When I began looking into how to be more energy-efficient and saving money at home, I thought it would be a good idea to look into How to Connect Rain Barrels – The simple process of connecting a rain barrel to your downspout, taking advantage of local rainfall. To accomplish this I knew I would probably need multiple containers for collecting rainwater. After all a 1,000 sq. ft. Roof can shed up to 500 gallons of water in an hour!
I’d heard all of the benefits of collecting rainwater by connecting Rain Barrels together – and the many uses for using fresh clean rainwater. I also thought it might be a little too complicated or time-consuming. After some “DIY” research, we not only discovered how simple the project is – but also decided to write an in-depth article, to help you connect your own rain barrels together. Note: to connect a multiple rain barrel system, check out our “How to Set up more than one rain barrel” techniques in our article below.
Whether you already have a single rain barrel in place, wondering how to connect multiple rain barrels, or you’re looking to install your first rain barrel – you’re definitely in the right place.
What you need to set up your own DIY rain barrel
If you’re looking to connect a rain barrel and want to do it yourself then you’ll need a rain barrel, a diverter, spigot and fittings/adaptor. I’ve found a kit below where you have all of the fittings you’ll need.
DIY rain barrel converter kit
You’ll also need to decide what type of rain barrel you’d like. There are many options and types of rain barrels. I’ll go into more detail later in the article but for now, I’ll touch on some of the most common ones:
- Plastic rain barrels. These are very popular and readily available in most DIY or hardware stores. They’re usually made out of PVC or polyethylene
- Wooden rain barrel. These are a classic choice and can look beautiful if designed right.
- Pop up rain barrel. As the name suggests these are flat packed and simply pop up and are ready to use. These can be a really quick option and are easily moved.
- Rain barrel and planter. These can look great and can really be a feature of your garden. It’s basically a rain barrel with a planter and flowers or plants on top.
How to connect a single rain barrel to a downspout
Twelve simple steps to connect your first rain barrel – these instructions are everything you need to set it up
- First, you must determine which gutter downspout you’ll use to connect your rain barrel or barrels.
- Choose your rain barrel and assemble it. Assemble based on the instructions, but it may include installing a hose connector or spigot and connecting the overflow hose.
- Prepare the area where the rain barrel will sit. If you have a solid flat surface, such as concrete it should be sturdy and stable enough. If however, you are putting the barrel on the grass, mud, sand or pavers you’ll need to dig a hole of around 2 inches to make sure the rain barrel is sturdy. If you do have a solid surface which is raised off the ground a few inches that would be advisable. The barrel will weigh a lot when full of water so it’s crucial you don’t skip this step.
- Place the barrel on the dedicated area you’ve decided. Make sure the area is level and the barrel is stable.
- Drill a hole in the rain barrel for the spigot. Refer to the instructions for the size of the hole to drill. If you’ve gone for the DIY kit you’ll see the connector and what size the hole should be. If you’ve gone for a complete barrel and kit package then it’ll be a similar process (but the barrel may already have the hole drilled). The best location if you’re doing it yourself is usually central, and nearer the bottom (3-4 inches off the bottom of the barrel is usually a good location).
- Insert threaded bush in
- Insert the spigot in the hole. This will be where the water comes out.
- Drill a hole to connect the rain barrel to the rain downspout. This will be the same process you did when drilling the hole for the spigot. If you’ve bought an all in one kit the barrel may already be pre-drilled. If you went for the DIY kit then select an area, near the top (3-4 inches off the top) and central. I’d recommend 90 degrees from the spigot location.
- Push the rubber bushing into the hole just drilled in the rain barrel
- Drill a hole in the rain downspout. Make sure you measure this correctly and follow the instructions on the pack. You’ll have a connector which goes into the downspout so it’ll need to fit that size.
- Once the holes are drilled in the rain downspout you can then push in the connector into place.
- The final step is to attach the rubber tubing to the connector in the rain downspout and the rubber bushing in the rain barrel.
If you follow these steps you should have a fully functioning rain barrel system, where you can harvest the rainwater for use in your garden for years to come. You can also check out this Quick Video:
Rain Barrel Installation
Types of Rain Barrels
As I touched on earlier there are many different types of rain barrels you can choose. There’s an option for every budget, so it doesn’t have to cost a lot to install one. If you’d like to make your rain barrel a focal point of your garden you can also select a beautifully designed wooden barrel or a barrel and planter.
