The Complete Guide to Rainwater Harvesting

How to Build Your Own Rain Barrel

Many people want to adopt a greener lifestyle and save some money in the process. But not everyone has the capital needed to install solar panels, build a windmill, or purchase a hybrid vehicle. Thankfully, there are some steps you can take to use natural resources more wisely: steps that are both environmentally-friendly and wallet-friendly.

One of these measures is building your own rain barrel. The idea is to capture rainwater and use it to nourish your plants, grass, and landscaping instead of relying on a sprinkler or hose. Rain barrels help conserve water, which is good for the environment. Plus, they also reduce the amount of water your household consumes, which is good for your bank account.

Rain Barrel

Most rain barrels are made from recycled plastic and range in size from 55 gallons to 90 gallons. They work by collecting the runoff water that flows through your gutters and downspouts. There are four basic parts of a rain barrel: the barrel itself, the top hole where the water flows in, an overflow drain near the top of the barrel, and a spigot at the bottom of the barrel that allows you to use the water you’ve collected.

Ready to put your own rain barrel together? Here’s how to get started:

  1. Once you’ve acquired your barrel, start by cutting a hole in the top of the barrel using a sturdy hand saw or a jigsaw. The opening should be a few inches in diameter and should then be covered with mesh screening to keep leaves and insects out of the barrel (if you like, you can insert a pool skimmer basket inside the hole for the same purpose).
  2. On the side of the barrel, drill a hole near the top for your overflow drain. The opening should be about one or two inches in diameter and should match the size of the pipe or spigot that will go into it.
  3. Screw the pipe or spigot into the hole and put Teflon threads around the part that is inside the barrel. Make sure the drain stays in place by applying caulk around the edges and/or using washers and a nut to secure it to the barrel.
  4. Drill a similar opening on the outside of the barrel near the bottom. You will screw a spigot into that hole and follow the same steps as you did for the overflow drain to fasten it in place. Then attach a standard garden hose to the spigot.

After a couple of rain events, start using the water that has collected in your rain barrel to spray your yard.

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Positioning Your Rain Barrel

When positioning your rain barrel, be sure that the top hole is directly underneath your home’s downspout (you may need to use a hacksaw to shorten the downspout) so that the water flows easily into the barrel. It is highly recommended that you set the barrel on a sturdy base, like bricks or concrete blocks. That allows you to access the water inside without kinking up your hose.

After a couple of rain events, start using the water that has collected in your rain barrel to spray your yard, flowers, trees, and plants. It’s an easy way to promote recycling, conserve water, and save money—without forking over a large chunk of cash to set it up!