Below is our updated guide for How to Connect Rain Barrels. I know for me; when I began looking into how to be more energy efficient around the home, I discovered it would be a great idea to Connect Rain Barrels to my rain gutter system, and boy, was I right.
As you might not know, an average-sized roof can produce massive amounts of rainwater runoff (up to 500 Gallons per hour for a 1,000-square-foot roof). So it’s plain to see – Connecting rain barrels to your roof’s downspout will take huge advantage of local rainfall.
After some in-depth research, we discovered how simple a rain barrel project is and wrote an in-depth article to help you connect a downspout to your rain barrel.
Note: to connect a multiple-rain barrel system, check out our “How to Set up more than one rain barrel” section below.
Whether you already have a single rain barrel in place, are wondering how to connect multiple rain barrels, or are looking to install your very first rain barrel – you’re definitely in the right place, and here’s how to begin:
Materials To Build a Rain Barrel (DIY)
If you’re wondering how to hook up a rain barrel and do it yourself, You will need:
- Rain barrel
- Diverter Kit
- Spigot (Faucet)
- Adaptor (for downspout)
(Here is a complete DIY kit that gives you the barrel and has all the fittings you’ll need).
1) What is the “Best Type” of Rain Barrel To Install
You’ll also need to decide what 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 types of rain barrels:
- Plastic rain barrel. These are very popular and readily available in most DIY or hardware stores. They’re usually made out of PVC or polyethylene. Plastic rain barrels are also considered the most hygienic and safer for storing water.
- Wooden rain barrel. These are a classic choice and can look beautiful if designed right.
- Collapsible Rain barrel. Also called a”Pop-Up” Rain barrel, and just as the name suggests – Collapsible rain barrels are flat-packed and pop-up, ready to use. These can be a rapid option and are easily moved when not in use, like in Winter.
- Rain barrel and planter. These can look great and can be a feature of your garden. It’s just like it sounds: a rain barrel with a planter and flowers or plants.
How to Connect a “Rain Barrel to Downspout:
Follow these simple steps to connect your first rain barrel – These instructions are everything you need to hook up a rain barrel to a downspout:
- First, you will need to decide how many rain barrels you will need for collecting rainwater – because, as we mentioned earlier, a 1,000 sq. ft. roof can shed up to 500 gallons of water in an hour – that’s a ton of water (literally).
- Next, determine which gutter or downspouts you’ll use to connect your rain. Much of this will be determined by “how much rainwater to collect. If you have a medium to large garden – we suggest “daisy-chaining” multiple rain barrels together (see method below).
- Buy the rain barrel type you want to install and assemble it.
- Next, buy a good rain barrel connector to the downspout, like our favorite, the Mystic diverter kit from Oatey.
The genius idea with the Mystic by Oatey downspout connector is that you can use the built-in rainwater shut-off valve to prevent too much water from entering a single rain barrel.
5. Assemble the rain barrel based on the instructions, which may include installing a hose connector or spigot and connecting the overflow hose. (Rainbarrel overflows when full).
6. Prepare the area where the rain barrel will sit. A solid, flat surface, such as concrete, should be sturdy and stable. If you put the barrel on grass, mud, or sand, you can install concrete pavers to ensure the rain barrel is sturdy and level.
7. A solid surface raised a few inches above the ground is advisable. A 50-gallon rain barrel weighs 420 lbs when full of water, so don’t skip this step.
8. Place the rain barrel on the spot you’ve decided. Make sure the area is level, and the barrel is stable.
9. Drill a hole in the rain barrel for the lower spigot (faucet). 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 the hole size.
10. If you’ve gone for a complete barrel and kit package, it’ll be a similar process (but the barrel may already have the hole drilled). The best location for doing it yourself is usually central and nearer the bottom (3-4 inches off the bottom of the barrel is usually a good location).
