Picture of Rain Barrel Project
This Instructable will be an overview of how to setup your own rain barrels. This may not show 100% step by step since I've found their is a great variation to how you want your rain barrels to work and the setup you use. I will try to point out all the options and variations so you, yes YOU can decide how you want to do your setup. This setup is for using gravity and a pump setup for a later Instructable. The later Instructable will also include how to hook it up to a toilet and setup an additional faucet.

To start, this setup cost me less than $30 dollars to do with free barrels. You can do it for cheaper with one barrel or using other parts. I designed this to be able to be expanded (10 - or maybe more barrels :-D) and to include a pump.

This took me a week to do because I could not decide / find all the right parts but once i got one adding the other took me about an hour to do. I'd suspect that this could be done in a matter of an afternoon with all the parts at hand.
ProblemS15 months ago

Great guide! Thanks for posting. Time to start looking for barrels!

Aquabarrel1 year ago
For a good prefilter for larger debris you might consider these

to take your rain harvesting system off-line for the winter use this
Stavros!2 years ago
If you just want to filter out debris, and not filter the water to improve the quality, try looking up "sand filters." I would suggest putting a support under your tidy cat bucket, fill the bottom with medium size rocks, and over the top of that small rocks. I think you'll need a screen over the drain in the bottom. You'll have to skip the sand part to keep the flow up, but since you're not trying to purify the water, just clean the debris, you don't need the sand part.
j1ceasar3 years ago
for a simple pre filter suggest you looki at a pet store at the fish filter mediums - there are many pre filter pads - some with built in holders -s ome just pads as well as carbon activated pads .
An easy way to check water levels when you can't see them would be to plumb some of that clear tubing from the outlet port back up to the top or even into the tubing connecting the two barrels at the 3/4 mark. Seems like only 2 more T fittings, 2 clamps, and a length of the tubing.
fuzvulf4 years ago
Nice, I like your setup. You've given me some useful Ideas and for that I give you Kudos.
Very nice guide. We created a step-by-step guide on how we installed our rain barrel for those interested in a different way of doing the install. We also have a guide on how to make a rain barrel, which shows a slightly different way to build a rain barrel.
Stan Kuczynski
Hi guy's Just a quick question, I would like to set up my rain barrel system so i can run my filtered water into my washing machine. not sure how the metering system in a washer works. Do you think gravity would work ok or do you think I would need a small sump pump to give it enough pressure to simulate street pressure.40-60 psi.thanks for any ideas other wise love the ideas you all have come up with.
oddie1212 (author)  stantheman19554 years ago
Depending on the washer, you'll probably need to have some sort of pump or pressurized system. Most of the new low flow front load washers will error out with not enough flow.
You could do this with a small pump as you suggested. If you're looking for a different alternative you could go with a pressure tank and hand pump for an alternative to get the pressure but not use energy.
Not sure how else you could accomplish this at the moment, but if any one else has ideas feel free to chime in.

Good luck on your project!
Hi Oddie, thank you for your reply and your knowledge, as i stated, I was not knowledgeable about the timing valves and metering system in a washer but now i am just a little more "edge-a-macated" about such things, Thank you!

I have a small pancake compresses that does the brunt of the work for general things like tires, dust abatement brads and staples. It would be nothing to hook up an aux line to a pressure tank and keep it topped off...thats a great idea thanks.
oddie1212 (author)  stantheman19554 years ago
No problem Stan! I will let you know I'm not versed in everything myself, but I like to tinker or have learned by mistakes. There are plenty of people on the forums who are exceptionally knowledgeable in all these areas that you are seeking. Note: To find the forums, click the forums button at the top right of instructables webpage. The pressure tank I'm actually referring to is like this one http://www.homedepot.com/Plumbing-Pumps-Well-Pumps-Systems-Pressure-Tanks/h_d1/N-5yc1vZbqld/R-100188089/h_d2/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053

As you stated, however, if you can get an entire sealed system (meaning you can pressurize your water holding tank and all the lines to your washing machine) you could use your pancake compressor to pressurize your holding tank to 60 PSI to get water pressure. Never acutally thought about that! I have seen a few others do this.

The only issue would be adding water back into your holding tank. You would have to depressurize your system to allow water in.
Hi oddie thank you for the additional info thats great. What gave me the idea was at a fire station I was stationed at before I retired we were on well water. The ground pump pressurized the main storage tank and it had a compressor aux to adjust tap pressure. If the tank filled up to much with liquid it lost head pressure to the taps also same happened if it lost to much water. if we washed a lot of trucks we had to manually adjust the water level and head pressure to get the station back to normal. if i use a sump pump the tank pressure should be low enough that i will not have to de- pressurize...... the cool trick will be figuring a way to read pre-determined low water level, execute auto fill to pre- determind full level then have the compressor auto pressurize to maintain 40-60 psi. when I am not using the washer i can just shut the whole thing down till i need it.
I have clear barrels also,  I plan on painting them like mentioned to help keep down algae, but now I see from reading this I will Run a line of tape from top to bottom before painting so I can see my water level.  Then I can just put this spot close to the house with less light exposure.
oddie1212 (author)  1ofakindwork5 years ago
Sounds good, Thanks for sharing. Others have also ran a clear piece of tubing up the outside to see the water level.
By running the tape before painting and removing it I will still have a line of clear barrel to view the water level....Figured I better clear up what I was saying...
bubbmx5 years ago
Good afternoon,
Really cool project. I have been racking my brain for a filter product.....why don't you try a natural sponge (for car washing,etc); buy something big and cut to fit snuggly inside the kitty bin.
Maybe that will let the water through, and with all those thousands of internal holes; the dirt will get stuck.

