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

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

About 30% of American household water use goes to outdoor purposes such as irrigation or car wash. Reducing usage from your local water system can reduce local pollution and save some money on your water bill. One way to get your water supply off the grid: Set up a rain barrel. It's simple and economical and it doesn't take more than a few hours of work.

There are a few ways to go about setting up a rain barrel and you need to think about the specific circumstances of your garden and how you intend to use the water. Here are some important things to keep in mind.


A 55-gallon drum like this one will do the trick.

Chance Lane / CNET

Water with rain

Despite the image that may come into your head when you hear the word "rain barrel", you do not need to use a wooden barrel to collect rain water. A trash can, a drum or a bucket works well. The container can either be closed or open at the top, but if you go with an open container to catch rain immediately when it falls, make sure to cover any openings with a mask screen (1.2 mm or less) to avoid creating a mosquito breeding ground. If your container is transparent, paint it or wrap it with a cover to prevent algae.

  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

Painting your barrel a dark color helps keep out 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 . If you want to save money, look for second hand locally. After pricing my options, I ended up buying two 55-gallon drums for $ 7 each on Craigslist for some local here in southern Indiana.

Before buying a used barrel, it is important to know what it was used for before. The mine contained glucoamylase, an enzyme used to promote alcohol formation in beer and spirits, likely used by one of the nearby distilleries. I cleaned it with a mixture of soap and bleach, but even after that I wouldn't use the water from this or any other rain barrel for drinking. Unless you are prepared to treat it in any way, rainwater is stagnant, so you should consider it not potato.

Before we get water in your thinner, the first thing you should do is make sure everything you use as a rain barrel is opaque. The plastic drums you find there are often light blue. It would stand out too little in most residential areas. I would also feel better about keeping it sealed from the sun if it was a darker color. I painted mine with external spray paint and primer. If you use a container that has some openness, you want to paint or wrap the drum with something to prevent organic growth inside.

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In addition to the drum and a power drill, the EarthMinded DIY Rain Barrel conversion kit comes with everything you need to connect your downspout to a rain barrel.

Chance Lane / CNET

Capture all of this

A catchment area is a space that catches water. In this case, I decided that I wanted to connect to our plumbing system by using a section of the roof as a drainage area. This is a fairly common method, but is not required. If you need to place your rain barrel in a remote area away from your house, you can create a basin with a tarp. You can also go without an extended catchment area and just leave a barrel outside in an open area to catch rain directly. Keep in mind that the larger the catchment area, the more rain you will receive.

If, like me, you want to connect your barrel to your intestinal system, there are two ways to do this: an open connection or a closed connection.

An open connection is simple enough: Put the opening of your container directly below the end of your downspout. Downspouts often run down the wall and end near the ground, so you may need to cut some of the downspout to achieve this.

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

Chance Lane / CNET

With an open connection, you have some other things to think about. First mosquitoes. As mentioned earlier, each opening must be covered with a screen to deter mosquitoes from laying eggs in the container. Attaching a screen is not that difficult. Buy a sheet or roll with it in your local hardware store and staples on site. A screen also means you have to worry about the screen being covered by debris. Keep an eye on it and clear as needed, especially if your rain barrel is near trees that are losing leaves or other vegetative matter.

Going with a closed connection removes the need for a screen. The down outlet is movable to the barrel with a waterproof connection.

The other thing you need to think about is the abundance. When the container is full, incoming water must go somewhere. In my case, it would spill over onto my tire and cause damage. If you wish, you can run an overflow line from the top of the reservoir to safely channel the excess water elsewhere. Even a large drum can be filled overnight after a heavy rain, so you want to take abundance seriously.

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

Chance Lane / CNET

Come Together

I originally wanted to design and build the barrel with a selection of parts from the local home improvement store – it seemed like it should have been easy enough. But after a few trips to the store, I couldn't find an elegant way to create the downward connection I had imagined, and I ended up with a cart full of adapters and transitions.

Instead, I joined EarthMinded DIY Rain Barrel Diverter and Parts Kit . I got mine for $ 35 at Walmart. The kit contains a stylish luminaire that connects your downward direction to the barrel. When it rains, the luminaire, called FlexiFit Diverter, directs only part of the water to the barrel. The nice part of this is that it removes the need for a separate overflow line. When the container is full, the incoming water will simply bypass the collector and continue to run down the pipe as normal.

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The EarthMinded kit includes this smart balancer that fits inside your downspout and brings water to your rain barrel. When the drum is full, the water flows back through the downpipe as normal.

Chance Lane / CNET

Built to fill

The instructions with EarthMinded Fatkit are surprisingly detailed. And all the necessary tools and parts were included. It is a good option if you want to connect your barrel directly to your downspout.

With this specific kit, you set the various connections to the drum and then cut a hole in your downspout to install the diverter. With all installations, you want to seal anywhere that allows mosquitoes to access the barrel, including any cuts in your downspout. A bead of silicone is usually sufficient.

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With the diverter installed in the downpipe, the hose bridges the connection between the spout and the drum.

Chance Lane / CNET

Once you've installed it, you want some way to get the water out of your barrel for it to be used. A short threaded plumbing pipe with a lid at one end allows you to draw water into a watering can or a bucket, although you will not be able to control the current that way, and you will probably get wet when you remove the cap and set on it again. It will still give you a great way to empty the dish quickly if you need to.

Another solution is a pin with bracket for a short garden hose with a spray nozzle. It gives you more control over turning the power on and off, and if you connect a hose you can spray your garden directly from the barrel itself if it is nearby.

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The pin allows me to easily control the flow from the barrel. I can even connect a hose to it.

Chance Lane / CNET

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