Collecting rainwater is nothing new, but modern rain barrels are introducing the old tradition to a new generation of gardeners and others who want to conserve resources. According to statistics by the EPA, about 30% of daily water consumption by U.S. families comes from outdoor usage. In dryer parts of the county like the southwest, this can be up to 60%. Rain barrels not only offer a list of benefits to the environment and the user, but they can also be an attractive addition to your landscape or garden.
Rain Barrel Advantages
Direct unwanted water away from a home's foundation
Keep local waterways cleaner by reducing the amount of storm-water runoff
Provide free water for landscaping
Conserve drinking water and decrease the workload of your city's water system
How it Works
At its most basic, a rain barrel sits under an open-down spout on your home or garage to catch water when it rains. The collected water can then be used to fill containers for spot watering or for outdoor cleaning. However, it only takes a few additions to turn an awkward barrel full of water into a functional collection system. Fitting a spigot into the body of the barrel makes it easier to fill water receptacles or water directly from the barrel with a hose. A filtering basket and lid prevent the spigot from getting clogged and keeps the water clean. Only wooden or food-grade plastic barrels should be used to build a rainwater collection system.
Manufactured rain barrels offer a variety of additional options including flat-backed models that fit neatly against a building, the ability to connect several barrels together for major watering power, or self-watering planters on the top of the barrel that increase aesthetic appeal.
Installation and Maintenance
A level, perforated surface, one which allows excess water to drain, should be prepared for the barrel. Allowing excess water to pool on or around cement foundations could result in serious damage. Store-bought rain barrels come as complete kits to fit the end of the downspout into the top of the barrel. Preparing a level site and connecting the barrel are the only steps for installation.
Rain barrels do require some maintenance. Regular cleaning and scrubbing will prevent bacteria from building up in the water and causing a bad odor. Unless you live in an area that receives regular rain throughout the year, it makes the most sense to use the collectors during the rainy season, wash and store them, then wash and re-install before the rains begin again.
In the End
Rain barrels are an incredibly useful way to conserve water and ultimately save you money by decreasing your energy costs when it relates to your water bill. It’s all about making these small changes to our homes and habits that really add up to make a bigger difference in the end. Remember, rainwater isn’t considered safe to consume, but it's a great resource for keeping the landscape green without depleting your community's municipal water source.
To learn more about how you can conserve water and save, check out our extensive article on 30+ ways to save water at home. For other home tips and more, head over and explore the rest of the Home Channel TV blog.