The 8 Best Rain Barrels
This wiki has been updated 36 times since it was first published in March of 2015. Why pay for water when it drops out of the sky for free? Do your part for conservation and add some style to your outdoor space with one of the rain barrels we’ve listed here. Not only are they ideal for collecting and storing our most precious natural resource, but many of them also add an element of charm to your landscaping. You shouldn't count on them for clean drinking water, though. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
May 21, 2021:
In this update, we removed several models due to availability concerns, including the Fiskars Salsa and the Koolscapes Sandstone-Look. In replacing these options, we looked for rain barrels with unique features in order to give the list more variety.
New to the list, the FCMP Outdoor Wood Grain has a slim profile, so you can put it up against a wall without worrying about it sticking out too far. It comes with a small length of hose that can be attached to a built-in clip to avoid leaking when not in use. However, the included plastic valve can make connecting longer lengths of tubing difficult.
If you want to be able to store your rain barrel in a shed or garage during certain times of the year, then the Goplus Collapsible is a solid choice. After you remove the support poles and other hardware, the exterior can be folded or rolled up to save on space. The flexible material is also less prone to cracking during changes in weather, though it has drawbacks as well. It can tear at the seams if handled roughly or chewed on by critters, and it needs to be kept on a solid, flat surface while in use.
March 25, 2020:
We've kept a range of rain barrels to suit various homes and needs, but before you choose, note that some states regulate rainwater harvesting. Your local laws will guide collection methods and allowable amounts, so you'll want to double-check local codes as you make your selection and get started. You should also think twice about employing a rain barrel to gather or store potable water, as most are not created for this use. That's because unlike drinking water storage barrels, rain barrels are generally not made with food-safe materials. There are a few exceptions, like the RTS Home Accents, which claims to be made of food-grade materials; even so, you should always properly filter and sanitize any drinking water you collect, regardless of the container.
When it comes to top choices, we still like the EarthMinded Rain Station. It's made to withstand the elements and so is not a cheap model you'll need to replace year after year. This is in contrast to some, like the Enviro World and the Algreen Castilla, which we removed due to concerns about long-term leaks. Plus, the Rain Station comes with everything you need for setup, including illustrated instructions and a hole saw, so you don't need a degree in engineering to get it up and running. There's also the Good Ideas Wizard, which boasts a classic and stylish barrel design, but in a range of colors for those who are picky about such things. But if you want something that looks even less utilitarian, you might consider the Koolscapes Sandstone-Look. You may not even realize it's a rain barrel at first glance thanks to a handsome curvy shape that somewhat resembles a planter urn.
Exaco Trading Co. Brick Wall The Exaco Trading Co. Brick Wall lives up to its name by looking like, you guessed it, a tidy brick wall. This ensures it doesn't stand out as a water collection system while still holding up to 105 gallons of liquid. It is more expensive than most simpler choices, though. exaco.com
RainReserve Build-a-Barrel Tank and Diverter Kit If you're the handy type, you might like the RainReserve Build-a-Barrel Tank and Diverter Kit. Each 100-gallon system gives you wood-like panels that are actually made from UV-resistant plastic; you simply assemble them and add the liner and spigot to get started catching your precipitation. rainreserve.com
Rain Harvest Systems Bushman Tank For those with heavy-duty needs, the Rain Harvest Systems Bushman Tank may be the way to go, as it can store up to 5,000 gallons of H2O. It's quite big and expensive, of course, but it's available in several colors and is shipped with a 16-inch basket strainer. rainharvest.com
Down Came The Rain
Just be sure you don't use the water for drinking, cooking, or bathing.
I grew up in a time and a place where we considered water a renewable resource–or, at least, we treated it like it was. We'd run the water on full blast while doing dishes, even if the phone or the television distracted us from the task at hand. We'd take long, hot showers, luxuriating in the stream of scalding water well after we'd gotten clean. We'd wash our cars and run our sprinklers day in and day out.
The water was utterly inexpensive, safe to drink, safe to cook with, and safe for bathing. There was nothing at all to worry about.
Now, of course, the facts have opened my eyes, and the eyes of most of my family, and we implement as many water conservation efforts around the house as we can. This includes a conservative flow of water for dishes, a conscientious shower length (admittedly, none of us do the navy shower), and two of the rain barrels you'll find on this list.
We actually came upon the rain barrel issue not from a water conservation angle, but from a property management angle. The runoff from one of our drain spouts was cutting a grotesque trench into and across the front lawn, which is on a slight incline. Our neighbor suggested we get a rain barrel to catch the runoff.
At first, the idea of using one eyesore to treat the cause of another didn't thrill us, but then we got a look at a few of the more camouflaged barrels on the market, we heard a little bit about what we could do with the water, and we were sold.
A rain barrel collects runoff from your roof, down your drainage spout, and into the barrel itself, and you can use that water for gardening, washing your car, or filling a cycling fountain.
For gardening, in particular, the rain water is free of all the calcium, fluoride, and other chemicals used to treat our tap water that only hurt the greenness of your lawn and the brightness of your flowers. Each barrel also has guards against mosquitoes and other insects, so they won't be able to lay any eggs in the water.
Just be sure you don't use the water for drinking, cooking, or bathing.
A Barrel Of Laughs
The thing that won us over in the story above is that there are rain barrels available that don't look like the wooden beer kegs in which daring people went over Niagara Falls, although those would probably look a little better than the horrible industrial drums I imagined when I first pictured a rain barrel on my lawn.
If your barrel is too big, you might get into the habit of overlooking it and using your municipality's water supply on your lawn instead.
Realistically, it's just as important for you to evaluate the rain barrels on our list based on their appearance as it is for you to scrutinize their individual features. If the barrel you select clashes too hard with your house's exterior, you might find yourself shunning or under-using the barrel, which is, frankly, a waste of water.
It would also be a waste if you got the wrong size barrel, the capacity of which doesn't match your level of activity and enthusiasm around the yard. If your barrel is too big, you might get into the habit of overlooking it and using your municipality's water supply on your lawn instead. If it's too small, and it fills up too quickly, you'll find yourself frustrated with the whole experience.
The final variable, of course, is price, and the fancier-looking rain barrels with extra features like simpler, more durable drainage adapters and food-grade polyethylene construction, are going to be more expensive. Find the perfect balance between the features you want, the look you desire, and the amount you're willing to spend, and a big neon arrow will point straight at your perfect choice.
Conservation Through History
It's more than likely that individuals and families in ancient times had methods for the collection of rainwater. The issue back then, of course, would have been sanitation, as mosquito larvae and bacteria of all kinds would make their way into a stagnant water supply rather quickly.
The issue back then, of course, would have been sanitation, as mosquito larvae and bacteria of all kinds would make their way into a stagnant water supply rather quickly.
The capitol city of the Roman Empire, Constantinople, had a massive structure devoted to rainwater collection around 350 BCE, and archeologists have found evidence of a sophisticated rainwater collection and storage system on the island of Crete that dates back to around 1700 BCE.
As water conservation efforts picked up steam through the 60s, 70s, and 80s, some forward-thinking architects began integrating rainwater collection into the design of sustainable homes.
In the last three decades, sustainability has gone from an idea circulating the fringes of our society to a buzz-word and an effective marketing technique for any company concerned with its public image. While the cynics among us point to this shift in public consciousness as a sign that sustainability will eventually become as meaningful as brushing your teeth twice a day–a thing that most people believe they do responsibly, even if they don't–,those of us that are willing to squash our cynicism will find that steps like these put us in line with a long history of conservation efforts that have always been a part of the solution.