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Rain Barrels: How and Why to use them



Rain barrels capture rainwater from roof downspouts. The water is used for outdoor purposes on the property. Water can be used to hydrate outdoor plants, lawns, or gardens, but this water cannot be used for drinking or indoor water needs.

What else do I need to install my rain barrel?

Rain Barrels are easy to install, you attach to a gutter. Depending on your gutter structure, a flexible gutter extension can be useful and may need to be secured with screws and sealed with caulk. Don’t forget to measure your gutter and buy a downspout extension that is the right size! Most hardware stores have them available. To make the most of your rain barrel, you may want to create a raised platform for the barrel, such as cinder blocks or a wooden pallet. The higher your platform is, the higher the water pressure coming out, and the higher platform makes it easier to place a watering can under the spigot.

Does Rain Barrel Water Go Bad?

Water does not go bad. In fact, if water is stored in a cool, dark, dry place, away from concrete and harmful chemicals, then it can be stored almost indefinitely. It can become biologically or chemically contaminated though, so it is important to rotate and filter the water before use. Even if you have all the precautions in place: a metal roof free from leaf debris, you clean your gutters with a leaf guard, a leaf diverter and a screen on the inlet going into the rain barrels, debris can still find its way in there. It is possible for some algae to begin forming as well, even if your tank is opaque. While some algae will not harm your water, too much of it and you may begin to have issues with clogs in the pipes and even foul-smelling water. It is recommended that your rain barrels are emptied and scrubbed once a year, preferably at the end of summer before the winter rains set it. This will ensure clean storage of rainwater for many years. What do I need to do to maintain my Rain Barrel?

Once your rain barrel is installed, maintenance is easy. Simply use the water you’ve collected to water your garden. Because rainwater is acidic, it is a good idea to balance the PH level of your stored rainwater from time to time as not to cause corrosion in your system. PH test strips commonly used to check the water in pools can be used to check the water in rain barrels, then add baking soda until the water is neutral or slightly alkaline. For a 55-gallon rain barrel you may only need a couple of tablespoons of baking soda for the PH to balance. Clean your Rain Barrel on a regular basis, to do this you completely drain the barrel, scrub with dish soap and a long handle brush and rinse with a solution made from 1 cup of bleach to a gallon of water. Let dry completely before re-use. Don’t forget to double check that the rain barrel system is ready to go before a big storm!

What do I do with my rain barrel during the winter?

In South Carolina, it’s not a good idea to leave your barrel set up in the winter, as water inside may freeze and damage the system. Right around the first frost, it’s time to pack it up for the winter. Adjust your gutter downspout so the water will run away from your house. Empty your barrel completely, rinse it, and let it dry. Then, either store it inside a garage or shed, or turn it upside down and leave it outside for the winter, covering it with a tarp if you have one. Make sure the spigot is open and all components are clean. In the spring, you can put it back in place and start harvesting rainwater again.

Will my rain barrel make a difference?

It may not seem like a lot, but every drop counts. Using two rain barrels to water your plants could save up to 1,200 gallons a year, just from one household!

  • Rain Barrels can be painted to add a decorative element to your yard. Barrels have been stored for some time will need to be cleaned before priming.

  • You must apply a plastic primer before applying acrylic paint.

  • This is generally a spray paint. Two such brands are Krylon Fusion and Rust-Oleum* plastic spray paints. Two cans are needed to coat a barrel.

  • Before applying acrylic paint gently buff the primer paint with sandpaper to remove any gloss.

  • Use acrylic paint to make your design, then wait 48 hours before applying topcoat to seal the acrylic paint.

  • Two sealants that rain barrel artists have used are Krylon Fusion UV protectant spray or Rust-Oleum clear crystal. *

* The mention of a product does not constitute an endorsement by the Newberry Soil and Water Conservation District.

Where can I get a Rain Barrel system?

They are available for FREE from the Newberry Soil and Water Conservation District, contact Crista at (803) 597-3160.

credit from various web searches

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