How To Connect Rain Barrels

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When I began looking into how to be more energy efficient and saving money from my home I thought it would be a good idea to look into how to connect rain barrels. I’d heard all of the benefits of collecting rainwater, and the uses of it but thought it would be too complicated and time-consuming. I’ve put this in-depth article together to help you connect your own rain barrel. In a hurry? You can buy a pre-made rain barrel on Amazon here! Whether you already have a rain barrel in place and are wondering how to connect rain barrels or you’re looking to install your first rain barrel you’re 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:

Check out a DIY rain barrel kit on Amazon here!

  • 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 rain barrel to a downspout

If you want to connect your first rain barrel then the instructions below should be everything you need to set it up correctly.
  1. Firstly you must determine which gutter downspout you’ll use to connect your rain barrel or barrels.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  1. Place the barrel on the dedicated area you’ve decided. Make sure the area is level and the barrel is stable.
  2. 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).
  3. Insert threaded bush in
  4. Insert the spigot in the hole. This will be where the water comes out.
  5. 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.
  6. Push the rubber bushing into the hole just drilled in the rain barrel
  7. 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.
  8. Once the holes are drilled in the rain downspout you can then push in the connector into place.
  9. 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.

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 need not cost a lot to install one. If you’d like to make your rain barrel a focal point of your garden you can 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.

Check out a wooden rain barrel here on Amazon!

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)

Check out a pop-up rain barrel here on Amazon!

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.

Check out a rain barrel and planter here on Amazon!

How to set up more than one rain barrel

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.

Need a rain barrel connector kit? You can find one here on Amazon!

There are 2 options when it comes to connecting multiple rain barrels. Option 1 is by far the simplest and quickest method and is suitable for connecting 2-3 barrels.
  • Attach the elbow to the port on the side of each barrel (near the top).
  • Add some ¾ inch inner diameter tubing to the connect the barrel(s).
  • You can then daisy chain the barrels.
Option 2 would be more appropriate if you’re looking to connect 4 or more barrels and be able to harvest the water for all of your garden, including your lawn.
  • Suggest raising your barrels off of the ground on a flat solid surface
  • Recommend getting a commercial grade spigot. Remove the plug from the lower port and attach a spigot to the hole
  • You’ll need a 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.

Benefits of owning a rain barrel

There are many benefits of owning a rain barrel. I’ll go into some detail for each of these below.
  1. 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.
  2. You’ll have your own water source, even in periods of drought or hosepipe bans or watering restrictions.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Save money! You’ll also save money and reduce your water bill.
  6. 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 a 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 or even wash your dog. 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 600 gallons of water.

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.

Additional Reading

Photo Credit from Flickr Creative Commons License goes to Nishanth Sarma and Anthony DiLara

As a homeowner, builder, and rental manager, I use yard tools & equipment nearly every day. Like you, I have experienced the pain of relying on equipment that doesn’t work when I need it. I developed this site to help other folks just like me, quickly review and discover the perfect Cordless yard equipment for their own needs.

2 Comments
  1. Oh, I like this idea! We tend to have very rainy springs and dry summers with brief thunderstorms, so a barrel would be great for saving water to put on the garden…every bit helps. Do you have any tips for winterizing the barrels, or is that unnecessary?

    • Hi Martha,
      That’s a great question! My answer would be that since most of the uses for rainwater use have to do with watering plants, garden, etc. most folks just disconnect the system right before winter. What you wouldn’t want is standing water in the rain barrel system anywhere, at time of freezing temps. Hope that helps and thanks for the comment!
      Kevin

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