How to Use Rain Barrels Without Rain Gutters

Rain barrels are a fantastic and sustainable way to conserve water and to store and use rain water for gardening and landscaping. Most commercially available rain barrel systems integrate into a building’s existing rain gutter system and effectively collect the rainwater from the roof of the structure and funnel the water through the gutter downspout into the rain barrel for water storage.

What to do if your home does not have rain gutters and you have no interest in installing them? Rain barrels can still be used but it will require more observation and perhaps some ingenuity.

The first thing to do is to determine which locations of your house or building has the most potential to collect rain water. Look for valleys of the roofing structure that will channel the water flow to a specific area. Look on the ground for signs of pitting or soil erosion from water falling from the roof. These are all opportune locations to place a rain barrel.

The next consideration will be how exactly to channel the water from the roof into the rain barrel. Many options exist and all have their own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Waterfall: This method is simply placing the rain barrel in an area where the water from the roof will pour directly into the barrel. This is a very simple method but it is possible that not all the water will make it into the barrel and a screen will need to place over the barrel to keep leaves and other organic matter out.

A rain barrel can get water diverted to it with a rain chain

Rain Chain: This decorative alternative to a rain gutter downspout will direct water flow into a rain barrel or basin.

Large funnel: A less attractive but highly functional alternative is the use of a large funnel to capture and direct water from the roof directly into a rain barrel. A commercially available industrial size funnel or even an inverted and modified umbrella could be used. Again, this is not the most attractive option but it is functional.

Drip Line Collection: Some buildings do not have specific areas where downpours of water concentrate; instead they have long drip lines. It is possible to harvest rainwater from these drip lines by constructing a trough that will collect and direct rainwater into a rain barrel.

Once you have decided up the location and the method of rainwater collection you can decide on the type of rain barrel system to use. Many commercial options exist or you may choose to build your own. Commercial options come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors; some even attempt to integrate into the landscape by taking on the form of large planters or large boulders. Of course, these commercial options are rather expensive and typically range in price between one hundred to one thousand dollars.

Do it yourself options are available and instructions are relatively easy to find. Probably the most economical option is to modify a large plastic garbage can. The garbage can has the advantage of being relatively inexpensive and having a lid which can be modified to include a mesh screen to keep leaves and other organic debris out of the rain barrel.

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