Many rain harvesting enthusiasts have made the error of purchasing a poorly-made rain barrel only to find water leaking out from underneath it.
Rain barrel manufacturing is no joke. Because of the amount of pressure 50 gallons of water (or more!) can exert on the inner walls of a barrel, high-quality construction is of the essence.
Cheaply-made, mass-produced barrels made by companies who’ve jumped on the rainwater harvesting bandwagon will soon show their true caliber.
We're focusing primarily on well-constructed, American or European-manufactured barrels with a solid reputation among rainwater harvesting enthusiasts that aren't known to cause leakage.
We’ve compiled a list of the best quality, best-reviewed barrels that have proven to be a reliable component of many rainwater harvesting systems.
In this article, we'll cover:
- Reviews of the best rain barrels for rainwater harvesting
- The importance, major benefits, and practical uses of a good, modern rain barrel
- How to know the difference between a quality rain barrel and a cheap one by addressing the different components and materials
- How to set up and maintain a rain barrel for your rainwater harvesting system
- 100 Gallons
- Made in USA
Our Top Choice
- 100% polyethylene food grade plastic
- 100 gallons
- 41” H x 30” Diameter
- 12” stainless steel mesh strainer
- Screened overflow assembly
- ¾” bulkhead for spigot installation
- 1.5” bottom bulkhead
- Made in the USA
Bushman Tanks (formerly known as Poly-Mart) is a trusted plastic tank manufacturer based out of California and known for its durable, industry-standard water containers and tanks. As an American company, Bushman prides itself in the quality of its craftsmanship and for being a leader in supplying water tanks to a variety of industries. All of their tanks come with a 5-year warranty. In terms of durability, Bushman rain barrels are at the top of the line and excellent investment for the rainwater harvester.
The 100 Gallon Rainharvest Tank by Bushman is one of the best we've seen on the market. Made from 100% UV-protected, food-grade, BPA-free, polyethylene plastic, this rain barrel is as durable and reliable as they get. It features a 12" stainless steel mesh strainer at the top opening to filter debris, a strainer at the overflow assembly, and two bulkheads for spigot installation and drainage.
Standing at 41" high with a 100-gallon capacity, this rain barrel is much larger than the more common 50-60 gallon barrel for home-usage. But for the serious rainwater harvester, Bushman's rain barrel is the top of the line.
What we like about Bushman rain barrels
Bushman's rain barrels are some of the highest quality rainwater collection units we've had the pleasure of filling. While there are many details that make these some of the best rain barrels around, it's the overall design that indicates they're made by folks who've thought of literally everything. The single molded piece of polyethylene plastic is as sturdy as an ox, all openings are tightly sealed to prevent leakage, the and mesh screen at the top is fine enough to stop debris while allowing water to fill freely. Throw in the fact that they're 100% USA-made and you can't go wrong.
What we don't like
We're pressed to find a negative factor but it'll have to be the fact that many of the Bushman rain barrels are on the larger end. Thus, beginners looking to start with anything smaller than 100 gallons may have to look elsewhere.
Is it for you?
If you are serious about collecting rainwater and want to start with something that is reliable and that won't leak on you, Bushman rain barrels will be well worth the investment. They're a larger and a little on the pricier side, but if rainwater collection will be a regular part of your water-saving plan, it'll have paid for itself in no time.
- 137 Gallons
- Steel Support Rods
- Polyethylene Plastic
- 36” x 48” x 31”
Graf-water is a German company with products sold in over 70 countries.
The Graf Mondo rain barrel is made for those who are looking to capture large quantities of rainwater, particularly for regions where rainfall is heavier.
The Graf Mondo rain barrel is a sturdy, well-designed water storage container with many options for upgrades and attachments. The food-grade plastic container holds steel rods for extra durability and support. At 36 inches high and 48 inches wide, the massive container collects 137 Gallons of rainwater with ease.
There are additional options for stands, diverters, filters, and pumps that are specifically designed for this setup and can be purchased and installed easily.
What we like most about the Graf Mondo barrel
Steel internal rods make this one of the sturdiest collection units for its size. The large top opening allows for an easy installation and maintenance of a water pump which can be used for indoor or outdoor applications. Plus, its rectangular design saves a lot of space considering how large it is.
What we don't like
While green is a pretty universally-liked color, especially for outdoor usage, it is the only color it comes in. So, if red is more your speed you might have to break out the paint buckets.
Is it for you?
