How to install a Rain Barrel
Rainwater harvesting is becoming more and more popular as movements around water sustainability becomes an ever-growing issue in our world. For this year's world water day, the United Nations focused on the important of groundwater and "making the invisible visible". As part of their campaign, they explained on the importance of keeping our groundwater clean and finding new ways to harvest said water.
While harvesting groundwater is not feasible for most, rainwater harvesting has become extremely accessible for homes that have gutters. In this blog, we'll be going over how to install a Rain Barrel Diverter and Parts Kit, which is one of the first steps to setting up an easy-to-use rainwater harvesting system.
Safety Equipment - The first think with any DIY project is safety, for this project we recommend wearing safety glasses and gloves to protect from any loose plastics or metal pieces that made be airborne. Finding someone that has experience with power tools is also handy.
Drill - For most DIY downpipe diverter installs; you will need a drill.
Hole Saw Set (Included in set) - If you purchased a diverter kit that does not include a hole saw set, you will need to source one. Make sure you know what size you will need for proper sealing of the rain barrel to avoid leakage.
Measuring tape or Ruler - Most DIY kits will have a minimum and maximum distance from your downpipe to your barrel. Where space is a concern, having a measuring device will ensure your barrel is spaced properly.
Pencil/Marker - Easy way to mark holes needed on both barrel and downpipe.
Screwdriver - Needed to secure all hardware onto the barrel and downpipe.
DIY Downpipe Rain Barrel Diverter and Parts Kit or equivalent - Our DIY kits are made to include the necessary parts for transferring water from your gutter system to a barrel. If you are sourcing items individually, the recommend list would be Fill Hose, Fill Hose Seal, Diverter, Screws, Threaded Rubber Seal, Spigot, Drain Assembly, Winter Hole cover, Threaded Rubber Seal, and a sticker visibly explaining that collected rainwater is not drinkable.
Once you have all the part ready, it's time to choose what container is going to hold your rainwater. The most important part of choosing a container is ensuring the container will not disintegrate into the water overtime. For plastic, make sure the barrel is FDA approved food grade plastic. Ensuring the container was not used for chemicals or any toxic substances is extremely important if you are recycling a barrel.
Wood barrels are also common for their aesthetic. Similar considerations need to be made; ensure the barrel is in good shape, clean and water tight.
1. Location of your Container
Selecting the location of your container will largely depends on the application for the rainwater you are collecting. If you are simply looking for a source of water to water your plants, placement may matter much less compared to using the water to irrigate your entire lawn (the barrel would have to be accessible to piping for this application).
Having your container easily accessible is also important for maintenance and preparing the barrel for winter. The more convenient the location of the rain barrel the more likely you are to continuously use it.
A reminder that most hoses have a minimum and maximum distance they can stretch out, so ensure that is considered in your placement is also important.
Once you have a good idea where you want to place your barrel, there's a small checklist before moving forward:
Make sure the surface is flat
Make sure the barrel is minimum six inches away from your downspout and a maximum 28 inches away. Making sure you stay within this range ensures your fill hose will fit and function properly.
Mark the front center (1) of the barrel, this will help when installing the front fitting.
Mark on the rim where the fill hose (2) will go. This can be on the back, right or left side of the barrel.
2. Installing the front fitting on the barrel
Front fittings are the main way of emptying the rain barrel.
If you are wanting the most water pressure when emptying the rain barrel, it is recommended to have a raised base and a singular spigot at the bottom of the barrel. This is ideal for those only wanting to use a garden hose to access the water in the barrel (Option A). This hole should be approx. 3 inches from the bottom and centered. The small (1-1/4") hole saw (included in the set) is recommended for drilling this hole.
Next, insert the threaded rubber seal into the hole. Lastly, thread the spigot into the seal until the hex collar on the spigot sits firmly against the seal and the water outlet points down.
If you are wanting to use a watering can or don't necessarily need maximum amount of pressure, installing a spigot mid-height would work better. You will need to drill a secondary hole for drainage.
For marking the spigot, measure up 12 inches from the bottom of the barrel and make sure it is centered. For marking the drainage hole, you want to measure 3 inches from the bottom of the barrel. If you are wanting to use the drainage hole for a hose, make sure you offset the holes about 6 inches to one side to give enough clearance for a watering can.
