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Rain Barrels

Rain barrels are a great way to capture water and put it to good use. Rain barrels are large containers that capture stormwater from your roof that would otherwise be lost as runoff. Modern rain barrels are sealed, safe around children, and insect resistant – they can even be painted or decorated to your liking. You can divert water from your downspout to fill your rain barrel and a hose spigot on the front makes the water easy to access and use.

Around 40% of the total household water used during the summer months is for watering lawns and gardens. Rainwater doesn’t contain chlorine, lime, or calcium which makes it ideal for watering your flowers and vegetable garden or washing your car or windows. You may even notice a decrease in your water bill!

The Conservation Foundation sells rain barrels year- round through a partnership with Upcycle Products, Inc. The 55-gallon rain barrels are made of recycled food- grade plastic, come in a variety of colors, and can be purchased online for $64.50 (plus tax). Home delivery is available for an additional $32.50.

There will be a local pickup the first Saturday of each month from April - September from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. at the Water Reclamation Facility (625 S. Rte. 83 Elmhurst). Barrels can also be purchased in person at The Conservation Foundation’s headquarters at McDonald Farm (10S404 Knoch Knolls Rd., Naperville). 

Rain Barrels are available to PURCHASE HERE.

Quick Facts:Rain Barrels

  • Rain Barrels are 55-gallon containers, stand about 48" high.
  • Made of food grade recycled plastic containers (former pickle and olive barrels).
  • They are covered to keep them safe around children.
  • The screw-off lid is equipped with a screen to keep debris and insects from the water.
  • A valve on the bottom of the barrels to which a hose is attached makes the captured rainwater available through a simple gravity system.
  • An overflow connector at the top of the barrels allows for a hose to be attached and directed to other landscaped areas.
  • The rain barrels carry a one year warranty.
  • The rain barrel has been used to ship food products from Europe to the USA. It probably carried olives from Italy and can not be reused for food products. In the past these kinds of barrels would simply be thrown away filling valuable landfill space and wasting a very reusable barrel.
  • Since the barrel was used for shipping, it will not be a smooth unmarred surface. It will have scratches and damage that is normal as it is moved about. The surface can be lightly sanded and painted to help it fit in to your particular application and location. Be creative! Paint it with bright colors and make it a part of your garden.
  • The barrel capacity is about 50 gallons. Depending on the size of your roof or the area being drained by the particular gutter you are connecting to the barrel will fill quickly with even a moderate rainfall.

The Equation:
1 gallon = 231 cubic inches = .1337 cubic feet
1 square foot = 144 square inches
(total capacity of barrels in gallons x 231) = # of inches of rainfall to fill (surface area of roof draining into barrels)


A house is about 60 feet long by 25 feet wide and half my roof empties into rain barrels, so the surface area in inches is 60 x 25 x 1/2 x 144 = 108,000 square inches.

It has 4 rain barrels at the backyard downspouts and they are 55 gallons each, so 4 x 55 = 220 gallons
So, (220 x 231) / (108,000) = 0.47 inches of rainfall needed.....
that's less than a half inch of rain to fill 4 rain barrels with 220 gallons of water!
Tips for using your Rain Barrel
Tips for using your Rain Barrel
  • Be sure that the downspout that you’re working with is in good working order and clear of any blockages.
  • Never use collected water for drinking, cooking or bathing!  What’s great for your plants isn’t necessarily all that great for you!
  • The top spigot is actually the overflow valve.  Many people prefer to attach a length of hose to this and run it to an area that can handle excess water during heavy rain.  Be sure to leave this valve wide open (turned counter clockwise) at all times.
  • The bottom spigot has been installed several inches above ground level in order to provide stability to your barrel…just that much water inside of the barrel will provide a base of about 80lbs.  However, some people still find that their starter hose can kink from being very near the ground.  This is easily solved by manually twisting the bottom spigot ¼ of a turn clockwise (or Righty-Tighty) so that the spigot points directly to the left, parallel with the ground.  Don’t go beyond ¼ turn, or you could “strip” the spigot / barrel connection.
  • Do not pull or tug on the hose fitted to the bottom spigot, as you can easily damage the connection.  Leave plenty of slack in your hose to prevent problems.
  • Speaking of hoses, we recommend buying the absolute cheapest 5/8’ hose available for use with your rain barrel.  Hoses are meant to handle the fairly high pressure coming from your tap, while the pressure you’ll be dealing with is low.
  • To fill a bucket or watering can, don’t undo the starter hose.  Just open the shutoff on the end of the starter hose, hold it below the water level inside of the barrel, and fill your vessel that way.
  • The screen vent will prevent insects from breeding in your barrel, and stop leaves, twigs and whirligigs from getting in there too.
  • Try hooking a soaker hose to your starter hose, and run it through your vegetable garden or flowerbed.
  • Consider joining multiple barrels for additional capacity.
Rain Barrel Installation
Rain Barrel Installation
Congratulations! You have just taken a giant step toward saving water, saving money and enjoying your garden. Now you need to actually install your new Rain Barrel and learn how to use it. The following instructions will help you with a basic installation. You may need to be creative, or even consult a professional gutter installer, if installing your barrel to an old, non-rectangular downspout or any configuration other than straight vertical. That said, have a read and you’ll get the idea of how it works.

