What Size Do You Buy?
Google “rain barrel”, and you’ll be faced with a long list of results. Rain barrels come in all shapes, sizes and colors. The most common sizes range from 40 gallons to 65 gallons. Of that range, which should you buy? The short answer is whichever you like. The biggest factor for picking a rain barrel really boils down to water capacity…and though the difference between 40 and 65 gallons might seem big, it isn’t that big of a difference when harvesting rain from your roof.
The amount of rainwater coming off your roof in a normal storm is probably within the hundreds if not thousands of gallons. Here’s the math…say you have a very small house with a roof measuring 20 ft by 30ft, and it rains 1 inch during a 24-hour period. That translates into nearly 4,500 gallons of water coming off your house. Say you get a heavy rainstorm where 2 and half inches of rain falls in a day, you’ll have over 11,000 gallons of water runoff your roof. That’s like OMG!, right? The point is that the 25 gallons separating your most common options for rain barrels doesn’t matter too much when you have thousands and thousands of gallons of water coming off your roof.
I actually have two 275-gallon totes that I refashioned into rain barrels in my yard. They work really well, but fill up during the lightest rain.
How Much Do They Cost?
Cost is all over the map. You can buy a 65-gallon barrel that for $200 or $120. You can buy a 45-gallon barrel for the same price. I paid about $250 for my 275-gallon totes. Cost is governed by two factors, material and style. If you buy a rain barrel that looks like a wooden barrel but is actually made of plastic, you’ll pay somewhere around $120 to $150. If you buy an actual wooden barrel, you’ll pay something around $220 to $300 for a single barrel.
Say, you buy a recycled plastic, non-toxic terra-cotta styled 50-gallon rain barrel, you’ll pay around $100 to $120.00. If you buy an actual terra-cotta 50-gallon rain barrel…well, I’d tell you to not do that.
How Do You Install Them?
Installation is kinda straightforward if you are pretty good with your hands and can follow instructions. If you can’t even figure out how to clean your gutters, I’d recommend hiring someone else to do it.
The basics are:
1. Locate the rain barrel beside a downspout from your roof’s gutter.
2. Direct the downspout into the barrel. You might need to cut the downspout and add a flexible pipe to get it into the barrel, but that really depends on your specific downspout.
3. After you get the downspout into the barrel, you tmake sure you have an overflow pipe coming from the barrel, because it’s gonna fill up and the water has to go somewhere. Usually, the overflow from the rain barrel is reattached to wherever the existing downspout had been connected.
4. Attach a hose to the bottom of the barrel so you can use the newly harvested rain. Most barrels come with some type of overflow hookup and hose connector for easy installation. If you bought one that doesn’t have those easy-to-do-it-things, you can always make them yourself…unless you bought real terra cotta. But if you aren’t very good at making things, you’ll likely destroy it by trying to drill a hole for an overflow pipe (which is why I don’t suggest buying real terra cotta).
What Do You Do With the Water Once It’s in The Barrel?
Short answer…water your plants and lawn with it…duh? ;) No, but really water your plants and lawn with it. It is free and sustainable water! Using harvested rain reduces the pressure on natural resources, reduces your carbon footprint and accomplishes some other pretty cool sustainable stuff.
To make sure you don’t create a nursery for mosquitoes, you might want to drop a BT donut into it, or use it within 48 hours after a rainstorm. Water from a rain barrel is good stuff and is usually safe to use for vegetables, grass and planted beds. I won’t drink it…but that’s just me. I’m sure some people do, but I do not recommend it.
That’s the fast and short details for a rain barrel - Cost, Sizing, Location and Use. I love my rain barrels, and am always upgrading them to make them better. If you are wondering how much would it cost for someone to do the entire installation for you…based on cost of barrel and difficulty of installation, you should budget $160 to $350 per barrel...but that’s just ballpark. If you have something more complicated in mind, it would obviously cost more.