A rain barrel reduces the use of treated water for outdoor needs, conserving resources and lowering water bills. The barrel collects rainwater that falls on the roof of the home and stores it for later use. This water can be used to irrigate your lawn and water outdoor plants. Installing a rain barrel at your home is not difficult if you follow these tips and steps.
You will need:
• Sealed or unsealed rain barrel
• Downspout diverter kit (for a sealed barrel)
• Tools required per barrel manufacturer installation instructions
• Hole saw (for a sealed barrel)
• Drill (for a sealed barrel)
• Metal saw (for unsealed barrel)
• Tape measure
• Safety goggles
Tip 1: There are many styles of rain barrels but most versions have a drainage outlet such as a spigot at the bottom for attachment of a garden or soaker hose. The spigot is positioned higher on some styles to fill a watering can.
Tip 2: Barrels may be unsealed or sealed, with the sealed version sitting next to a downspout and collecting water through a downspout diverter. Many diverters have an overflow prevention feature so that once the barrel is filled, excess rainwater will flow through the downspout in a normal manner.
An unsealed barrel features an open area on top that should be screened to trap debris and prevent insects and animals from entering. With an unsealed rain barrel, use the metal saw to cut the downspout a few inches higher than the barrel, reattach the downspout elbow, and place the barrel directly underneath the downspout to catch the water that travels through the spout. An unsealed rain barrel will overflow so near its top, it should have an overflow outlet featuring a hose attachment. Position the hose to direct the overflow away from the foundation of the home.
Tip 3: Rain barrels are available with different capacities, typically between 40 and 75 gallons. The amount of water collected depends on the size of the roof and how much rain your area receives. For example, with a downspout that drains water from a 400 square-foot area of your roof, if you get 1 inch of rain, you will receive approximately 250 gallons of water through your downspout, filling up the rain barrel rather quickly.
Tip 4: Every rain barrel must have a secure and childproof lid to prevent animals and children from entering the container.
Tip 5: The water in a rain barrel is unpurified runoff from the roof. It may contain bird droppings, bacteria, and other contaminants. It should never be used as drinking, bathing, cooking, or dishwashing water. Use it to water your lawn, water outdoor plants, wash your car, and rinse dirty lawn equipment.
Tip 6: Select which downspout near or under which the rain barrel will be installed. Placing the barrel near an area that will be watered frequently or close to a section of the yard that is difficult to reach with the garden hose makes it more convenient to use the collected water. Do not plan to move a full rain barrel because water weighs more than 8 pounds per gallon so a 50-gallon rain barrel weighs more than 400 pounds when full.
Tip 7: Install the barrel on a sturdy, level surface that can withstand the water weight. Using cinderblocks to elevate the barrel about 1 foot off the ground improves water flow and makes it easier to fill a watering can. However, water pressure will still be relatively low.
Tip 8: The tools required and the installation process vary based on model of rain barrel selected. Refer to the installation instructions provided by the barrel manufacturer for these details.
Tip 9: Install the rain barrel drain, spigot, and water inlet.
Tip 10: Place the rain barrel in position next to or under the downspout, depending on whether you are using a sealed or unsealed barrel. Use a level to verify that the area is level.
Tip 11: With a sealed barrel, cut a hole in the closest downspout to accommodate the diverter. Refer to the diverter kit for installation instructions because the hole must be at a specific height. If the hole is too low, the barrel will not fill and if it is too high, the barrel will overflow. Measure the height with the tape measure and use the pencil to mark the appropriate lines on the downspout, ensuring these are level by using the level tool.
Tip 12: A hole saw may be included with the sealed rain barrel. If not, purchase one in the appropriate size. Insert the hole saw on the end of your drill. Put on the safety goggles and gloves, then drill the hole in the appropriate area on the downspout.
Tip 13: Install the diverter in the hole and connect one end of the hose to the diverter and the other end to the rain barrel inlet. Secure the lid on the rain barrel.
Tip 14: During the first rainstorm, check the barrel to ensure that it fills properly. Also, make sure the overflow drainage is adequate.
Tip 15: Refer to the manufacturer instructions for rain barrel maintenance and winter storage.