How Do Rain Barrels Work? A Rough Guide

How Do Rain Barrels Work?

Rain barrels are a form of harvesting rainwater aboveground. They are mainly used in residential settings. But just how do rain barrels work? Does it involve the collection of surface runoff? One thing we know for sure is that they require good roofing— that is, your roofing should be suitable for rainwater collection. Once on the roof, the precipitation flows to the guttering, down into the downspout. It is then diverted into the rain barrel for storage. 

Let’s suppose you live in an individual home where you can use the water for several activities such as irrigation. If you stay in an apartment, why would you have a rain barrel? Normally the drainage system enables a continuous supply of water for domestic use. 

The area must be having downspout disconnection programs. Moreover, the neighborhoods must be mainly composed of retrofitting single-family homes. This will reduce the possibility of destroying the barrel.

But how are these barrels designed? You must envision where and how you are going to place the barrel because it affects the arrangement of your compound. 

Source: Lowe’s Home Improvement

How Do Rain Barrels Work? – Design Of A Rain Barrel

Function of a rain barrel is the main thing when purchasing or making one on your own. But again, design is also very important. Design can actually suffice efficiency of the item thus reducing costs associated with maintenance. There are so many different designs and styles which can not only fit the different aesthetic of your house, but benefit you in more ways than one. For instance, you might have not heard but rain barrels can be collapsible. Super convenient when it comes to storing and shielding it from bad weather so it won’t get damaged.

Now let’s look at some rain barrel designs in the small list below:

Good Ideas IMP-C50-SAN Impressions Bark Rain Saver, 50-Gallon, San

Rain Barrel That Looks Like A Tree Will Fit Right Into Your Garden

This rain barrel is sustainable, eco-friendly, saves a lot of water and is easy to maintain

If you live in a house with a backyard you definitely have to own a rain barrel. Almost half of the water we use, we actually use it outside of the house. Given the situation in the ecosystem around the world right now, saving as much clean water as possible is important. But how you do it is almost as important if not more. It is estimated that one person saving around hundred gallons of water annually is that in the United States annual water saving will reach thirty billion. Hundred gallons of water is how much a person uses on average every year.

A rain barrel is a great way to save clean water and use it to water your plants and vegetation outside. You can even use it to wash things or even drink. But of course you need to first filter it.

This rain barrel saves up to 50 gallons of water. It is equipped with the technology that makes the water flow all the way from it’s source without any issue. Pollution or smell won’t be a problem as the barrel has a self drainage system. It also comes with an anti-bug and dirt screen. There are two spigots you can use to make water flow and they are made of brass. It fits well with the overall design. You can control the water flow with either or both at the same time. The thing is that the one at the top is more effective if you want to fill something large. The one at the bottom is effective for smaller things.

The design and how it contributes to the aesthetic as well as the function:

As for the design, which is the main point of this barrel, it is made out of plastic that is rugged in a way that creates a tree bark look. Unless you come close and touch it you won’t be able to set it apart from the trees in your backyard. You may ask how is it eco friendly if the material is plastic. The reality is that if we make items like rain barrel (something that holds water inside for a long period of time) from an actual tree, it will get spoilt easily. On the other hand, plastic will last for years. The material will hold against any weather condition and it is way more damage proof.


  • Can hold up to fifty gallons of water
  • Will fit right into the aesthetic of your backyard
  • Tree bark like look that gives it a unique style
  • Has a special anti bug and anti dirt screen that works like a natural water filter
  • Comes with two spigots, one at the top and one at the bottom; Made of brass; Makes it durable, damage proof and anti rust
  • Anti flood and will never clog the water source as the channel makes the water flow in the front
  • The spigot at the top is good for filling up large items while the one at the bottom is perfect for the smaller one
  • Comes with a one year warranty; contact the manufacturer to find out whether you can apply for it depending on your place of residence
  • Manufactured in the United States, distributed and shipped from there


  • The only issue that some of the customers pointed out is that the spigots need to be screwed too tight before the water stops flowing.

Other Rain Barrel Designs from Rain Wizard

Source: HGTV

Aside from the tree bark finish with a rugged surface, Rain Wizard has introduced other barrels with a unique design. For instance, there is a palm rain barrel with an oak finish. They also come with a variety of colors ranging from light greys and browns to black. copper and dark greens. Further making them fit into any type of aesthetic. Rock finish is another design which can be more practical if you live somewhere with mostly bad weather conditions. It is made of a high quality polyethylene. It is a bit lighter as it can contain up to 42 gallons of water. This design also comes with only one brass spigot.

