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Great American Rain Barrel

This summer has brought drought across the U.S., which means watering your your outside plants or washing your car is often an expensive — or even illegal — undertaking. A rain barrel is a simple investment that could save your tomatos next year, not to mention some cash.

Something like 60% of household water usage comes from outside watering, so a rain barrel kit like this one from The Great American Rain Barrel Company can go a long way toward saving a significant amount of money and water. It simply attaches to your gutter’s down spout and stores water in a plastic 60 gallon barrel.

The $165 kit comes with a spigot, cover, and downspout attachment. One inch of water is .62 gallons per square foot, so a quarter inch of rain over 350 sq/ft of roof will fill the barrel right up. You can hook multiple barrels together for even more capacity.

I’ll will admit that a dedicated do-it-your-self guy or gal could collect these materials and make their own, but I can say from experience that finding a barrel of any size that didn’t contain a class-1 carcinogen can be difficult.

The Great American Rain Barrel Company [Official Site]
Via Amazon [What’s this?]


28 Responses to When it Rains, You Save

  1. Mark says:

    What about the water coming off an asphalt roof? Are there any studies of whether or not that is toxic. If I had a metal or slate roof I would definitely be using these.

  2. Ben says:

    My dog drinks water off of my asphalt driveway all the time and he is still alive. I wouldn’t worry about it…

  3. Pat says:


    But what does your dog smell like? Ever considered that was because of what he was drinking? 🙂

    Seriously though, do you need to drink the roof water? You can water your plants with pretty much anything. If you really want to run it back into your home plumbing (probably illegal…) use it to flush your toilets or clean your clothes. The problem with a system like this is that to do much with it other than a few low pressure watering jobs, you will need to pump it back up somewhere to get some pressure – probably a tank on your roof.

    Still a good way to water the plants though.

  4. Yuppers says:

    Why are the spigots so high off the ground? You are losing about 1/3 of the capacity.

  5. Eric Dykstra says:

    That’s an excellent question Yuppers. Although the barrel on the right does seem to have some sort of fitting farther down, perhaps it’s so opening the valve doesn’t stir up sediment?

    One barrel scrounging tip i learned after i wrote this that car washes often have an excess of barrels. In general they contained windshield washing fluid or detergent. While i wouldn’t drink anything out of them they can be potentially be used for projects like this. If not just collect a bunch and make a boat dock. 🙂

  6. Dano says:

    What kind of PSI are we able to get from the hose there? 1, 2 ?

    If they were half barrels one could take a bath like in the cowboys and indian times.

  7. Fred says:

    I would be careful using a dog as an expert on what you can drink. Yeah, they drink water off asphalt. They also drink anti freeze off asphalt.

    Rainwater collecters collect a lot more than pure water. In your rain barrel you have water (OK, duh.) as well as pollen, mold spores, and bird droppings. These and more are things washed out of the air and off the collection surface by rain.

  8. ned.ludd says:

    Need cheap barrels? Look for a dairy farm, and then ask for some of their empty “teat sanitizer” barrels. Seriously. Last time it cost me ~$10 each.

  9. Fong says:

    Dano, given the height of the tank at 39″ and the spigot at 14″, a hydrostatic pressure calculation yields a pressure of 8.9 psi. If the spigot was at the bottom of the tank to take advantage of the full 39″, you’d achieve a pressure of 13.8 psi.

    To put those numbers in perspective, most residential homes range in pressure from 30-60 psi.

  10. Keith says:

    Check your calcs. There are 2.3’H20 per 1 PSI, not inches. You get 60 PSI of pressure in your house because the water tower is 150 feet tall, not 150 inches.

    A small booster pump would make this system pretty useful.

  11. jonno says:

    I have some experience with rain barrel setups, and I gotta say I’ve been disappointed. As one poster above noted, the pressure is very low, so unless you’ve got a downhill run to your garden, you won’t be able to use a hose. That means you’ll have to fill and carry buckets, which fill very slowly if the barrel’s less than full or there’s any restriction in the downspout at all. I suspect that’s why the spigot isn’t at the bottom — it’d fill up with debris right quick.

    Also, think about the logistics a bit: when do you most need some extra water for your garden? When it’s hot and dry out, which means summertime. When is it least likely to rain? Summertime. So they fill to overflowing in the other seasons, then you get one use of the saved water in early summer and that’s it until it rains again.

    Granted, that problem applies up here in the pacific northwest, where the summers are mostly dry and all other seasons mostly wet. I had two and disconnected them because they were generally useless and kind of ugly. I could see them being much more useful in areas like the midwest which get those spectacular summer thundershowers (I miss ’em, having lived in Chicago for a spell). They’re also more useful if you have the room for a lot of storage capacity and can really bridge the gap between downpours. Given the water needs of a decent-sized garden, I suspect this could run to the thousands of gallons.

    Anyway, my $.02.

  12. blitzcat says:

    I buy the barrels local for $10 a piece, and glue in my own fittings. Cost is still less than $30 a barrel, and you need several per gutter to really have any amount of water.

  13. Ben says:

    I was never saying that my dog was a judge of if the water was safe for human consumption, I was saying that it was safe for plants. BTW, if your dog would drink anti-freeze, you better be on your way to the Vet or say bye-bye to Fido…

    Can you elaborate on your successes with a set-up like this? What type of pressure do you see?

  14. blitzcat says:

    Theres not a lot of pressure. What I do is attach a soaker hose to each installation, and leave the tap open a smidge less than ‘just barely’. What it does is lets that much more water soak into the ground instead of run off in the storm- over the next day and a half or so, it trickles onto my lawn or garden. A second benefit is that water I collected doesn’t get processed by the storm water system (though I still get charged for it on my waterbill-grr). The soaker method is good for me since I’m to lazy to use the water before it would turn bad from constant heat and sunlight (about a week).