Drill both holes using the small (1-1/4") hole saw and insert a threaded seal into each hole. Thread the spigot and drain assembly into the seals until the hex collars sit firmly against the seals.
3. Installing the fill hose seal
Now that you have installed your spigot/drain assembly, it is time to install the fill hose. Using the mark you made in step #1, measure down 3 inches from the rim, and again mark the barrel. This will be where you will drill out the inlet hole.
Using the medium (1-1/2") hole saw, drill out on the mark you made earlier. Insert the fill hose seal into the hole.
Drilling the diverter hole
Possibly the most important part of the whole process, make sure you fully read all instructions before cutting into your downspout.
Making sure the diver hole is at the proper height is crucial for proper filling of your rain barrel. Going too low will affect the filling efficiency of the barrel, and likely never be fully filled. Going too high could cause over filling in open top/lid containers.
The very first step before marking the downspout is figuring out the size of your down spout. Our DIY kits are meant for 2"x3" and 3"x4" down spouts, your kit could be meant for different shapes and size downspouts.
Depending on the size, the location of the diverter will change. If you have a 2"x3" downspout, you will want to mark the long side (front) of the spout. If you have a 3"x4" downspout, you will want to mark the narrow (side) of the spout. Read your DIY kit's instructions to ensure you are installing the diverter properly.
For open top/lid containers, take the lid off, and make a mark on the center of the downspout that is level with the rim of the barrel. From that mark you want to measure 3" down and mark the middle of the downspout, this will be where you will drill out. Again, orientation will depend on what size downspout you have. Whichever orientation you go with always mark the center of the downspout.
For sealed containers, you can mark the downspout level with the rim, or higher. marking higher will improve the filling efficiency of a sealed container.
Keep in mind hose length when making these markings, especially if you plan to elevate your barrel.
Now you are ready to drill a hole into the marked spot on to the downspout. Drill a hole in the downspout using the large (2-1/8”) hole saw. The center bit of the hole saw should align with the center mark on the downspout. For 3” x 4” downspouts make sure you drill the hole on the narrow side (not the front side).
• Do not force the hole saw. Cut slow and steady keeping a firm hold
on the drill.
• Always wear safety glasses and gloves when cutting or drilling.
• The cut edges of the downspout can be sharp. Wear protective safety
eyeglasses and gloves when handling.
Now that you have finished drilling the hole into the downspout, you can now begin to install the diverter.
Begin by squishing the sides and pushing the diverter into the downspout until the flange sits flat against the downspout. The diverter should not be twisted when being installed, only being pushed straight in with the collection cup facing upwards the entire time. The arrow on the diverter should be facing upwards the entire time.
Use 2 self-tapping screws to attach the diverter to the downspout. You can now connect the fill hose to the diverter.
The last few steps are fairly self-explanatory, make sure you positioned your barrel so the hose can reach at a maximum of 28". The hose can be bent to form elbows if needed.
At this point it is a good reminder that rainwater that is collected from your gutter system is not drinkable. For this reason, we recommend attaching a very visible sticker to the barrel to ensure anyone else does not attempt drinking this water.
If you are using an open top/lid container, we recommend attaching the lid and making sure it is secure before beginning to fill the container as the extra weight can expand the barrel rim making it difficult to attach the lid later.
If you are needing more storage capacity, and don't necessarily want to upgrade the original container, linking barrels is an option. While extra hardware is needed, the process is simple. There are two main ways of adding another container.
The last thing we wanted to cover is how to winterize your rainwater harvesting system. Keeping your collection container out over winter can cause damage if it is filled with water. The water will freeze and potentially rend your container useless.
To avoid this, we recommend using as much of the collected rainwater as possible. Afterwards, disconnecting the two screws from the diverter, removing the drain plug from the container, and tipping the barrel to one side the empty the remaining water. The barrel can then be stored with the extra hose and diverter parts.
Lastly, you will want to cover the hole that the diverter normally goes in, our kits include a winter hole cover you can install and secure with the same screws used for the diverter.