Lastly, there’s a multiple colored terra cotta finish rain barrel with pretty ornaments all around. The largest model from Rain Wizard it can contain up to 65 gallons of water. Just like the rock finish one, this is also made of high quality and BPA free polyethylene. With a single brass spigot it will satisfy all your needs for years to come.

In Conclusion

As you can see a blue plastic rain barrel is not the only thing you can have in your backyard. There are options. Ranging from rock to urn type made of terra cotta and even oak or tree bark; You can choose anything you want. And you can get a quality, long lasting rain barrel at an affordable price. For instance the largest rain barrel from Rain Wizard costs less than 300$. But it is even more cost effective as the maintenance doesn’t require much and it’s damage as well as weather proof. You won’t have to waste money or repairing the body or a spigot (as you would have with a DIY plastic rain barrel).


When organic matter is exposed to moisture, they decay. If this happens in water, the water will have some and become cloudy. You have used filters in many other places. But how do rain barrels work with them? This is not safe for use. While constructing a rain barrel, you want to do it in such a way that leaves and other debris are excluded. Rainwater barrels have several areas where you can install screens that filter out such debris.

For those who prefer the debris to be filtered on the top, you want to install the screens on the eaves troughs otherwise you can install them in the downspout or at the bottom of the cistern. Normally, these screens are not designed for the removal of small particles or chemical pollutants. At the start of the storm, fine material is usually used to wash off the surfaces. You want to use a first flush diverter. It is very simple and automated. It deters storage of the first dirtier part of the stormwater. After some time, these screens are filled with the so filtered dirt. This reduces their efficiency.

This may limit the usage of the collected water, say for instance if, after 2 months, the efficiency of the filter is reduced by 40%, do you think you can still use the water as you did earlier? Periodically inspect your water the screens, filters, and diverters just so you remove the debris. This can only be achieved if they are located in easily accessible places.

Sizing Barrels

Source: HGTV

You cannot vaguely buy a barrel without having estimated your roof catchment area. But how do you get the area? How do rain barrels work in case of small roof catchments? Do you climb up the rooftop then use a tape measure to get the required measurements? Uhh, it turns out, there is a very simple method of estimating the area.

You can use one of the several online digital maps. To measure the distance on Google Maps, you just right-click the start point of the area to be measured. How do you use the calculated area? How does it relate to volume calculation? If 1mm of rain lands on 1m2 of a rooftop, a liter of water will be produced for storage. In the same breath, if a 5mm storm is on a 75m2 roof, a storage volume of 375 liters would be required.

Are the barrels available in different sizes? ‘How do you ensure that the volume of water stored accurately matches the acquired barrel? Now if you are new to rainwater harvesting, the barrels are made of plastic, they are readily available in a variety of sizes ranging from 150 to 500l. However, there are other alternatives to this. You can use modular systems to increase storage capacity. Do you think your compound is too small to be fit for a barrel? How do you ensure that it doesn’t take considerable space? There are slim designs just for that. They are specifically designed for such small spaces. In some cases, users are fond of recycling a container that has been used as a rain barrel. You want to limit mosquitoes from breeding in such containers. Have the containers been screened? They should be opaque to prevent algae from growing.

Watershed Scale

What type of rain barrel do you have? Is it a traditional one? Is it the modern one? To provide a high degree of reliable water storage, traditional barrels require the owner to efficiently comply. The watershed requires a stringent management control strategy. This is too much given that we need to balance all facets of our lives. To overcome this, there has been the introduction of electrical barrels. These are controlled and monitored automatically. With this system, the rain is forecasted thereafter the contents are automatically discharged into a designated infiltration.

Site Scale

So how do rain barrels work when it comes to site scale? In most cases, the harvesting of the water is the rooftop. In such cases, the collected water has the first interception at the barrel. While planning, you need to find answers to some questions which may significantly affect the efficiency of your barrel. In most cases, a single barrel is enough.

You want to figure out if that is the case. Some designers have the barrels reconfigured though they don’t have to. You want to understand the requirements of your barrel. While designing the barrel, you should have an overflow strategy. What is the worst scenario? What if it rains consecutively for four days? Will your barrel still be enough? Examples of suitable discharge and design points for overflow include a rain garden, a French drain, or even the base of a tree.

