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In its most basic definition, a rain barrel can be described as a container that is used to capture and store rainwater. Modern barrels usually have a maximum capacity of between 50 and 80 gallons, and they feature a spigot for filling water jugs or cans. Most can also be connected to a soaker hose. Using a rain barrel conserves water and promotes eco-consciousness. Not only will using a barrel benefit your home and garden, but it will also benefit your community at large. Most are available as a kit that includes the container and drain hose.
Buying the best rain barrel for your home will save you a significant amount of money on your water bills over time. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 40% of all water usage in the United States during the summer months comes from residential water use. By using a single container, a homeowner can conserve 1,300 gallons of water over the course of the spring and summer. A half inch of rain is more than enough to fill a 50-gallon rain barrel to the brim. A quality model provides a free source of water for irrigating the plants in your garden, and it lessens your reliance on your community’s water supply. It also provides a free water source during times of drought or water restrictions.
What many homeowners do not realize is that using the best rain barrel they can get their hands on, protects the integrity of their home’s foundation. By collecting rainwater, you are able to control the amount of moisture that settles in the soil around the foundation of your home. This significantly lowers your chances of flooding or developing mold.
From a green perspective, rainwater is simply better for your garden’s soil and plants. Tap water has fluoride compounds, salt, and inorganic ions that collect in soil over time. There is some evidence to suggest that these elements can harm microorganisms and plant roots in the soil. By comparison, rainwater is free of these harmful components and is highly oxygenated. Using rain water barrel makes your plants stronger, more drought tolerant, and healthier overall.
Quick look: list of the best rain barrels to consider for your property
- Upcycle Rain Barrel: considered the best rain barrel on my list, large capacity, quality construction
- Good Ideas RW40: authentic “barrel” look, brass spigot and overflow spout
- Enviro World EWC-10:
55 galloncapacity, high quaily molded plastic for added durability
- Achla Designs RB-03: decorative design, built in
hosewith storage, 50 galloncapacity
- RTS Home Accents: wood grain design with brass spigot, includes screen to keep debris out
Rain Barrel Buying Guide
Not all models are created equal, and just because a particular model has a higher price tag, it does not necessarily mean that it is the best rain barrel for your home and garden.
Tips to consider before buying a rain barrel:
- Safety – The average model will hold 50+ gallons of water. The tank’s design should be both animal proof and childproof. Moreover, you’ll need to ensure that the base the barrel sits on is sturdy in order to prevent the barrel from accidentally being tipped over.
- Overflow – Ideally, the unit that you purchase should have an automatic overflow valve that turns on once the barrel has reached its maximum capacity of rainwater.
- Filtering Screen – The best rain barrel models should have a fine mesh screen that covers the top. This keeps leaves, twigs, and other debris from getting inside of the container, as well as insects. A full, uncovered barrel can provide the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes in the summer.
- Construction – Rain barrels can be made from a wide variety of different materials, ranging from recycled plastic to stainless steel. You may find that the best rain barrel for you is made from old wine and whiskey containers, which prevents the materials from being dumped in a landfill. Environmental experts encourage users to choose barrels made from recycled materials when possible, but personal preference can be your guide here.
- Capacity – A rain storm can fill a 50-gallon model in under an hour. An increasing number of homeowners are choosing to link multiple barrels together to maximize the amount of water they can harvest. If you plan to do this, look for a rain barrel that offers an outlet for attaching a linking hose.
- Location – Before you begin shopping for the best rain barrel your needs, decide where you will be placing it next to your home (e.g. next to a rain spout). Establishing the placement and the amount of available space will help you determine what size of unit you can purchase.
- Rebates – There is a growing number of municipalities who are offering tax rebates and other subsidies for homeowners who harvest rainwater, so make sure to check with your town or city’s local water agency to see what rebates are available to you.
Tips For Maintaining Your Rain Barrel
If you have done your homework and purchased the best rain barrel for your home, it should provide you with many years of use; however, like all things, your new rain barrel will require a bit of maintenance and upkeep to keep it operating properly.
- Make sure the conveyance system for the water is free of debris. This means that you should inspect your home’s gutters and spouts once a month to ensure that they are free of debris.
- Clean your barrel regularly. Most manufacturers recommend draining and rinsing out your container once every 3 to 4 months. Doing so prevents blockages from forming. Don’t forget to flush debris from the container’s bottom.
- Inspect your barrel after a heavy rain and at the end of the rainy season. You should check for overflow, leaks, and water in inappropriate locations. If water overflow becomes an issue, then you may need an additional rain barrel or water collection system.
- When temperatures fall below 41 degrees Fahrenheit, winterize your rain barrel. Your unit should be thoroughly drained and allowed to air dry. If you’ll be storing your rain barrel outside, it should be turned upside down and a heavy object placed on top to prevent it from falling over or being blown away. An empty container can also be stored in a shed or garage during the winter months.
- Protect your home’s siding. Placing a thin sheet of wood between your home’s siding and the downspout will prevent any accidental damage to the siding.
