For conservation or common sense, many people use rain barrels to collect rainwater. So where do you start? What's the most important thing to know about rain barrels? Use this short guide to find out.

What are rain barrels?

The widely-used term "rain barrel" applies to most containers people use to harvest rainwater. Usually, these receptacles attach to the gutters on your home and have spigots on the side. Water flows from your roof, down your gutter, and into the rain barrel. You turn the spigot to release the water whenever you want to use it.

Where do you buy rain barrels?

We often find deals on rain barrels. When we shop, we usually start at the following locations. Be sure to consider the size of the rain barrel when you compare prices. Also note that some have built-in planters and other decorative features.

  • Wayfair: Wayfair usually offers lots of choices in styles. They also carry accessories, so you can prop your rain barrel higher off the ground. These base extentions allow for easier access to the spigot near the base.
  • Target: The rain barrel in the Frugal Living TikTok video came from a deal we found at Target. It has a planter on top, which you can seed with water-loving herbs and flowers.
  • Home Depot: Home Depot carries a variety of sizes and styles. If you want to build your own rain barrel, they usually have exactly what you need.
  • Amazon: Amazon lists a huge selection of rain barrels, including some of the lowest-priced options we've seen. Check reviews for anyone mentioning drips around the spigot, thought. It's a common problem with some cheaper rainwater collection systems.

Rain barrels: Frequently asked questions

We often hear these questions, so we wanted to address them all at once.

Rain Barrels on TikTok

Rain Barrels on TikTok

Do rain barrels attract mosquitoes?

While you're right to worry about mosquitos in any area with standing water, rain barrels usually have built-in precautions. Screens separate standing water from your gutters. These prevent bugs from entering (and leaving). Just make sure to cover your rain barrels if you build them yourself, and use screens to keep critters out.

Aren't you worried about overflow?

If you collect a significant amount of rainwater without draining your barrel, you might worry about overflow. This especially concerns homeowners who want to keep water away from the foundations of their homes. So how do you prevent rain barrel overflows?

It's usually pretty easy to daisy-chain barrels. Drill a hole near the top of one barrel, then connect it to a second barrel with a flexible tube. Once the water rises to the hole in your first barrel, it funnels down into your overflow barrel. This is the most common way to prevent overflows.

Are Rain Barrels Illegal?

Are Rain Barrels Illegal?

Can I get a free rain barrel?

Some cities and water departments offer programs to encourage rainwater collection. In some cases, this means free rain barrels. Check with your city or township to see whether they offer incentives for residential rainwater collection.

How to make a rain barrel

Rain barrels, especially decorative styles, might be more expensive than you think. So how can you harvest rainwater for less? You can build your own rain barrel. You'll need:

  • One Large container (at least 40 gallons)
  • One spigot
  • One screen

Drill a hole into the side of your container, a few inches above the base. Then install the spigot into that hole. If your container already has a lid, cut away enough of it to fit the gutter. Then, install the screen over the hole in the top. It's really that simple. With this method, you don't have to buy a premade rain barrel.

Where to find free barrels

To find free barrels, it helps to think laterally. Consider businesses that might use large barrels. Then, reach out to them. A friendly call (and an offer to do your own pickup) could earn you a free rainwater receptacle. In some cases, barrels from businesses may have contained chemicals that make them unsuitable for rainwater collection.

Also check:

  • Estate sales
  • Garage sales
  • Facebook marketplace
  • Local businesses

Estate sales, garage sales, and moving sales also offer opportunities for free barrels. Check Facebook Marketplace for people offering free options, too. Note that you'll need to clean any of these barrels out before you work with them. Looking for more information about backyard conservation? We talked with Doug Tallamy about the Homegrown National Park movement on Frugal Living.