We recently bit on a Wellesley Natural Resources Commission offer to purchase a rain barrel in the name of sustainability. As it turns out, it sets us up nicely to comply with Wellesley asking residents and businesses to cool it on nonessential outdoor water use in light of the state’s drought status being declared significant.
I can smell manual labor coming a mile away, and when our big plastic barrel was delivered to our house (in plastic bubble wrap—scandal!), I detected at least a day’s worth of toiling instead of idling. Mrs. Swellesley rolled her eyes when I suggested this, but I wasn’t wrong.
You’d think it would be simple enough to just stick the barrel under a downspout and capture the rain, but depending on your home, it’s more involved than that. And I mean no disrespect to this Great American Rain Barrel, which cost about $100 after discounts for getting it via the NRC-affiliated program. It seems like a sturdy product and the Youtube tutorials are helpful (I probably should have made my own tutorial but didn’t think of it until too late).
Anyway, back to me and my limited tool collection on a close to 90-degree July afternoon.
The first steps had already been taken. We circled the house looking for a respectable place to plant this behemoth, which stands just over 3 feet high, weighs 20 pounds empty and is of course made from recycled BPA-free plastic. It can’t go in the front of the house due to aesthetics, but maybe the garage. But even that wasn’t a straightforward decision because of the placement of our downspout in relation to our back door. So that meant rerouting the gutter and downspout to the back of the garage, two trips to the hardware store later, with a variety of gutter puzzle pieces and cement.
I set upon the job, repeatedly scaling my stepladder, and unscrewing the existing downspout, which had been clogged with all sorts of gunk, explaining the water gushing out of it in recent days…or weeks…or months…or… Then I fit the gutter puzzle pieces together, drilled some holes in the gutter, and attempted to nail it to the garage, which is made of some impenetrable material. I still need to slap on some more gutter cement to squelch leaking, but it’s OK for now. Unable to find leftover paint from the exterior painting we had done a couple years ago, we’ll also need to buy some to cover up the bare patches left where the downspout used to be.
I also had to whip out the hacksaw to cut off the downspout and shove the rain barrel’s water diverter into it. This funnel remains open when the weather is warm, and directs water onto the top of the rain barrel, which it then flows into.
— swellesley (@swellesley) August 16, 2020
You close the diverter in winter when the rain barrel isn’t being exposed to the elements and water streams down to the bottom of the downspout, part of which is attached to the bottom of the diverter.
An after dinner showing of the installed rain barrel elicited oohs and yawns from the family, and this pertinent question from Mrs. Swellesley. “So how do you get the water out?” Well, I had attached a spigot near the top of the barrel, but realized after she mentioned it that that was kind of useless if the barrel is only partway full. I hadn’t noticed another spigot hole about a foot off the ground facing toward the garage, so wound up spinning the barrel around and sticking a spigot supplied with the kit into that hole the next morning.
Of course that was a tad too late considering the wicked downpour that struck that very night. About a third of the 60 gallon barrel filled, though more probably would have if we’d had that hole plugged earlier.
Anyway, we’ve begun capturing wild water in our backyard to use in our gardens. It just might make up for some of the endless showers that take place inside the house. Not naming names., but not sure I want to ask for the NRC to get involved with that.