Happily, your home's roof is an ideal bit of real estate for harvesting rainwater, and the lowly downspout you've been ignoring all these years, is a perfect place to catch it all.
Here's How to Make a Rain Barrel
Downspout extenders divert water into a container. You can either buy a rain barrel kit that has an extender supplied with it, or build a rain barrel yourself and get an inexpensive extender at your local home supply store. Any container you choose should be made of a food-grade material, like plastic, if you plan on using the water for veggies or herbs. It should also have a tight fitting or sealed lid and be rust resistant. A 50 gallon food-grade container would be perfect.
To re-fit a container, you need to do four things:
- Cut a hole in the top to let the water in. This should be covered with a screen to keep debris and bugs out.
- Add a spigot at the bottom to harvest water through. You can get threaded spigot kits at your local plumbing or hardware store that are easy to install.
- Cut an opening toward the top of the barrel and add a fitting that will allow you to attach a large diameter hose. This is for overflow when the barrel's full. Run the hose away from the foundation of your house.
- Install a pad, or excavate a flat spot in your flowerbed next to the downspout for the barrel.
The steps are pretty simple.
Prepare a level spot for the barrel (once a barrel is full, it can weigh 300 pounds or more, so you don't want it falling over.
Modify the barrel or buy one ready-made.
Cut or replace your existing downspout and add an extender. (Segmented downspouts are the easiest to work with.)
Now you're ready for it to rain.
Rain Barrel Installation Tips and Tricks
Check your barrel often to make sure it isn't overflowing and dumping water next to your home's foundation. A steady rain on a 1,000 square foot roof can easily fill a 50 gallon barrel in minutes.
Watch the barrel for algae growth and mosquitoes.
If you want to buy a rain barrel kit, there are lots to choose from. Some of the bells and whistles are nifty too. From anti-bacterial lights to pumps that make it easier to water your flower beds via a hose setup, high tech has come to rain barrels. One of the best options, in my opinion, is a diverter that's keeps rain out of the barrel for the first few minutes of rainfall to allow the gunk in the air and dust on your roof to wash off first. It uses the weight of a volume of water to determine when it's okay to divert the flow into the barrel.
Be sure to empty your barrel if you experience hard freezes in winter.
If you want more water than a single barrel can supply, hook barrels together and have the overflow from the first barrel feed into the next and so on.
Check with your local water utility. There may be some cash incentives for installing a rain barrel on your property.
Just a Little Environmental Note Here
Rain barrels are convenient and they can save you money. They're also an environmentally friendly choice. The water that washes into storm drains after a rain is often shunted directly into brooks and streams with its cargo of oils and chemicals, like antifreeze. When you use recycled water, you help to keep the water in surrounding ecosystems cleaner by using that rain in your garden where it will be filtered naturally through your soil and finally make its way to an aquifer near you, cleaner and more wholesome.
There's a neat YouTube video that will show you the basic steps: Building a Rain Barrel