Installing a Rain Barrel

See how adding a rain barrel can help conserve water and keep your plants happy through the hot summer months.

Step 9: Test the Rain Barrel

Step 9: Test the Rain Barrel

Ensure the rain barrel is working properly by checking it after a rain.

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

I’m going to just come out and say it: the weather here in Tennessee is completely unreliable. In the summertime we can go weeks without seeing a raindrop only for it to suddenly downpour for an hour before quickly drying up again. Sometimes you can’t even tell it rained. 

Drought-like conditions make it hard on the home gardener. Keeping up with the needs of your precious plants means water, water and more water—and if you’ve gone days without a good rain all that water is coming out of your wallet. 

Dry weather, meet rain barrel. 

Rain barrels collect rainwater from your roof by rerouting a section of your gutter’s downpipe into a nearby reservoir – usually a barrel. They are fairly simple to install and once you have one set up, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates a single 55-gallon rain barrel can save you up to 1,300 gallons of water during the hot summer months. 

Ready to convert? Here are a few tips for installing a rain barrel in your home: 

  • You can buy rain barrel kits from major department stores. They usually run between $75–150.
  • The water “harvested” from a rain barrel may contain harmful chemicals and bacteria from your roof. That means the rainwater isn’t a substitute for drinking water and that it’s best to keep the rainwater out of your vegetable gardens. Note: If you can’t resist using the free water for your produce, water the soil and not the leaves and fruits to avoid contaminating them.
  • Your rain barrel will work better if it is elevated – you can make a stand from cinder blocks or wood pallets.
  • Make sure to routinely disassemble your rain barrel and remove any debris that may build up in the pipes or the barrel. Investing in a filter or screen can help keep it clean longer.
  • The standing water in a rain barrel makes attractive real estate for mosquitoes. A filter can prevent mosquitoes from entering your rain barrel and laying eggs. If you already see mosquitoes in or around the barrel, the addition of a mosquito donut/dunk – a Bti pesticide – kills the larva but leaves water safe to use in your garden.