Water’s Timeless Value:
Thales of Miletus (624 BC) believed that water was the ultimate guiding force behind…well….everything. In his ancient world, he believed the land floated on an infinite sea of water. But before Thales came a great many more practical people, who may not have know the geography of the world- but did know one big truth: water is essential to life.
In 2000 BC, the people of India carved barrels into rocks throughout the Indus Valley to collect rainwater. Native Americans collected runoff from the mountains for use in their crops.
While Vern and our family lived in Africa, wells were a critical part of the infrastructure improvements we helped bring to the communities we served.
It makes you grateful for the easy access we have now, back home in Pennsylvania.
We’re fortunate enough not to have the drought problems other parts of the US are facing, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be thrifty if we do have the chance. Big gardens use a lot of water. And yes, we get plenty of rain in Schuylkill…but rain barrels can be a great way to make the most of what God sends our way.
We recently talked about expanding on homesteading hobbies, and rainwater harvesting is just another great example of that. It’s the perfect garden addition and the easiest way to cut back on steep water bills. (Especially if you’re like me: a plant lover who is always “rescuing” plants from the garden center!)
But collecting rainwater isn’t always as simple as just sticking a barrel under a gutter spout.
Curious about collecting your own rainwater? Here’s what you need to know before getting started!
“How Do I Harvest Rainwater?”
As a kid, did you ever set out buckets in the front yard right before it rained?
Harvesting rainwater works the same way, but it’s a little more sophisticated. Instead of buckets, barrels are attached to the gutters, allowing rainwater to drain into them.
Once full, a spigot near the bottom of the barrel allows you to drain the water. On most barrels, you can also install a hose for easier use.
All rain barrels need to be elevated to work properly. The elevation creates enough pressure for the water to drain from the spigot properly.
Choosing the Right Barrel
First step to harvesting rainwater? Finding the right barrel for your home.
There are many different barrel materials to choose from, each with their own pros and cons. The most popular choices are:
- Plastic/Food Grade Barrels
The main reason people choose wood and terracotta barrels isn’t because they work any better- but because they look lovely.
The downside? They’re also the heaviest choice. Just like wood siding and windows, wood barrels are susceptible to rot and require constant upkeep.
Plastic is the top choice for rain barrels. Why? They’re
- easy to clean
- and come in a huge range of designs.
(Here’s the proof that plastic can be gorgeous! Check out this barrel below- can you tell it’s plastic?)
And look at these faux terracotta barrels:
Still sold on wood or terracotta? Make sure to choose a smaller sized barrel and frequently monitor for algae growth and rot. With a little extra care, these barrels are a great aesthetic addition.
Choose your barrel and ready for installation? Let’s look at how to protect your home from runoff water.
Keep Rain in Your Barrels… and Out of Your Basement
Did you know that an average sized roof can collect up to 600 gallons of water after an hour of rainfall?
That’s a lot of rain!
A standard barrel only holds 55 gallons.
That means it’s crucial to divert excess water away from your home. I’m all for conserving water and keeping the bills down, but runoff water can damage your foundation and lead to moisture/mold damage.
Saving pennies on your bill isn’t worth the risk- take time to set your rain barrel up right!
So how do you divert extra water away from your home?
One of the most common solutions is installing a gutter diversion system.
The attachment fills the barrel with water, and redirects it back into your gutters after the barrel is full. It’s the easiest and most efficient way to control runoff and protect your foundation.
The other great thing about gutter diverters? They also divert debris away from your barrel and out through the gutter. The attachment is usually screened, blocking out bugs and leaves.
Just like your gutters, you need to periodically check the attachment for built-up debris. Follow the same maintenance checks as your gutters, and clear it out twice a year, or anytime you notice it’s not draining correctly.
Another important tip: rain barrels aren’t winter safe and can crack with frozen rainwater. Make sure to store your barrels in a garage or shed during harsh winter weather!
Rainy Days? Yes Please!
Congratulations- you’re ready to start collecting rainwater!
Unsure about installation? Want to get your gutters looked at beforehand? We’re happy to help.
We’re happy to help with gutters and rain barrel installation- as well as other projects your homesteading heart may desire (like a new shed or a dreamy detached garage/workshop!)
My husband and his team would love to help you get started on your next project. Give him a call at 570-345-0406 to get started on your new hobby!
Until then, happy gardening!
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