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Our planetary resources aren't unlimited, so buying a rain barrel is one of the many little steps you can take to help conserve water and protect the environment.
Rain barrels collect rainwater that runs off your roof and through your gutters. You can use this water to saturate your garden, wash your car, and so on. Some states even permit the use of rain barrel water for greywater purposes.
Choosing to collect rainwater might be an easy decision, but finding the right rain barrel for your needs isn't so straightforward.
The market is saturated with hundreds of rain barrels of various shapes, sizes, and materials.
At BestReviews, we're here to help you wade through the choices.
We test products in our lab, consult experts, and analyze existing data to bring you the very best items available.
To avoid bias, we never accept free products from solicitors. We pride ourselves on creating fair reviews that are both honest and thorough.
The matrix above contains our top five rain barrel picks.
If you need more information about rain barrels and how to find the right one for you, please check out the rest of this shopping guide, below.
Rain barrels aren’t just good for the environment. Collecting rain and using it on your lawn and garden could also help you save money on your water bill.
If you're not quite convinced yet, here are some more reasons why you might want to buy a rain barrel:
A rain barrel prevents water from entering storm rains, thereby decreasing the risk of flooding.
Collecting rainwater benefits the environment, as our earthly resources are limited.
Rain barrels allow you to direct overflow where you want it to go. And let’s face it, nobody wants rainwater seeping into their home’s foundation.
Since you'll be using less water from your taps, a rain barrel should save you money on your water bills.
Rainwater is oxygenated and unchlorinated, which is ideal for plants.
The average garden hose puts out 10 gallons of water per minute — the equivalent of 160 glasses of drinking water. So, in buying a rain barrel, you're doing your bit to conserve water.
Today, plastic is by far the most popular rain barrel material. In fact, each of our top five picks is made of some kind of plastic.
Why is plastic so popular? It’s incredibly strong, durable, and lightweight. At the same time, it costs less to make a plastic rain barrel, and manufacturers can easily mould plastic into a number of shapes. This creates some interesting rain barrel designs.
On our shortlist, the most unique-looking barrel is probably the Good Ideas Impressions Palm Rain Saver. Its outer shell is moulded to look like real oak wood, but its plastic material is far more durable than wood. Buyers can choose from nine attractive colors, including terra cotta, sandstone, and granite.
Unless you have a particular aversion to using a plastic rain barrel, we highly recommend this material, as it's light, durable, and long-lasting.
Traditional wooden rain barrels look quaint and quite attractive, but unless properly treated, they will eventually rot.
If you want the classic look of a wooden barrel with the longevity and convenience of plastic, you might like the RTS Home Accents 50-Gallon Rain Water Collection Barrel. It’s designed to look like a real oak barrel.
If you live in a dry area with frequent droughts, you may understand the pain of watching your garden die during a hosepipe ban. But if you collect enough rainwater during the wetter months, you'll be able to keep your garden green all year long.
You can find rain barrels made of stone or clay, but these tend to serve a decorative purpose more than a functional one. That’s not to say you couldn’t collect water in a clay or stone barrel, of course.
Because of their weight, clay and stone barrels are often smaller than rain barrels made of other materials. Another consequence of their weight is that they're harder to move from one location to another. Therefore, once in place, a clay or stone rain barrel is likely to remain there for years to come.
Metal rain barrels have fallen out of favor. The wrong kinds of metal, when not properly treated, can rust. What’s more, a metal rain barrel can be heavy, bulky, and difficult to move. In short, metal isn’t the ideal material for rain collection.
The average rain barrel for home use has a capacity of somewhere between 40 and 80 gallons. Consider how much water you’d like to collect at one time and how often/how much it rains in your area.
The Good Ideas IMP-L65-BLK Impressions Palm Rain Saver offers the largest capacity on our shortlist at 65 gallons. The RTS Home Accents barrel, with its wood grain-like outer shell, has the smallest capacity at 50 gallons.
If it rains a lot where you live, consider buying a rain barrel with a large capacity or linking multiple rain barrels together to maximize your collection potential.
Some people don’t care what their rain barrel looks like; others have a particular aesthetic in mind.
Our top picks include everything from plain-looking barrels — like the Enviro World Corporation Rain Barrel — to much more attractive varieties — like the Good Ideas Impressions Palm Rain Saver, which is designed to look like oak and has a planter on top.
Look for a rain barrel with a brass spigot, like the RTS Home Accents 50-Gallon Rain Water Collection Barrel. Brass spigots hold their own quite well, but plastic spigots can crack and break.
The spigot is another word for the tap at the bottom of the barrel where you get the water out.
It should be possible to attach a hose to the spigot, so you can use water directly from the hose or fill a watering can or bucket, depending on your requirements.
If it rains a lot, your rain barrel may completely fill and begin to overflow.
This is where an overflow hose comes in handy. If you don't have an overflow hose to direct the water to an appropriate location, the excess spills out over the top. Since most people keep their rain barrels against an outer wall of their house (to collect water from the drainpipe), this overflow could seep into your foundation and cause damage. It could even flood your basement, if you have one.
Both Good Ideas rain barrels on our shortlist have two spigot locations so you can choose where to connect your hose. Owners like having two choices because it provides more flexibility.
In some states, you can use rain barrel water for “greywater” purposes such as flushing the toilet and crop irrigation.
A rain barrel screen prevents debris and other contaminants, like insect larvae, from infiltrating your water.
Some rain barrels are completely covered, apart from a hole where you can attach your drain pipe. Others have a fine mesh screen that keeps out all but the tiniest insects and bits of dust and detritus.
Rain barrels vary in price depending on size, design, and appearance.
You're unlikely to find a quality water barrel for less than around $80. Products that hover around this price point perform their job well, but they often look basic — or even unattractive to some tastes.
Thankfully, you can get a quality rain barrel that won't make the neighbors gossip about your poor taste for roughly $100 to $150. We like the Good Ideas Impressions Palm Rain Saver, which currently sells for $98. It’s the Best of the Best rain barrel in our product matrix.
Beware of excessively inexpensive rain barrels, as they're likely to be of poor quality. Our Best Bang for Your Buck product, the Enviro World Corporation Rain Barrel, emphasizes functionality and quality over aesthetics. Most owners like it and for many the price is right.
Q. What if I need a rain barrel of a larger capacity?
A. If you do a lot of gardening or have other uses for large amounts of rainwater, you might find even the largest of our top picks are insufficient to meet your needs.
Those who need a larger capacity can either look for an industrial-sized rain barrel or chain several average-sized rain barrels together with linking hoses. For most consumers, this is the most practical solution.
Some rain barrels, like the Upcycle 55, are already set up with the correct hardware to be linked together. Others require a little modification. So, unless you're a DIY pro, we recommend looking for a barrel like the Upcycle that easily links with others.
Q. Is rain barrel water safe to drink?
A. No, the water collected in a rain barrel contains a variety of bacteria, debris, and pollutants. It’s not safe to drink as is.
Mind you, it could be made safe to drink with some pretty intensive treating and filtering. However, we don’t recommend this unless you know exactly what you are doing.
Q. How long will it take to fill a rain barrel?
A. If placed under a drainpipe so it gets the runoff from your roof, a 60-gallon rain barrel can fill up over the course of an average rainstorm. So, if you live in a wet area, you could easily make use of multiple rain barrels.