A lot of people put in rain barrels because they’re interested in being “green”..That’s fine, but I’m more interested in saving green, and what better way to save money than to harvest free rain. Not only will it save on your water bill, but harvested rain is much better for your plants and shrubs than the chlorinated stuff that comes out of the hose. As a side note, make sure to double-check your local laws, I know in some states you actually need a permit to install any type of rain catchment, which I happen to think is absolutely ridiculous.
In Jacksonville we get about 53 inches of rain a year with summer being the season with the greatest rainfall. To put things in perspective, 1 inch of rain on an average, 1,360-square-foot roof would yield about 810 gallons of rainwater. Multiply that by whatever your average rainfall is and you get the idea. Basically, if I had enough storage capacity I could capture nearly 43,000 gallons of rainwater. Amazing isn’t it?
So let’s get started.
I was able to score a couple of 55 gallon plastic barrels from a guy on craigslist. $35 for the pair. They were used to store shampoo, so I had to rinse them out really well. Then I went to aquabarrel.com, and spent another $90 on all of the parts needed to put the set up together.
1 ea. DIY Rain Barrel Kit for 2×3 or 3×4 Rectangular Downspouts$27.96
1 ea.RainBarrel Parts Kit – EarthMinded$16.99
1 ea.Downspout Filter, Slim Line, 3″x4″, Low Gloss White$43.78
The Rainbarrel parts kit was great, it included hole saws for cutting the holes in your barrels, spigots and everything else needed to connect the barrels together. Mine are sitting up on an old concrete pad where our air conditioner used to be. Best part was starting out with a nice level surface. A gallon of water weighs 8.34 lbs, so when completely full you’re talking nearly 460 lbs. The last thing you want is one tipping over. That is one of the reasons I put the ratchet strap around them, I figure it would make them more stable. Also added 4 cinder blocks under each to get them up a little higher to help with water pressure. The barrels are also a little closer together then I would like, but I had to deal with space constraints and proximity to the downspout. Luckily this is on the back side of our home, so we’re the only ones that see it.
I won’t bore you with the details of putting it together. It is pretty straightforward and the instructions that come with the rain barrel kit are very thorough. You’ll need a drill, cordless preferably to make the holes, a tape measure, sharpie marker and a sawzall or some other type of metal cutting tool if you want to install the inline downspout filter like I did. In fact, the trickiest part was cutting the downspout. There are other ways to filter, but I thought that was the easiest. My barrels are fed by the one tube coming out of the downspout. No need to worry about overflow with this set up. When the barrels are both full, the water will just continue down the downspout.
To get water from the barrels I rigged up a system with a couple lengths of hose connected by a Y valve. This works really well and makes filling up my two gallon watering cans a snap. I’ve yet to run the barrels dry, granted we get a decent amount of rain, but I use them quite a bit, mostly for watering flowers and fruit trees when rain is scarce..