Good luck
oddie1212 (author)  bubbmx5 years ago
Thank you. :-) let me toss some things back, I'm always up for ideas!

I've tossed around a few things before posting this but i'm currently gutting my house and redoing it so I haven't had time to entertain making this better.

The only problem i see with some type of material like a sponge or something like that is over time it starts to grow stuff from being in the sun, then your barrels get dirty bacteria etc, and your flow rate decreases.
Then my design would have to change to a pre barrel that could be easily cleaned that then goes to your storage.
The other problem is flow rate, if you have a good downpour can you filter that fast or do you simply say oh well I lost some (I was going for the challenge of "I want it all").

But here were some of the things I tossed around let me know if they spawn any ideas
Natural type filter with plants, sand, rocks.
A washable furnace filter (again possible the same problem as above)
A pre trap that some how self cleans then goes to another type of filter
Pressure type of filter system (but then would require solar power or something else to give it pressure)

Let me know your thoughts!

Thanks again!

abadfart6 years ago
remember to check water laws in your area
I'm a homebrewer and have used lots of eco-friendly cleaning agents. I suggest you get some "oxy"-type detergent boosting powder at the grocery store. Basically, these products, when you add them to water, create hydrogen peroxide, which kills microorganisms on contact. When the reaction is done, you're left with just pure water and mineral salts from the minerals that were in the water. It's a very eco-friendly way to sanitize anything. Depending on the strength of the powder you buy, you usually use about 1 T per gallon of water. You only need to make 1 gallon of solution if you swish it around in the bottle a few times. Generally, they dissolve better in warm water.
thetech1016 years ago
Amazon.com has some great pumps for way cheaper than 130 dollars. Like this one for 12.00 dollars:


It flows 132 GPH (just over 2 GPM) which is more than a lot of more expensive pumps available elsewhere.

One good idea is to use a a separate dedicated barrel and use a small pump and small copper pipe to make a floor heating system. You'll need to build a solar thermal hot water heater. On second thought, use an old hot water heater tank and hot water heater wrap to save the hot water during the day. You could easily make the system self contained. If you have the money, put a thermostat on it. Free whole house heating!

Anyway, thanks for posting the Instructable!

Oh, and about the filter. Use PVC, or aluminum if you want to (it'll heat the water), and make a pyramid shape that will fit snugly over the input (caulk it down, obviously) and another larger one for the output pipe. Wrap them in flexible filter material. Fit them snugly into place one over the other and put the pipe over the outer filter (you might want to cut a hole in the top to keep the debris from clogging it up) and viola, easy to clean filter.

