Choosing a Rain Barrel is not as simple as buying the one that looks good or you think may work.
In my quest to pick the rain barrel that works best for my wants and needs I went on a little bit of a research journey to find that perfect one.
What I found are lots of questions I need to answer before I go buying a rain barrel for harvesting rain.
If you’ve landed here for the first time and are researching barrels be sure to check out my post on What is the best rain barrels and check out the reviews for each of them.
8 Questions to ask yourself before buying a rain barrel
Thinks it’s simple? Not so much when you have to take these things into consideration:
- Are you in a state that even allows you to have a barrel for rainwater harvesting?
- How much water do you need/want?
- What size is the area that you want to put the rain barrel?
- What will you be using it for?
- Will you be adding any decorative aspects to it?
- Does it have an overflow valve?
- Is it an open or closed barrel?
- What color is the barrel?
What states is it against the law to collect rainwater?
This still blows my mind, that there are states where it is illegal for you to catch FREE rainwater and use it to water your plants, water the lawn, use as pool water and the list goes on.
I do know that in the state of Colorado they passed a law 2016, where homeowners are now allowed to catch and use two rain barrels (a total of 110 gallons) from their rooftops, but no more than that.
The majority of the states do allow for rain harvesting however these states you’ll want to do a little bit more research on the laws and rules of rain barrels.
Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Washington.
For those of you living in Utah, rainwater harvesting has some stricter rules so be sure to check it out before ordering a rain barrel.
Here is a link to a great resource that has all the laws and such broken down in a way you can understand.
For me, I live in Florida so I’m good to go!
How much water do you need or want?
For me, I’m just starting out very small and will grow from there. As I’ve said on other blog posts, I’m willing myself to have a green thumb if it’s the last thing I do. My husband and I have some bananas, pineapples, mangoes and avocado trees growing that we would like to begin watering with the rain we collect.
I’d like for this also to be a decorative rain barrel because it will sit under my rain chains in my backyard which is sort of my oasis.
I realize that for many of you these rain barrels are going to be a source for watering your gardens that feed your family. So for you, one rain barrel is probably not going to cut it.
A typical rain barrel is anywhere from 50-60 gallons. They also come much larger, like up to 2,100 gallons.
This is where the math comes in, which is not my strong point but I can definitely visualize it.
If you have one inch of rain it can collect 600 gallons of water from a 1,000 sq. ft. roof.
Basically, if you have a 60-gallon barrel and it’s expected to rain 2-3 inches, depending on the size of your roof, your rain barrel will most definitely fill up fast! This is why it’s so important to make sure your rain barrel has a diverter so that you can divert the overflow of water where you want it to go.
You can also buy several 50-60 gallon barrels and thread them together to get just the right amount of water for your needs.
What size is the area that you want to put the rain barrel?
This question kinda relates to the one above because depending on how much rainwater you want to harvest depends on how big of a barrel you’ll need.
Of course, if you don’t have enough room, you can always get like a 15-gallon rain barrel.
Crazy as it sounds, there are die-hard rain harvesters that live in apartments and have rain barrels. There are also rain barrels that are specific for apartments as well.
For those that do have a home and property, you’ll need to make sure that you have room for your barrel. You want to make sure that the barrel is away from the foundation so that if there is an overflow of water it does not corrode the foundation.
NOTE: Make sure wherever you put your barrel it is a flat surface and when putting it on a base make sure the base is sturdy. Water weighs 8.34 pounds per gallon so if you do get a 55-gallon barrel, when it’s full it’s going to weigh over 450 pounds.
What will you be using it for?
Will the water be used for gardening? If so, how big is your gardening area?
Will you be using the water to wash your vehicles, water the lawn or any number of other things?
Do you remember me telling you how great I am at math? NOT AT ALL!
Well, I found this calculation on several different websites and figure I’d share it with you so those of you that are really good at math can figure out just how many gallons of water you’re going to need.
“ To provide your lawn with one inch of water takes a little over half a gallon per square foot (0.623 gallons to be more exact). That means that every 10’x10’ area will require over 62 gallons of water. That doesn’t sound like much until you consider that a 100’ x 100’ lawn uses 6,230 gallons of water every time you turn on the sprinklers!”
Once you determine how much water you’re going to be using you can then figure out how many of these rain barrels you’re going to need.
Will you be adding any decorative aspects to it?
This is something to keep in mind while choosing your barrel. See for me, I want to be able to water my trees and backyard, but I also want it to be a centerpiece for my yard.
They actually have rain barrels that have planters at the top that are absolutely gorgeous.
If your main purpose is to just collect that rainwater and not worry about what the barrel looks like then that’s perfect and there are so many plain barrels to choose from.
If you’re like me though and want that planter on the top to give it that oasis appeal then is sure to keep that in mind while looking for the perfect rain barrel.
Is it an open or closed top barrel?
A closed-top barrel or open-top barrel? That is the question.
A closed-top barrel is safer, especially when it comes to children, small animals, and even birds. It also helps to cut down on any mosquito problems.
An open-top rain barrel fills up much faster, however, it should have an overflow valve to help with that.
You can also put a screen cover over the opening to cut down on any mosquito problems. If you do have a rain chain and wanted the excess water to pour into the barrel then you’ll definitely want to go with an open-top barrel.
Does it have an overflow valve?
This right here is sooooo important if you choose to go with an open-top rain barrel. As you already know, these 55-gallon barrels fill up super fast and the last thing you need is for the barrel to start overflowing and washing away around your foundation.
You can attach a small hose to this overflow valve and direct the water to where you want it to go.
If you decided to go with the closed top barrel then you should get the gutter diverter kit. This way, when the barrel is full it will automatically divert the rainwater back through the gutter downspouts.
I found a great video that explains the overflow valve in more detail.