Let the Savings Rain Down

Impending rain in the forecast can definitely dampen your mood. After all, who wants to deal with muddy shoes, soggy picnics, and sloppy sports events? But there’s also a sunny side to these waterlogged days—thriving gardens and lush lawns where the grass is always greener. Our world needs water—and lots of it—to survive, yet it’s our most wasted resource. It makes sense to find environmentally friendly ways to sustain our precious supply. Naturally, one of the simplest solutions is raining down from above. Sure, we complain about the rain, but once it’s trapped, we’re able to tap into its practical and economical potential.

Rainwater harvesting is one of the coolest, most cost-effective methods out there. And it’s not just for people who live in persistently parched areas. By setting up a system of your own, you can start saving money and your environment at the same time. Cost-wise, you’ll cut down on your utility bills as well as the amount of water that undergoes expensive sewage treatments. During the hotter, drier months, outdoor water usage can amount to 50% of your water bill, so why not take advantage of Mother Nature’s free giveaway? Yard-wise, rainwater is better for your plants and soil because it’s free of toxic composites from the tap. And you’ll have your own uncontaminated supply to dip into during times of drought or watering restrictions. Just turn on the attached spigot—or hose—and watch your garden guzzle it down.

So are you ready to start soaking up the benefits? The fastest and easiest plan is to buy a rain barrel system online or at your local home improvement store. But for less money and way more bragging rights, you can build one yourself.

For starters, choose the right-sized barrel to suit your watering needs—and be sure it has a lid. If it’s a true rain barrel, it will already have a spout at the bottom so it will be easy to attach a spigot or hose. If you’re using a plastic trash can instead, you’ll need to drill a ¾” hole near the bottom and insert the standard 1” spigot with ¾” threads. Or attach a ¾” hose adaptor, depending on your watering preference. Either way, be sure to seal the deal with caulking.

Next, place the barrel beside the chosen downspout. If the ground is uneven, level it with a shovel and toss down some gravel for better drainage, or create a concrete platform for stability before placing your barrel.

Now use a hacksaw to carefully cut a downspout elbow to the desired length so it will securely connect from the downspout to the barrel. The end should fit well into the barrel—not just to the opening—to prevent leaks.

What opening? Get out that hacksaw again—you’re almost done—and cut a hole into the top large enough to fit the downspout elbow. Once it’s all screwed together, adding a metal screen around the hole is wise as well as a metal filter at the top of the downspout to prevent leaves from clogging up all your hard work. But it wasn’t all that hard, right? And your rainwater system is as weatherproof year-round as the trashcan—or true rain barrel—you used to create it. A quick draining and rinsing is recommended at the end of the summer season before temperatures dive below freezing. Or you can always detach the barrel from the downspout elbow and store it in the garage until warmer weather arrives.

Sounds simple, right? Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and wait for wet weather to set it all in motion. Are you hoping for rain for a change? Let the harvesting begin!