Give me a minute and I'll post pics of what I'm talking about.
Here's the design I made on my computer.
Rain Barrel filter design.jpg
On second thought, the outer filter could be made of glass or some similar material to allow light in but still keep heat in. the inner filter could be made of metal and the light would heat it (the bigger the filter the more heat). The heat could kill the bacteria. You could use the cat litter box/pool filter for the output and have a second set of tanks (used hot water heater tanks would be a really good idea) to store the filtered water until you use it. I'll elaborate more later.
pleabargain6 years ago
Typo: step 3Deside your setup. Decide! Thanks for posting your experience with the rain barrel set up!
oddie1212 (author)  pleabargain6 years ago
Opps! wow that's sad i missed that, Thanks again!
i HAVE SEVERAL IDEAS AND DESIGNS FOR A PRE-FILTER. As well, going a step further, to filter it and neutralizing any possible chemicals e.g. from pollutants in the air etc. or if you have a supplemental system coming from a spring, creek etc. I'm in the process of moving to a piece of land and living as green as possible/practical and would like to have some folk to collaborate with or advise, feedback, input etc. email: larry.burke@gmail.com
oddie1212 (author)  basementsong6 years ago
Larry: That'd be great! I'll be emailing you in a bit :) But if you'd like you can also share your ideas here so we can all modify a whole instructable on green living.
Super! I'll get my drawings together, throw 'em out there and see what you folks think. Everything looks good on paper, but when you begin the process, out in the field, many unseen probs just pop-up. It would be great to have some constructive criticism, as well as advice & other ideas. I would like to eliminate as many of those pitfalls as possible and foreseen, before I start on the construction. Part of the parameter here, for me, is that I'm operating on a 'shoestring' budget, I'm not a young man anymore either. So most of the ideas I present will be using materials I have on hand, or can get by scrounging etc. As well, I am trying to make it as easy as possible on my body. I'd like to enjoy the fruits of my labor when I'm done, and not from a hospital bed. So these pose a different set of challenges for me. However, I had the same problems facing me when I finally conceded that I cannot backpack with 80 lbs. on my back anymore. But in this case, I took advantage of the newer lightweight materials and technology. I've cut it down to 40 lbs. which I can live out of for 3 days without any other supplementation. But with trapping, hunting & foraging etc. it potentially can be indefinite if necessary. This really sounds like a worthwhile project. Thanks for the reply 'oddie', I'm looking forward to hearing from you. Larry
oddie1212 (author)  basementsong6 years ago
No problem Larry, even though I'm a younger guy I'm still on a shoestring budget and usually scrounging for parts or just to make it easier on the pocket book either way as I did with this project.
After reading some of the feedback, seems like there's a lot of wisdom and knowledge for the offing. So here's a request: I am designing a waterless/self-composting toilet. The 'mechanics' are basically worked out, (but would Love to hear any ideas) What I need now, is an effective medium to break down the 'material' into composted soil. I've experimented with 'humus' and some bio-chemicals and the results were negligible. Would like some other specific ideas if anyone has some. Thanks
chrisnotap6 years ago
You have done a great job! Your mind is always going and that's fantastic! Keep at it. You are helping to keep pressure off the public water system. I have a rainwater system myself and have 6 barrels all connected, off the ground 3 feet, connected to my toilet, basic filter to keep the crude, leaves, at bay, ball valve to fill watering cans easily for the garden. I want to make a filter this spring, once the freezing winter is over, and it will be a slow sand filter only for the toilet. My problem is tree debris. It turns the water to like a tea colour. I am also working on a wind powered water pump to pump the water to a barrel in my attic so I have more pressure and can connect the mainfloor toilet to it too. As of now, I use the lower washroom for 7 - 8 months and save a lot of water on my bill. I hope to publish my system on the site in the future.
july 06 018.jpgjuly 06 024.jpg
oddie1212 (author)  chrisnotap6 years ago
Thanks chris! That's awsome! hopefully this year i'll have my toilets all hooked up and the system expanded. Here's my suggestion back to you about the tea color. 1. The crude method that i did using gravity and the pool filter as you stated. The thing I'd add is a ( i can't remember the exact term that has been used in my searching around on other people's professional systems) pre-cleaning system. It sounds complicated but its really again quite crude. basically connect your down spout to a 3-6" (depending on amount of gutter length) and in a U shape that's 1.5 times higher than your barrels (or main inlet of your barrels) with a T on the bottom corner away from your barrels that has a clean out plug which the clean out plug will have a 1/4" hole or so (have to experiment yet) that has a hose on it that runs out to the yard. The other end of the U then goes into your barrels / main filter system. What this then does is any bird or animal droppings will go into the U as run off out of the 1/4 hole in the beginning of the rain fall so the longer it rains then the U will fill up then go into your main filter or barrels. I'm sure there is problems with this also but it seems like a nice prefilter. The other thing it does is allows the leaves (if you don't have gutter protectors on your roof) to go in there which can than be cleaned out every now and then. 2. The other way i thought of doing so was taking an additional barrel which would contain an sump pump and act like your sump in the basement. As it rains the water would go first into this additional barrel. When it gets to a level the pump would turn on and pass the water through either a sediment filter or micron filters so the water in your barrels would be "clean" water. The problem i see with this would be again the leaves and gunk would sit on the bottom of the barrel and would be a PAIN to clean out with out adding some sort of bottom drain to let the leaves out plus you'd probably have to use your now collected water to clean it out lol. I'm working on my house sometime this year which I'll add an addition onto my garage and I'm going to get a large farm tank to put in there to house my "clean water" so i can hopefully have enough water all year... How I'm going to do the entire setup... yea a mystery yet haha. Hopefully this helps you in some way or gets you thinking of other ideas. Feel free to share! :-D