11. Insert threaded bushing into the rain barrel before installing the Lower spigot.
12. Insert the spigot in the hole. This will be where the water comes out of the barrel.
13. Drill a hole in the top of the rain barrel to connect the rain barrel to the rain downspout. This will be the same process you did when drilling the hole for the spigot. NOTE: The barrel may already be pre-drilled for a downspout if you’ve bought an all-in-one kit.
14. Install Downspout Elbow (usually 90-degree bend) from the downspout into the rain barrel. Note: If you went for the DIY kit, select an area near the top (3-4 inches off the top) and central. I’d recommend 90 degrees from the spigot location.
15. Push the rubber bushing for the downspout into the hole just drilled in the top of the rain barrel, and connect the downspout by pushing it into the top of the rubber bushing.
16. Create an overflow line. To allow the rain barrel to overflow when it’s full, Drill a hole about 4″ below the top of the Rain barrel. Make sure you measure this correctly and follow the instructions on the pack. You’ll need a hose connector that goes into the rain barrel that will include a garden hose connector – so the new hole needs to fit that size.
17. Once the hole is drilled in the rain barrel, you can install the hose connector into place.
18. The final step is to attach a garden hose to the new hose connector in the rain barrel and divert the water overflow to a suitable runoff location.
Although this appears to be a considerable amount of DIY steps – they go quickly and, once completed, allow you to harvest any future rainwater for use in your garden – for years to come.
What Is the Best Type Of Rainwater Diverter to Use?
The two most popular types of rainwater diverters are the Inline and the Gutter Elbow designs.
1). Inline Adjustable Rainwater Diverter:
For example, the KMJETNIVY rainwater diverter is cut line into a downspout 6″ above the rain barrel. Inline rainwater diverters are popular because you can control water flow into the rain barrel with a valve. The remainder of the water flows down the downspout and into the ground.
2). Gutter Elbow Diverter
Elbow Diverters capture ALL the water from the downspout, pouring rainwater directly into the Rain barrel. There is typically no way to regulate the water collection, and therefore, the Elbow Diverter method requires an overflow hose or connections to multiple rain barrels.
In addition, purchasing a Mesh Rainwater “Screen” to filter debris from the rainwater gutter system is advised.
NOTE: Elbow diverters by design “terminate” the downspout where they are installed. There is no overflow option to ground level.
Check out this How to Install A Rain Barrel (Video): Using “Elbow” Diverter.
How to Connect Two Rain Barrels
Many people want to connect two (or more) rain barrels to double the rainwater they collect. A decent-sized garden could be a great way to ensure you don’t have to water your plants with tap water.
Option 1: The easy method for connecting two or more barrels:
- Install your first rain barrel, a most minor 6″ above barrel number 2. Note: if you need a quick reminder about installing a single rain barrel, follow the instructions I listed in the article above: How to install a rain barrel.
- Since you are connecting two or more barrels, ensure adequate, sturdy, and very level space.
- Connect your rain barrels with a hose at the top so the surplus will flow into the second barrel—However, make sure your first line up and install your first barrel under the downspout you are using. Using a 1 1/2″ hole saw, drill a hole in the side of each barrel at the same height and about 3” from the top.
- Insert the connector kit (see link above) at the TOP of barrel number 1 and your second barrel, connecting both barrels with the hose provided. We like the “Earthminded Kit” for connecting two Rain barrels.
- Attach a commercial-grade Spicket like a Renator to the bottom of your first barrel. As your first barrel fills, the second barrel will accept overflow, allowing you to fill from your picket into two rain barrels.
- Overflow: Ensure you attach a 3rd hose 3″ from the top of barrel #2 to act as an Overflow and run that hose to a permeable area in your garden. (If you use an adjustable diverter in your downspout, you may not need the overflow hose).
- This precaution is used if the diverter in your downspout allows too much water to collect in your system; the excess will have someplace to flow.
