Collecting and storing rainwater, also known as rainwater harvesting, can save the average household about 1,300 gallons of water over the course of a typical summer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Rain barrels collect the runoff from storms, enabling you to use that water to irrigate the lawn, wash your car and water your landscaping. This saves more pure drinking water for cooking and bathing, especially during the summer months, when lawn and garden watering accounts for 40 percent of household water use. Supplies for building a rain barrel should cost less than $30.
Items you will need:
- 55-gallon plastic drum
- Permanent marker
- 6-inch aluminum louver with screen
- Drill with 1/2- and 3/4-inch bits
- Electric jigsaw
- 3/4-inch outdoor faucet
- Waterproof sealant (silicone caulk)
- 2 and 3/4-inch to 1 and 1/4-inch reducing washers
- 3/4-inch lock nut
- 4 cinder blocks
- Flexible downspout extender (optional)
Find a 55-gallon plastic drum at your local recycling center or commercial container store. Some sell drums specifically for rain barrels.
Locate your downspouts and note the square footage around each one. Pick a site that has adequate space for the rain barrel and is close to the area where you want to use the water.
Set the 55-gallon drum near the chosen site, along with all your tools and supplies. Rinse the drum with soap and water or a biodegradable cleaner.
Trace a 6-inch circle in the center of the top with a permanent marker. Using the aluminum louver as a template, trace an inside circle so that the louver will fit snugly and not fall in. Drill a hole in the center of the circle with the 1/2-inch drill bit, then finish cutting with your jigsaw. Insert the louver with the screen side down to make sure it fits; cut more if necessary.
Drill a hole for the faucet with the 3/4-inch bit, one or two inches from the bottom of the barrel to give it some clearance. Screw the faucet into the hole once and then unscrew it, taking it out completely.
Place a small amount of sealant around the hole, then place the washer over it. Press firmly to make sure the washer is securely in place, then twist the faucet back into the hole, ending with the spigot pointing downward.
Set the barrel up next to your gutter and mark where you need to cut to make the downspout flow directly into the inlet hole. Cut the downspout with the hacksaw, then set up your platform with cinder blocks, making sure the ground is level.
Place the barrel on the platform underneath the gutter, then reattach the old downspout. Alternatively, use a flexible downspout extender to give you some maneuvering room.
- If your drum has a lid, try unscrewing the lid and covering the top with mesh screen, then screwing the lid back on. Use this instead of the louver for filtering rain water.
- To avoid overflow and algae growth, use the collected water within two weeks.
- If you live in a rainy area, add an overflow faucet near the top of the barrel. Attach a hose and direct it toward an appropriate discharge location or connect it to another rain barrel.
- Do not use rainwater for drinking, bathing or cooking. Do not use it on plants if you have a roof or gutters made of copper.
Sarena Fuller has been writing professionally since 2003. She has written for e-commerce sites, architectural firms, doctors and fashion companies. Her writing experience varies from technical writing to hair and beauty, alternative medicine and eco-friendly living. Fuller holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Arizona.
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