Yes, I already have an idea in place that I will be making just like you have described. It's called a "first flush" system. Of the 6 barrels I have, I am going to use one for the first flush. I am going to put a 3" t on top of the first flush barrel just the way a T is in a sentence. Down spout will be connected to the one side of the t. The polluted first run-off water and poop and leaves will come in and drop into the first barrel. When the water gets to the top, there will be a ball lever that will rise and plug the incoming water with the ball. Once it plugs it will now flow across the t and into the next 5 barrels. At the bottom of the first flush barrel about 1 foot up from the bottom I will have a small dia. hose, maybe 1/4" or so. It will always be flowing water as long as it's raining. Once the rain stops falling, this first flush barrel will empty on it's own and since the hose is one foot up from the bottom, leaves shouldn't plug the hose from draining the water. The beauti of this system is that if you don't get a good downpour to flush the leaves and junk off the roof and it just drizzles, the first flush barrel will not fill and plug the hole with the ball and the water will just drain out of the 1/4" hose. If it rains hard, the first flush fills, ball plugs hole and bob's your uncle. My whole thinking in this project is to not use any power at all, all gravity fed or use wind to lift it. If you are having a problem finding a hook up for the toilet so you can switch from city to rain and back ,I have the sweetest setup and you can get it all at home depot. Let me know. Thanks, Chris
chrisnotap6 years ago
I have found through trial and error that if you use white plastic containers the water inside will turn green and algea will form because the sunlight is able to get through. Clear plastic tube will do the same. The dark coloured containers I have do not suffer from this. Good system you have, keep experimenting.
oddie1212 (author)  chrisnotap6 years ago
Thanks chris, i should probably state that in there as i painted my barrels green... why green i'm not sure but i was a darker color lol
Jawatech7 years ago
cool rain barrel project I should have looked at this a few weeks ago so i could catch some of this hurricane weather going on. lol you said "marine caulk"
oddie1212 (author)  Jawatech6 years ago
lol I'm in IT not an English Major... that's what the English Majors are for :-D
Hahahahaha... caulk.
fbriggs6 years ago
Thanks for all the comments on building a rain barrel setup. I am still deciding on how to arrange my setup. Fbriggs
oddie1212 (author)  fbriggs6 years ago
I have actually changed my setup some and I'll post some of the updates. But it won't be till spring when I'll be able to post all of the updates. Stay tuned :-D
mackstann7 years ago
Window screen will not keep mosquitos out! You need to specifically buy mosquito netting.
oddie1212 (author)  mackstann7 years ago
It should and i have not had a problem. You just have to make sure when you're purchasing the window screen you get the screen rated for mosquitoes.
stripmind7 years ago
rather than drilling the holes and putting in rigid outlet plumbing at the bottom of the barrels, did you consider using a siphon for barrel redistribution or gravity feed delivery? It's easy to chain barrels with a siphon, just have a length of hose that goes from the bottom of one barrel to the bottom of the next. Once you've primed it, you just have to make sure your water level doesn't drop below the entrance/exit of your hoses, otherwise you'll get air in the lines, and have to reprime... With the siphon, you also just need your collection system to deposit into a single barrel. The siphon between tanks will redistribute the water to the less full tanks. And the same for delivery, a delivery system that takes water from a single barrel (the lead barrel) is fine, because when you're emptying tanks, the siphon will flow in the reverse direction to redistribute water back to the lead barrel. For the delivery hose, a valve at the end of the hose keeps the siphon primed.
oddie1212 (author)  stripmind7 years ago
I didn't think about it actually. This probably would work for people who want them to be more portable. When i did mine i meant it to be a static system that could be housed in a garage, outside, or basement. I guess the thought of making sure they're always primed and working properly is a bit more maintenance that i was trying to avoid. If you're thinking as far as leaking goes i have not had a problem with leaks at all.
even for a static placement, the siphon system still has a lesser setup time initially and with each expansion. As far as maintenance, leaks do happen, and are a a maintenance cost of the drilled hole system. So both systems have maintenance. To minimize maintenance for a siphon system, put the delivery line intake above the siphon line intakes between the barrels. Then, if you accidentally drain too far, only the delivery line loses its siphon.
I have the exact setup with which you are speaking. No hard plumbing at all, just one barrel on the downspout, then 8 others chained to barrel number one. There are a few things that are kind of a pain with this set up. #1. You have to be sure your prime takes, and stays primed. I used clear hosing for this, but clear hose is very weak and pinches off easily especially if you have hot temperatures in your climate zone. The bigger the diameter of the hose, the easier it pinches off ruining your prime, so you need to go with a small diameter but thicker wall. #2. The clear hosing will eventually cloud up with algae if you do not treat with chlorine or some such. As an organic gardener this is not an option. #3. If you do not use a big enough hose, when the rains come in the spring, if they are the least bit heavy, the small diameter hose cannot keep up with the intake, this causes a couple of problems. For one, you loose a lot of water. Another problem is that this water spills out of the top of barrel number 1 and pools underneath the barrels. If you do not have a solid floor for the barrels to rest on, eventually the gulley-washers will wash out the soil under your barrels and your barrels will tip over becoming unstable. Other than the above mentioned problems the siphon system has worked very well for me and there was absolutely NO hardware/hardwork done. I believe I am going to stay with the siphon system because of its flexibility. However I am going to plan on a better platform for the barrel system. Incidentally, don't get sucked in by overpriced greenie-weenies who will try to sell you a 'rain-barrel' for $60. You can obtain these quite easily from many farmer/coop type places in most small towns for about $6 apiece.
I was wondering, do you daisy chain your siphons, or does each additional barrel have a line to the lead barrel? You'd get better flow rates (i think) if each barrel had a line to the lead barrel. That might combat the high-flow rate overflow... you could also actually plumb the siphons with rigid pvc. actually cheaper than good hose. just size the diameter for your peak flow rate with a t and a valve at the high point in each line, (for priming the siphon). you'd have to be able to pump (suck) the water up to the valve to prime. Another thing your post made me think about.... If you're having problems with high flow rates overflowing the lead barrel, you could have that barrel be a taller receptacle. That would increase the re-distributing pressure along the siphon lines if the lead barrel had a momentarily high intake rate.
Yes, I daisy chain/series circuit them. That is a great idea to put them all on the lead barrel. Then as I am 'taking' from the lead barrel I get multiple flows from the others to help refill it. I don't know why I didn't think of it. Yes, I am using the suck-prime method as well. ;)