Optional: Daisy Chain Rainwater Collection (for 4 or more rain barrels)
Daisy Chain Rain Barrel Instructions:
- Use the above diagram as an excellent method to link multiple rain barrels.
- We suggest raising your barrels off the ground onto a flat, solid surface.
- Get commercial-grade spigots. Remove the plug from the lower port and attach a spigot to the hole.
- You’ll need a Y-splitter, which attaches to the spigot. This will give you the option to connect to 2 different barrels.
- You’ll need a short hose with two female ends, which can be attached to the next splitter and barrel.
- You’ll need a submersible pump and attach a hose to it. Drop the pump into the mother barrel. You can feed the hose out through the bung at 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.
Is Rainwater Harvested from Roofs Safe for Drinking?
In Most Cases, Rainwater is perfectly safe for vegetable or herb gardens. There are, however, a few precautions that you should consider:
1) Use Rainwater for the Soil (Not the Plants)
The NACCA study points out – that rainwater, when applied to the ground, moves through the soil and is largely “filtered” and safe for plants before it reaches the roots. However, it is never advised to water the plant’s leaves or vegetables directly.
There are proven trace amounts of metal and other contaminants found in rainwater runoff from roofs that should never directly come in contact with food sources.
2) Don’t Drink Harvested Rainwater!
Many studies, such as Rutgers University, have concluded that while using harvested rainwater to water your garden – is a safe food for human consumption, using harvested rainwater for human consumption is not ok. Because of the materials and environmental exposure to roofs, rainwater is unsafe for humans.
3) Environmental Impact on Harvested Rainwater
Roofing materials vary greatly, and while some materials, such as asphalt, slate, or composite, pose a lesser risk of contaminants, wood shake shingles were singled out as the worst offenders for surface runoff of rain.
Wood shakes are porous and absorb – and therefore release – environmental contaminants to a much more significant margin than fewer porous materials.
In addition, birds and rodents can and do visit rooftops – and when they leave behind their calling card – that waste can produce E. coli. While Rutgers specifically tested for E. coli in their 12-barrel study, that contaminant was not deemed harmful for garden soil, assuming that collection barrels are adequately maintained.
4) How to Keep Rain Barrels Clean
The Rutgers study shows that rain barrel users should initially clean rain barrels with a 3% bleach solution before collecting water to irrigate and grow a vegetable/herb garden. Use a household, unscented bleach with a 5–6% chlorine solution at a mix rate of 1/8 teaspoon (8 drops) of bleach per gallon of water.
A typical 45-55 gallon rain barrel will need approximately one ounce of bleach added monthly. If you have frequent rainfall, consider adding bleach solution more often.
Again, this step is required to maintain rain barrels for garden soil rainwater use. Not human water consumption.
Different Types of Rain Barrels
As discussed earlier, you can choose many different types of rain barrels. Every budget has an option, so installing one doesn’t have to cost much.
If you’d like to make your rain barrel a focal point of your garden, select a beautifully designed wooden barrel or a barrel and planter.
DIY rain barrel converter kit – Check out a DIY rain barrel converter kit on Amazon here.
Plastic rain barrel
If you’re on a strict budget and would like a rain barrel solution but are not too concerned with its design or functionality, then a plastic rain barrel could be the best solution.
There’s no reason you can’t change the barrel in the future, but it’s a great option to get you started.
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 complete kit, so you’d need the barrel converter kit further up this article.
Here is a link for a complete plastic rain barrel kit, which already includes a spigot and has the holes drilled.
Wood rain barrel
I love the look and design of a wooden rain barrel. They can be beautiful creations that can enhance any garden. These can be specially made for you, or you can simply search online. Below is a style that I like.
Pop-up rain barrel
A collapsible pop-up rain barrel is probably one of the easiest and fastest solutions. They’ll most likely come with the holes already in place and sometimes even with the spigot already attached (shown below)
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.
Frequently Aske Questions: (FAQ)
Q: What are the Benefits of Having a Rain Barrel?
