Monday, April 14, 2008

Project One of Two: Rain Barrels

I decided at the beginning of this year to do a couple of green projects that were easy enough that I could do them without too much trouble.

First up, now that the gardening season is almost underway, is a set of rain barrels.

The basic principle here is to collect the rainwater that comes off your roof and down your gutters and use it to water the garden, instead of using municipal water. I tried this experimentally last year by just putting one of our trash cans under the downspouts. We have a little house with not a whole lot of roof....but in a good downpour, the rain filled the trash can (prolly about 35 gallons) in about 20 minutes. As you can see, you can collect a LOT of rain this way.

By doing this last year, we were able to go probably about 2 months straight without using any municipal water for the plants, until we hit a long period without rain and I finally had to use the hose. But even so, that crude technique was phenomenally successful.

It did, of course, have its problems though. If you leave open water out too long, you get mosquitos breeding in it. A few times I had to dump out the water just to kill the mosquitos--an obvious waste. The second, and perhaps worse thing that happened, was that a squirrel fell in and drowned. That was the second squirrel I buried last year...another one inexplicably died on the side of the house.

Now, the drowned squirrel may well have been the *same* squirrel that chewed a hole in our garbage can, chewed through our porch screen, and just taunted the heck out of our poor cat--so I felt a little less guilty about the whole thing. Nonetheless, like Jamie and I were joking yesterday, we ain't running a squirrel morgue.

So the mission for this summer was to set up some actual rain barrels that were a) mosquito proof, b) squirrel proof, c) higher capacity so that we could go longer between rains. One option is to buy them, but they can run from $50-$60 all the way up into the $100s, and there's shipping costs involved as well, as I don't know where they are sold locally. The other options to make them. I liked that idea better.

Youtube has a couple of good videos on DIY rain barrels. Here's one from HGTV:



But I'm not crazy about this one. First of all, I don't know where to get those kinds of barrels. Second of all, I am *not* interested in putting a spicket at the bottom of the barrel. Most of them have that, but I dunno...I did really well last year by just dunking a watering can in the top of the barrel--it fills up much faster than with a hose, and it's easy. As you can see, these kinds of barrels do not have open tops.

Then I saw this one:



This is almost exactly the style I want. Just a couple of trash cans with a removable lid for easy access. And I can always add a spicket at the bottom later if I decide to. 32 gallon trash cans like these are at Home Depot for $14...so for under $30, I can have over 60 gallons of capacity. Nice!

I think I'm going to borrow one idea from the HGTV rain barrels though--and use the PVC coupling with a screen as opposed to the soda bottle. Our gutters get filled with leaves real fast...and I think the HGTV style will be a lot less prone to clogging. All the leaves and debris will just get washed off the top while the water sinks down into the barrel.

Hopefully I can get started on this this week...I'll post on my progress!

5 comments:

Gobbagram said...

Poor Claudio. No one ever posts comments on your blog entries. The rain barrel is an excellent idea! xo

Anonymous said...

what about this design?
http://www.aquabarrel.com

Claud said...

Doesn't look bad, but I wanted one with an easy-open top.

M. Alexander said...

I really want an antique wooden one and will use tree sap to stop up all the leaks. But will that ever happen? Probably not.

Florentius said...

Why not just dig a cistern in your back yard? I'll spring for the marble and concrete. Perhaps then you'd have enough water for that caldarium you've been wanting to put in.