How to install a rain barrel to save money and help save the planet


Approximately 30% of domestic water use in the US USA It is intended for external purposes such as irrigation or car washing. Reducing that use from your local water system can reduce local pollution and save a little money on your water bill. One way to remove the water supply from the network: install a rain barrel. It’s easy and inexpensive, and it won’t take more than a few hours of work.

There are a few ways to set up a rain barrel, and you’ll need to think about the specific circumstances of your garden, as well as how you plan to use the water. Here are some important things to consider.


A 55 gallon drum like this will do the trick.

Chance Lane / CNET

Rain barrel

Despite the image that may appear in your head when you hear the term “rain barrel”, technically you don’t have to use a wooden barrel to collect rainwater. A trash can, drum, or bucket would work well. The container can be closed or opened at the top, but if you go with an open container to catch rain directly when it falls, be sure to cover any opening with a mesh screen (1.2mm or smaller) to prevent mosquito breeding. I usually. If your container is transparent, paint it or wrap it with a cover to discourage algae growth.


Painting your barrel a dark color helps avoid sunlight that promotes algae.

Chance Lane / CNET

55 gallon drums are a popular choice for rain barrels, and you can buy a new one at Amazon for $ 85. If you want to save money, look for locally used ones. After pricing my options, I ended up buying two 55-gallon drums for $ 7 each on Craigslist for someone local here in southern Indiana.

Before buying a used barrel, it is important to know what it was previously used for. Mine contained glucoamylase, an enzyme used to promote the creation of alcohol in beer and liquor, most likely used by one of the nearby distilleries. I cleaned it with a mixture of soap and bleach, but even after that I wouldn’t use the water from this or any other rain barrel to drink. Unless you are prepared to treat it in some way, the water in the rain barrel is stagnant, and therefore you should consider it undrinkable.

Before we get water into your keg, again, the first thing you should do is make sure everything you’re using as a rain keg is opaque. The plastic drums you will find are often bright blue. That would stand out too much in most residential courtyards. I’d also feel better about keeping it out of the sun if it were a darker color. I painted mine using exterior spray paint and base paint. If you are using a container that has some transparency, you want to paint or wrap the drum with something to prevent organic growth inside.


Except for the barrel and an electric drill, the EarthMinded DIY Rain Barrel Converter Kit comes with everything you need to connect your downspout to a rain barrel.

Chance Lane / CNET

Catch all this

A catchment area is a space that traps water. In this case, I decided that I wanted to connect to our gutter system, using a section of the roof as a catchment. This is a fairly common method, but it is not mandatory. If you need to place your rain barrel in a remote area away from your home, you can create a basin using a tarp. You could also do without an expanded watershed and leave a barrel in an open area to capture rain directly. Keep in mind that the larger the basin, the more rain will fall.

If, like me, you want to connect your barrel to your gutter system, there are two ways to do it: an open connection or a closed connection.

An open connection is pretty easy: Place your container opening directly below the end of your downspout. The downspouts often run down the wall and end close to the ground, so you may need to cut a section of the downspout to accomplish this.


If you are using a closed barrel, you will need to connect it to a water source. The kit I used includes this piece of hose to go from the downspout to the barrel.

Chance Lane / CNET

With an open connection, you have a few other things to consider. Mosquitoes first. As mentioned above, any opening should be covered with a screen to discourage mosquitoes from laying eggs in the container. Attaching a screen is not very difficult. Buy a sheet or a roll from your local hardware store and staple it in place. A screen will also mean that you have to worry about that screen getting clogged with debris. Just keep an eye on it and clean it as needed, especially if your rain barrel is located near trees that drop leaves or other plant matter.

If you go with a closed connection, it eliminates the need for a screen. The downspout connects to the barrel with a watertight connection.

The other thing to consider is overflow. Once the container is full, the incoming water has to go somewhere. In my case, it would overflow directly onto my deck, causing damage. If desired, you can run an overflow line from the top of the container to safely channel excess water elsewhere. Even a large barrel can fill up overnight after a heavy downpour, so you’ll want to take your overflow seriously.


Your downspout is a great source of water for a rain barrel, but you will most likely have to make a hole.

Chance Lane / CNET

Get together

Initially, I wanted to design and build the barrel with a variety of parts from the local home improvement store; This seemed like it should have been easy enough. But after a few trips to the store, I couldn’t find a fancy way to create the downspout connection I had envisioned, and I ended up with a cart full of adapters and transitions.

Instead I went with him EarthMinded DIY Rain Barrel Diverter and Parts Kit. I have mine for $ 35 at Walmart. The kit contains a clean accessory that connects your downspout to the barrel. When it rains, the accessory, called the FlexiFit Diverter, directs only part of the water to the barrel. The nice thing about this is that it eliminates the need for a separate overflow line. When the container is full, the incoming water will simply bypass the collector and continue to run through the nozzle normally.


The EarthMinded kit includes this ingenious derailleur that fits inside your downspout and directs water into the rain barrel. When the barrel is full, the water flows back through the downspout as usual.

Chance Lane / CNET

Built to fill

The instructions provided with the EarthMinded Keg Kit are surprisingly detailed. And all the necessary tools and parts were included. It is a great option if you want to connect your barrel directly to your downspout.

With this particular kit, set up the various connections to the barrel, then cut a hole in the downspout to install the derailleur. With any installation, you will want to seal any place that allows mosquitoes access to the barrel, including cuts in the downspout. A drop of silicone is usually enough.


With the diverter installed in the downspout, the tube joins the connection between the nozzle and the barrel.

Chance Lane / CNET

Once you’ve set it all up, you’ll want some way to get the water out of your keg to actually put it to use. A short piece of threaded plumbing tubing with a cap on one end will allow you to draw water into a watering can or bucket, although you won’t be able to control the flow that way, and it’s likely to get wet when you take the cap off and put it back on. That will still give you a good way to drain the barrel quickly if necessary.

Another solution is a spigot with an attachment for a short garden hose with a spray nozzle. That will give you more control by turning the transmission on and off, and if you connect a hose You can spray your garden directly from the barrel if it is located nearby.


The spigot allows me to control the flow of the barrel easily. I can even connect a hose to it.

Chance Lane / CNET