What you bought: You have a 55 gallon recycled barrel, with 2 connection spigots fitted at the top and bottom and a screen cover.

What you still need to get: Generally, you will need to cut an existing downspout in order to fit the rain barrel beneath it. This will require a hacksaw. Usually, the downspout is held against your building with two small metal straps, one near the gutter up top and another at the bottom. Since you’re going to relocate the bottom several feet up, you’ll need to get another one of these. Finally, if the elbow at the bottom of your existing downspout cannot be reused (sometimes they’re riveted to the old downspout), you’ll probably want to get one of those as well. While some people prefer to install their barrels on concrete blocks, this is definitely not a requirement. A cheap hacksaw is about $5, with the parts listed about totaling $3 - $4. You’ll also need a pair of pliers, a couple of roofing nails, a hammer and a pencil to complete the basic installation.

Fitting your Rain Barrel: First thing is to place your barrel next to the downspout with which you’ll be working.

  1. For safety’s sake, make sure that the ground that the barrel will sit on is flat and level. You may need to use a spade or shovel to flatten out the surface upon which the barrel will sit.
  2. Now, understanding that you’ll want the elbow emptying water into your barrel through the screen, you can estimate where you’ll need to cut the existing downspout and draw a line there with a pencil. Keep in mind that the existing downspout will slide inside of the elbow, taking away an inch or two of length. Also, the special louvered collection system catches an incredible percentage of the water hitting it, so you have a few inches in any direction to play with.
  3. If possible, now is the time to strap the downspout to the building, several inches above where you’re going to cut the downspout. You can do this with a couple of roofing nails or drywall screws. If you can’t attach it now (not having room to maneuver the hacksaw can be a problem), having a friend help you by holding the downspout while you cut it is a good thing.
  4. Go ahead and cut the downspout where you drew your line. It makes an awful noise, but don’t be afraid.
  5. If you couldn’t attach the strap before, do so now… well above the cut so you can slide the elbow over the downspout.
  6. Remove the part of the old downspout that went all of the way to the ground, as well as the old strap that might have been there holding it.
  7. In order to fit the downspout inside of the elbow, you’ll need to use your pliers to bend in or crimp the edges of the downspout. Be careful, as the edge you just cut will be sharp. Take your time, as it will take you a few tries. Be sure to fit the downspout into the elbow, and not vice versa. Otherwise, you’ll have a funny looking fountain when gravity takes the rainwater outside of the elbow fitting.
  8. We’ve found it easiest to attach the 5’ starter hose to the bottom spigot at this time. Be sure that the bottom spigot is turned wide open (counter clockwise, or “Lefty Loosey”) so that you’ll be regulating water flow from the shutoff on the end of the starter hose…notice that the end of the starter hose can be hooked over the top spigot for easy access.
  9. Now slide your barrel under the newly reconfigured downspout and you’re in business.