Before you get carried away with your DIY rain barrel, take these tips and ideas to avoid rain barrel mistakes!
In this article:
DIY Rain Barrel Tips and Ideas You Need to Know
Build a Rain Barrel for Self-Sufficiency and Sustainable Living
Whether for everyday use or for emergency situations, collecting rainwater will prove to be a valuable means of water supply. It’s also a great way to save some money on your water bill by using rainwater for your garden.
Rainwater collection can be useful in survival situations as well as when living off the grid. When water starts to run out inside your home or shelter, water stored in water barrels will make a valuable supply—especially if the rain barrel system is well-maintained.
Last spring, I finally asked my friend, Bob, who does handyman work, to help me build some rain barrels. I had actually acquired two food-grade 55-gallon drums from the meat shop.
It’s just a couple miles down the road, but they had been living in my greenhouse waiting patiently for installation. Make sure you use food-grade barrels and not barrels that may have contained toxic substances.
We decided to place the DIY rain barrel system under the stairs so they would be out of the way, but still close to the greenhouse and garden.
1. Sturdy Surface for the Barrels
To get started, I rerouted the downspout down the stairs to the barrels. Now, to allow room for a bucket to go under the rain barrel faucets, six concrete footings were placed under a small reinforced wood deck.
You could also potentially use concrete blocks. Remember, once a 55-gallon drum is full of water, it will weigh over 450 pounds, so whatever surface you have should be sturdy and level.
To create additional capacity, we linked two drums together.
2. Debris Filter and Drain Pipe
To keep debris and bugs out of the tank, we cut out the center of a two-part lid and inserted mesh window screen into the opening. PVC pipe connects the two tanks, and an overflow pipe fits the second barrel, along with drain pipe.
Note: We found out after use that the overflow really should have been on the side of the second barrel, opposite the inlet. This way was easier to rig up but didn’t work very well.
Since we have high winds out here, we need to add strapping to hold the barrels down when they’re not filled. For winter, we drained the barrels and brought them into the greenhouse.
3. Cleaning the Barrels
This spring, before putting them back into action, I gave the barrels a good cleaning. You really want to scrub them out at the beginning of the season to make sure you’re not starting off with contaminated water.
Chunks and scum will clog up your faucets, and make your water foul. You may need a long-handled scrub brush, or have to crawl into your barrel.
I improvised by duct taping a piece of firewood to a brush with a shorter handle. If you’ve got open water, mosquito dunks may be helpful, but a screen works just as well (if not better).
The active ingredient in mosquito dunks is “Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis” (Bti), which attacks the larval stage of mosquitoes. This is a naturally occurring soil bacteria.
However, there are concerns that Bti will be losing its effectiveness due to its genetic engineering into corn.
4. Rain Barrel Uses
Rain barrels are a great way to control runoff and conserve water. It lacks chlorine and fluoride you can find in many municipal water supplies.
Natural rainwater is softer and easier on your garden plants. My grandmother always washed her hair every Saturday night with water from her small rain barrel.
If you happen to have a good water filter, such as a Berkey, you can use the best rain barrel for drinking water in case of emergencies.
5. More on Rainwater Collection
If you want to learn more about how to set up your rain barrel, plans for roof washing systems (to divert the first flow away from your storage to clean your roof before filling your storage), and just about any other questions you may have on rainwater collection, I recommend the book “Rainwater Collection for the Mechanically Challenged“.
Note: Rainwater collection is illegal in some areas and encouraged in others. Please check this list of State Rainwater Harvesting and Graywater Laws and Programs to find out if it is allowed in your area.
Check out this video by envirosponsible on how to make your own rain barrel:
Depending on your location, making a DIY rain barrel is definitely a smart move. Now, you know more ways to get your water supply in case the current water supply system breaks.
You’ve also added one more survival and self-sufficiency skill for living off the grid or when sh*t hits the fan. A few bucks off your water bill isn’t bad either!
Do you consider rain barrels a necessity in your home? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 27, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.