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Rain Barrels: Good Idea?

Are rain barrels to collect rain water really such a good idea? Do they pay for themselves or not?

For a number of years, my wife has been asking for a rain barrel.  She's under the impression that by collecting rain water, we can save a lot of water and money off our water bill.

Frankly, I think shorter showers and better use of our washing machine is a better solution.

But since her birthday is right around the corner, I thought that I might investigate a bit more and see what can be found.

I was under the impression that rain barrels were either made from empty blue 55-gallon drums that have to be cut and plumbed to work, OR, they are made from terra cota colored clay and more fragile than I would like.

I priced some of those clay barrels and found they were between 100 and 200 dollars apiece.

But then I asked a coworker where they might look, and got a great lead on a plastic, plumbed system at an area home improvement store.

The price on line was just $78 for one. But in the store, they were listed as $98 each.  I bought one.

I was impressed. First, the barrel was fairly light, but sturdy, and the plastic spigot and connecting pipes were all included in a packed cardboard box in the bottom of the barrel.  Second, the design of the collection pipe is clever... it's a slip coupling that fits right into your rain downspout.

Now, the design requires a level run less than 3 feet from downspout to barrel and it must be level. You might have to cut your downspout with a hacksaw to make it a square joint.  And the clever bit is that when the barrel becomes full, the overflow never gets diverted into the pipe that fills the barrel.

During the winter, just unhook the supply line, tie it up against the downspout, and after emptying the barrel, up-end it for storage.  Very simple!

I can hardly wait to install this unit.  I've selected a spot and must weed underneath it, and level the spot to support the weight of the filled 57 gallon rain barrel!  That means, I wait until the flowering plants are all dead before installing.

Now, you may think that fall is not the best time to install, but the prices may tumble, and if you install and winterize right away, the system will be easily set up next spring before the spring rains.

The big question is if you will use all the rainwater, and if that off-sets enough of the municipal water fees to pay for the barrel.  I'm not certain that we use enough water to recover the cost, but for a once-only birthday gift, I'm willing to try.

I'll keep you posted on my progress and how installation works for us.

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