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I'm not from Bremerton, Washington, nor do I know anyone who is, but I'll be darned if their city website doesn't have one of the best, most in-depth rain barrel tutorials I've ever seen. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, a rain barrel is simply a barrel (or any large container) that's been set-up for the sole purpose of collecting and redistributing rain water. Typically rain barrels are attached to one of your gutter's down spouts, which essentially widens the water collection area to the size of your roof. A properly installed rain barrel can collect up to 55 gallons of run-off with just a few inches of precipitation (or less), which you can then use to water your lawn and/or garden.

Rain barrels are easy to make, inexpensive, good for the environment, and can save you quite a bit of money on your water bill during the Summer months, so why aren't you using one? What's that you say? You don't even know where to begin when it comes to making a rain barrel?! Well, you're in luck, my friend, because that's exactly what we're going to cover in this article.

Materials
  1. 55 gallon barrel
  2. Louvered screen or atrium grate
  3. 3/4" brass faucet
  4. 3/4" hose adapter
  5. Teflon tape or all-purpose caulk
  6. Two runs of garden hose

Tools
  1. Drill
  2. 6" hole saw bit
  3. 29/32 drill bit
  4. 3/4 pipe tap
Time
Minus cleaning time, about an hour.


Steps
  1. Clean out your barrel (try not to use anything that will be harmful to your lawn, like bleach or ammonia).
  2. Attach the 6" hole saw bit to the drill, and use it to cut a hole in the top of the barrel.
  3. Using the 29/32 bit, drill a hole towards the top of the barrel for the overflow, and a second hole four to six inches from the bottom for the faucet. Spacing the faucet several inches from the bottom of the barrel will insure that you have enough room to attach your hose, and allow debris to sink to the bottom of the barrel without clogging the spigot.
  4. Next, use your pipe tap to thread each of the 29/32 holes you just drilled. Simply place the tap on the edge of the hole, twist it inward, and then twist it back out.
  5. Twist the hose adapter into the top (overflow) hole.
  6. Wrap the faucet's threads with teflon tape, or cover it with caulk, and twist it into place on the bottom hole.
  7. Insert the atrium grate / screen into the top 6" hole.
  8. Create an elevated platform beneath your downspout (cinder blocks work well), and place the rain barrel on top.
  9. Position the downspout so it drains into the top of your rain barrel. This step may require you to cut the current downspout and add an elbow joint to get the water to flow into your rain barrel.
  10. Attach a hose onto the 3/4" hose adapter, and run it so the excess water doesn't erode the area about your house.
  11. Patiently wait for the next rain, and enjoy your rain barrel!

For every gallon of water you use from your rain barrel, you'll save the equivalent amount from your water bill. Fifty-five gallons is a lot of water, and can really add up over the course of a long, hot Summer. The water you collect from your rain barrel is also free of chlorine, fluoride, and any other chemicals that might be floating in your municipal water system, which is something your garden will appreciate.

  • Gordy

    I guess the only part missing is how to get this water onto the lawn. The water has to have pressure behind it, like, 40-80 PSI or so to operate a sprinkler. Air Compressor? Manual pump?

    Reply
  • Kenneth Finnegan

    @Gordy:
    I believe you put a spout on the bottom and use it to fill a watering bucket.

    I think the REAL thing that's missing is where in the world do you get a 55 Gallon barrel?

    Reply
  • tom

    Yup, the spout goes on the bottom of the barrel. The higher the barrel is the more pressure you'll get. Want a lot of pressure? Build a platform from 4x4's set in concrete, plywood and some 2x4's for reinforcement. Fifty-five gallons of water weighs almost 450 pounds so don't skimp on the materials or construction.

    Reply
  • Louis

    Something to keep in mind is that the materials your roof is made of can contaminate the water you collect, such that you might not want to use it for vegetables. The City of Seattle website has more information about this:

    http://www.seattle.gov/util/stellent/groups/public/@spu/@csb/documents/webcontent/cos_004351.pdf

    Reply
  • Omaha

    That's all well and good, but in many jurisdictions, it's illegal to catch runoff from your roof. Specifically, the community in Colorado where my office is. You are not permitted to collect runoff... it must go back into the water table. Nor can you access any water whatsoever from streams or rivers if you don't have "water rights" on that land. So check with your local municipality... but I suspect the people that are under these restrictions are already well aware of them.