I saw an EXCELLENT idea for another rainbarrel system that I am really thinking about making a version of its verticle. The height increases the water pressure a bit and looks like an interesting system.


patrick887 years ago
Adding a filter might work. The water should flow with gravity. City water uses gravity to give flow. The pumps are to move the water into water towers. The head pressure would be better if you stacked your drums or got them higher off the ground. I would also go with small outlet pipes. The smaller pipes would give you greater pressure but less volume. Larger will drain your barrels fast with less force. more volume less pressure. That is why your home fixtures are plumbed in 1/2" or 3/8" pipes. I'm looking to build a system like this and I am very impressed with what you have done. If you try any of the thing you have mentioned post it to let us all learn new tricks.
oddie1212 (author)  patrick887 years ago
Thanks for posting this Patrick. I should update some since i have changed a few things since the start of this. I'll also modify the pages as soon as i get the PVC / plastic tubing changed. But for now here's what I've been doing and from the suggestions of others. I've tried the sand filter partly, with my current setup as pictured it gets clogged for some reason and it was painfully slow so I decided to scrap it and try something else. In the Tidy cat bucket I got a smaller 4 or 5 inch tall pool filter which i believe is the size B one in the pool filter isle (they come 2 in a pack). but I'm going to get the size D which is the same high as 2 of the B size pool filter. This seems to work extremely well I have to go with the taller size because there is extra room in the bucket and it filters slower so the bucket does fill up some. Next plans - I'm going to change the current inlet system after this fall. I'm still going to have the tidy cat bucket but then from there I'm going to go to another bucket (probably another Tidy Cat bucket since they stack) From the additional bucket I'm going to have PVC going out of the side that is attached to a 12V DC pump that is ran by a Solar panel, battery system, and a float switch to turn the pump on and off (this may also go to an over flow tank just in case). from there I'm thinking of passing it through two separate micron/sediment filters. This way the water is clean and clear once it enters the barrels. The reason for the pump is most of the sediment filters work on at least 3psi. As for the main setup I WILL be changing the plastic clear tubing to PVC agile is already growing in the tubing (but not in the barrels). I've also begun to paint my barrels with a plastic spray paint that is green which has some texture to it. I also had one problem with a minor leak since i was rushed for time on one of the upper holes. Which is why i can't stress enough to take your time drilling and use the marine goop/ "caulk" :-D and don't worry about over using it. I'll make a post once I've updated the setup and modified the pictures in the instructable. I If someone else makes this setup I'll be happy to post your setup in this instructable :-D like I said there are many variations and possibilities .
Nice suggestions. I tried to set one up before reading this (a month ago or so) but my mosquito keeper outer system failed so I had to go back to the drawing board. I was thinking of building a weaker sunk pump out of a bilge pump and an upside down sealed container (I made one for my pond for about $6 before investing in a bigger one and it had held up about a year and still kicking by then despite the "not for continuous operation" claim), perhaps I'll write it up for the even more shoestring folks if I end up doing it after getting the smaller, sketchier system going.
oddie1212 (author)  LarrySDonald7 years ago
I'm assuming this was a manual pump you made for it correct? It'd still be interesting to see since this would be useful for this every now and then to help prime something or get the rest of the water out.
No, it was electric (running on 12v). The original pump was only intended to clear out minor (1/2 inch or so) of water continually for boat decks, but put inside a waterproof container made to leak no more then that into the bottom and weighted to say below water it kept going. I figured the motor would burn out after a while, but it kept going for ages powered by a 12v wall-wart at about 500mA. I'm not sure how advisable that is, but it did keep moving water. For on/off I suppose one would switch it, I just used it to circulate the pond water into a smaller pond to create a waterfall and aerate the water (previous owner took all equipment from the pond) and figured when it fries it fries - didn't shove a lot of cash into it.
I personally don't think it's necessary to filter the water.If your reason for filtering it is to keep crud out of your pump, what you could do is have one barrel to collect,then it could overflow into another 1/2/or 3 barrels.This would allow all sediment to fall to the bottom of the first collection tank.If you are concerned about floating debris you could use a simple screen to filter the overflow pipe and have multiple levels of overflow for redundancy if the screen/strainer were to become plugged. Let me know what you think. -T
oddie1212 (author)  tday99hotmail7 years ago
For mine my current setup and future buildings, I'm putting a beginning filter to get rid of sediment and dirt so it does not ware on the pump or make the toilet water have sediment in it and hurt the flapper or other components or potentially clog the filler stem. I don't plan on drinking water with my setup but i put the option to do this for people who may want to use it as drinking water. If you're going to use this just for misc watering without a pump you probably wouldn't need to filter it but you're going to have to clean the barrels every so often. I right now have sediment in the bottom of mine from my initial setup working correctly.
gumbytig7 years ago
One option for non-gravity fed system for filration could be to use the first barrel as the first catch with a pump and a float switch on it. Kind of like a sump pump setup. As the water fills up the first barrel the pump would kick on, pushing it through whatever filter you try with some pressure.
gumbytig7 years ago
