7 Reasons to Install a Rain Barrel

blue rain barrel in a garden

States like Mississippi and Louisiana get more than 55 inches of rain per year. They are just some of the wettest parts of the US. So instead of sitting in the living room and watching all that rainwater go to waste, why not make good use of it? Installing a rain barrel will allow you to harvest rainwater and hold it for later use, such as watering gardens. Not to spoil the fun of a good read, here are 7 reasons to install a rain barrel and start harvesting water. 

In a household, outdoor water use accounts for more than 30% of total use on average. That is quite more than most homeowners might expect. A typical rain barrel captures 50 to 60 gallons of water. It’s an easy way for you to have a consistent supply of clean, fresh water for outdoor use.  

How Do Rain Barrels Work?

Before getting into why you should consider installing one, let’s quickly go through the steps of how rain barrels work: 

  • Rainwater hits your roof and flows into the gutter
  • Water travels down the downspout 
  • It is then transferred to the rain barrel directly from the spout or through a diverter
  • You’ll get a full rain barrel over time; they can typically hold up to 60 gallons of water

When all is functioning properly, you may drain water as you need from the spigot located at the bottom of the barrel. 

Note: Do not use rain barrel water for cooking, drinking, or bathing. It collects contaminants and bacteria on its way to your barrel. Additionally, do not collect rainwater if you use moss-killer on your roof. 

7 Reasons to Install a Rain Barrel

rain barrel in a garden
Photo Credit: Ian Mackenzie / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

1. Reduce Your Water Bill

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, an average family in the US spends more than $1,000 per year in water costs. But just consider this: every gallon of harvested rainwater is a gallon you don’t have to pay for. Quite a good reason to start with. Installing a rain barrel in itself is not expensive, in addition to being DIY-friendly. It reduces the amount of water you purchase from municipal sources, so it’s not just homeowners who benefit. 

The EPA estimates that most homeowners will save up to 1,300 gallons of water during peak summer months with a rain barrel. That is quite a significant amount!  

2. Provide Clean Water for Your Landscape

Rainwater is all-natural and untreated, which is much better than tap water for your soil and plants. The water harvested in the barrel is just as good as rainwater from the sky. Most homeowners can connect a garden hose to the rain barrel’s outlet, allowing them to water their plants or gardens. This means you will be using less potable water, which can lower your water bills. Installing a rain barrel will keep your plants happy with oxygenated, un-chlorinated water. 

3. Reduce Stormwater Runoff

water coming out of a drain pipe to rain barrel
Photo Credit: schulzie / Canva Pro / License

This one solely concerns the environment. Stormwater runoff collects debris, like leaves, and carries them into storm sewers. The debris may lead to clogging, adding further stress on sewer systems. Not only that, but runoff will also collect many contaminants, pesticides, and fertilizers. This may potentially harm aquatic ecosystems and diminish your local water quality. 

This is where rain barrels come into play. By collecting rainwater, you help control the amount of runoff and reduce harm to the environment. However, there could be one downside to this. Keeping too much rainwater out of rivers and streams could also disrupt natural ecosystems. 

But no need to overthink. As long as you have one rain barrel that harvests the proper amount, you shouldn’t worry about doing more harm than good.

4. Prevent Erosion and Flooding

If you’re living in an area that gets too much rain, your yard may be prone to floods. If you have a rain barrel, not all the water flowing through the downspout will end up in the yard. Who knows, but the amount of water harvested in the barrel might just be enough to prevent your yard from flooding! 

This will prevent damage to your home’s foundation and the spread of lawn disease. As with preventing soil erosion, this will help keep your soil nutrient-rich and suitable for growing strong, healthy plants. 

For regions with heavy rainfall, rain barrels must be equipped with a diverter. It is commonly installed midway on the downspout. An inlet within the diverter allows for water to travel through a hose which leads directly into the rain barrel. This helps control the flow of water with no damage to the downspout.  

5. Conserve Water During Drought

Aren’t you sick of watching your turfgrass and plants wither away every summer? With a rain barrel, you can use the harvested rainwater to irrigate your lawn guilt-free, since you’re not wasting any water! This will also benefit your community as you’ll be putting less strain on municipal water sources. 

Drought periods can be tough for homeowners in different regions. It’s also sad to admit the fact that water is a limited resource. Installing rain barrels is just one of many ways we can conserve water for the good of the environment. 

