Rain & Rain Barrels?

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9 May 2013


What exactly are rain barrels? How do you use them? Do they really have benefits?

Let’s break it down!

Rain barrels are large containers which traditionally are approximately 50 gallons or the standard industrial size of a drum. Prior to plastic mold injection machines rain barrels where salvaged out of industrial containers. Thumbs up for our grandparents thinking of ways to not waste all that metal! Now that we know more about the effects of metal mixing with rain water and plastic is readily and cheaply made in manufacturing plants, rain barrels are almost always plastic lined. Larger rain barrels do exist in excess of 100 gallons but they tend to be unsightly due to their huge size and most homeowners don’t have a spot near a downspout off the roof to hold that size.

The premise of a rain barrel is to place it where you have excessive water run off during a storm and save it for a drought period and use that water for your garden at little to no cost. The rain barrel would need to have a spout for a hose to be attached to at the bottom to let gravity work or a pumping kit to force water to a place at the top where it would force water out. The pump would need to be rated to be fully submersible and have a pump rate of no less than 750g/minute to pump out the standard 50g rain barrel. don’t forget with a pump you need an outdoor approved and safe GFI plug.

Let’s imagine you buy a typical 50g rain barrel-not a decorative one- at a cost of $100. You have either ordered it on-line and had it shipped or you have driven to a store to procure it. I mention this because when figuring out costs the freight is rarely figured in as is the opportunity cost of capital or what you could have been doing with that $100 + freight. If you require or desire the pump they begin at $100 too.

Once you have the rain barrel in place, you may need to rework your existing downspout from your roof to properly feed into the barrel. A simply fix for this is flexible spout extension sold at big box store for less than $15 each. They come in a variety of colors: green, brown and white. Once you have the barrel in place, a spout directed and the pump in the barrel (plugged into a GFI outdoor safe plug) we wait for a forecast like today’s where there will be a good spell of rain.

You will use the water captured inside the barrel once we re-enter a drought period or in lieu of turning on the hose. Keep in mind, you still need to own a hose to disperse the water in your garden or lawn.

I find the idea of rain barrels interesting, although not practical for people living in urban towns and cities. The run off from the roof is often contaminated with debris, the rain barrel needs to be cleaned out which still requires using conventional hoses and exterior hose bibs and 50g would not begin to cover my lawn at the the 1 inch weekly requirement for turf. If the water is not being captured, it is re-entering the ground where my well pulls it out of anyway. The opportunity cost of capital on the $100+ investment would go a long way towards my green energy bill that I now pay to use my sprinklers which are set on timers and used during off peak rate times. Lastly, I don’t like the idea of sitting water close to my home for mosquitoes and other insects.

What do you think? Do you have a rain barrel and it is effective and efficient? Have you tried them before and they flopped?

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