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.
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.
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.