Best Rain Barrels of 2020
A rain barrel collects rainwater that can be used for numerous household tasks. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best rain barrel for your water repurposing needs.
Beat the Drought: Your Guide to the Best Rain Barrels
Water isn't an unlimited resource, and many local governments enact conservation regulations for their residents. During a drought, limited water can halt your gardening, prevent you from watering your lawn, and leave you with an unwashed car. That's where a rain barrel comes in handy.
A rain barrel collects rainwater, which you can repurpose for a wide variety of chores around the house. But choosing the right rain barrel is key. You need to know the material, capacity, and extra features that will suit the needs of your home. With the wide array of rain barrels on the market, that isn't always easy.
At BestReviews, we help you narrow down your options. We purchase all our own products, so our recommendations are honest and unbiased. We conduct extensive research, test products in the field and our labs, consult experts, and analyze data from other real-life customers to compile our reviews. That way we can pass along the info you need to make the best shopping decisions.
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Rain Barrel Basics
What Is a Rain Barrel?
A rain barrel is a large container that collects rainwater runoff. A rain barrel connects to your home's gutter system using a downspout diverter or a modified downspout. You can use water from a rain barrel via a spigot or a hose for gardening, landscaping, and other chores.
What Are the Benefits of a Rain Barrel?
- With a rain barrel, you'll always have plenty of water for landscaping and household chores even when your area is under water restrictions.
- The water collected from a rain barrel is better for your plants, because it's free of the chemicals and minerals often found in tap water.
- A rain barrel helps reduce runoff pollution. Rainwater collected in a rain barrel won't pick up fertilizer, pesticides, and other contaminants and feed them into storm sewers.
- Rainwater collected in a rain barrel helps prevent soil erosion, which can be very important in some areas.
- With a rain barrel, you'll keep rainwater runoff from seeping into your home's foundation, basement, or crawl space, preventing water damage.
- A rain barrel can reduce your water bill by lowering your water usage during key gardening and landscaping months.
Plastic vs. Wood: Rain Barrel Materials
Plastic Rain Barrels
Plastic is the most common material used for rain barrels. Plastic is lightweight and inexpensive, so it's a good option if you're new to using a rain barrel. Plastic rain barrels are available in a wide array of colors and styles. However, plastic rain barrels usually aren't very durable and can break down with prolonged exposure to UV rays. It's best to place plastic rain barrels in an area shaded from the sun. It's also important to choose a rain barrel made from BPA-free plastic to ensure the water isn't contaminated.
Stainless-Steel Rain Barrels
Stainless steel or other metals are often used for large-capacity rain barrels. Stainless steel is extremely durable and ideal for long-term water storage. However, not everyone enjoys the utilitarian look of stainless steel or other metal rain barrels.
Wood Rain Barrels
Wood is a popular material for rain barrels for its attractive, rustic look. Wood is also a natural material, so you don't have to worry about chemicals like BPA contaminating the water. However, when exposed to water for prolonged periods, wood can rot and break down. Wood rain barrels aren't as durable as plastic or stainless-steel models. Wood rain barrels also tend to be more expensive.
Stone Rain Barrels
Stone is used for smaller capacity rain barrels. Because it's such a heavy material, stone isn't the best option for larger rain barrels. Stone rain barrels have a decorative look, so they're ideal if you're concerned about the barrel's appearance. Keep in mind that stone rain barrels can be expensive and difficult to install.
Eco Home: What to Look for When Buying a Rain Barrel
Rain barrels vary in size from small barrels that hold as little as 15 gallons to industrial-size models that hold up to 1,000 gallons. The best capacity for your home depends on a variety of factors, such as the size of your roof, the typical rainfall in your area, the frequency of rainfall in your area, and how much rainwater you use around your home.
In general, a 40- to 60-gallon rain barrel works well for most homes. If you live in a particularly rainy area, you may need a larger rain barrel. You can also connect multiple rain barrels to your home's gutter system to increase capacity.
To ensure that animals don't fall into your rain barrel, it's important to choose a model with a lid that locks. If you want to be able to fill a watering can by dipping it into the rain barrel, opt for a model with a latched lid, so you can easily open the lid when needed.
To keep leaves, insects, and other debris from getting into the rain barrel, choose a model with a mesh screen. A mesh screen is particularly important to prevent mosquitoes from getting into the rain barrel, as they're attracted to standing water and can quickly infest your yard.
A rain barrel's spigot dispenses the collected rainwater. Make sure the spigot is located near the bottom of the rain barrel, so even water at the bottom of the barrel can be dispensed. If your rain barrel has a second spigot, it should sit higher up on the barrel, so you can comfortably fill a watering can without bending. It's also a good idea to choose a rain barrel with a spigot that attaches to a hose, so you can get rain barrel water directly from your garden hose.
During particularly bad rainstorms, a rain barrel can overflow. To avoid flooding, choose a rain barrel with an overflow valve that diverts water once the barrel reaches capacity. For the most effective overflow protection, look for a rain barrel with dual overflow ports.
Some rain barrels have a utilitarian design—they're meant to collect rainwater and not serve a decorative purpose. Other rain barrels have a more attractive design, so you don't have to worry about the barrel taking away from the appearance of your yard. Consider where you'll place your rain barrel and how visible it will be to determine the design that works best for you.
If you're concerned about your rain barrel taking up too much space, look for one with a flat-back design. The flat back allows you to place the rain barrel right up against the side of your house to maximize space.
Rain barrels vary in price based on their material and capacity, but you can typically expect to spend between $75 and $300.
- Small: For a 40- to 50-gallon rain barrel, you'll usually pay between $75 and $115.
- Medium: For a 50- to 60-gallon rain barrel, you'll usually pay between $90 and $130.
- Large: For a 60- to 80-gallon rain barrel, you'll usually pay between $125 and $150.
- Oversize: For an 80-gallon-plus rain barrel, you'll usually pay between $150 and $300.
Tips for Installing and Using Your Rain Barrel
- It's important to place a rain barrel on level ground to ensure that it's stable. When a rain barrel is full, it can weigh as much as 400 pounds, so you don't want it to wobble or fall over suddenly.
- Stack your rain barrel on stable cinderblocks to make it easy to access the spigot. This will make it easier to hold a watering can under the rain barrel to collect water for gardening.
- Always keep the lid on to prevent animals from falling in your rain barrel. The lid will also keep mosquitoes from gathering around your rain barrel.
- If you find your rain barrel isn't collecting as much water as you'd like, connect other rain barrels to your gutter system to increase capacity.
- If you have your roof or the exterior of your home treated for an insect or other pest problem, disconnect your rain barrel for at least two weeks. Otherwise, the pesticides can contaminate the water.
Q. Can I drink the water collected in a rain barrel?
A. While water from a rain barrel can serve a variety of purposes around your home, using it for drinking water is not advised. The water in a rain barrel could be contaminated by several factors, such as bird waste on your roof, and it can pose a health risk if you drink it.
Q. What type of maintenance does a rain barrel require?
A. It's important to keep a rain barrel clean. At least once a year, drain the rain barrel and use a long-handled brush to scrub the interior with a mild soap. Rinse the rain barrel well to ensure that no soap residue is left behind. Make sure your gutter system is clear of debris, too, to keep buildup from collecting in the rain barrel.
Q. Do I have to put a rain barrel away for the winter?
A. Most rain barrels can be left out during winter, though consult the manufacturer's instructions to be sure. However, you should disconnect the rain barrel from your gutters for the season, so it doesn't collect water, which can freeze and distort the shape of the barrel.