Plastic rain barrels
If you’re on a strict budget and would just like a rain barrel solution but are not too concerned with its design, just it’s functionality then a plastic rain barrel could well be the best solution for you. There’s no reason you can’t change the barrel in the future but to get you started it’s a great option.
You’ll easily be able to pick one up in most DIY or hardware stores, or online.
Here is a simple rain barrel on Amazon. This isn’t a full kit so you’d need the barrel converter kit further up this article.
Here is a link for a full plastic rain barrel kit, which already includes a spigot and already has the holes drilled.
Wooden rain barrel
I love the look and design of a wooden rain barrel. They can be beautiful creations which can enhance any garden. These can be specially made for you or you could simply search online. Below is a style which I personally like.
Pop-up rain barrel
A collapsible pop-up rain barrel is probably one of the easiest and fastest rain barrel solutions. They’ll most likely come with the holes already in place and sometimes even with the spigot already attached (shown below)
Rain barrel and planter
If you have the budget and love gardening, then I don’t think there’s a better solution than a rain barrel and planter. There are many different designs and styles. Browse the link below if you’re interested in this type of barrel.
How to Connect Two or More Rain Barrels
Many people decide to connect two (or more) rain barrels together to double the amount of water they can collect. If you have a decent-sized garden this could be a great way to ensure you don’t have to water your plants with tap water.
Option 1: Simplest and quickest method for connecting 2 or more barrels.
- Install your first rain barrel a least 6″ above barrel number 2. Note: if you need a quick reminder about installing a single rain barrel just follow the instructions I listed in the article above: How to install a rain barrel. Since you are connecting two or more barrels, make sure that you have adequate, sturdy, and very level space.
- Connect your rain barrels with a hose at the top so the surplus will flow into the second barrel—However, make sure you first line-up and install your first barrel under the downspout your using. Using a 1 1/2″ hole saw, drill a hole in the side of each barrel, at the same height and about 3” from the top. Insert the connector kit (see link above) in barrel number 1 and in your second barrel, and connect both holes with the hose provided.
- Attach a commercial-grade Spicket to the bottom of your first barrel. As your first barrel fills, the second barrel will accept overflow.
- Overflow: Make sure you attach a 3rd hose 3″ from the top of barrel #2 to act as an Overflow and run that hose to a permeable area in your garden. (If you’re using an adjustable diverter in your downspout you may not need the overflow hose). This precaution is used in case the diverter in your downspout allows too much water to collect in your system, the excess will have someplace to flow.
Option 2: Connect 4 or more barrels – Harvest water for large Garden or Lawn.
- We suggest raising your barrels off of the ground and onto a flat solid surface
- We Recommend getting a commercial-grade spigot. Remove the plug from the lower port and attach a spigot to the hole
- You’ll need a Y-splitter, which attaches to the spigot. This will give you the option to connect to 2 different barrels.
- You’ll need a short piece of hose which has 2 female ends so this can be attached to the next splitter and barrel.
- You’ll need a submersible pump, attach a hose to it. Drop the pump into the mother barrel. You can feed the hose out through the bung in the top of the barrel. This can then be attached to a sprinkler system. You’ll usually get around 15 minutes of watering per full barrel.
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Is Rainwater Collected from Roofs Safe?
In Most Cases, Rainwater is perfectly safe for use in vegetable or herb gardens.
Results of this study showed that overall the water quality of the rain barrel water was very good. Heavy metals were well below federal irrigation standards for reclaimed water and posed minimal risk for irrigating a vegetable garden. Rutgers University Rainwater Quality Study
There are, however, a few precautions that you should consider:
Water the Soil, Not the Plant
The NACCA study points out – that rainwater when applied to the ground moves through the soil and is in large part “filtered” and safe for plants before it reaches the roots. However, it is never advised to water the plant’s leaves or vegetables directly. There are proven trace amounts of metal and other contaminants found in rainwater runoff from roofs, that should never come in contact with food sources directly.
Don’t Drink The Water!
Many studies, such as Rutgers University have concluded that while using harvested rainwater to water your garden – is safe food for human consumption, using harvested rainwater for human consumption is not ok. Because of the materials and environmental exposure to roofs, rainwater is not considered safe for humans.