6. Control Moisture Levels Around Your Home’s Foundation

In short, a rain barrel with a downspout diverter can control the flow of water and control moisture levels around your home. Essentially, collecting rainwater before it hits the ground can prevent damp and mold issues. We all look to keep our home dry, so installing a rain barrel is one way to make sure that happens. 

7. Going Green to Wash Your Car

Not all of us live close to a car wash. If you install a rain barrel, you may use the harvested water to get the car washed right on your driveway. You won’t need to drive all the way to a car wash, helping you save money and gas! 

Rain Barrel Troubleshooting Tips

Sometimes your rain barrel may not function properly, caused by an improper installation or an exterior factor. But that’s alright; nothing ever functions perfectly. Here are some typical cases of your rain barrel performing poorly, and how to address them: 

  • Rain barrel is filling slowly: This may come from the hose attached to the barrel. Check its entire length to loosen any kinks or remove any blockages that are preventing sufficient water flow. 
  • Mosquitoes keep entering the rain barrel: It’s no secret that mosquitoes are attracted to stagnant water sources, such as water barrels. For those who have a diverter installed, it may provide some protection from mosquitoes. But if you notice that a few are still managing to sneak their way in, double-check the rain barrel’s lid and make sure it’s sealed with no gaps. Additionally, you can cover and secure the mesh screen if there is one. 
  • Rain barrel is overflowing with water: If the overflow persists even with a diverter, then it must not have been installed properly. Check both ends of the overflow hose to see if they’re secure. This may also occur if the rain barrel is leaking water after suffering from cracks. Hopefully it won’t come down to replacing your entire system. 

FAQ About Rain Barrels

What are some basic maintenance requirements for rain barrels? 

You shouldn’t have too much to worry about when it comes to the rain barrel’s performance, so long as it’s properly installed. However, you may perform the following tasks to maintain its performance: 

• Regularly check the overflow area for clogs that could prevent free flowing water
• Keep the gutters clean
• Removes debris such as leaves from the screen at the top of the barrel
• Empty the barrel between rain events
• Check for leaks
• Periodic cleaning 
• Make sure the filter screen is intact to keep mosquitoes out

Are rain barrels dangerous for families with children or pets? 

As long as your dog isn’t chewing on the hose, or your children aren’t deliberately kicking the rain barrel, then you shouldn’t be too concerned. A rain barrel is normally installed on a solid surface so that it remains stable. Additionally, it can be quite heavy once it starts getting full. 

Despite that, you should always make sure that your kids or pets do not climb into the rain barrel. Additionally, they should not be drinking water straight from the barrel. 

What are some more tips to properly use the rain barrel? 

You might think you’ve got the hang of it, but it never hurts to learn more! 

• Insert cinder blocks on level ground to provide a base under the rain barrel. This raised base can help you connect it to the downspout much easier. Just make sure the barrel is at a level state and not leaning; a full one can weigh up to 400 pounds! 
• Ensure the barrel is high enough to put a bucket under the spigot. The higher the bucket, the more water pressure you can get from the hose. 
• To prevent algae growth, don’t let the rainwater remain in your bucket for more than 5 to 7 days. 
• If you want to prettify your barrel, you may purchase paint designed for plastic and get right into it!  

It’s Free Water, Harvest It! 

Rainwater harvesting certainly does more good than harm. Collected water out of every inch of rain can give you plenty of free water to use for many purposes, such as watering your plants. Just as a basic example, you can use a rain barrel to collect about 0.62 gallons of water per square foot of roof area in 1 inch of rain. Just consider the amount of water a 50 or 60 gallon rain barrel can collect in the long run. 

Installing a rain barrel can help you save money by using less potable water, help reduce storm runoff, and protect the aquatic habitat. It is a DIY-friendly solution to some of the wettest areas in the US. Rain barrels can also help keep excess water away from your yard, reducing floods and controlling the moisture levels around your home’s foundation. 

However, if you need help attaching your rain barrel to your gutter downspout, connect with a local gutter professional who’s ready to handle your gutter system needs.

Main Image Credit: patty_c / Canva Pro / License

Jeffery Keusseyan

Jeffery Keusseyan is a writer who loves the winter season, so he knows the importance of unclogged gutters. He likes to provide homeowners with proactive measures to maintain clean, functional gutters during the wet season.