From washing the dishes to using the shower, water consumption is a part of every household. Many of us will likely turn on a faucet today, without giving it a second thought. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American uses 320 gallons of water per day and out of that, 30% is used for the outdoors. That means there is almost 100 gallons being used to water lawns, gardens and other landscaping features.
For many, that number might be surprising. If your household is trying to reduce your environmental impact, there are plenty of ways you can reduce your water consumption, especially outdoors. Rain barrels have gained in popularity across the country. If you don’t have one, now is a great time to consider a rain barrel installation.
How Does A Rain Barrel Work?
Rain barrels are a great way to save money and the environment. This practice is not new; it actually dates back to ancient times when people would use wooden barrels to catch the water and use for various household purposes. Now, barrels come in plastic with many modern features, but stick to the same idea; collecting water from a natural source and use for landscaping.
Today, many rain barrels collect water with the help of a downspout coming from the roof or gutter, directed into the barrel with the help of a diverter. The water is filtered through a screen that covers the top, to catch any debris such as leaves and sticks. In simpler models, water flows simply with the help of gravity when you’re ready to water your lawn and garden.
Saving Money & the Earth
As previously mentioned, by utilizing a rain barrel to collect water, it helps cut down on water usage, saving you money on your water bill and reducing the amount of water used. But did you know that rainwater is actually the best water you can use for your plants? Treated water that flows from your hose has salts and chemicals that are tough on plants. Rainwater has nutrients and minerals that your garden will love.
It also helps improve erosion in your yard. Many times, the area near the roof will eventually erode, making it difficult to landscape in that specific area. With the help of a downspout, the water is directed into the rain barrel, helping your garden and protecting your lawn.
Additionally, if you live in an area where drought or water restrictions are frequent, rain barrels provide your own reserve during this time to keep your garden growing.
Rain Barrel Costs
The benefits of a rain barrel can be just what your lawn and garden needs. But what are the costs? A 55-gallon standard rain barrel kit can range from $100 to $150, depending on the style you choose. However, many cities have programs to assist with these costs, so be sure to research before you buy.
Some don’t include downspouts, diverters, stands or other amenities you may need for your set up.
DIY Rain Barrel Installation
When you’re ready to install your rain barrel, you can either install it yourself or call a pro, depending on how comfortable you are with DIY projects. There are two ways to install a rain barrel. For either method, you’ll want to place your barrel on a flat, raised surface. Many people use cement blocks or bricks to do so. One way is to simply position it under a downspout, that is if your downspout doesn’t reach the ground all the way. An elbow can help direct the flow of water if needed.
A more common and recommended way is to install a diverter in your downspout, to easily direct the flow of water from your roof and allow overflow to exit through the existing downspout. A diverter is easy to disconnect during winter months and allows for debris to flow away from the house as normal. A rain barrel kit typically comes with all the materials you need to start harvesting rainwater with the use of a diverter. It should also come with instructions that may vary by product. Outside of what the kit provides, you’ll likely need:
- Utility Knife
- Measuring Tape
- Gutter Bracket (optional)
Start by locating the place you wish to place your diverter. Measure and mark this section on the downspout. It’s best to keep it level with the top of the rain barrel for even flow of water. Safely saw off the portion of the downspout you wish to remove, from the highest point you marked with your pencil. If you’re able, take the downspout off the house to saw. Attach the diverter as instructed. Once installed, place the connecting tube to the port and attach to the rain barrel. You now have your own water storage system!
Rain Barrel Maintenance
Once you’ve installed your rain barrel, you’ll want to be sure you care for it properly. Always disconnect before the first freeze, if you live in a colder climate. As temperatures cool, the water can quickly become ice that could damage your barrel. It’s also recommended that when the barrel is disconnected for the season, it’s given a quick scrub with a water and vinegar solution to get rid of any residue from the summer season.
Periodically check your diverter, screen and barrel for any debris or leaves, cleaning when needed. And, make sure the base remains stable and level on flat ground, as it could shift.
A rain barrel is a great investment that can have a positive impact on your home, your wallet and the earth. They’re easy to set up and maintain throughout the year, making it a great choice for your garden!