rain barrels for the home

chasskmMarch 11, 2013

Just wondering if anyone is currently using rain barrels for in-home water usage? Does this really work?



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We are planning to use rain barrels for outside water use (gardening/landscaping). We investigated the recycling of grey water, but decided there are too many potential complications. If you come across a good, safe system to incorporate rain water, I'd love to learn about it!

Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 12:01PM
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thanks for the response? You don't happen to live in CT do you?

Im a columnist for the CT Green guide and I'm working on a story about rain barrels. I would love to talk to a CT homeowner who is currently using rain barrels!!


    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 3:28PM
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I posted a lengthy response with detailed information to this question in the "Money Saving Tips" section on March 12. Sorry you missed it.


    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 5:39AM
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We’ve been using 2-recycled large plastic barrels in series for a few years now to collect rainwater from our roof for use in the garden. It works great with the added benefit of keeping the water well away from our foundation.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 9:49AM
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This is what I posted to the same question by the same OP in "Money Saving Tips".

Yes it works, and has been used successfully for water containment since downspouts and barrels were invented.... How well they work for you depends on your total capacity of water, how much and what you need to water, and how often you get rain. If you plan on watering your entire yard with one 50-gallon barrel, that's unrealistic.

We have approximately 1,000 gal. capacity in 9 containers at 5 downspouts around our home. We use ours for hand-watering, feeding the drip-hose system in the garden, or we can put a soaker hose on the barrels and use gravity feed to supply the water.

We use rain barrel water for our landscape plants, flower pots, container gardening, in-ground herb and vegetable garden. It's not enough water for our postage stamp size lawn. We don't have trees, but we let our neighbor use the water for his trees occasionally. Even with Xeriscape landscaping, there's still plenty to water.

We've never run out of water, but we have been down to two 150-gal. containers before it rained again. It takes 1/2" of rain to fill a 50-gallon barrel at our home. Rain is sometimes scarce during our hot and dry Kansas summers, and we've been in drought conditions more often than not since we installed our system in 2007.

One inch of rain on 1-square foot area (roof) = .6 gallons of water.

We purchased our containers at farm supply stores. Six are recycled 50-gallon barrels, which conveniently come with a nice brass spigot, and there are 3 larger containers which we fitted with spigots in the bung holes with parts we bought at True Value.


1. I believe a closed barrel is better than an open barrel system. An open system is where the downspout spills into the top of the barrel, which has a screen on the top. Open barrels will lose water through evaporation, and that's why we've chosen closed barrels. In order to use a closed barrel option you have to use a diverter of some kind attached to your downspout that feeds the barrel through a hose. We got our diverters from the Gardener's Supply Company (www.gardeners.com). Item #33-991. When the barrels are full the water goes down the downspout instead of an overflow hose. If you have an open barrel system, don't forget to install an overflow hose. There are other types of diverters available if you check on-line. The diverters and your barrels need to be removed each fall if you live where you have freezing temperatures.

2. If you have a long run of gutter on your home you can link two or more containers together side-by-side. We have 2 containers linked together at all but one location. If you want the linked barrels to fill at the same time, you link them low on the barrel. If you want them to fill one at a time, link them high on the barrel - so after the first barrel is filled, it will spill into the next barrel. Gardener's Supply Company have kits for linking barrels (item #33-993).

3. You need to raise your containers off the ground in order to increase the gravity flow, and you can do that with concrete blocks or build wooden racks to hold the barrels. Make sure the blocks are on stable ground or on a flat support. The higher off the ground the containers are, the more water force, so keep that in mind if you plan on using a hose with it.

We used fiberglass pads used for holding air conditioning units as the base, with one course (layer) of concrete blocks on top of that. Without the fiberglass pads our blocks would sink into the ground making the barrels unstable.

We use watering cans for much of our watering, so we made sure our barrels were off the ground enough we could sit our cans under the spigots.

4. The "barrels" can be any size or shape, so check your farm supply store if you want something larger, and often less expensive.

5. We painted our barrels to match our house using special primer and paint that can be used on plastic. We purchased the paint from Sherwin Williams.

Our first barrel was a 210-gallon container used in the back of pick-ups to haul liquids. It has an oval shape and we painted it with spray paint to look like a giant ladybug, but one hail storm later it destroyed the paint so we painted it with the special paint from Sherman Williams and it withstands hail much better.

If you purchase white containers you need to paint them because they allow enough light in for algae to grow in the containers.

6. If you are going to water your lawn you may also want an electric or battery-powered pump to feed the water to your sprinkler, or you can use a soaker hose and only need gravity feed. We have a solar-powered pump we use to feed water to the drip-system in the garden.

7. We power-wash the containers out each spring before connecting them to the downspouts, so make sure you can easily handle the containers if you plan on cleaning them.

8. How much is enough? A 100-sq. ft. garden needs 1-inch of rain, or 60 gallons, per week. You can figure the same amount for lawns.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 1:44PM
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