  15. Kif says:

    I’m really tempted by these things, because my roof area compared to my lot size would effectively double my rainfall if I captured the rain at each downspout. The only thing holding me back is Colorado’s unbelievably stupid water laws:


    Read the last paragraph. Given how backwards and outdated they are, I suspect the penalty is stoning or something.

  16. MT says:

    I’m really glad ya’all posted this!!! 😀

    I have plenty to say on the subject, but I guess for now I’ll leave it to this: in some places (the eastern Czech Republic, at least), folks have large black water tanks on the roofs of their garages, the water being heated quite hot in the summer. That combined with gravity provides good showers.

    I’ll also take this opportunity to point out that impermeable surfaces, while a hallmark of present modernity, are largely responsible for many Bad Things… major erosion, silt buildup, and water pollution among them.

    And I’m very sorry for those of you who live in Colorado and localities with similarly idiotic/fascistic laws.


  17. Brau says:

    Thanks for the real world use heads-up Jonno. What you say makes sense.

  18. Yuppers says:

    Confirming what Keith said:

    39″ – 14″ gives a water height of 25″ (2.08′) at the spigot. Divide by 2.31 to get PSI and you get 0.9 PSI. It either a bucket or booster pump for this tank.

    I had thoughts of using a set up like this but tieing it into my lawn sprinkler system with a vacuum eductor so I don’t have to use a booster pump. The eductor uses the velocity of the water flowing in the sprinkler system to create a vacuum thus pulling the water out of the tanks and into the sprinkler feed lines. This way you are using less water to water your lawn.

  19. Yuppers says:

    “This way you are using less water FROM THE WATER COMPANY to water your lawn.”

  20. Rick says:

    I have a rain barrel outside. I used a 55gal blue barrel that used to contail soy sauce (not drinking out of it, but I am confident in watering my garden with it). The barrel was $40 shipped off of ebay. I am using a barrel pump from harbor freight to get the water out. Typically just pump it into a bucket or watering can. If you want to a hose threads right onto the end of the pump.

    I have seen people using a similiar setup for biodiesel, but when they want to transfer it out, the seal up the barrel and pressurize it to 10lbs or so… That would work too.

    It works great, Just plan for an overflow, as the barrel will will up with surprisingly little rain! And you wouldnt want to let it freeze!

    I like mine, and supposidly rain water is better for plants than tap water (chlorine and whatnot… not sure if i believe it though).


  21. Fong says:

    Dano, Keith and Yuppers.

    You’re correct, at the spigot, there’s only 0.9 psi and at the bottom, there’s 1.4 psi. I don’t know where you guys got this 2.3 feet/psi number but my numbers were derived from P=rho*g*h.

    I didn’t mix up the units Keith. What happened was my calculations ended up in N/m^2 and the conversion tool I used was wrong. I just used a different one to convert my 6223 N/m^2 and 9702 N/m^2.

  22. Kif:

    Western states like Colorado evolved a weird style of law regarding water use, the so-called “Prior appropriation” system. Read more about it here.
    But the gist of it seems to be that you can’t catch water that falls on your land because water rights are completely disconnected from land ownership, which as you point out, is probably a bad idea. Apparently you own the water if you can establish that you’ve been using it for a while. Or maybe this is merely a matter of a contract between you and Denver Water, and if you went off the grid (so that no contract exists), it would be legal to capture rain?

    Confusing, this. I feel your pain.

  23. Eric Dykstra says:

    couldn’t you raise the pressure by putting the barrel on its own little water tower? A pressure treated structure raising it up 4 or 5 feet, put the spigot at the very bottom. Keep in mind hydrodynamics aren’t my forte.

    I liked the idea of using compressed air to even out the pressure. Especially if you already have a compressor at home.

  24. jef4130 says:

    At my place of work (new car dealer), the detail guys get chemicals and such off of “chemical trucks”… much like I get tools off the tool trucks, there are guys who drive around dealers and detail shops selling wheel acid, degreaser and such in bulk, 55 gal drums.

    When the drums are empty the chemical guys take them away. I’ve talked to both of the guys who stop by my shop and they both said I could take as many of the empty barrels as I wanted, save them the effort of dealing with them. Free is a pretty good price.

    We also get our brake cleaner in a 55 gal drum (metal) and those get tossed when emptied. Talk to the service manager at new car dealers and see, most won’t mind giving “trash” away.

  25. Yuppers says:

    “couldn’t you raise the pressure by putting the barrel on its own little water tower? A pressure treated structure raising it up 4 or 5 feet, put the spigot at the very bottom. Keep in mind hydrodynamics aren’t my forte. ”

    This would definitely get you more pressure. If you raised it up 4′, you would get about 1.7 more psi.

    To answer Fong’s question, the 2.31 comes from the pump equation for pressure:

    Dp = SG*H/2.31

    Dp is Delta Pressure or difference in pressure (PSI)
    SG is Specific Gravity of the liquid; Water is generally 1.0 (no units)
    H is height of liquid (also referred to as HEAD) from a reference point, in this case, the ground. (in FEET)

    The 2.31 includes factors to convert the H to PSI and handle other Imperial Unit inconveniences.

  26. Kurt says:

    This is on my to-do list for next spring. I didn’t see a point in getting it together just in time to have to winter-ize it.

    I love the idea though, and my backyard slopes away from the house a good bit, so I think I’ll get some pretty good water pressure at the raised garden bed I’ve built.

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