Few things about this all. Check your plastics if your looking at this for drinking water. PVC is not good since they're starting to find it leaches chemicals, especially when heated. for that matter any plastics labeled 3,6 or 7 are supposed to be bad. Activated carbon can be bought in larger quantities at some fish places for filling your own filters. These filters probably won't filter whatever chemical cleaner might have been in the barrels to start with. Don't think i'd try and use them for drinking water. If you want to do that, find a water heater that's out on the curb and clean it up. Much safer for drinkable water. Also should get a better filtration system that removes all chemicals and biologicals. boiling water/UV light and passing it through activated carbon might not get rid of everything. Personally i'd be carefull what chemicals were previously in them and use them only for watering plants or flushing toilets unless i invested in a good treatment system.
mnotterboy7 years ago
You could try clams or mussels for a filter system, they filter our lakes and streams, so why not a rain barrel?
While it's true bivalves do "filter" water they probably wouldn't be much help in a system like this. First they only remove material from water that they can digest. Rain water probably don't contain much for them to actually eat. Second they do actually excrete waste material (poo) back into the water. Lastly the water in system like this would likely be subject to large/rapid swings in temperature. What with sitting exposed to sun. Such swings are usually catastrophic for any inhabitants of such a system.
If I could throw in another cent or two, bivalves need some water to be flowing to some degree, even freshwater bivalves would require some water movement. Once the water becomes stagnant the bivalves die rather fast, and boy do they stink. If you were really concerned about a 'living' solution to an algae problem I would think there would be other solutions as well, such as some snails or freshwater shrimp. But again as stated above you still have an invertebrate 'poo-problem'. Although I think it would make an amazing experiment.
Oh gosh but even those options aren't so great. There are fair number of human parasites that use snails as an intermediate host. I'm a big fan of UV filtration for this kind of a system. A hard UV source in each contain all set on timers seems like the most reliable. You wouldn't be introducing any more biologicals than are already present. The performance is very predictable. UV is a pretty indiscriminate killer. So everything dies, algae, parasite, heck even many complex chemicals will be destroyed. Though one has to then invest in UV stable plumbing and storage. Which will likely increase the cost of the system.
picbuck7 years ago
This is great, but what I want to know is how do people keep coming up with free 55 gallon barrels? They sure ain't free around here.
oddie1212 (author)  picbuck7 years ago
Where are you looking to get barrels and how much are they charging you?
Actually I'm not looking at all. I'm just amazed at all the people getting them for free. You see them priced fror about $40-80. As far as I know factories--the big users--don't throw them away, they send them back to be refilled. Schools have barrels of chemicals? Hmm.
iPodGuy picbuck7 years ago
Check your local schools. We get all our chemicals in these barrels, and I have to get creative sometimes with how I dispose of them. Everybody I know has gigantic garbage cans now, we give them away to people, I built a double-barrel rainwater harvester, a double barrel composter, I have 'em buried in my yard with trees planted in them.... Point is, I get all mine from the school I work at and we're happy as could be to give them away to folks. Probably there are schools in your area that are too. Just make buddies with the custodial crew.
handidad7 years ago
Most filters that would clean the water enough for drinking would not have enough flow with only gravity feeding. To get more filtering with the drain, you could raise it higher off the bottom, preferably almost to the top . Possibly if the incoming water was made to swirl, it might drop more of the sediments. Some vacuums work with a cyclonic action.
running a clear tube from the bottom of the barrel to the top will give you an easy water level gauge.
oddie1212 (author)  HandyMan19597 years ago
I'll have to do that! I didn't think about that. I'm going to be changing my current clear tubes over to PVC because of a leak I found because I didn't seal one of the ribbed adapters right.
rpjamess17 years ago
Nice system. I like it better than the direct-to-barrel systems most people seem to use. For a filter, why not try a simple sand filter? I don't remember the exact specifics to build one, but I think it's a bottom layer of course rocks, a thick layer of sand, and a top layer of pea gravel. That should filter the water fairly well. You'll still have to clean it regularly, but you'd be able to take all water from the roof and not avoid the first 10 minutes or so worth. Also, it's not chalk, it's caulk. :)
The way it looks to me is that the way it is set-up the water will fill the first barrel first, then the water will equalize through the bottom manifold. When the first one gets full then the second one will start to fill. If you were trying to fill both at the same time you should have put catcher with a T in-between the two barrels.
if you set up the sand filter right, you chould be able to back flush to clean it.
Since sand filtration might slow the rate of flow? Maybe a good pond pump filter at the intake layered in loosely to catch most stuff, and have a hand pump attached to the output to fill drinking water containers of 5-6 gallon size that passes through a well done sand filter to get it to the drinking stage for when that's needed?
oddie1212 (author)  rpjamess17 years ago
I didn't think of a sand filter but I'd probably need a much larger bucket to do the catching. For cleaning i think that would be more a pain too? or am i wrong? I wanted to keep it simple and easy to clean. A carbon filter I'd save for at the tap since those can get expensive. I just wanted the water to be cleaner (ie no rocks pretty clear to see through eliminate some of the dust) before it entered the barrels to eliminate the need to clean the barrels often and to keep it from hurting the pump. The other thought I had was use a smaller 1/4HP or smaller pump to pull it from the bucket push it through a couple of larger micron filters and then into the barrels. Again I was trying to eliminate the use of electricity with this.

