Choosing a Rain Barrel That is Right For You

Choosing a Rain Barrel that is right for you

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:

  1. Are you in a state that even allows you to have a barrel for rainwater harvesting?
  2. How much water do you need/want?
  3. What size is the area that you want to put the rain barrel?
  4. What will you be using it for?
  5. Will you be adding any decorative aspects to it?
  6. Does it have an overflow valve?
  7. Is it an open or closed barrel?
  8. 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.

Against the law to catch rain waterI 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.

Decorative Rain Barrel

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.

What color is the barrel?

I tell ya, I am learning all sorts of stuff while gathering up all this information on picking the right rain barrel.

Ever wonder why most rain barrels are dark colors like black, green, blue, or red?

How do rain barrels work

Light or clear containers let light in which is terrible for the stored water. Algae needs UV to grow so the less UV the better. Dark, opaque storage vessels that keep light to a minimum are best.

So while you’re out there doing your research and trying to figure out what is the best rain barrel, look for those dark ones that keep the light and algae out.

WOW! There you have it. I really hope you gained some major insight into choosing the rain barrel that is going to work best for you.

For those of you that have experience with rain barrels and would like to share more information please do so in the comments below. I love learning and I know others that will be reading this post are researching and learning also.

Which Rain Barrel is Right for You?

Now that you have a better understanding of what questions to ask before buying one…which one will you purchase? 

Or if you have already purchased one which one did you go with? 

Me, I’m still deciding! lol

My neighbor showed me her Decorative Rain Barrel and I’m definitely leaning towards that one since it will fit my needs and wants. 

As soon as I decide, y’all will be the first to know. 

Until next post…

Be Blessed,

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Choosing a Rain Barrel that is right for you

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8 thoughts on “Choosing a Rain Barrel That is Right For You”

  1. Your article is great and was definitely an eye opener.  When you think about the math of how much water you need per square foot of lawn or garden it definitely makes me think that bigger is better.  It still blows my mind that some states won’t let you collect FREE rainwater.  In Canada, its definitely legal.  I must say that I really like the rain barrel with the planter on top!  It looks much less utilitarian than what I was picturing when I first started reading your article!  Great point about ensuring the rain barrel is opaque in order to avoid algae problems – another thing I hadn’t thought of.  Excellent coverage of the topic!

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! I’m with you on the Planter on top. When I do finally purchase my perfect rain barrel I’m pretty sure it’s going to have the planter on top. My neighbor has one like that and she loves it. 
      Also, that’s great to know that Canada allows you to harvest all the rainwater you need. I think some of the states are coming along but to me, I just can’t believe it’s illegal in some parts. 
      Thanks again for stopping by!

  2. A very nice and thorough article about choosing the right rain barrel. Choosing the right rain barrel may sound easy and
    self-explanatory stuff but actually it isn’t. Thanks for articles like this and people like you, we have eventually more and more information available for our daily tasks. I have had problems with overflowing rain barrels for a pretty long time and it is not good for plants near the barrel. I will take a deeper look at these, I need to fix them somehow to NOT overflow anymore. However, thanks for the article!
    -Kind regards Jesse 

    1. Hey there Jesse,

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. You make a great point about not putting flowers around your rain barrel especially if it overflows. I’m taking it you have rain barrels? If so, do you have the overflow valve on your rain barrels or have you thought about maybe getting some more to link together? 
      I know having an overflow valve allows you to hook up a line that you can position where you want it so the water can flow through it. That may work for you. 

      Thanks again for stopping by,


  3. Your article was really timely for me.  I live in Alaska, where rainwater collection is encouraged.  For a couple of years I had one of those huge plastic totes, and it worked great.  There was a hole cut in the top and a 5-gallon bucket secured to the hold.  The drain from the roof fed into this bucket and then into the tote.  I used old pillowcases in the 5-gallon bucket to filter out bugs and small detritus.  Then, there was a drain set up at the bottom, so I could withdraw water there. There was also an overflow valve with a connecting hose at the top.

    I loved it!  I used it for everything, including drinking water.  I have a really good filter tank inside that I could run the water through, and it tasted so good.  I need to get it going again!

    Had to get rid of the old tank, because I couldn’t clean it, and there was algae growing in the bottom, because the tank, though not clear, still let too much light in.  Now I want to get another one.  Amazon has some dark blue ones that look like they will do. 

    Rain barrels are a force for good, and a wise idea for those who want to supplement their water.

    1. Oh Fran, that is so cool that you’ve already experienced rain barrels. I am still gathering all the research and will be purchasing my first one in a couple of weeks. I’ve been clearing out the place for it and my husband and I are going back and forth of the perfect one for harvesting the rain. 

      It’s crazy to me all the little things that you don’t think of when you first start out. For instance, making sure to get a rain barrel that is dark so that the algae doesn’t take over. It’s great to know that if you do have a lighter color rain barrel you can always spray paint it to make it darker. 

      You’ll have to let me know and maybe share some images of your rain barrel when you choose which one you want. 

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! I really appreciate it. 

      Be Blessed,

  4. To be honest, I never knew that a rain barrel does observe  ststrict rules as this. Though  I am yet to checkout our rules here in Nashville, I really hope it is accepting rain harvestation vecaus ei just started gardening some weeks back and I would need constant watering of my plants. I was thinking of getting the perfect barrel that would help to store enough rain water for my planting use. Thanks

    1. Hey Shelley,

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I was pretty surprised too when I started researching rain harvesting and use rain barrels. I think in Tenn. you should be fine but I would definitely check it out. Good luck on choosing the perfect rain barrel for watering your garden. 

      Be Blessed,

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