Environmental Impact on Harvested Rainwater
Roofing materials vary greatly, and while some materials such as asphalt, slate, or composite pose lesser risk of contaminants, wood shake shingles, were singled out as the worst offenders. Wood shakes are porous and absorb – and therefore release – environmental contaminants to a much greater margin, than fewer porous materials.
In addition, birds and rodents can and do visit rooftops – and when they leave behind their calling card – that waste can produce E-coli. While Rutgers specifically tested for E-coli in their 12 barrel study, that contaminant was not deemed harmful for use in garden soil, assuming that collection barrels are properly maintained.
Maintaining Safe and Clean Rain barrels
The Rutgers study Rain barrel users should initially clean rain barrels with a 3% bleach solution Before collecting water to irrigate a vegetable/herb garden. Use a household, unscented bleach with a 5–6% chlorine solution at a mix rate of 1/8 teaspoon (8 drops) of bleach per gallon of water.
A typical 45-55 gallon rain barrel will need approximately one ounce of bleach added on a monthly basis thereafter. If you have frequent rainfall, consider adding bleach solution more often. Again, this step is required to maintain rain barrels for garden soil rainwater use. Not human water consumption.
Interesting Facts About Installing a Rain Barrel System:
6 benefits of owning a rain barrel
- Rainwater is much better for plants and flowers than water from a tap. Tap water contains fluoride and other chemicals which aren’t suitable for plants roots. Rainwater is natural and is much better for plants.
- You’ll have your own water source, even in periods of drought or hosepipe bans or watering restrictions.
- Reduce runoff pollution. When it rains and water lands on the ground it can pick up manmade pollutants, soil, oil or fertilizer, which can run off into lakes and rivers harming nature.
- Helping reduce water waste. Capturing your own rainwater minimizes the need for as much water to go through the lengthy and costly water processing cycle.
- Save money! You’ll also save money and reduce your water bill.
- Help the environment and inspire others to do the same.
How much does a rain barrel weigh?
A 40-gallon rain barrel will typically weight around 30 pounds when empty. When filled to the rim the weight will increase to around 360 pounds. This is why it’s so important to have an extremely solid, and stable area where it sits.
What can you use rain barrel water for?
There are many things you can use rain barrel water for. The most common is watering your plants, vegetables, and flowers.
You can also use the water you collect to wash your car ( Fewer Spots) or even wash your dog (even if he’s not named Spot).
If you have enough water barrels in place and an excess amount of water you can also use it to water your lawn, during dry or hot spells.
What Size rain barrel do I need?
When you’re trying to decide what size rain barrel you need you should consider how much water you’re likely to be using. Untreated water can stagnate if left for a period of time so we don’t want it to sit unused for a long period.
Typically 15 minutes of watering plants will use around 45 gallons of water.
There’s a good calculator which helps you work out how much water you could expect to collect based on your area and roof size.
Rain barrels come in sizes ranging from 200-2000 liters. If just starting out it may be wise to go for a 300-600 liter barrel.
How many inches of rain does it take to fill a rain barrel?
As a rough guide for every inch of rainfall on a roof catchment area size of 1000 square feet, you should be able to collect around 500 gallons of water – per hour! That’s a Lot of Rainwater, so it’s pretty easy to see why daisy-chaining multiple barrels together makes sense! This method of connecting multiple barrels will also help you deal with rain barrel overflow solutions, as you will have maximum rain collection for your own personal needs.
Common mistakes connecting a rain barrel
When setting up your rain barrel system it’s just as important to know what not to do and how to avoid these mistakes.
- Making it too complicated. You don’t need to make it a costly solution just to harvest rainwater
- Keeping your barrel open. You need to avoid having your barrel open or you may have problems with flies or mosquitos laying eggs in the water.
- Not having the right setup. Don’t rush straight into trying to set up a rain harvesting system before you research it. This can lead to many more problems down the line.
I hope this article has given you the inspiration and confidence that you can have your own rainwater harvesting barrel(s) and take advantage of this free resource.
Want to find more Gear for your home like this? Head on over to BestHomeGear.com!
- How to make your rain barrels aesthetically pleasing? Read this forum here from the national gardening association!
- Check out this forum here on how to create your rain barrel for cheap!
- Here are some of our favorite leaf blower techniques!
- Check out the top-rated cordless leaf blowers you can buy in 2019
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