Rain Barrel Reviews
1) Upcycle Rain Barrel
- Made from recycled plastic
- Can link to other units to fill from a single downspout
- Holds 55 gallons of rainwater
- The angle of the overflow valve can cause an attached hose to kink
The Upcycle 55 Gallon Gray Rain Barrel has won overwhelmingly positive reviews from consumers. Many homeowners consider this model to be the best rain barrel to buy and many have given it four stars or higher (out of five). In terms of dimensions, this model measures 38 x 23 x 23 inches and weighs a mere 23 pounds. Unlike other models in the same price range, this model has pre-installed fittings and comes with a lid on the screen to keep out debris and insects. No extra fittings or work are required. It also features a screw off lid that can be removed if you need to access the inside of the barrel.
Users have praised its design, easy assembly, and quality construction. The only minor complaint that has been noted is that the upward angle of the overflow valve can occasionally cause an attached hose to kink.
2) Good Ideas RW40 Rain Barrel
- Brass plated spigot works with standard garden hoses
- Flat back design allows it to sit flush against the wall
- Rotationally molded to prevent splitting and cracking, even in extreme temperatures
- 40-gallon capacity is less than other comparable models
- May require cleaning before use
The Good Ideas Rain Wizard has a 40-gallon capacity and features an attractive faux oak finish that will blend seamlessly with your existing landscape. It has a plastic mesh screen across the top of the barrel to keep out insects and yard debris. The overflow valve is located at the front of the container to keep rainwater from coming into contact with the side of your home. One of its most convenient features is its flat back design that allows it to sit flush against your home, which eliminates the need to purchase additional downspout components. Each one of these rain barrels is crafted from 100% recycled resin.
Overall, reviewers have been satisfied with the functionality and design of this product; although some buyers have complained that larger capacity units can be purchased at the same price point. A few buyers have stated that their Good Ideas barrels arrived dirty and dusty and required cleaning before they could be used. However, most agree that it offers a great value for the price.
3) Enviro World Corporation EWC-10 Rain Barrel
- Has a 55-gallon capacity
- Design does not require the separate purchase or use of a base
- Dual overflow valves allow it to be connected to multiple other rain barrels
- Model has arrived with a plastic spigot instead of the advertised brass spigot
- Missing parts on arrival
The Enviro World Corporation EWC-10 has a 55-gallon rainwater capacity. It is made from a mixture of injection molded plastic and high density polyethylene that is designed to prevent aging and fading, and the higher placement of the spigot eliminates the need to mount this unit on a base to access the water it collects. It has two overflow valves (one located on each side of the barrel) that allow it to be connected to multiple rain barrels. A purchase of this barrel also includes a standard sized brass spigot, a powder coated steel screen, child lock screws, and an extension hose.
Reviews for this particular rain barrel have been mixed. Buyers have liked its design and functionality, but most complaints have centered around its components. A considerable number of reviewers have stated that the unit has not come with the advertised brass spigot, but a plastic one instead. Likewise, a small percentage of buyers have had the model arrive with missing parts altogether. Complaints made to Enviro World’s customer service department have been (in the opinion of those making the complaints) largely ignored.
4) Achla Designs RB-03
- Generously sized, removable debris screen
- Built in 4-foot hose with thumb valve
- Foolproof linking kit included with each barrel
- Poor customer service
The Achla Designs RB-03 is specifically designed to help homeowners save money on their household water bills by conserving rain water. It has a maximum capacity of 54 gallons, and this model weighs only 18 pounds, which makes it easily maneuverable when it is not full. It is equipped with a safety grid and the oversized debris screen can be removed when needed. What is especially unique about this model is its built in 4-foot hose with an included thumb valve. This hose makes it exceptionally easy to access the water inside the container, and the hose diverts excess water away from the foundation of your home. A simple to use linking kit is included with each rain barrel, so extra capacity can easily be added as your garden grows in size.
All in all, consumer reviews for this Achla Designs model have been solid. There has been an occasional complaint of a torn debris screen or the model being shipped with a missing piece. The primary complaint regarding this model has had to do with the unhelpfulness of Achla Designs’ customer service department. However, most users do agree that this product offers a high value for the money.
5) RTS Home Accents Rain Barrel
- Authentic, attractive oak finish molded into each barrel
- Flat back design allows it to sit flush against a wall
- Brass spigot shutoff valve
- Barrel has a tendency to bow outwards when full
The RTS Home Accents Rain Water Collection Barrel features a maximum 50 gallon capacity and a flat back design that allows it to sit flush against your home. It is made from injection molded plastic that is treated to resist rot, fading, and insect infestation. It can be linked to other rain barrels to increase storage capacity, and a durable aluminum screen keeps yard debris and insects out of the collected rain water. A front facing overflow valve keeps water from pooling and flooding against the foundation of your house, and an optional stand can be purchased with this unit to make it easier to access collected water.
Buyers have praised this model for its attractive finish and the durability of its construction. A small number of users have experienced leaking around the spigot, but these complaints have been few and far in between. The primary complaint regarding this model has been that, when full, the back of the rain barrel bows outward, which prevents it from remaining flush with the wall and detracts from its overall appearance.
If you are a homeowner, buying the best rain barrel you can afford is a smart idea, especially if you live in a community experiencing drought or water restrictions. You’ll be able to conserve water and save some money in the process. With so many sizes and options available, it won’t be hard to find a model that matches your needs, budget, and even the decorative style of your home. Your plants will thank you, and most importantly, the environment will too.