Rain Barrels 101
Boy if we all lived with the environment in mind and as our top priority, maybe our towns would look a little more like the one in the image above. Oh boy, there I go again; off on another wild tangent of whimsical dreaming? Perhaps so, but
With that in mind…
Almost Perfect Landscaping of Bergen County encourages “going green” to help the environment. As such, water conservation in New Jersey is a big issue. If you ever worry about your home’s water consumption, take heart: Some of the cleanest mineral- and chlorine-free water arrives free to most homes. Rain barrels are a fabulous, relatively inexpensive and easy way to harness this most basic of nature’s resources. Using rainwater reduces water costs, takes a load off water supplies and reduces storm water runoff, helping prevent flooding and erosion. That’s a big environmental bang for your buck. Use a rain barrel to water gardens and landscapes. A properly installed rain barrel which harvests rain water from the gutters of your home provides ample water for gardens and landscape areas. Capturing this rain water reduces the amount of run off that may otherwise be picking up garbage, oils, fertilizers, pesticides and other pollutants that are on your lawn, sidewalk and street. Thus, this also reduces the amount of pollution getting into our rivers, lakes, streams and ocean.
Rain Barrel Basics 101
Unlike water pumped from the ground, rainwater is soft; it contains no minerals that leave calcium scale or residues, no sodium and no chlorine or fluoride. However, it can carry debris, bird excrement and anything else that washes off a roof. During storage, bacteria and insects can proliferate in standing water. Users can manage this easily by topping barrels with screens and using their water supply frequently, which keeps the water moving and aerated. To store rainwater, rain barrels and cisterns are available in a variety of sizes and shapes. An easy option is a sturdy trash barrel or a food-grade, plastic, 55-gallon barrel available from food importers and processors. Either dip a bucket or watering can in the opening of the barrel or outfit it with a spigot and overflow drain.
Prevent debris, insects, and other objects by screening all the rain barrel openings. Adding a small coating of oil or soap to the water surface will make the water unsuitable mosquitoes to lay eggs and develop. You can also reduce the rainwater’s mild acidity with the addition of 1 (one) teaspoon of baking soda per 100 (one hundred) gallons of water.
The first 1/2 inch of rain, commonly called the “first flush” can carry particles and bird excrement. If this bothers you, divert it to the ground or filter it through a draining container filled with coarse sand, crushed shells, wood chips or coconut coir mat.
Rain barrels placed on the ground provide little water pressure. If you are draining your barrel with a spigot, elevate it on a platform of bricks, 4 x 4 wood cut to length, or install a cheap pump. Always place the tap about two (2) inches off the bottom to maximize pressure and avoid clogging due to settling debris.
Drain the barrel at regular intervals and always before the winter freeze.
Install an overflow hose three or four (3 or 4) inches from the top to avoid topping off and/or spillage and overflow.
Building the Rain Barrel
The materials needed for this project include a rain barrel (you can use a rubber trash can with a lid), a plastic water valve, and a borrowed hose. Construction involves cutting a hole in the top of the trash can lid big enough for the rain gutter downspout. If you are worried about mosquitos, a small screen can be attached to cover the hole. Install the plastic value at the bottom of the barrel so that water can be released. There are several types of valves available in the irrigation section of the home improvement stores. Install the valve so that it sandwiches the side of the barrel between two rubber washers fitted over a piece of threaded plastic pipe. (see photo). The existing rain gutter downspout will then need to be modified to direct the water into the top of the barrel. An overflow outlet can be installed but is not necessary. By placing the barrel up on a couple of bricks, you can provide some additional hydraulic head. This may come in handy later when dispensing the stored rainwater. By using a threaded valve or coupler on the outlet, a standard garden house can be used to direct water to a tree or planter.
- Cut a hole in the top of the barrel for the inlet drain (use a RotoZip spiral saw, router or large-hole saw). The hole should be only large enough to allow the grate to rest on its flange. Or measure and mark the area to be cut, start a pilot hole, and use a jigsaw. (Or simply glue a piece of screen over a 6-inch hole cut with any tool.)
- On the side (near the top) of your rain barrel, use a 1 1/2 -inch keyhole bit to cut a hole to accommodate the 1 1/4 -inch overflow adapter insert. You may need to rasp or sand the hole somewhat larger to screw in the adapter. Expect a snug fit.
- Insert the threaded end of the overflow adapter insert into the overflow hole. Keep the adapter straight as you screw it into the barrel.
- On what will be the front of your rain barrel, use a 15/16 -inch drill bit to cut a hole for the 3/4 -inch hose bibb, about 2 inches from the bottom of the barrel.
- Insert the threaded hose bibb into the hole from step 4. Keep the hose bibb straight as you screw it into the barrel. You also can apply a bead of silicone caulk or wrap Teflon tape around the bibb before inserting it to ensure a tight, drip-free connection.
- Use the metal clamp to firmly attach the window screen to the bottom of the Green Grate. Tighten the clamp with a screwdriver or nut driver. Place the inlet assembly into the barrel.
- Slide the hose clamp over the barbed section of the adapter insert. Slide one end of the sump pump hose over the adapter and attach firmly with the hose clamp.
- Attach a garden hose or soaker hose to your hose bibb.
- Use cinderblocks or similar pavers to elevate the completed rain barrel off the ground to ensure easier access to the hose bibb and to facilitate gravity-fed drainage.
For an added touch, you can take a stencil as seen in the photo of the rain barrel, and spray paint a decoration around the barrel. Planting taller perennials and/or border plants around the barrel will hide the barrel and provide a nice setting in the garden beds for your barrel.
Enjoy the free water and the money you save on your water bill.
Encouraging you to help the environment – almost PERFECT Landscaping of Bergen County