The question we hear most frequently from people looking to build a rain barrel: What types of containers can be used to make a rain barrel or a rainwater collection system?
Our answer: the most suitable, least expensive rainwater containers are recycled plastic barrels.
While any container that can safely hold water may be used, the containers that work best are closed units such as a closed-top recycled barrel or an open-top barrel that has a full-sealing removable lid.
Closed barrels provide safety for small children, animals, birds, etc. And with the spread of the West Nile Virus recently, it is especially important to prevent mosquito infestation by closing up open containers of water.
Additionally, a seal is required for back-pressure to build when the container is full, so as to allow the excess water from the gutter and downspout to be diverted back into to the normal drainage system of your hous, through the use of the Garden Watersaver Downspout Diverter.
Trash cans may be used as rain barrels, too, but the back-pressure effect is not nearly as efficient as with a full-sealing barrel. If you do decide to use trash cans for your rain barrel, we strongly suggest you duct-tape the lid to the trash can to create at least a bit of a seal between the two. Otherwise, expect water to leak out of both the barrel and the diverter!
Dark-colored containers are best: light will not pass through the barrel if the container is a dark color, thereby restricting algae growth. Plus, dark colors draw heat, enabling the water to warm up more quickly — and the warmer the soil the faster the plant growth, especially in the early part of the growing season.
When installing the containers, think “safety” as these large containers, when filled, weigh over 400 lbs.
Another great option: find used food-grade barrels. Previously-used food-grade barrels are available in most cities. Concentrated food, wine and beer products, soda-pop syrup, sauces, etc. are transported across the country in large, sealed plastic barrels. These barrels are never re-used for the same purposes afterwards for fear of contamination. Therefore, after the barrels are emptied, they are disposed of or resold for other uses.
The cost of transporting empty plastic barrels is high (since in reality they are mostly air), which means they are normally sold locally to whomever will buy them. Large commercial users of these products may not always want to sell individual barrels, but if you contact them they may advise you as to who they sell them to in bulk.
WANT TO FIND RECYCLED PLASTIC BARRELS LOCALLY? Add the name of your city and state after the + into the search box below then click the ‘SEARCH’ button. A list of local options for sourcing plastic barrels will be presented in a new window:
Want everything you need to create a rainwater harvesting system in one complete package? See the Garden Watersaver Complete Rain Barrel Construction Kit!