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Home / Tips and Tricks / How to install a rain barrel to save money and save the planet

How to install a rain barrel to save money and save the planet

About 30% of U.S. domestic water use goes to outdoor applications, such as irrigation or car washing. By reducing that use of your local water system, you can reduce local pollution and save a little money on your water bill. One way to get your water supply off the grid: put on a rain barrel. It is easy and inexpensive and takes no more than a few hours of work.

There are a few ways to set up a rain barrel, and you need to think about the specific conditions in your garden and how you want to use the water. Here are a few important things to keep in mind.


A 55 gallon drum like this will do the trick.

Chance Lane / CNET

Barrel of Rain

Despite the image that may come to your mind when you use the term & # 39; rain barrel & # 39; you don't technically need to use a wooden barrel to collect rainwater. A trash can, a drum or a bucket would work just fine. The container may be closed or open at the top, but if you go with an open container to catch rain immediately if it falls, make sure to cover openings with a mesh screen (1.2mm or smaller) to prevent mosquito breeding soil. If your container is transparent, paint it or wrap it in a cover to discourage algae growth.

  img-20200427-124612961 "height =" 0 "width =" 370 "data-original =" https://cnet1.cbsistatic.com/img/EdBQxMG3lcmB8HyZJzQYiUjNghM=/370x0/2020/05/08/3a90b184-d398 -4131-8fb2-3fd00766e7f2 / img-20200427-124612961.jpg

Prevent algae promoting sunlight . 19659005] Chance Lane / CNET

55-gallon drums are a popular choice for rain barrels, and you can buy a new one from Amazon for $ 85 . To save money, search locally for used copies. After figuring out my options, I ended up buying two 55-gallon drums for $ 7 each on Craigslist for someone here in southern Indiana.

Before buying a used barrel, it is important to know what you used it for before. Mine contained glucoamylase, an enzyme used to promote alcohol production in beer and spirits, probably used by one of the nearby distilleries. I cleaned it with a soap and bleach mixture, but even after that I wouldn't use the water from this or any other rain barrel for drinking. Unless you're willing to treat it somehow, rain barrel water stagnates and that's why you should consider it not drinkable.

Before we start getting water in your barrel, make sure again that everything you use as a rain barrel is opaque. The plastic barrels you will find there are often bright blue. That would be too much noticeable on most residential areas. I would also feel better to keep it closed from the sun if it had a darker color. I painted mine with external paint and primer. If you are using a container that is transparent, you will want to paint or wrap the drum with something to prevent organic growth inside.

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Besides the barrel and a drill, the EarthMinded DIY Rain Barrel converter kit comes with everything you need to connect your downspout to a rain barrel.

Chance Lane / CNET

Catch all this up

A river basin is a space that captures water. In this case, I decided I wanted to connect to our gutter system, using part of the roof as a drainage basin. This is a fairly common method, but not required. If you need to place your rain barrel in a secluded area outside your home, you can create a basin with a tarp. You could also go without an extensive catchment area and just leave a barrel in an open space to catch the rain immediately. Keep in mind that the larger the basin, the more rain you collect.

If, like me, you want to connect your loop to your gutter system, there are two ways to do it: an open connection or a closed connection.

An open connection is simple enough: place the opening of your container directly under the end of your downspout. Downspouts often run along the wall and end at the ground, so it may be necessary to cut away part of the downspout to achieve this.

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If you use a closed vessel, you must connect it to a water source. The kit I used includes this piece of flexible hose to go from downspout to barrel.

Chance Lane / CNET

With an open connection, there are a few other things to consider. First, mosquitoes. As mentioned earlier, each opening should be covered with a screen to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs in the container. Attaching a screen is not very difficult. Buy a sheet or a roll of it from your local hardware store and staple it in place. A screen also means you have to worry about that screen getting clogged with debris. Keep an eye on it and clean it up if necessary, especially if your rain barrel is near trees that drop leaves or other vegetative material.

If you go with a closed connection, no screen is needed anymore. The downspout is drained onto the barrel with a watertight connection.

The other thing to keep in mind is overflow. Once the container is full, the incoming water has to go somewhere. In my case it would run over my deck and cause damage. If you prefer, you can run an overflow pipe from the top of the container to safely drain the excess water elsewhere. Even a large barrel can fill up at night after a powerful downpour, so you'll want to take overflow seriously.

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Your downspout is a great source of water for a rain barrel, but you'll probably have to cut a hole in it.

Chance Lane / CNET

Come together

I initially wanted to design and build the barrel with an assortment of parts from the local hardware store – this seemed like it should have been easy enough. But after a few trips to the store, I couldn't think of an elegant way to create the downspout connection I imagined, and I got a cart full of adapters and transitions.

Instead I went with the EarthMinded DIY Rain Barrel Diverter and Parts Kit . I got mine for $ 35 at Walmart. The kit includes a neat fitting that connects your downspout to the barrel. When it rains, the fitting, called a FlexiFit diverter, directs only part of the water into the barrel. The beauty of this is that it removes the need for a separate overflow pipe. When the container is full, the incoming water will simply pass the collector and continue to run.

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The EarthMinded kit includes this clever diverter that fits into your downspout and directs water to your rain barrel. When the barrel is full, the water flows back through the downspout as usual.

Chance Lane / CNET

Built to Fill

The instructions included with the EarthMinded Barrel Kit are surprisingly detailed. And the necessary tools and parts were all included. It's a great option if you want to connect your loop directly to your downspout.

With this specific kit you set up the different connections to the barrel and then cut a hole in your downspout to install the diverter. With each installation, you want to seal anywhere mosquitoes have access to the barrel, including any cuts in your downspout. A silicone bead is usually sufficient.

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With the diverter in the downspout, the hose bridges the connection between the spout and the barrel.

Chance Lane / CNET

Once you've set everything up, you want to somehow get the water out of your barrel to actually use it. A short piece of threaded hookah with a cap on one end allows you to draw water into a watering can or bucket, although you can't control the flow that way, and you will likely get wet yourself if you take the cap off and put it back on. That still gives you a good way to drain the barrel quickly if you need to.

Another solution is a tap with an attachment for a short garden hose with a spray nozzle. That gives you more control over turning the stream on and off, and if you connect a hose you can spray your garden directly from the loop itself if it is nearby.

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With the tap I can easily control the flow from the barrel, I can even connect a hose to it.

Chance Lane / CNET

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