Spring is a season of wet weather and new growth. Plants emerge from the ground, animals begin to migrate and humans prepare their homes and gardens for the summer months ahead. But as seasonal droughts and energy consumption become increasing concerns, many homeowners have turned to rain barrels to meet their lawn’s demand for water.
A rain barrel is a system that collects and stores a portion of the rainwater that runs out of a downspout or off of a roof, keeping this runoff out of our rivers and streams. While this water is unsafe for drinking, it can be used for non-potable purposes like watering plants or washing cars. A standard rain barrel holds between 55 and 90 gallons of water, and can come in a variety of shapes, colors and designs.
On average, rain barrel owners can save about 1,300 gallons of water each summer, reducing water use charges on their utility bills.
But before you begin construction, keep in mind that a number of hardware stores, garden centers and local governments offer ready-made rain barrels to customers who would prefer to purchase a barrel instead of building their own.
Before you pick up any building materials or tools, determine where you would like your rain barrel to go. Typically, rain barrels are attached to a downspout on the side of a house or building, but can be placed wherever rainwater runs off of a roof.
Make sure the location you have chosen for your rain barrel has a flat surface and is in an area where the barrel can be secured. A full 55-gallon barrel can weigh up to 400 pounds when full, and is a dangerous tipping hazard if not secured properly.
Once you have installed your rain barrel, its maintenance is simple. Check it periodically for leaks, cracks, clogging and rips in the screen. In the winter, drain the water out of your rain barrel and turn it upside down. Use the flexible downspout elbow to redirect your downspout back to its original location until the spring arrives and the threat of freezing is gone.