If you're planning on installing a rainwater harvesting system with an internal submersible water pump, this may be the right choice. The large lid opens up allowing you to access the pump quickly and easily.
- UV protected polyethylene plastic
- 39” H x 24” Diameter
- 3/16” thick walls
- Overflow fitting
- Adaptable spigot
- Screw on cover
- Made in the USA
The Great American Rain Barrel has received favorable reviews among rainwater harvesting enthusiasts for its versatility, reliability, and ease of use. Made from recycled shipping barrels, this UV-protected, polyethylene barrel has thick, 3/16" walls to support its 60-gallon capacity. It features an interchangeable spigot attachment and overflow valve to connect multiple rain barrels.
What we like most about the Great American Rain Barrel
What might seem like a minor feature has actually proven to be quite useful in certain situations. The deep grooves molded into the sides of the barrels make it quite convenient if the need to move the rain barrel arises. We can imagine how ridiculously heavy a full rain barrel can be but even an empty one can weigh around 30 lbs or so. Those extra grooves allow for better grip when shifting the barrel from one side to another.
What we don't like
While all the rain barrels are brand new when purchased from the manufacturer, some have been re-purposed from their previous use as olive barrels. This detracts nothing from its quality as a rain barrel but some of the labelings from their previous incarnations may be a bit peculiar to some.
Is it for you?
If you're looking for an American-made, reliable, straight-to-the-point rain barrel with no need for bells and whistles, you'll be very happy with this. Great for a first-time rainwater harvester.
- Recycled food-grade plastic
- 41”H x 21 “ Diameter
- Brass spigot
- Overflow valve
- Twist off lid with mesh screen
- Sealed with waterproof caulk
- Made in the USA
MiRainBarrel is an independent American manufacturer that specializes in one thing: rain barrels. They've recently expanded into manufacturing other rainwater harvesting accessories and garden products but their best selling product is the MiRain Barrel.
It is made of 100% recycled, food-grade, polyethylene plastic and holds 58-gallons of water. The inside is sealed with waterproof caulk to prevent leakage. It features a brass spigot, overflow valve, and mesh screen filter.
The MiRainBarrel is created with durability in mind. It is quite well known that many cheaply-made rain barrels on the market don't hold up well under high volumes of rainwater. The extra precautions that the manufacturers have made in ensuring its stability have certainly paid off. The MiRainBarrel is an excellent choice for rainwater harvesters who need a decent-sized rain barrel that will last for many seasons.
What we like most about MiRain Barrel
MiRain Barrel is designed and manufactured by rainwater harvesting specialists who've considered and addressed most of the potential issues that are often presented. One of the best features is the double-screw feature on the brass spigot. Two screws attached to the outside of the barrel remove the need to have to reach inside to tighten the spigot.
What we don't like
While it isn't necessarily the fault of the manufacturer, high demand often results in slow shipment and production times. Be sure to order in advance.
Is it for you?
If you appreciate the work of design specialists who consider all potential problems and address them properly, the MiRain barrel has the fingerprints of design specialists all over it. You'll appreciate how the subtle details make rainwater collection much easier.
- UV protected polyethylene plastic
- Sandstone Appearance
- 160 gallons
- 56” H x 41” diameter
- Includes planter
- Mesh screen filter
- Detachable hose
While decorative design and durability seem to be at opposing ends when it comes to rain barrel manufacturing, the Vase Style barrel by Graf seems to have combined the two.
At a 160-gallon capacity, the UV-protected, polyethylene barrel captures large quantities of water while remaining a decorative piece in the garden.
Among the more decorative rain barrels, the Graf barrel ranks higher in terms of reliability and ease of use. It features a detachable hose, mesh screen filter, and planter space at the top of the barrel for flowers and plants.
What we like most about the Amphora rain barrel
It's the most elegant-looking rain barrel on the list. While the material is 100% UV-resistant, polyethylene plastic, it remarkably resembles a sandstone pot.
What we don't like
The planter space at the top of the barrel is a nice feature but it is a bit tall. At 56" high, shorter people may need to reach quite a bit when watering the plants.
Is it for you?
If garden elegance is important to your rainwater harvesting setup, the Amphora is as elegant as they get.
- 50 Gallons
- Dark Oak appearance
- UV-resistant plastic
- 33" Tall x 23" Wide
This 50-gallon rain barrel has the appearance of an authentic oak barrel but is made of durable, UV-resistant plastic. The flat back allows for flush placement against any wall, allowing for optimal positioning. At 33” tall, the 50-gallon barrel is an adequate size for rain harvesting.
