The purpose of a rain barrel is to “harvest” rainwater that drains off the roof of buildings. Water collected in a rain barrel can then be used to water plants or lawns. Pure clean rain water is better for plants and the environment. Rain water saves money since treated water from the tap is not free.
Why should I use a Rain Barrel?
Anyone who uses water can benefit from a rain barrel. Did you know that nearly 40% of your water bill in the summer is due to watering lawns and plants? Did you know that unless you have a separate designated meter for watering the lawn, you are charged sewer fees for using the sprinkler? Imagine the cost of water and sewer fees just by using collected rain water. Every gallon of water collected and stored is a gallon of water not sitting against your home and basement/foundation walls. Less water in the sewers and drain tiles around your home decreases the likelihood of sewer backups. Each rain barrel used will collect up to 55 gallons of rain water. Storing rain water for later use will help the sewer systems in the area and around your home. Recycling water is a very green concept.
MYTHS about Rain Barrels.
Myth (1) Rain barrels create a habitat for mosquitoes. Properly designed and maintained rain barrels will not become a habitat for mosquitoes if a few precautions are taken: (A) Use the water. Barrels that are used by draining the water will not become stagnant. (B) Make sure the barrels are sealed or have a screen or netting to prevent the intrusion of mosquitoes. (C) Tablets can be purchased to prevent mosquito larvae from maturing in the barrel.
MYTH (2) Rain barrels will overflow into the surrounding area once full. Most barrel designs incorporate an overflow device that will either drain away from the barrel or into the downspout system that is already in place.
MYTH (3) Rain barrels are not permanent. Due to the weather in this region the rain barrel can be drained and bypassed during periods of bad weather where freezing is a concern.
MYTH (4) AL the alligator lives in a rain barrel. He only lives in the storm sewers.
Supplies needed to build your own Rain Barrel.
- 55 gallon drum. (Limited number of food grade plastic barrels available through Avon Lake Public Works Department). Cost: FREE;
- 4 – 45 degree downspout connections or 2 Flex-Elbow Downspout extensions* (hardware store);
- Skimmer/strainer basket* (hardware store);
- Gutter to downspout connector* (hardware store);
- 3/4" male threaded Spigot* (hardware store);
- Caulk (hardware store);
- Screws or rivets (hardware store);
- Two concrete blocks (hardware store);
- 1″ metal banding (long enough to wrap around barrel twice plus additional footage) (hardware store);
- Wood slats (hardware store); and
- Wood screws (hardware store)
- *kits containing these materials are available for purchase from the Public Works Department for $20
Constructing Rain Barrel.
People are generally surprised to see how easy it is to construct a rain barrel. Start by turning the barrel up sot the threaded bung openings are on top. Cut a hole in top of the barrel for the skimmer/strainer to be inserted into. Make sure the hole is slightly smaller than the strainer so it fits into the hole without falling into the barrel. In the top side of the rain barrel cut a slot slightly bigger than the gutter to downspout connector. Insert connector from inside the barrel, caulk around the edges and secure with screws or rivets. You are nearly done. See how easy this is? The final step is assembling the barrel is for the hose bib connection. If you used a 3/4" threaded connection, it will require you to drill a 1" diameter hole in the lowest accessible side of the barrel. The threaded connection can be inserted directly into the new hole you just drilled. Prior to the threads bottoming out against the barrel, place a thin bead of silicone between the barrel and spigot flange. As you finish screwing the spigot into the barrel, the silicone should slightly squeeze out from the connection. Be careful to try and keep the spigot square to the barrel so it seats evenly. The spigot can be used if you plan to use a garden hose or watering can.
Connecting to Downspout.
Place your new barrel next to the downspout on enough concrete blocks so you can get access to the spigot for your watering can. One or two concrete blocks should be tall enough for most homes. The higher you can place the barrel, the better the pressure will be for your hose. Now that the barrel is set, level cut the downspout approximately 1 foot about and below the barrel. Attach your 45 degree bends or flex-elbows to the downspout. The upper will direct water into the strainer basket to keep leaves and debris out of your barrel, while the lower will divert overflow water back into your downspout. Your rain barrel is now complete. Not too bad, was it?
Optional Rain Barrel Surround.
If you choose to decoratively dress your rain barrel you can do so by creating either a wooden box or a round barrel wrap. The wooden slats should be at least four inches longer than the barrel and can be screwed to either the inside or outside of the metal straps to create the surround. The surround should be the same inside diameter as the outside of the barrel. A matching wood cover can also be created for the top of the barrel.