    Reply
  • Rob

    we used to used the same sort of system at our cabin to collect water
    for general use cleaning etc etc brought bottled water to drink

    if you have a lot of water and you need some pressure build a platform and use a hydraulic ram pump to get it ti the the high barrel for storage and that way you can get a decent amout of pressure

    http://www.motherearthnews.com/DIY/1979-05-01/Mothers-Hydraulic-Ram-Pump.aspx

    hope this makes it more useful to some

    Reply
  • BruceR

    I live in the UK, where you can buy rain barrels easily, some local authorities even subsidise them . One thing that I notice that is different is that the ones you buy here are opaque to light. What that means is that you don't get a build up of algae in the tank.

    Reply
  • Kurt

    Does this not become a nest for mosquitoes? I'm in the midwest and we have a lot of mosquitoes along with threats of west-nile virus. I guess I'm concerned about having a big source of 'still' water around. Is that a needless concern?

    Reply
  • DJ

    The 3/4in hose adapter used for an overflow is too small. A small downspout from a roof gutter system is 2"X3" in cross section. A lot of water can be going into a barrel during a heavy rain and the 3/4" overflow will be overwhelmed. I used an 1 1/2" boat thru-hull for our overflow and run a 3" diameter corragated pipe to the thru-hull to lead the water away from the house foundation. In the Washington DC area, I've noted our one rain barrel filling up during an overnight rain.

    As for mosquitoes, I use a mosquito dunk. A screen over the top keeps out gunk from the gutters getting in but the mosquitoes can get in by the overflow pipe. A dunk does the trick for about 2 months each ring where I'm at.

    Reply
  • Dwayne

    I have a rain barrel just to catch the rain (my roof has a weird angle that cannot be guttered. I had skeeter problems too until I dumped 3 tiny goldfish in there. They LOVE skeeters. Just a pinch of food every day, don't let the water get too low, and the goldfish should live for about 3-4 years.

    I live in OK and the barrel has frozen solid a year or two, in the spring, the fish are back up at the top, swimming right side up and happy.

    Reply
  • melissa

    that is a great idea about the goldfish... they'll provide a nice fertilizer for your garden too. i'm impressed they made it through the winter. i thought only the koi variety did that.

    that overflow hose is a good implementation instead of doing two seperate channels of flowpipe.

    Reply
  • Jeremiah

    The state of texas has probably the best guide to Rain Water Harvesting.

    http://www.twdb.state.tx.us/publications/reports/RainwaterHarvestingManual_3rdedition.pdf

    Reply
  • cminor03

    I just got through building three of these for property we bought out in the desert. I added a filtration system with a quick release on the hose spigot so that I could switch from one barrel to the other. My truck bed allows me roll the filled barrel right off onto another of the barrels, thus giving me about four feet of elevation for pressure. I found plastic sewer drain caps that fit at the top of the barrel that I can remove for cleaning and filling after I cut the hole. I got the barrels off craigslist.com for $10.00 each, the filter at Home Depot as well as the plastic spigots and hose connections.

    Reply
  • Bruce O Wales

    Every square foot of "rain print" yields .6233766 Gallons of low TDS (total disolved solids) and no chlorinated water for every inch of rainfall. Roof materials do determine absoprtion factor which must be subtracted from the optimum. Additionally, 'bounce' and evaporation will also affect yield. That said, Its the formula to start with. Your 'rain print' of home, garage, tool shed, concrete drive, etc times .6233766 times annual inches of rain equals thousands of possible gallons for stored irrigated use.
    Yes, the state of Colorado claims they own all moisture even that in the air above the ground. Most other states are not this (fill-in-the-blank).
    We have refrigerators to save our food for meal time. We have banks to hold our money until bill paying time. We must collect and store moisture for our flora's needs as well. Otherwise, we shouldn't be surprised when fire and insects invade drought-stressed neighborhoods.

    Reply
  • Tabby

    Cleaning your barrel with ammonia is OK, Ammonia is a form of nitrogen which is fertilizer....A half gallon of Clear grocery-store ammonia sprayed with a hose-end bottle sprayer from the hardware store will fertilize a quarter-acre suburban lawn in the springtime for like a DOLLAR. If you use the lemon-scented ammonia, supposedly it disrupts mosquitoes' reproductive cycle; soon, no more skeeters. Just don't pour it directly full-strength on your grass, dilute it!

    Reply
  • 15 Comments / 1 Pages
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