According to the EPA, lawn care consumes up to 40% of water usage during the summer. A rain barrel will save up to 1300 gallons of water.

When buying an environmentally friendly rain barrel to conserve water for lawn care, there are three basic "types" to buy.

  1. Plastic or Other Durable Material
  2. Wood
  3. A Conversion Kit to convert a container you already have into a rain barrel

I will provide a general, high level overview of each type.  First there are some overarching considerations to consider.

Key Questions To Consider When Buying A Rain Barrel:

  • Does Appearance Matter?
  • How "Green" Do You Want To Be?
  • Do You Prefer to Do Things Yourself?
  • How Many Rain Barrels Do You Need?
  • Are There Neighborhood/Association Codes You Need To Comply With?

Overtime, the costs of the rain barrel should be recouped from savings in your water bill, especially if you live in a water stressed region. Look at your water bill to find cost per gallon and use the stat above (saving 1300 gallons a summer) to figure how much savings you'll get. To get an even more accurate estimate, the EPA has a roof runoff calculator and estimate rainfall amounts for your geographic region.

For example - if my utility company charges me a penny per gallon, I'll save $13 each year I have the rain barrel. 

Another potential savings and intangible savings opportunity is what is alluded to in this other Infobarrel article about all-season usage of rain barrels.

Namely, the water stored in rain barrels can be used for emergency preparedness.  If the water main breaks near your house, if the water system becomes tainted, if there is any other disruption to service, you can have piece of mind knowing that you have a source of water for covering basic necessities.  I'd also recommend getting a simple water purifier to accompany the water storage.


Plastic or Synthetic Rain Barrels

Achla Designs RB-01 Green Rain Barrel - 54 gallon
Amazon Price: $169.49 $99.00 Buy Now
(price as of Jun 22, 2014)
With a plastic rain barrel you sacrifice appearance for durability. The exterior will tolerate all sorts of weather and temperature. Easy to clean and lightweight to move.

Wooden Rain Barrels

Upcycle 54 Gallon Wooden Rain Barrel
Amazon Price: $305.99 Buy Now
(price as of Jun 22, 2014)
Former oak barrels for aging bourbon or whiskey often get a second life as rain barrels. This type is usually more expensive, but offers a rustic charm for the aesthetically minded. It's a great barrel for curb appeal, but it is more susceptible to damage and it's a bit heavier and clunkier.

Build Your Own

You can use just about anything to create water storage. Old trash cans, 55 gallon drums, or old fuel tanks all make great rain barrels, and it is by far the most affordable way to add this feature to your garden. The kits basically consist of items to connect the gutter to the rain barrel, plus spigots seals and spouts for getting the water.

Other accesories

Finally, to complete the rain barrel installation, you may want to consider the following. Again, I recommend visiting the EPA's site to see what tools and equipment you will need for proper installation.  

  • Something to elevate the rain barrel.  You can use cement blocks, build a stand out of wood, or purchase a more decorative one.
  • A water pumping system.  If you are doing more than watering flower pots, or gravity just won't do the trick, a pumping system will get water to where you need it.