Gardeners love to make use of natural resources. Have you ever wished that you could collect the rain to water your plants? There are actually ways to do so. One is by using a rain barrel system.
Rain barrels might look simple, but they're actually highly specialized contraptions. To use one easily and efficiently, you need to have the right combination of features. It helps to understand how rain barrels work and why they're important.
We've taken a look at the best rain barrels on the market, along with some information on what you ought to look for when choosing one.
Top 5: Best Rain Barrels
This barrel is a great choice for anyone who wants to collect water while making environmentally sustainable choices. The spigot and barrel are both crafted entirely from recycled plastic, so there isn't any waste in the production. You can also purchase the model in four stylish colors: wood grain, black, brown, and tan.
Part of the goal is to use the barrel to collect water during a drought. This allows you to water your garden without wasting precious water in the dry season. The covering uses a plastic screen to keep debris and insects away while allowing water inside.
The spigot shutoff valve allows you to attach a standard garden hose. If you want to water your garden from your hose, you can do so. The water pressure may be fairly low, though.
This design uses a flat back instead of being rounded on all sides. Since one side is flat, you can place it against an outside wall to save space. Keep in mind that ongoing water pressure may cause this flat side to bulge outward over time, though.
The oak barrel texture looks exactly like a real wooden barrel. Since it is molded into the plastic rather than painted on, it won't fade over time. It also won't rot the same way wood does, and there won't be any risk of mosquitoes.
You can also purchase a stand for this barrel, which makes it easier to fill your watering can. The stand is sold separately by the manufacturer.
This barrel is available in both brown and black, so you can pick whichever one suits your needs. Like the previous option, the design features a large top opening and a flat back, which allows you to place the barrel wherever you want. It's easy to install the downspout.
One concern people often have about open barrels is the drowning risk for children. But the top of the barrel uses a wheel and spoke pattern that will keep children and pets from falling in, making it safe for families.
The back of the barrel features an overflow connection that removes excess water from the area. Instead of letting water pool around the house, it directs the water under the barrel itself.
That makes it a good choice for people who live in rainy areas where the barrel might overflow frequently. It's also a good choice for people in dry desert climates who live in places prone to flash floods.
The side of the barrel has multiple spigots. You can use these to connect hoses between several rain barrels in this series. If you decide that you want to collect more water, or you find that your one barrel is often overflowing, this is a great idea.
Also included in the package is a screen that protects against debris, the overflow hose, a shut-off valve that allows for garden hose attachment, a garden hose, a hanging clip, and a linking kit that helps you connect multiple barrels of this type.
Seed Starting Mixes
This is one of the pricier options on the list, but it's also one of the most functional. It can collect up to 50 gallons of rainwater. The brass spigot can be connected to your hose for easy plant watering or for overflow removal. There is no automatic overflow hose, though.
The exterior looks like a charming wooden barrel. However, the product is actually made from heavy-duty UV-resistant polyethylene resin. This plastic is capable of resisting mildew, algae, mold, and rust. It will not fade in the sun, will not crack in the cold, and will not harbor insects like rotting wood.
The back of the design is flat rather than rounded, which allows you to mount the barrel against your house. This makes it easier to install the downspout. It also saves space in your yard.
This is the best option on the list if you're looking for a large, portable rain barrel. It collapses when empty for easier storage. The kit also comes with an overflow kit, two spigots, and 25 garden labels for your plants.
It's also an affordable choice, so it's a good idea for those who are shopping for a large-capacity barrel on a budget.
You can easily transport the barrel from place to place when it's empty. Setting it up is just as easy. The assembly doesn't require any fuss or hassle.
The container is made from triple-layered PVC material that seals the interior against leaks while protecting the water from exterior contamination. It has a tough zipper that won't break under pressure. The material is resistant to both cold and heat, including freezing temperatures and UV light.
It is built to survive a long time in the outdoors. You don't need to worry about bringing it inside every time the weather turns rough.
Inside the package, you'll find the container itself, a high flow spigot, a downspout spigot, an overflow spout, an overflow hose, leakproof connecting washers, and five legs to anchor the container. There is also a pre-installed filter over the intake hole, which removes debris from the water.
Instructions for assembly are included. The overflow system includes multiple valves that let you divert water from the house if the barrel gets too full.