Thanks for the input =)
Sand filters actually clean better when dirty. Do a search for "sand filters" in Google and there are plenty of resources.
Actually, a better filter would probably be an activated carbon filter. But I'm not sure if the filter rate would be able to keep up with the rain water.
lazlow697 years ago
oddie... Thanks a bunch for this, it's excellent! I had a few thoughts on filtration / water cleanliness issues: 1) definitely worth having it come via gutter since it will focus water and gutter gives a chance to pre-filter water, with screen over downspout and monitoring. 2) in tidy container, why not loosely folder over pond pump filter? you could pull it out every few months and hit it with high pressure hose water to clean it? 3) for drinking safety, possibly have water catching system up higher and gravity feed into a solar cooker space to heat up water and kill baddies before flowing down to storage? Anyway, some thoughts, thanks again for the great work!
oddie1212 (author)  lazlow697 years ago
You're Welcome lazlow When i get a house with gutters i plan on doing something with them to initially get the leaves and such out. (ie gutter caps, maybe a roof washer, etc) Are the pond filters square? If so where can you get them? menards and home depot? I'll have to go hunting then lol. The solar cooker is a good idea and i didn't think of that. the only thing i can think of as a downfall would be if it rains at night, it probably doesn't "cook" as it would in the sun. But thanks for the thoughts! If someone would like to start a large collaboration project on this please let me know. Maybe we can combine all these ideas into one!!
gordonl7 years ago
Nice Instructable. One note, however: No matter what kind of kitty litter buckets I've tried, they ALL eventually get "eaten" by the sun (UV?). It doesn't take long down here (TX) - maybe a couple of weeks? What happens is the thing just breaks apart with simple handling. Probably designed that way for land fill purposes? One thing that seems to last FOREVER is 5 Gallon pickle barrels - had them from the '70s, but then again, modern ones may be designed like the kitty litter buckets - haven't worked Fast Food since the '70s (which is where I got them) ;) If your buckets are in the shade, you're probably OK - otherwise you'll probably be replacing them sooner or later. One thing that does seem to take the sun is coke bottle plastic. Just the body, the cap will disintegrate. Meets the criteria of cheap and a couple will give you the same surface area? Cheers.
oddie1212 (author)  gordonl7 years ago
My dad makes the color that goes into the plastic of those buckets so i got a few to use. They hold up well like you said inside or out of the sun and i haven't had a problem yet since it is out of the sun. I plan on moving it indoors to use. Another bucket you could use are drywall mudding buckets. Those 5 gallon ones hold up well. This is the first thing I saw I had laying around when i started making the catchment system :-D and i had to thank my dad lol.
you could just use a filter for a fish tank. Most have activated carbon inside a little mesh bag. Just slip the bag in the pipe and the water would pass through it. The only problem is changing the filter. It would be hard and maybe expensive to replace the filter often.
mman15067 years ago
the brita filters for jugs which you can usually buy at grocery stores have activated charchol in them to filter. just drill the right size hole and pop the filter in and the last about 2 months and are about 5-7$ and require no pressure
GeeDeeKay7 years ago
Great project... It gives me a lot of cool ideas. I have 1 question: What is the purpose of the tube mid-way up the barrels connecting them together? Is it to equalize the water level in adjacent barrels? Because you're using a manifold design to consolidate all the output into a single spigot, wouldn't the water levels equalize through the manifolds? Now, to find some empty barrels...
oddie1212 (author)  GeeDeeKay7 years ago
I wasn't sure about the pressure and when i looked up other rain barrel projects most of them had this 1/2 way up the side of the barrel. I'm thinking if i would use just the PVC instead of the clear tubing to connect the barrels it wouldn't be a problem. The other reason i did this is if i had to disconnected one that was full i could empty it half way and then empty it the rest of the half from the bottom so it doesn't come gushing out all at once. I'll probably be changing my setup soon to use only PVC. If you try it with out and get the barrels full please let me know how it works for you! try craigslist someone might have some for cheep or free on there otherwise like i said try some food processing companies.
quigs9997 years ago
I find that if you put the shower drain in the side of the Tidy Cat bucket, instead of the bottom, a lot of stuff that gets through your top screen (like sediment) will sink to the bottom and not get into your main tank. You can clean it out once in a while or just have another valve in the bottom to drain it completely.
tercero7 years ago
That's really nice. My dad used to work at manufacturing plant in Barrie, Ontario. I'd get free 40 gal drums all the time. I have a couple I've been using for rain barrels, where I'd just drilled a hole in the side towards the bottom, and added a tap. Sealing it with all weather caulking. Your design is much nicer and a lot more practical. I was reading on AP though that local governments might make it illegal to use rain barrels, as the water belongs to the state so you can't legally collect the run off. Ah, the illusion of democracy.
The democracy is there. They're putting forward an idea to more heavily manage water. If you're against that, then it's up to you to make your opinion known and try to fight it. Sucks that it's needed for us to fight such obvious things, but eternal vigilance it the price of democracy. Just sayin.
Democracy? we're talking about the US , right? we're not a "democracy" , we're a republic . Big difference . Sorry , pet peeve .
I understand, but we're a democratic republic.
I agree with the 'you gotta fight it' mentality. Unfortuneatly we are not just dealing with a simple democratic/republic or whatever, we are dealing with thousands of miles of red tape and bureaucracy. Any attempt to reverse a 'water collection' law will be tied up in litigation for decades. It's easier to enact a law than it is to repeal it. If Colorado Springs has anti-water collecting laws, then I will just be sure not to move there. It is much easier to relocate to a smaller town close by than to try and fight with the bureaucracy. But otherwise I agree with you 95%.
Sad but true. Seems like republics are the best form of government that's been implemented to date, but are ultimately subject to a political entropy except on occasions where you get a mass event that slams back the entropy. It seems like it's always just after things get really terrible before the public consciousness of something of that size is aware of it though. Saddening crap it is.... I'll still keep kicking and screaming where I can though; what else is there to do?
tercero tercero7 years ago
Does saving rainwater violate state law?