The barrel has a mesh resin that keeps bugs out of the storage area and features overflow ports for those who wish to add additional barrels. There’s a shut-off valve and brass spigot for hose attachment.
What we like most about the Woodgrain Barrel
It looks like a vintage, traditional wood barrel. The flat back allows you to place it flush against a wall, saving space.
What we don't like
At 50-gallons, it's on the smaller end of rain barrel sizes.
Is it for you?
For those who prefer an elegantly designed barrel that is sturdy enough to carry an average amount of rainwater, this barrel might be perfect for you.
How Do Rain Barrels Work?
The act of collecting rainwater through a catchment system and storing it for future use is known as rainwater harvesting. Rainwater is one of the purest forms of water due to the hydrologic cycle – nature’s distillation process.
While it isn’t quite immediately available for human consumption unless water purification techniques are implemented, rainwater has a tremendous amount of practical uses. According to the EPA, the average American household uses 300 gallons of water per day, 30 percent of which is used for outdoor purposes (2018).
With a rainwater harvesting system in place, rainfall that would’ve otherwise been lost to storm drains could be gathered in a rain barrel and stored for later use, ultimately reducing water expenses. On a broader scale, rainwater captured from rooftops can be used for improving stormwater management, fire protection, and livestock management.
Rain barrels are also helpful during drought seasons or in regions with water restriction times. With a good rainwater harvesting system in place, rain barrels can be a very effective water conservation tactic.
Though the word ‘barrel’ assumes the traditional wooden construction, rain barrels can be made from several types of materials and can take various shapes and sizes. Essentially, it is a container used in collecting rainwater that can be reused for various household or agricultural purposes.
Rain barrels commonly have a large hole at their top onto which the downspout of the catchment system is connected. Water from the catchment system passes through the downspout and then into the rain barrels.
The rain barrels are usually fitted with taps at the bottom onto which a garden hose could be connected for watering plants or washing cars. Some sophisticated modern rain barrels have connecting systems that transfer water to sprinkler machines and other storage units.
Read Our Related Article:
RainFlo: The Complete Rainwater System
Rain Barrel Benefits and Practical Uses
- Water Conservation - A rain barrel helps in water conservation. According to SFGate, a rain barrel system can save a household up to 1,300 gallons of water during the summer months (2011).
- Reduced Water Costs - Using stored water can significantly reduce water costs. According to the Pennyhoarder, one woman’s family saved about $2000 in water spending over a 5-year course of continuous rainwater harvesting (2018).
- Reduced Groundwater Demand – Continuous and wide-scale rainwater harvesting by residential, industrial, and agricultural sectors can reduce the demand for pumping aquifers to access groundwater.
- Clean Water for Irrigation - Rainwater, being distilled, is much safer for gardening as opposed to city tap water due to its absence of chemicals such as fluoride and heavy metals such as lead.
- Water Security - A rainwater storage system provides water security during drought season.
- Reduced Damage to Sewage Systems - Internal pressure and wear in sewage pipes due to continuous use are reduced since a majority of the rainwater isn’t going directly into the drain.
- Reduced Pollution - It reduces pollution of our water bodies since there is less sweeping of debris, fertilizers, and other contaminants into waterways.
- Prevents Floods - Large-scale collection of rainwater can reduce the likelihood of soil erosion and freshwater contamination caused by floods (Pfaff, 2018).
- Prevents Home Water Damage - Harvesting rainwater can reduce seepage of water into a home’s foundation or basement, thereby preventing possible water damages.
It is important to check with your state's legislature to find out about regulations if any. While it is completely legal to collect rainwater in most states, there may be some guidelines that will need to be abided by. We've compiled rainwater harvesting laws for each state so you can reference them.
What Makes a Good Rain Barrel?
Material of Rain Barrel
While we recommend using plastic resin (polyethylene) rain barrels for your home rainwater harvesting system due to their durability and ease of use, we’ll discuss a wide range of rain barrel types for your own education.
- Plastic Resin - Plastic resin barrels are by far the most common type of rain barrel and for good reason. They are lightweight and easy to clean. They are not biodegradable and cannot be broken down as a result of bacterial action.
Plastics are easy to mold into various shapes and designs to appeal to a wide variety of outdoor preferences. Plastic barrels are much less costly to produce as compared to stone barrels and are therefore less expensive. They’re also much easier to move due to the lightweight material. While most plastic, polyethylene-based barrels are UV protected, they should still be kept under shade or away from the sun for longevity.