Best Indoor Watering Cans
This is an ideal option for anyone who's looking for something with unique aesthetic appeal. Instead of mimicking a barrel, this rain saver looks like a beautiful planter. It is also available in eight different colors, so you can pick whatever best matches your outdoor decor.
The barrel has a capacity of 50 gallons. It also has a planter top. When the rain falls down into the barrel, it also nourishes the plants. These grow over time, becoming a beautiful part of your garden.
The opening to the barrel is filtered by a mesh screen. This keeps soil and other debris out of the water supply.
Each model comes with a brass spigot. Brass performs better than plastic in this case because it does not leak or crack in the cold. It is also resistant to rust, while most alternative metals are not.
The routed channel of the barrel moves extra water to the barrel's front, which keeps the foundation of the house from becoming flooded.
There are two spigot locations rather than just one. You can attach a hose or a five gallon bucket. The higher location works well for filling watering cans and other containers, while the lower one is perfect for garden hoses.
Overall, we recommend the RTS Companies Inc barrel. This rain barrel sits easily against a wall and can collect rain from your downspout. It is made completely from recycled plastic materials and is easy to clean. In addition, it's a super stylish option, with an authentic-looking wooden molding and four different colors to choose from.
If you live in a very rainy area, the RC4000 barrel may be the best solution for you. It has an overflow hose that directs water away from your home when the barrel can no longer collect it. In addition, you can connect multiple of these barrels together using the spigots on the sides.
For those seeking a portable rain barrel option, our biggest recommendation is the Lostronaut barrel. This super affordable design uses tough materials to collect water and protect it from the elements.
But it can be collapsed and compactly stored when not in use, and setting it up is very easy. It even includes all the overflow and spigot and hose accessories you might need.
Frequently Asked Questions
It is possible to put together a rain barrel system by yourself. But if you've never done it before, you might not be sure where to start. There are a lot of factors to keep in mind. For an ideal rain barrel, there are more steps than simply setting a basin outside and waiting.
Your first step will be to select the container. You'll need something that's leakproof and large enough to hold enough water for your garden. If it doesn't rain often near you, you'll want something wide rather than tall. If it does rain often, you'll want something with enough volume to collect.
It's important that this container hasn't had any exposure to potentially toxic chemicals. What was it originally used to hold? Chemical residue can leech into the water, which can in turn leech into your plants. Not only is that harmful to them, but it can also be dangerous to you if you eat any of your garden harvest.
In addition to the barrel itself, a functioning system will need:
- A screen, filter, or other cover that will keep debris out while letting water in
- A spout that can be attached to a hose
- An interior that is protected from potentially harmful toxins from outside
There are some pretty serious consequences for not setting the system up correctly. You might end up dealing with pests like mosquitoes and other flies. In addition, a homemade rain barrel might pose a danger to your children if it tips over, so it's not a good choice to have in houses with kids.
If you've done a lot of DIY projects similar to this, there's no reason not to give it a go. But if you're not the crafty type, you'll likely save both time and money by purchasing a pre-made system.
Rain barrels can be used to conserve water no matter where you live. Whether you're in a desert that only gets the occasional shower, or in a temperate forest that rains all the time, you can harness this natural resource for yourself.
The majority of today's rain barrels are made using heavy-duty plastic. These plastic materials are strong enough to withstand the elements, thick enough to prevent leaks or contamination, and affordable enough that they can be installed in the average household. They also lack the potentially harmful materials found in some other plastics.
It's possible to make rain barrels using wood or planters. However, natural materials will decay and rot in ways that plastic will not. You'll need to replace the barrel frequently, and the water inside might be compromised by the process.
Plastic can resist harsh ultraviolet light and fierce storms. It also won't make a good home for insects due to the lack of rot. Unlike metal, it won't corrode or rust. The smooth surface makes it very easy to clean any spills or exterior debris.
Some plastic rain barrels might have BPA. This is the material that can be harmful if ingested. Not every manufacturer publicly announce whether or not their facilities use BPA plastics, so you might have to do deeper research to find out. Look for models that are certified BPA-free.
Flat-backed barrels are designed to be placed against flat walls. You can put them right against your home or your garden wall. This allows them to be more compact. Since they take up less space, they're good for small garden areas. You can also accommodate the spout more easily.
