Rain Barrels

Posted: April 24, 2011 in Being Green

Race one is in the books for 2011 season.  Now it’s high time I offset the hydrocarbons I burnt.  Ironically the one item I was going to do to offset my first race of the year was to install rain barrels around my house – and with my first race being in the rain – well I thought it was comical.

Why a Rain Barrel?:

  • It’s free!  Spend $50 for one and then use it for one summer and it is likely you’ve more than paid for it.  An easy way to calculate is figure out your water bill per gallon – then figure out how any gallons you need to break even.  After that it’s completely free.
  • Rainwater is much better for plants to drink as it has natural nutrients in it and does not contain chlorine and other additives tap water has.
  • We are letting free water escape our land.  Unfortunately most new home builders remove the top 2-4 inches of good black dirt when leveling a plot.  This good top soil is then hauled away and sold to companies that bag it and sell it back to you!  This practice unfortunately makes our soil underneath the sod very poor and impermeable as it is typically hard clay preventing deep root growth for plants and grass.  Water then takes a very long time to soak down into the clay, thus it winds up collecting as fast flowing water drowning the grasses’ shallow roots and then most of it flowing into the storm drains where it is gone.  Thus, a normal infrequent rain no longer satiates the water needs of most lawns (at least in my geographical location) and requires frequent watering using drinking / treated water during the summer.  By using treated clean drinking tap water it winds up wasting those substantial resources to make it safe to drink.

There are several methods and kinds of rain barrels you can install, however all must have the following:

  • Rain inlet for water from downspout to enter.
  • Sealed Lid and Rain Inlet to prevent mosquitoes from entering or mature mosquito form escaping.
  • Overflow if rain barrel gets full
  • Platform for rain barrel to sit on (high enough to set a bucket underneath)
  • Faucet / Tap so you can fill buckets for water use or attach a hose.  Because the barrel is high off the ground it has substantial pressure because of gravity forcing the water out.  You can even install an automatic timer to turn on a sprinkler or soaker hose.

Basic Rain Barrel Drawing

Rain Inlets:

  • The most common are where the down spout terminates into the rain barrel.  They are cheap and often have a screen at the top to filter out leaves and other debris.
  • Other kinds use an inline downspout filter where it runs a small hose to the rain barrel.  This allows you to keep the same runoff as the old downspout and to me a cleaner look.  This is what I installed (pictures below)

Styles of Rain Barrels:

  • Basic DIY Rain Barrel: You can DIY and buy a simple food grade 55+ gallon barrel and simply cut your gutter and have it terminate directly into the top of the barrel.  They are not very aesthetic looking but cheap and easy to DIY.  You can also buy these pre-assembled (even installed) for cheap.

Basic Rain Barrel - not the most pretty thing.

  • Aesthetic Rain Barrel: There are many kinds of these including whiskey / wine barrels; urn style; modern, etc.  These can come with planters at the top so you can have a hanging plant sit atop and droop over the sides.  It gets its water from inside the barrel with a wick so it does its own watering.

Designer Look Rain Barrel

  • If you really want to get serious and take as much advantage of free rainwater you can bury a cistern that’ll hold up to 50k gallons and then run a pump to do all landscaping sprinkling automatically.  These can save you hundreds of dollars or even up to thousands of dollars (commercial efforts).  These systems are very popular in Europe who as a continent is far ahead of the US in conserving resources – Greensburg, KS also has these systems in place and they are becoming more common for future building plans.  To learn more check out http://www.graf-water.com and their rain water harvesting technologies.

The rain water barrels I installed were Graf Water 55 gallon kit.  I bought each for $40 which was a great price as it included everything I needed.  It comes with the harvest bin, locking lid so it cannot be blown off (not shown), stand, downspout filter and hose, and faucet.

The inline downspout filter is a neat unit that filters out debris and lets the downspout still empty to its standard outlet.  It has a setting for spring/summer/fall where it allow water to go into the barrel.  The other setting is for winter where it closes the drain for the rain barrel.

I had a nice area underneath my deck where I installed the first unit.  It is well hidden out the of the way and looks nice next to the herb garden.  I bought another gutter flashing to help hold down the lower end as it became wobbly.  I used 100% silicone caulk to seal the filter (prevent mosquitoes).  Once we get our house repainted these items will be the same color.  I also had to install a 90 degree bend so I could mount the rain barrel to the side.  You can also buy other hose to run it longer distance if you want the barrel farther from the downspout.

I installed this the weekend before my first race weekend and the day I got back I went out to check it and it was completely full.  Was amazed how fast it took.  I’m now using it to water all plants inside and outside the house.  I will also install a dual faucet outlet so I can run a permanent soaker hose to our red bud tree off our deck and an automatic timer (our sprinkler system does not water this area).

  1. Rain barrels says:

    by your post i had aware of the rain barrels & conservation water resource.
    So thanks…….

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