Rain barrels collect roof runoff water and store it so that you can use it later in the garden, on the lawn, or for your indoor plants. Because you now have this free water, you can save money that you’d otherwise spend to keep your landscape green. When the next drought arrives, you’ll have some stored water and can avoid draining resources.
Why buy a rain barrel?
Direct runoff in urban areas has nowhere to go but down the sewer or into large street potholes. If street drains become blocked, huge puddles of water form, and streets can flood. The problems can continue downstream. There just isn’t enough absorbent surface area for the water to go. If you live in the city, or even in a suburb, you can do something positive with this lost water problem by getting a rain barrel. As rainwater is chlorine-free, unlike tap water, it’s perfect for your garden. Plants don’t like chlorine! Wash your car with it, share some with your neighbor, or use your imagination.
What should you look for in a rain barrel?
- Diverter: You might be enthusiastic about harvesting rainwater and want a barrel with the largest storage capacity. That’s great! But even with a 100-gallon barrel, there’s still the chance of overflow. You definitely don’t want that to happen. Rain barrels sit close to the house, so the excess water will run straight into the foundation, and you know that’s no good. When your rain barrel fills up, an automatic diverter activated by water pressure directs overflow back to your downspout. Hook up a hose, and let the water flow away from your home.
- Look: A rain barrel is a rain barrel, you know? Looks are naturally not an integral feature to its function. And yet, why shouldn’t it be? Rain barrels are outdoor appliances, like barbeques, so of course, they can add or detract from the appearance of your lawn and landscape. There are solely utilitarian rain barrels, which you can move behind a tree or a bush, or you can put them out in the open and be proud! You can find a fair number of intentionally attractive rain barrels made of terra cotta as well as plastic ones made to look like wood, stone, or whicker.
- Material: Most rain barrels are made of high-density, high molecular-weight polyethylene (HDPE) plastic. What’s great about HDPE is that it’s lightweight and resistant to large variations in pH levels. There are rain barrels made of recycled or repurposed material for the environmentally conscious, too. You’ll also find barrels made of thermoplastic polymer. Be careful not to assume that this is a better-than-plastic option. It is plastic! In fact, HDPE is a type of thermoplastic polymer. But enough of the details. You need a rain barrel that’s durable and that doesn’t crack or leak.
Are there special features or additions that you should consider when purchasing a rain barrel?
While a connectable or chainable rain barrel is unnecessary for collecting and storing rainwater, it’s definitely an advantageous feature. A chainable rain barrel connects to one or more other barrels, all to the same input source. Even if you only have one barrel, you might want multiple in the future. It’s good to think ahead. Another important aspect of rain barrels is a mesh screen, which keeps out mosquitoes, other insects, and debris.
FCMP Outdoor Rain Barrel
This rain barrel is easy to install, linkable to other rain barrels, and a great all-around product.
Pros: The FCMP Outdoor Rain Barrel holds up to 50 gallons of rainwater, has a flat back design that makes it much easier to install, and has an overflow connection at the back to allow excess rainwater to flow down beneath the barrel and out and away from your home’s foundation. FCMP also added an aluminum screen filter to keep out intruders—insects, that is—to keep the water clean. In fact, it comes with a garden hose, a shut-off thumb valve, a hanging hose clip, an overflow hose, and a linking kit for connecting to other FCMP RC4000 rain barrels via the spigots on both sides of the barrel. Some users appreciate the oak-like appearance, describing it as stylish. Rather than wood, the FCMP is made of durable polyethylene.
Cons: The main complaint about the FCMP concerns the flat overflow tube. Users report that it’s poorly designed and doesn’t expand to allow water to flow through as it should. That can be a big problem as the barrel fills up. The mesh screen is a bit flimsy, doesn’t fit well, and isn’t as helpful as it could be. Also, the mesh screen can easily be blown away because there’s no fastener.
Bottom Line: Overall, the FCMP Outdoor Rain Barrel gets a thumbs-up. It’s durable and connectable and comes with a linking kit and other valuable parts. The pros outweigh the cons, unless, of course, you don’t prefer the wooden look.
VINGLI 50 Gallon Collapsible Rain Barrel
This rain barrel can actually fold down for easy storage! The PVC material ensures durability.
Pros: The VINGLI rain barrel is constructed with a PVC frame and anti-corrosion PVC mesh fabric, and therefore, is crack-free, durable, and foldable! It’s easy to clean with a hose, fold, and then store. Each spigot has two rubber rings and a water outflow valve to prevent leakage. Others enjoy that the outflow valves can be used to connect to other VINGLI rain barrels and like the spigot’s ability to hook up to a water hose for watering the garden.
