The Best Rain Barrels to Harvest Rainwater at Home
Collecting water runoff in a rain barrel is an environmentally friendly and simple way to keep a home garden or lawn watered all season long. And, in areas where water shortages run rampant and the cost of water is steep, it can also be an effective option to keep water bills low during the hot months. The good news is that rain water barrels are relatively inexpensive to buy, easy to set up, and come in a range of styles that can complement any backyard look.
When it comes to setting up a home rainwater harvesting system, there are many types of rain barrels to consider. To help you decide the best rain barrel for your home, we researched a variety of picks, keeping in mind their capacity, size, and material. We also consulted Chris Maxwell-Gaines, owner of Watercache.com.
Maxwell-Gaines says rain barrels can do more than just collect water. "In addition, rainwater harvesting can reduce stormwater runoff from a property," Maxwell-Gaines says. "The elimination of runoff can reduce contamination of surface water with pesticides, sediment, metals, and fertilizers."
Our choice for the overall best rain barrel is the Algreen Weather Resistant Drainable Dual Overflow Planter Rain Barrel. We like its stylish, shapely looks as well as its 65-gallon capacity, which is plenty of water for large gardens. It's also made of a material that can handle temperature fluctuations.
Here are the best rain barrels.
- Algreen Weather Resistant Drainable Dual Overflow Planter Rain Barrel
- RTS Home Accents Rainwater Collection Barrel
- Vingli Collapsible Rain Barrel
- Good Ideas Rain Wizard Resin Drainable Rain Barrel
- FCMP Outdoor Rain Catcher
- Good Ideas Impressions Plastic Drainable Rain Barrel
- FreeGarden Rain Barrel
- Outsunny Rainwater Harvesting System Collection Tank
- FCMP Plastic Rain Barrel and Hose
- Good Ideas Savannah Rain Saver
- EarthMinded Rain Station with Diverter
- Good Ideas SV-ERS Savannah Elevated Garden Rain Saver Barrel
- Lostronaut Portable Rain Barrel Water Tank
- Good Ideas Impressions 90 Gallon Rain Barrel
- Bosmere Slim Rain Barrel with Stand
What We Recommend
Algreen Weather Resistant Drainable Dual Overflow Planter Rain Barrel
RTS Home Accents Rainwater Collection Barrel
Vingli Collapsible Rain Barrel
Good Ideas Rain Wizard Resin Drainable Rain Barrel
FCMP Outdoor Rain Catcher
Good Ideas Impressions Plastic Drainable Rain Barrel
FreeGarden Rain Barrel
Outsunny Rainwater Harvesting System Collection Tank
FCMP Plastic Rain Barrel and Hose
Good Ideas Savannah Rain Saver
EarthMinded Rain Station with Diverter
Good Ideas SV-ERS Savannah Elevated Garden Rain Saver Barrel
Lostronaut Portable Rain Barrel Water Tank
Good Ideas Impressions 90 Gallon Rain Barrel
Bosmere Slim Rain Barrel with Stand
The Bottom Line
For the average home gardener, the Algreen Weather Resistant Drainable Dual Overflow Planter Rain Barrel is one of the best rain barrels you can buy. The rain barrel holds 65 gallons, is easy to set up, and has a stylish look.
What to Know About Rain Barrels Before Shopping
Depending on how much water you are hoping to collect and what the average rainfall is in your area, the capacity of your barrel is something you will need to consider when shopping. The average size of a home rain barrel is about 50 gallons, but there are models that range from 26 to 90 gallons on this list, depending on your needs.
If you like a smaller model but anticipate more water, many options allow you to connect multiple barrels to collect the overflow. If you anticipate your rain barrel will regularly overflow, make sure the barrel's overflow feature will move water away from your home's foundation.
According to Maxwell-Gaines, the best rain barrels are manufactured in high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic, which is very durable and should last for many years without cracking, chipping, or splitting. Some rain barrels are made with galvanized metal, but Maxwell-Gaines says to be careful when buying these to ensure that the barrel has an inner epoxy liner to prevent rust.
Rain barrels come in a wide array of styles, from utilitarian to elegant. It's important to consider where the barrel will be placed when deciding on the best rain barrel for your space. If it will be tucked away where no one will see it, then perhaps having a basic model is the way to go. But if the rain barrel needs to be placed in a central location in your garden, patio, or backyard, you might want to consider choosing a model that matches your backyard decor or other exterior accents.
Some even have planters in the rain barrel lid for growing flowers and herbs. You can also choose a collapsible model if you plan on storing your rain barrel for parts of the year and want something that tucks away easily.
Your Questions, Answered
How do you set up a rain barrel?
Every rain barrel requires a slightly different installation, whether you make your own rain barrel or you purchase one, but the basic premise remains the same among most models. You will install the barrel underneath a downspout that collects water off a roof or other surface.
You do not need to elevate the rain barrel, but doing so might improve the flow rate of the water as you dispense it from the barrel or make it easier to fit a watering can or container directly underneath the barrel. You can also purchase a diverter to direct the runoff into the barrel opening.
If you are setting the rain barrel up against a house or wall, models with a flat back are usually easier to maneuver directly under the downspout than those with a rounded back. You will also need to set up the debris screen that comes with the barrel as well as any additional accessories such as hoses, planter tops, or safety lids to keep pets and children from falling in.
Generally, rain water barrels that are sold for home use are pretty simple to set up and should include all the materials you need.
How big of a rain barrel do I need?
Consider how much space you have, how much water you need, and how much rain your area typically gets. Keep in mind that if you do not use the rainwater in your barrel, you will not have the ability to collect from the next rainfall unless you have additional overflow barrels set up. Maxwell-Gaines recommends choosing the largest barrel that makes sense for your space.
"You will harvest so much more rainwater over the life of the rain barrel which will translate into way more harvested rainwater being available to offset municipal water use, thus providing a better payback for the investment in the rain barrel," he says.
Can fish live in a rain barrel?
It is not recommended to put fish in a rain barrel, according to Maxwell-Gaines. The fish would need a food source to keep them alive. While fish in rain barrels could feed on mosquito larvae and other insects, if the rain barrel screen is doing what it's supposed to do, you shouldn't have insect larvae in the barrel and the fish would starve.
Who We Are
This story was written by Laura Fisher, a freelance writer for Better Homes & Gardens. She has been writing about home projects and cooking for four years, and also served as a community organizer in NYC's network of community gardens where she was involved with many rainwater harvesting systems installations.
For this story, she researched the best rain water barrels for home use, taking into account capacity, material, and style. She also consulted Chris Maxwell-Gaines, owner of Watercache.com, who has been harvesting rain, conserving water, and managing stormwater in Texas since 2004.