Rain Barrels

chasskmMarch 11, 2013

Has anyone ever used rain barrels to cut down on home water usage?

Please let me know if this actually works!



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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 12, 2013 at 8:37AM
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We have a rain barrel on each of our downspouts (except the one that only collects from a 3' wide stretch of roof--didn't seem worth installing one there).

We're not as heavily into the ins and outs as the previous poster, but let me just add my impressions.

We rarely had to use 'house' water for the garden last summer--the water in the barrels was enough to take care of most of our garden, most of the summer.

Because of the placement of the barrels, watering some areas of our yard is a LOT more convenient--they're closer to where we need the water than our spigots are.

Having the rain barrels has stopped the erosion you get at the base of your downspout--a nice side benefit.

Several frogs (or maybe they were toads?) discovered our barrels and enjoyed living there last summer (and we enjoyed having them).

We got ours after the summer season, so we were able to pick up about 8 - $90 rain barrels for only $25 EACH! saving 100's of $$$

Don't forget, you want to consider mosquito control--screening the barrels, using mosquito dunks, or minnows for example. I've been toying with the minnow idea, but wonder if they'd be sucked down into the hose when the water is used?

We've been happy with ours, though--and they have a lot to recommend them.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 10:47AM
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Is this question for real kaitiechasse?

Has anyone ever used rain barrels to cut down on home water usage? - Not for home water usage, ewwww!

Please let me know if this actually works! - Our rain barrels work for watering the garden and the fruit trees and such.

And collecting rain water does save on the water bill, of course.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 11:00PM
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Works for flushing toilets.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 12:12AM
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I would never ever drink rain water, nor do I drink from puddles or garden hoses. My local tap water is tested daily for contaminants.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 8:51AM
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Rainbarrels are great as an extra source of water. It's storming? No loss of water for the toilet! You also have water for flowers, vegetables etc although in a dry year, not enough. One caveat to consider; are they allowed where you live. Many communities won't allow them. Mosquito control is also a must.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 7:51PM
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I wouldn't mess with rain barrels. More trouble than they are worth. Our water runs about $11.00 a month for all uses.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2013 at 5:42PM
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Double post, sorry.

This post was edited by Yorkies2 on Fri, Apr 26, 13 at 21:55

    Bookmark   April 26, 2013 at 5:46PM
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"More trouble than they are worth."

Care to elaborate?
What trouble have you had with them?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2013 at 1:11PM
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I, too, would like to know how you've found that rainbarrels are trouble to use? we've had ours a couple of years now, and they're no trouble at all. And since we have 7 rainbarrels spaced around our house and garage, but only 2 useable outside spigots--using the rain barrels is far MORE convenient than watering with 'spigot water' since they're closer. And now that I have them, I do try to plant my annuals near the barrels.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 7:14PM
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They work very well. I've used them for years. We got ours from an Italian deli that sells them on occasion. I think just 10 dollars. Our vacation home has a well and when the power went out for a week we could flush, wash up a bit, heat a bucket on the woodstove etc. (not for drinking) but i was tempted. And could have if needed.
Even at our primary home it does help with new plantings and a soaker hose. It is free water. And alot of it. Just need to be a bit handy with fittings. We just had a week of rain in NY but many parts have serious droughts. Thinking it is silly is just lack of understanding. If you have been through serious storms like Sandy, you would re-think that. Even those on town water could loose access if something serious happens to the supply. Many here were not prepared at all. We only lost power but we were very prepared. Filled gas tanks, made extra ice, filled jugs from our filter system for drinking water, Pre-ground lots of coffee, haha. (we have a storm list)
With so much rain it is always full. I use a screen and have mosquito dunks though rarely use them. Floating a bit of mineral oil on top will help as well.
Solar pump is a great idea if needed to go up-hill a bit. I can set it open to slow drip soak and go off to work on a dry hot day. Ours is by the garage hidden from view near the greenhouse with a watering can floating inside. Actually more handy than chasing a hose, turning on and off from the town supply, or worse, forgetting to turn off from the source and having a small leak all day running the meter. It is not even that big and 55gal is a lot of water when you think about it. Very easy to attach a few together. I plan to get another. I sacrificed one to make a rolling composter by drilling holes in the sides. A bit speedier that my standing bin system.

During Sandy we had a houseful of stranded friends that had flights cancelled. Imagine 6 adults unable to flush a toilet!?

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 11:59AM
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I'm so happy that I installed 5 rain barrels around the house (each of our downspouts empties into a rain barrel). I've got very little income, but I'm an avid gardener who needs to water her plants! My rain barrels got me through years of severe drought and I'm thankful for them.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 1:46PM
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I see no advantage to use rain barrels. Water is so cheap here and we don't get all that much rain in Arizona. I have a huge motorhome that has 100 gal of water in case of emergency. Even with family here and watering the yard, my bill is never over $11.00 a month.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 11:07PM
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I see no advantage to use rain barrels. Water is so cheap here and we don't get all that much rain in Arizona. I have a huge motorhome that has 100 gal of water in case of emergency. Even with family here and watering the yard, my bill is never over $11.00 a month.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 11:31PM
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