With that said, the flattened back might become warped and expanded when the barrel is full. The pressure is exerted much more against that side than the rounded side. The corruption is especially likely in hot weather conditions.
Since round designs have equal pressure on all sides, they won't go through this warping process. If you want a barrel that's sure to retain its shape, you'll want something round.
Generally, a rain barrel's spigot is close to the bottom of the model. However, the exact positioning varies. You don't want the spigot to be directly at the bottom, as this will make it impossible to fill your watering can or bucket. But if your spigot is too high, you won't be able to collect water on the lower levels.
Low-placed spigots are easier to mitigate than high ones. You can place the barrel on a stable surface like cinder blocks or a table. Just be sure that the surface is stable. Will it be able to hold the barrel when it's full? Keep in mind that wind and other weather conditions might cause the barrel to shift.
Nearly every spigot is compatible with a hose. You can screw your garden hose into the spigot and then fill your watering can with the end. But the flow of water will be very slow. Filling directly from the spigot means more pressure.
If you want heavy pressure while using your garden hose, you might consider using a pump. It's possible to install a water pump into a barrel that has a large top opening.
Some barrel designs do have an opening at the top, while others don't.
In some, the only access is through the small downspout opening. This design might be ideal if you have young children or curious pets, because it prevents anyone from drowning in the barrel. However, you also won't be able to access the interior to clean it. Mildew and mold might grow with no way to get rid of them.
Large openings in the top have more versatile uses. You can put them under your downspout, or you can allow them to collect rain in the open. You can also access this barrel, hosing it down when needed and doing a deeper clean if mold begins growing.
Even the most leakproof designs are not invulnerable to leakage. The majority of rain barrel owners have suffered from occasional leaking around the spigot. This can be frustrating, as it feels like you've wasted all the water you tried so hard to collect.
When you screw the spigot in, you can use specialize waterproofing tape or caulk to seal the edges. This will make it difficult to remove the spigot, but it will also prevent water from leaking out around it.
Some barrels already have the spigot attached. If this is the case, you might need to detach it and reassemble it with the caulk. However, the majority of models come with the spigot separate from the barrel.
You might have heard that rainwater picks up toxic chemicals as it runs along your roof. If you collect from your downspout, those chemicals might end up in the barrel, and then end up in your garden. Or so the wisdom goes.
However, scientists believe that there is very little danger to using a rain barrel. Roof panels don't have many pollutants that wash off in the rain. Researchers have observed the purity and chemical contaminants of water to confirm this theory. When vegetables were grown using rainwater, tests indicated that the majority were completely safe for consumption.
There are ways to protect yourself from bacteria and toxin exposure when you're setting up your system.
Keep in mind that a rain barrel might put you at risk if:
- The roof has strips of zinc
- The gutter or roof is made from copper
- The roof has been given an anti-algae or anti-mold chemical treatment
If your roof meets any of these criteria, it may not be safe to collect water from it.
But that doesn't mean that you can't use a rain barrel. You'll just need to set up a new structure with a sloping surface and gutter. This will still direct rain into the barrel just like a roof system would.
If it's been a long time since the last rain, there might be more contamination on the roof. Animal dung and plant residue is likely to mix with the droplets. Because of this, you should always pour out the initial runoff during a new rain.
If you're still concerned about potential toxins in the plants, water the soil itself instead of sprinkling droplets on the leaves and flowers. Soil is a protective material that can filter bacteria and toxins from the water. It prevents them from reaching the plants and harming them.
If you add a single ounce of chlorine bleach to a 55 gallon barrel of water, you will get rid of any bacteria that might be festering. After you mix the materials, though, you should wait 24 hours before using the solution on your garden. This gives the chlorine a chance to dissolve.
Even if your barrel only has a small downspout opening, the exterior might still collect leaves and debris. You can hose it down. Open-top barrels are much easier to clean thoroughly thanks to their accessibility.
These are the steps you should follow to clean your barrel, if possible:
- Every so often, empty the barrel out entirely.
- Spray the interior and exterior with a hose, washing away all visible debris.
- Mix a solution of 1/8ths of a cup of chlorine bleach in 5 gallons of water.
- Clean the interior with the solution to get rid of any bacteria, mildew, mold, fungus, or other potentially harmful contaminants.
- After cleaning the interior of the barrel, rinse it thoroughly with the hose to remove all traces of bleach.