Rain Barrel Information

Rain Barrel Basics

Rain barrels are a practical and low-cost system for harvesting rainwater and managing a property’s water flow. A rain barrel or set of rain barrels are connected to a downspout to collect stormwater runoff from the roof. This system is ingeniously simple and effective because roofs are already designed to funnel stormwater to gutters. 55-gallon rain barrels are the most common size, but different systems will use drums anywhere from 30-gallons to 150-gallons. For DIY people, rain barrels & installation kits can cost anywhere from $70 to over $400 per downspout. Supplies for DIY rain barrel systems can be found in many different stores, such as your local hardware store. If you are in the Pittsburgh region, we will be glad to point you in the right direction, even if you are not interested in our rain barrel systems.

Rainwater Harvesting with Rain Barrels

The practice of collecting and storing rainwater goes back thousands of years and spans across the globe. In recent times it has become popular again because water is becoming more scarce and costly. With less than an inch of rainfall, rain barrels can harvest hundreds of gallons of naturally soft water. The rainwater can then, be used for everyday tasks such as watering your garden or lawn to washing your car or cleaning your house. We recommend keeping roofs, gutters, and downspouts clean, because contaminants or bacteria can flow into the rain barrel, even with a screen or filtering attachments. After every rainfall, it is likely that the rain barrels are full or nearly full of water. It is best to use as much of the water as possible before the next rainfall to maximize the rain barrels’ benefits. This will help reduce a household’s water and sewage bills. To calculate how much rainwater you can harvest, please visit our rainfall calculations page.

Water Conservation with Rain Barrels

Rain barrels are one of the best ways to reduce your demand for municipal water and reduce stormwater overflow. The EPA estimates that as much as 40% of domestic water consumption during summer months is due to outdoor irrigation. Rain barrels are the perfect solution during the drier months. In most cases, the water from your rain barrel is better for your lawn than tap water because it is slightly acidic and is does not contain harsh chemicals like chlorine, salts, disinfectants byproducts, and minerals.

The other major benefit occurs during stormwater collection. There are increasing environmental & health concerns with stormwater overflow and management. All of the water collected during a storm is no longer running into our sewer systems when they are most stressed. In Pittsburgh and many cities throughout the country when there is a heavy rainfall, water can overload the sewer system and result in sewage overflow. The overflow is a major concern because it can end up in our rivers and other bodies of water. Many cities are working to improve their sewage infrastructure and water flow systems, but adding a few rain barrels to a residential or commercial property can help reduce this type of water pollution immediately.

Rain Barrel Maintenance

Rain barrels require little maintenance and will collect water for years with a few simple protocols.

  • It is important┬áto keep the system clean. Any debris on your roof or in your gutters can reduce efficiency and clog the system. Almost all rain barrel systems use filters or screens to prevent contaminates from flowing into the barrel, but they can become clogged if ignored.
  • Always keep your rain barrels covered and/or sealed. If the rain barrels are left open they can become an environment for mosquitoes to breed.
  • Keeping a tight seal will also, prevent animals or children from falling into or playing in the barrels.
  • Every winter before the first night of freezing temperatures, you must store your rain barrels. If you leave your rain barrels out they are likely to crack in the cold.
  • Make sure the rain barrels are placed on a stable and level base with planned drainage underneath. When removing, cleaning, or setting up your rain barrels, do a quick visual check to make sure everything is in place.