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Rain Barrel Buyer's Guide

So you are thinking about purchasing a rain barrel?

It is a great way to conserve water and save some money. Your plants will also love rainwater because it is chemical-free and softer than the water coming from your pipes. They are a great way to conserve water if you live in a dry area or a place with restricted watering schedules.

Although rain barrels come in all shapes and sizes, the basic concept is the same for them all: harvest the rain water that comes off your roof. It will surprise you how much you can collect with a small amount of rain.

For example, if you have down spouts, 1 inch of rain can yield up to 600 gallons for the average 1,000 square foot house. According to the Texas Guide to Rainwater Harvesting (PDF), a house can accumulate 0.62 gallons per square foot of collection surface.

To maximize the amount of rain water that you collect, it is best to put the rain barrel at the end of a downspout. If you donít want to change your gutters there is a downspout attachment that will hook directly to your gutter and carry water to the rain barrel.

If you donít have gutters, you can still harvest rain water, it just wonít accumulate nearly as quickly. You will need to position the barrel in a spot where you notice the most rain dripping off, usually where two roof-points come together.

Rain Barrel Options to Consider:

1.) Size and capacity Ė Most rain barrels are made of wood or plastic. Some are made from recycled plastic or even recycled food containers. Most rain barrels have a capacity of 40 to 80 gallons, but if you want to capture more rain water you can chain rain barrels together with a linking hose. There are also barrels available that have large capacities.

Small/Medium Barrels:
  • 50 Gallon Woodgrain Rain Barrel
  • 58 Gallon Rain Barrel
  • 50 Gallon Rain Barrel Urn


  • Large Rain Barrels:
  • 300 Gallon Rain Barrel
  • 118 Gallon Rain Barrel
  • Recycled 80 Gallon Rainsaver Rain Barrel


  • 2.) Emptying your rain barrel Ė To use the rain water youíve harvested you simply hook up a hose the barrel. Most come with a spigot near the bottom so that gravity can do the work for you. Rain barrels can come with removable lids or an open top with a debris screen to keep out leaves.

    Some people like to have a removable lid so they can dunk a watering can down into the rain barrel. If you want to use the water at a level higher than the rain barrel, you'll need a pump. There are inexpensive battery operated pumps that are designed to pump water out of a rain barrel.

    3.) Connecting or Chaining rain barrels together Ė If you want to increase your capacity for rain water collection, most rain barrels can be chained together easily with a connection hose. If you connect rain barrels together try to put them down-grade from each other so that you can empty the lowest first.

    Frequently Asked Questions about Rain Barrels and Rain Harvesting

  • What happens when my rain barrel is full and it is still raining? You can purchase a downspout redirector tool that will force the water to be pushed back through the downspout when your rain barrel gets full. If you want something like this, be sure to purchase a barrel with a closed top.

  • Can I drink the water I harvest in my rain barrel? Before you drink water that you collect from your roof you need to properly filter it. A filter can remove bacteria and debris and will catch sulfuric and nitric acids in rain. There are areas where the air pollution makes it unsafe to drink the water even if it is filtered. We do not recommend drinking rain water you've collected in your rain barrel.

  • How to I prevent mosquitoes from getting in my rain barrel? There are two ways to make sure mosquitoes donít breed in your rain barrel. First you can buy a barrel that is fully enclosed. Second, if you buy one with an open top make sure that you get some mosquito control dunks. These dunks contain a bacterium toxic to the mosquito larvae but perfectly safe for your plants.