Rain barrels have become common among gardeners. It is a great way to capture water, especially for plants or aquaponics. Could you want to acquire a rain barrel, you have all the requisite tools in place. But there is one question left unanswered, lingering in your mind quite often. The rain barrels do not come with pumps. So how exactly do they work? Here are deep dive steps on how to efficiently put a rain barrel into use.

How Do Rain Barrels Work? – The Purpose Of Rain Barrels

Now that you know how rain barrels work, you might be wondering more about their purpose. At its core, a rain barrel is just a container used for harvesting rainwater. Though they have been around for quite a long, they have only become trendy over the past few years. Some have two rain barrels while others only have one while for some still, they have the entire water system installed so that they collect several thousand gallons of water. Though it can be put into many uses, rain barrels are mainly used for watering house plants and outdoor potted plants. You can also use them to keep your garden ponds and water features full during summer.

A great way of watering your garden is by using rainwater. But it doesn’t just end there. Do you have a car? Do you live in a dusty area? How do you keep your windows and car clean? You can have several buckets filled with the harvested rainwater and use it to clean your them. This is very convenient. Most car owners don’t wash their cars because of the inconvenience-having to travel to the car wash. With the rain barrels, your car can be washed at home.

how do rain barrels work
Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

With most rain barrels we introduced above (in the design section) you can actually plant flowers or other vegetation of your choice on top of them. They will look especially good with unique design as it will fit the tree bark, oak, rock and terra cotta finish. Two in one, super convenient for those that want to put the rain barrel in their garden or those that don’t have a large garden space to plant and take care of flowers. With rain barrel top functioning as your plant foundation, you won’t have to water them; it won’t take up too much space and will beautify your home aesthetic.

How Do They Work?

As the water flows from the gutters, it is captured by the barrels. Moreover, the barrels can also be combined with other structures such as garages and shade. Once the system is aligned, the water from the gutters flows to the barrel. This is called hooking up. There are several ways of hooking up a rain barrel with the gutter; use of rain barrel gutter attachment, using a rainwater gutter diverter kit or for those who cannot afford these, you can simply attach a piece of flexible downspout tubing. Even so, all these depend on the type of barrel used. You want to follow the following steps when installing a barrel.

How Do Rain Barrels Work? – Installation Of A Rain Barrel

Normally, rain barrels have an opening at the top. Some have openings at the sides though. This allows water to run in from the downspout or the tube connected from the gutter diverter. When it rains, the rainwater from the downspout fills the barrel. The water is stored there until ready for use. You, therefore, want to ensure that the barrels are kept neat; free from leaves and debris. If you want a more detailed instruction, you can look it up on YouTube or Google. There are step-by-step guides like the one below:

Source: MIgardener

What To Do When The Rain Barrel Is Filled?

It is amazing how the rain barrel overtly features the water cycle. Just with little rainfall, the barrel gets filled with water and all the water needs to go somewhere when the barrel is already full. But do rain barrels work in case of overflow?? What kind of a barrel are you using? There are specially designed rain barrel gutter diverter kits. You want to acquire this. Once full, it automatically stops the overflow of water into the barrel. This saves a lot. You don’t want your compound to be flooded with water. When full, the diverter automatically shuts off. With this, the rainwater simply flows through the gutter as it normally does. This stops the adverse effects of overflowing.

How Do I Use A Rain Barrel?

To use the barrel, you only need to turn on the spigot at the bottom of the barrel. Normally rain barrels don’t come with pumps. The water flows under pressure. You can make the barrels raised so that the water can easily flow under the effect of gravity. You want to buy a rain barrel stand as it gives an awesome look. If budget-constrained though, you can use cinder blocks.
Even while using the barrel, worth noting is that water from the barrel cannot flow downhill. You can also attach a hose to the spigot though it only keeps the water below the spigot level. As you increase the distance of the hose from your barrel, you reduce the water pressure.

Where do you stay? Do you have a compound? Don’t be worried about the area. Rain barrels are available in every size you can imagine. ‘But where do I get one?’ they ask. Today, if you just stroll around, say around your estate, you cannot fail to get a barrel. They have become ubiquitous. They can be found at the improvement stores or even at garden centers. Now that you have familiarized yourself with how rain barrels work, it is the best time to get one for yourself.


And that sums up our thorough guide on how rain barrels work, what are their functions and how can they be used. We also looked into how the various designs can fit the aesthetic of your home and contribute to its functionality. We hope it was useful. In case of further inquiries, don’t hesitate to drop a comment in the comments section below.

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