Rain Barrel: Outdoor Gadgets That Save Money

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.

rain barrel

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.

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4 Responses to Rain Barrel: Outdoor Gadgets That Save Money

  1. Joan says:

    If one 80 gallon barrel can provide 1300 gallons of water over the summer, doesn’t that mean it has filled up 16.5 times by rains? Does your garden need more rain after all that?

  2. Jeffrey says:

    Good question. A couple points to this — most people that get rain barrels (at least in my experience) get two to three, not just one, so you are talking 8 or 6 rains over the entire summer season. The second is that it really doesn’t take much rain to fill up a rain barrel because it is accumulating rain from the roof top — an area that is much larger than the surface area of the barrel itself. Now, if you live in an area where it rains a lot, then obviously the need for rain barrels wouldn’t be as cost effective as areas where there is less rain.

  3. Aleta says:

    I would love to do one of these. You can check into your Jr. colleges that teach this course and I have seen those barrels at a more affordable price, plus you can make your own. My plants and yard always respond more to rain water rather than city water.

    My aunt used to collect rain water to wash her hair and she was a cosmetologist. She said it made her hair softer.

  4. John says:

    You’d be surprised how much rain comes off of your roof. Just look how much is pouring out of your downspouts. Rain barrels are a good way to capture some of this free water for later use in the garden. You can build one out of a standard 55 gallon plastic drum – your gutter just dumps right into it.

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