Rain barrels are a thing of the past, or they used to be. They are making a big comeback due to the contribution they make to the local ecology and for water-saving abilities. Rain barrels were used since pioneer times as a water collection system.
In the past, rain was pristine and could be used for human consumption, but because of pollution and other contaminants, it is not suggested to drink rainwater anymore.
Still, it comes in handy for watering plants, lawns and washing cars. It is worth having a rain barrel especially if you live in a drought prone area.
The traditional way to collect rain in a rain barrel is to connect the downspout from the gutter system to flow into the barrel.
We attached a rain chain to our rain barrel, as you can see in the photo on the left.
A standard house roof collects a large amount of water. Even ¼ inch of rain can cause many gallons to collect on a roof. Most modern rain barrels hold 50 to 70 gallons and they can fill up in a matter of minutes. That is a lot of water being wasted.
Rain barrels of today are made of plastic, wood or steel. They can look like wood and be molded plastic. They can be simple, look like urns or have beautiful curves. There are a few features that every rain barrel must have to use it safely and to its fullest potential:
Safety must be taken into consideration when using a rain barrel. It will contain 50 or more gallons of water and if the base is not sturdy, it could fall and do harm to children, animals and your house.
It needs to have overflow protection. This means it must have an automatic turn off valve once it contains the maximum amount of water it can hold. If it doesn’t, it will drip down and, because rain barrels are placed close to a wall of a house, it can cause leakage into the house.
Rain barrels must be covered so that no animals or children can get in. It doesn’t take much water for a child or animal to drown. Another reason for the rain barrel to be covered is to keep mosquitos out so they do not lay eggs in the standing water and cause problems. Many barrels come with a filter screen of mesh that covers the top and keeps animals, children, insects and debris out.
Rain barrels need to have a metal spigot at the bottom that attaches to a hose. This is how you transfer the water in the rain barrel to what you want to water. Some rain barrels have pumps that pump the water out, but those are expensive. Gravity is all you really need.
The following are a few good rain barrels that are on the market today. They all are good examples of rain barrels and have all the features above, but don’t cost a fortune.
Upcycle Rain Barrels come in several sizes and is a good one for home use. The 55-gallon barrel is about 38 inches high and 22 inches in diameter and made of recycled polyethylene.
It has an area where the downspout enters with an automatic overflow feature. It is covered for safety and has a bottom spigot. This model runs about $130 to $140.
The RTS Home Accents 50-Gallon Rain Barrel looks like a wood barrel but is made of heavy plastic. It is flat on one side, so it can go right up against the wall. It is closed with a brass spigot for hook up to a hose. This barrel runs around $120 and is 34 inches high.
Yimbly Urn Style Rain Barrel is another 50-gallon barrel made from polyethylene.
It stands 33 inches high and looks like a big urn in tera cotta. This is enclosed with a metal spigot at the bottom and runs about $160.
Algreen Cascata Collection System is also terra cotta in color and holds 65 gallons of water.
It is very pretty with a teardrop shape and the plastic claims to be non-cracking or chipping. It does have the overflow feature and a spigot. It runs $170 to $180.
A rain barrel is a worthwhile thing to have especially if you live in drought areas, but anyone can benefit from the use of one. It will definitely help your water bill diminish as you can water your garden and lawn with the rain barrel contents. Those that live in cold areas should store their emptied rain barrels in a shed or garage over winter, so they don’t crack. They will last for years and give you the benefit of free rain water for your garden.