Opaque plastic material won't harbor algae as translucent or transparent plastic would. We highly recommend selecting a plastic resin rain barrel as opposed to any other material.
- Stainless Steel - Stainless steel barrels have most of the advantages of plastic resin barrels and are often used for storing very large capacities for longer periods of time.
Typically used as industrial tanks or cisterns to supply small communities, they are more durable than plastic barrels and can withstand UV rays much better. They aren’t as common in terms of rainwater storage for households, and therefore important features such as taps, mesh screens, and overflow protection might be harder to come by.
- Clay or Stone - Clay or stone barrels often come in smaller sizes because of their weight and are often used for decorative purposes rather than for a full-blown water conservation system. Most people who consider a clay or stone barrel aren’t as concerned with the rainwater harvesting aspect as much as for exterior design purposes.
Nevertheless, rainwater can still be harvested through them efficiently. Once a location is selected for a stone rain barrel, it is usually a fixed location due to the amount of weight a full stone barrel can have.
- Wood - Wooden barrels have been used throughout history for many purposes including rainwater harvesting. And while they might look attractive, the trouble one would go through in maintaining a wooden barrel for rainwater is quite lengthy.
Wood is biodegradable and could easily grow mold and algae and is known to harbor insects. In terms of durability, wooden barrels deteriorate over time and can eventually leak. While it is possible to properly treat a wooden barrel for rain harvesting, most of the issues caused by wooden rain barrels can be solved by purchasing a modern plastic resin barrel.
Rain barrels come in different sizes and can range from 15-gallon decorative barrels to 5000-gallon industrial size tanks. The choice of capacity depends on various factors such as its intended use, the size of the roof, frequency of rainfall, the number of people intended to benefit from it, and the maximum amount legally allowed by the state. A rain barrel of 40-80 gals is optimum for an average household.
Calculating the capacity needed is an important step before making a purchase and there is a formula to do so. One inch of rainfall over a square foot yields about 0.6 gallons of water. Determine the average amount of inches of rainfall you get in a month, multiply that by 0.6, then multiply that by the width of your roof. This will be the number of gallons expected to harvest in one month.
Adding and connecting additional barrels is always an option as your demand for rainwater increases.
The design and function of a rain barrel is a major factor. While most rain barrels generally look and operate similarly, some have features that should be considered. Consider a barrel that is wide at the base, increasing stability when full.
Barrels with a smooth back can easily rest on the wall without tipping over. All rain barrels should be opaque in color to prevent the growth of algae through sunlight. Larger rain barrels should have a secure cover to prevent animals and small children from falling in.
- Mesh Screen Filter - Mesh screen filters keep insects, leaves, and debris from falling into the barrel. Stagnant water is an attractive place for mosquitos to lay eggs and thus a mesh layer is important. Some barrels have a completely covered top with only an opening for the downspout. Barrels without screen filters should consider using mosquito dunks to prevent the growth of larvae in the water.
- Spigot - The spigot is the outlet that dispenses water from the barrel to the environment and could be used to attach a garden hose or to fill directly into a basin. Brass spigots are most ideal to prevent rust. The spigot should be located at the bottom of the barrel so that gravity can allow the contents of the barrel to flow through. Some barrels have a threaded bulkhead where a spigot could be attached.
- Overflow Protection - During heavy rainfall, more can be collected than originally anticipated. An overflow valve regulates and diverts excess water when the barrel gets filled to capacity. Overflow valves can be connected to additional rain barrels or to large storage tanks. While older designs might lack this feature, most modern rain barrels are built with an overflow valve.
- Downspout Diverter - Rain barrel diverter kits work by diverting the flow of water into the rain barrel while allowing leaves and other debris to pass through the downspout. This prevents clogging of the downspout and overflowing of the rain barrel. We've written an article which details more about downspout diverter kits, how to install them, and where to purchase them.
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How to Set up a Rain Barrel
While a rainwater harvesting system is relatively easy and straightforward, there are important factors to consider when setting up the rain barrel.
- Look out for places with maximum overflow on your roof to site your barrel and ensure the spigot is easily accessible. Once the barrel is placed, it will be difficult to move once it starts to fill.
- Elevate the barrel by placing it on concrete blocks to increase spigot access and to decrease the distance between the downspout and the barrel opening.
- Ensure you connect a downspout directly into the barrel inlet to avoid the water from flashing through the roof into the barrel. This could cause foundation problems or unnecessary noise and vibrations.