oddie1212 (author)  tercero7 years ago
Probably depends on which state or country you live in.
I remember reading Colorado had some oddball laws about how and where you get to collect and reuse rainwater when reading up on stuff on rainwater collection in general. Not sure about other places, so unless you wanna try to pull a Sharon Stone and say "So what, you're gonna arrest me for collecting rainwater?" (the line probably hardly works for anything) might take a gander at local laws.
Colorado's got some pretty nuts water rights laws. I'm just glad I'm not in the Arkansas drainage anymore. In Colorado Springs, they have tried (and possibly succeeded) in using sattelite photos of your property to "determine" how many square feet of "hard surface" you have, including your roof which drains into your lawn, and then taxing you a "water handling fee" or some such for "all the runoff." Of course, I know of one case where a guy protested being charged for all the square footage of the previous owner's RV in an out-of-date sattelite photo. It took a while for him to win that, and he didn't get his money back. They just took new photos.

Of course, you're "not allowed to collect rainwater", even though that is saving the city from having to deal with that much runoff. Oh, no, you don't have rights to that water. Texas owns the rights to it, and the want it now. When you're done with it, it'd probably get sent back downstream to the same destination it had during the rainstorm, but that isn't being taken into account. Ah, politics.

Said the sign spotted in many Colorado Springs bathrooms: "Please remember to flush; Texas needs the water."
Rishnai Rishnai7 years ago
Oh, and of course, you're getting charged for all the water you send downstream, period. It's a pretty epic catch-22.
nator7 years ago
We've got one barrel set up already, but I'd like to try to chain another one like this. Good stuff.
tghare7 years ago
Nice project, this is something that I have been considering for a while. I have a comment on a possible change the inlet configuration so that you may not need the upper vinyl tubing to equalize the barrels. If you place the PVC vent-T horizontal rather than vertical the water will hit the flat bottom of the T first and you can change the inlet height for each barrel to use gravity to equalize the flow rather than having most of the water go directly into the lead barrel. I am considering how to make a collection system that is self supporting so that the barrels can be individually picked up with a hand truck and moved to other locations when necessary. I have several 40 gallon 'steam table safe boiler chemical' barrels to water remote planting locations for BSA Service Projects where water is unavailable.
oddie1212 (author)  tghare7 years ago
Thanks for the idea tghare! I'll have to do that when i move the system to my new house. I wasn't intending it to be equal flow but more so ensuring all the barrels fill up to the top but then over flowing. the barrels will naturally equalize through the "output" tubes. Since right now they're at about 1/2 way full each with the way the system is currently. But your idea does seem better and easier for taking one away or so for cleaning or transporting. you could always cap one off then if you take one away. And to all please vote what you truly think of this project so far.
a rigger7 years ago
My favorite filter idea so far has been oyster shells. Haven't tried it yet but it's definitely the way I'll be going. I imagine a 1/4" ish mesh on top to keep large chunks out. Then I think about 3' or 4" of the shells and a window screen below. This is sure to keep critters out and filter the water quickly enough... I hope.
Bro. Jones7 years ago
I recently worked on a house in West Virginia that had a 500 gallon tank in the ground. In this particular city it was too expensive to drill through the rock, pump up to the top of the mountain, etc. Numerous houses on this mountain had wells and cisterns that caught the rain. This particular house used the cistern for every water need from drinking to car washing. It was equipped with a pump obviously. Many people on this mountain owned large tanks that they kept in the bed of their pickup truck. When the cistern ran dry from lack of rain, they would drive to a nearby small waterfall. Most of them poured a set amount of bleach into their cistern every month. While they never had to deal with too much water, you might consider using buried field lines to water your grass out of the overflow.
acer737 years ago
You could use a hand pump instead, this one is supposed to be attached to barrels and can pump 6 gallons a minuet.

This way you won't be using power and can be more green.

Redgerr7 years ago
very cool :) its very cool- te olny problem is that i would worry about chemicals in the rain, or bugs :| other than that very cool :)
oddie1212 (author)  Redgerr7 years ago
From what I've read and what i know the rain water is probably better for you to drink compared to city water. They say if your in a survival situation if you had a choice of drinking water out of a stream or drinking rain water you should always choose the rain water because there could be bacteria in the river water. As I stated in the Instructable it depends on the type of roof and barrels you use if you could actually use this to drink :). I should have stated this in there also i'll edit it and put it in there. You still need to filter it though with micron filters, charcoal, and probably UV light. As far as the bugs this is why you need to "close" your system with window screen that this rated for mosquitoes. If anything I've noticed a decreased amount of bugs in the past month because I no longer have 2 little pools in the yard that get created when it rains. An it is humid here yet in WI. Again Thanks for the comments :-D
no thank you for the idea :) yeah i suppose you are right about drinking :) thanks again :)
skunkbait7 years ago
Good job! We had a similar set-up when we were living out in the bush. If you use your water sparingly and it rains often, this is all you'll need!
danielttt7 years ago
I've been thinking about doing this for awhile. I have an idea to put a float valve in to direct the overflow water into the sprinkler well. Not sure if that's stupid or not. We sporadically get downpours with tons of water that would be directed into the barrels. Having a float switch to direct the high water to the well seems like it would take care of the overflow nicely.....at least I think it would..
kretzlord7 years ago
If you really want to filter it, you could put a screen on the bottom, and fill it all with activated carbon. That would get super expensive, but work wonderfully. You could even make a bed of rocks on the bottom, and put a chunk of grass sod in there. Wouldn't be the most sanitary at first, but if you could get sterile soil w/o chemicals and some grass see, you could grow your own turf in there to naturally filter out a lot of stuff!
Geordiepom7 years ago
Our sole source of domestic water is rainwater gathered from the roof. We use the water for everything except drinking water. We even brush our teeth with it and use it for cooking. In 10 years we have never had any problems and would not only recommend it but strongly encourage people to harvest water even if it's just for washing clothes and toilet fllushing at first. The processes that go into producing the water that arrives at your house consume a lot of energy and some quite nasty chemicals. I'm not trying to scare anyone with the chemicals thing because it's relatively harmless by the time it reaches you. However these chemicals have to be produced and transported at risk to the environment. Whatever your opinion of "town water" it is too valuable a commodity to be processed then pumped all that distance simply to be flushed down the loo.
A very good point. Oddie: I think you've got a good enough system there for filtering for garden and toilet use as it stands. The one thing I'd mention is that you should probably put a little bleach in the barrels every once in a while to keep the algae growth down. The other thing I'd mention is that while fresh rain water is usually fit to drink, roof runoff can have all manner of funk in it.
etlerd7 years ago
Nice job! The only problem with it is that I think you mean "caulk" not "chalk."
oddie1212 (author)  etlerd7 years ago
Thanks for finding that error. I believe i found all the spots and corrected it =)
autolycos7 years ago
There are lots of options for filtering, but I think you first need to decide WHAT you're wanting to filter. If it's just large material, you can probably get away with some sort of nylon cheesecloth type of affair that you can stick over your drain and weight down with rocks. But, there are numerous options. Good instructable.
oddie1212 (author)  autolycos7 years ago
Thanks autolycos, i tried to do the cheesecloth and even a workshop cloth and they both get clogged easily from the roof sediment. To the point where it wouldn't flow through the cloth. I did put it inside of the drain so it was stretched. I was thinking some type of pool filter right now because i want to keep this easy to clean because as you can see already i have sediment on the bottom of the bucket and this was taken after 2 rainfalls.
capricorn7 years ago
Cool:) I cannot use that because I live in a flat, but two friends of mine that have just bought a house will LOVE that. Besides here in Belgium we are not short of rain :P TUDJUUUUU! A+
John Smith7 years ago
cool nice instructable also, you can check with local dairies. they use them for acid, soap, and similar things. The ones at my dad's barn are identical to the blue ones. They usually throw them away or cut them in half for trash cans. you can call around and see if they'll save them for you.