Cons: The rain barrel can tip over when full and the PVC mesh fabric could in the process. There aren’t as many features included as with other rain barrels, and again, the VINGLI has a utilitarian look, so you might not want to use it as the centerpiece of your garden decor.
Bottom Line: It seems that VINGLI had a great idea for a collapsable rain barrel, albeit one that not all users will appreciate. It’s probably not a great entry-level choice, as those who have had success with their VINGLIs know to put it on a flat surface (FYI, the instructions are right on the product page!). No, it doesn’t have the features of other rain barrels. It’s a simple, durable, collapsable, standard-looking rain barrel. If you like what you see, give it a try. It won’t be a huge dent in your pocketbook.
mirainbarrel Rain Barrel
This 58-gallon, food-grade rain barrel means business. It's so durable that it might last a lifetime.
Pros: This 58-gallon rain barrel DIY kit by mirainbarrel is an immersive experience into environmental best practices. It arrives partially assembled, with the brass spigots preinstalled. However, you get to place the brass overflow valve where you want it to go. The plastic is recycled, repurposed, and food-grade. The material was originally used to hold olives from Greece and would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. So just by buying and using this product, you’re playing an important role in environmental protection.
Cons: Compared to other barrels on this list, this product is expensive. It’s also not the most appealing visually, with its shiny brown plastic.
Bottom Line: You don’t have to be invested in an environmental movement or even care about the “recycled, repurposed, food-grade level” aspects of this rain barrel to appreciate its large capacity and superior durability. But if you’re interested in the communal effort to conserve water for the good of others as well as for yourself, you’ll love this thing. Whatever compels you to invest in a good rain barrel, you can’t go wrong with this one.
RTS Companies Inc Home Accents ECO Rain Water Collection Barrel
This product offers the essentials of a good rain barrel, and it even looks nice!
Pros: This 50-gallon RTS water barrel is made of 100% recycled plastic and has a flat-back design so that you can set it flush against a wall. Not everyone wants to showcase their rain barrel, so placing it close to an exterior wall is a nice solution. The barrel has a screen to prevent debris and insects from wandering in and a plastic spigot shut-off valve for a hose hook-up. Finally, this authentic oak-looking barrel is pretty attractive—not something you can say about most rain barrels!
Cons: Compared to other models like the Woodgrain or Oak RTS rain barrel, which have a brass spigot, this barrel’s plastic spigot looks inexpensive and might underperform. The same goes for the plastic screen, which is made of aluminum in the other models. Some users report that the barrel bows when full, while others recommend placing the barrel a few inches away from the wall so that bowing or flexing won’t show.
Bottom Line: The 50-gallon RTS Home Accents ECO Rain Barrel’s design allows for linking to other barrels for maximum water collection and setting flush to a wall to take up less space. It’s easy to install and assemble and is made of sturdy plastic. When compared to other models by the same company, you might think that the ECO model is lacking. However, it’s made of 100% recycled material, which might be a selling point for some.
Good Ideas Impressions Nantucket Rain Barrel
This unique product has a 50-gallon rain barrel with a 4-inch planter top, incorporating utility with beauty.
Pros: The plastic body has been molded to mimic the appearance of wicker—and successfully so, according to overall sentiment. Other features of note include the dual-brass spigot locations (one close to the bottom, the other centered about halfway up the body). These two non-rust brass spigots allow you to hook up a hose with one and use the other as an overflow for a second barrel. The final, show-stopping feature: There’s a flower garden on top! Naturally, you get to choose what you plant.
Cons: Naturally, the rain barrel overflows when full. Additionally, the mesh has a tight weave, making it easy for debris to keep water out, which could be a common problem if you plan to keep flowers that will inevitably drop petals and leaves.
Bottom Line: For the most part, the Good Ideas Impressions Nantucket barrel is a great choice for people who want a beautiful addition to their backyard. A good look into the details of this model reveals that appearance is the priority behind the design and not aspects needed in a superior, high-functioning rain barrel. So, if you find it to be stylish, go for it.
Rain barrels offer you a chance to lower your water bills while giving your potted plants or your garden the proper amount of hydration. They’re great for people who live in areas that experience moderate to heavy rainfall. Rain barrels vary considerably on many levels: the water capacity, the material used in the construction of the body and parts, the appearance, and the aim of the product beyond the basic capturing and storage of rainwater. Some lean toward water harvesting as a sustainable effort, while others, like the Good Ideas Impressions Nantucket, appeal to people who want to collect rainwater and add charm to their garden. The market doesn’t lack a variety of quality rain barrels, which is a great sign. For you, it means that you have options. A word of advice for when you make your purchase: Get clear on what you’re looking for in a rain barrel. Knowing what you want is half the battle.