- Run a test by passing water through the system to check
- Kills and prevents mosquito larvae in your rain barrel
- 100% organic and completely harmless to humans, animals, and plants
With the possibility of mosquito larvae growing in stagnant water, it is advisable to protect your rain barrel with mosquito drops. These drops are 100% organic and safe, made up of a bacteria only toxic to mosquito larvae. Each drop lasts up to 30 days and covers up to 100 feet of surface area.
Maintenance and Cleaning
- Check for debris on the roof tops that could hinder the passage of water
- Prune trees with elongated stems towards roof tops which can add to debris collection
- Check gutters and downspout for leaks and repair them
- Empty rain barrels regularly to prevent buildup of algae
- Wash the internal and external parts of the barrel and discharge its contents with the hose
- Check for leaks around the barrels and ensure the over flow in good condition
- Be aware of mosquito larvae growth and utilize mosquito dunks if necessary
Rain Barrel FAQs
How Much Water Pressure Can I Get From a Rain Barrel?
The higher the rain barrel is elevated, the greater the water pressure is at its lowest point of discharge. In order to produce 1 PSI of water pressure, the water level should be 2.31 feet above the exit point which would typically be the end of a hose attachment.
For example, in order to achieve 5 PSI of water pressure, the top of the rain barrel should sit at 11.55 feet above the end of the hose. While that does seem quite high, a tall vertical rain barrel resting atop a stand several feet off the ground should be tall enough to produce enough water pressure for discharge.
But ultimately, the best way to increase pressure is to install a rain barrel pump. Check out our article on rain barrel pumps to find out how they work.
How Quickly Do Rain Barrels Fill Up?
It certainly depends on the size of the barrel, but rain barrels can fill up pretty quickly especially in places of consistent rainfall. Every inch of rain that falls on a 1 square foot roof will collect about 0.6 gallons of rain in the barrel.
For example, a 10 foot by 10-foot rain catchment will fill a 60-gallon rain barrel with 1 inch worth of rainfall.
Can Rain Barrels be Left Out During the Winter?
It is best practice to empty the rain barrels during cold seasons as the water can freeze and potentially damage parts of the barrel. Most barrels are made from high-density polyethylene and can withstand harsh temperatures, but the brass spigot and attachments might crack should the water be turned to ice.
In What Ways Can Rain Barrels Be Disguised?
While some rain barrel manufacturers consider the aesthetic factor of having a rain barrel in the yard, most rain barrels stand out significantly. Some rainwater harvesters build wooden enclosures around the barrel so as to add discretion.
Another popular idea is to wrap chicken wire around the barrel and allow vines and foliage to grow alongside it, ultimately covering it.
Is Rainwater Drinkable?
While rainwater itself is naturally distilled, it is not advisable to consume it directly as it can collect unknown contaminants on its way from the roof to the barrel. But, while rainwater collection is widely used for gardening and cleaning purposes, the proper filtration methods can make it potable for consumption.
Check out our article on how to properly filter rainwater.
Rainwater harvesting continues to prove an efficient method of water conservation that any person living in a wet enough climate can participate in. The benefits of using a rain barrel for collecting rainwater don't only apply to the individual doing it, but to the community as a whole. Be wise in selecting a rain barrel – choose the right size and consider all the features. Take care of it well and you'll definitely reap the benefits.
Thank you for taking the time to read our article on the best rain barrels. We'd love to hear your feedback in the comments section below. If you've found this article to be useful and are interested in learning more, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
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EPA. (2018, February 5). How We Use Water. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/watersense/how-we-use-water
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Rain Barrel Man. (n.d.). Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from http://www.rainbarrelman.com/faq.htm
SFGate. (2011, May 25). How Much Water Does One Rain Barrel Save? Retrieved from https://homeguides.sfgate.com/much-water-one-rain-barrel-save-78360.html
Town of Dewitt. (n.d.). A Guide to Rain Barrels. Retrieved from http://efc.syr.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/DewittRainBarrelBrochure_6.12update.pdf
Pfaff, M. (2017, June). Rainwater Harvesting Advantages - Disadvantages. Retrieved from https://www.aloaqua.co.nz/blogs/news/rainwater-harvesting-advantages-disadvantages
Pope, K. (2018, June 8). If We Knew How Much Money You Could Save Collecting Rainwater, We'd Have Started Years Ago. Retrieved from https://www.thepennyhoarder.com/life/rainwater-harvesting/
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