use a plastic flex hose available at most home improvement stores. The flex hose can be secured using the existing straps and expanded and directed to the needed position. You can also find these flexible downspout redirectors online.
Your installed rain barrel should be placed on a stable surface. You may need to get a concrete blocks or pavers to place your barrel on. Your full barrel will be heavy, make sure it’s safe and secure! If you chose to use the lower mounting position for the spigot, be sure there is enough room for you to attach a hose in order to use the water you collect in the barrel.
And of course, remember to be safe. Don’t use a barrel with an open top to collect water, since it could be hazardous to small children and animals. Make sure your barrel is safe, secure, and level so it doesn’t tip over and ruin your lawn or land on someone. This is also a good point: “Standing water is also where mosquitoes breed best. As the West Nile virus and other diseases are important concerns these days, you’ll need to take appropriate measures to deter mosquitoes from breeding in your rain barrels. It only takes about ten days for mosquitoes to breed, so you should ideally empty the water in less than ten days. You should also use a fine screen over the top of the barrel so the mosquitoes can’t reach the water in the first place.”
Please use a quality grade barrel, and not a cheap substitute, since the rain barrels are made to hold water for days, unlike a trash can or big plastic barrel. Be sure to un-hook your barrel in the winter and store upside down so they don’t crack in the cold and become un-useable.
There you have it, a great start to saving the planet, one drop of rain at a time! Happy collecting!