If you are someone who enjoys gardening or has extensive landscaping in their yard, a great outdoor gadget to consider purchasing is a rain barrel. Rain barrels are containers which capture rainwater (usually from your gutter system coming down from your roof) which can be stored for use around your home and yard. There are a variety of rain barrel sizes with most ranging from 50 gallons to 80 gallons. In addition to the container, a rain barrel will usually have some type of spigot which will allow you to fill up watering containers, and some sort of connection for a hose.
The main money-saving advantage of rain barrels is the reduction of money spent on the household water bill. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average household lawn and garden is responsible for about 40% of a household’s water usage during the summer months. A rain barrel system can save a household from using approximately 1300 gallons of water from their water utility during the summer months providing a free water source for use on the landscaping.
For those who have flower gardens and other sensitive plants in their yards, another financial advantage of using rain barrels is that they can help keep soil healthier compared to tap water which can result in less landscaping costs (there is currently some debate as to whether or not rainwater is good for consumable garden plants, so please do your research before using rain barrel water on them). Water coming from the water utility may contain a number of additional substances such as chlorine, lime, calcium and fluoride which over time can potentially damage the soil and reduce plant healthiness. Rainwater collected in rain barrels does not contain these additional substances.
The water that comes from rain barrels is non-potable which means that it can’t be used for drinking water. That doesn’t mean, however, that its use is limited to watering plants around the house and in the yard. Rain barrel water can be used to wash windows, wash cars, and even flush toilets. By using rainwater rather than water from your utility, you save money on all these activities as well.
How much money you will actually save depends a lot on what the water costs are in the area where you live. Those that live in areas where water is quite expensive can see a rain barrel pay for itself relatively quickly, while those that live in areas where water is relatively inexpensive will have to use a rain barrel for a longer period of time to get back their investment. A rain barrel will almost always pay for itself many times over during its lifetime no matter how inexpensive your utility water may be.
While rain barrels don’t cost a lot for the amount of money you will save over the lifetime of their use, you can also make your own rain barrel (PDF) if you have the time, energy and want to save even a little bit more money.