A: These are 6 Great Benefits of Having and Using a Rain Barrel
- Rainwater is much better for plants and flowers than water from a tap. Tap water contains fluoride and other chemicals unsuitable for plant roots. Rainwater is natural and is much better for plants.
- You’ll have your water source, even in periods of drought, hosepipe bans, or watering restrictions.
- Reduce runoff pollution. When it rains and water lands on the ground, it can pick up commercial pollutants, soil, oil, or fertilizer, which can run into lakes and rivers, harming nature.
- Helping reduce water waste. Capturing your rainwater minimizes the need for as much water to go through the lengthy and costly water processing cycle.
- Save money! You’ll also save money and reduce your water bill.
- Using a Rain Barrel Helps the environment and inspires others to do the same.
Q: How Do You Connect a Rain barrel to a Downspout?
A: Here are the steps on how to connect a rain barrel to a downspout:
- Prepare your tools and materials. You will need a hacksaw, a drill, a hole saw, a downspout diverter, a downspout flex elbow, and galvanized screws. You may also need a level and a measuring tape.
- Locate the downspout that you want to connect the rain barrel to. It is best to choose a downspout nearest your garden or yard.
- Measure the height of your rain barrel. You must cut the downspout so the rain barrel can fit underneath it.
- Cut the downspout with a hacksaw. Be sure to wear safety glasses and gloves when cutting the downspout.
- Install the downspout diverter. The diverter will help to direct the water from the downspout into the rain barrel. Different types of diverters are available, so be sure to choose one compatible with your rain barrel.
- Here’s one of our favorite rainwater diverter systems: from OATEY
- Allow the rain barrel to fill with water. Be sure to check the overflow valve to ensure it works properly.
Q: How much does a Rain Barrel Weigh?
A: A 40-gallon rain barrel typically weigh around 30 pounds when empty. When filled to the rim with water, the weight will increase to about 360 pounds. This is why it’s important to have an extremely solid and stable area where it sits.
Q: What Can You Use Rain Barrel Water for?
A: 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 ( Fewer Spots) or your dog (even if he’s not named Spot).
If you have enough water barrels and excess water, you can use it to water your lawn during dry or hot spells.
Q: What Size Rain Barrel Do I Need?
A: When deciding what size rain barrel you need, consider how much water you’re likely to use. Untreated water can stagnate if left for some time, so we don’t want it to sit unused for an extended period.
Typically, 15 minutes of watering plants will use around 45 gallons.
A good calculator helps you determine how much water you can expect to collect based on your area and roof size.
Rain barrels come in sizes ranging from 200-2000 liters. If just starting it may be wise to go for a 300-600 liter barrel.
Q: How many inches of rain does it take to fill a rain barrel?
A: As a rough guide for every One Inch of rainfall on a roof catchment area size of 1000 square feet, you should be able to collect around 500 gallons of water – per hour! That’s a lot of Rainwater, so it’s pretty easy to see why daisy-chaining multiple barrels together makes sense!
This method of connecting multiple barrels will also help you with rain barrel overflow solutions, as you will have a full rain collection for your personal needs.
Q: What are the Common mistakes connecting a rain barrel
A: 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 to harvest rainwater.
- Keep your barrel open. You must avoid opening your barrel, or you may have problems with flies or mosquitos laying eggs in the water.
- Not having the right setup. Please don’t rush into setting up a rain harvesting system before researching it. This can lead to many more problems down the line.
I hope this article has given you the inspiration and confidence to have your rainwater harvesting barrel(s) and take advantage of this free resource.
Want to find more Gear and Equipment for your Home? Head on over to BestHomeGear.com
- How to make your rain barrels aesthetically pleasing? Read this forum here from the National Gardening Association!
- Check out this forum here on how to create your rain barrel for cheap – Instructables.com.
- Soak Up the Rain – Multiple Rain Barrel Resources – EPA.Gov
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