rain barrel questions

jannabeen(z5 US/z6 Canada)February 23, 2007

The city of Toronto was installing free rain barrels last summer. I didn't get one because the barrel had a long and unsightly overflow pipe. The city says that this pipe is necessary in order to prevent water from freezing in the barrel during the winter.

I'm wondering if anyone of you have a rain barrel without an overflow pipe. I guess in the winter water runs into the sewer connection? Pros/cons?


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How many litres in those rain barrels?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2007 at 3:40PM
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cindra(z5b Ont)

I have two different types of rain barrels-one with a place to attach a pipe for overflow and the other doesn't have an overflow. I'd like to get more setup because all it takes is one good rainfall and they are both full. I don't have them attached together because I don't have them gathering water off the same roof. I do empty them and put them away over the winter so I don't worry about the water freezing in them. I don't worry about where the overflows runs to when I am using them because I'm in the country but the story may be different if you live in the city.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2007 at 8:56PM
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jroot(5A Ont. Canada (near Guelph))

My rainbarrel does have an overflow outlet, but not a hose attached. It is placed on a gently sloping patio so the excess water runs AWAY from the house. Like Cindra, I disconnect my rainbarrel in the winter, turning it over and in a protected area for the winter. I would not want it to freeze, as it probably would crack.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2007 at 9:31AM
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jannabeen(z5 US/z6 Canada)

OK - I just checked the info. from the city. The rain barrels they were offering hold 220 litres. Although their pamphlet shows two different types of rain barrels - one with this long overflow pipe and one without this pipe but a valve so that you can direct the water into the sewer in winter - the city doesn't want ANY rain water to go into the sewer, so they won't install the one with the valve.

I was just wondering if anyone uses the kind with the valve for winter. I don't have the space for the overflow pipe. And, being kind of lazy, I don't want to have to disconnect or turn the barrel over, etc.

Cheers, Jannabeen

    Bookmark   March 7, 2007 at 10:56PM
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cindra(z5b Ont)

Hi again Jannabeen!
I think I am confused here, probably my age that causes that not you! LOL I have a couple of questions for you.
Is this overflow pipe rigid or flexible? I guess it doesn't really matter since obviously you won't be using that kind due to lack of room-just curious.

I don't understand what you mean when you say the city doesn't want any rain water going into the sewer. Are you talking about the grates that remove excess water and are located in the streets next to the curbs or some other type sewer drain? I was under the impression that is what all sewer drains are used for-to remove water waste from homes and that would include water waste from rains off the roof of a house etc.

Are you wanting to leave your water hose attached to your barrel year around? What is this valve you are talking about exactly-the place where the hose attaches(at the bottom), the place where the downspout attaches (on top) or a place were you can attach an overflow pipe (usually at the top side)? Is it at the bottom, top or stop side of the barrel and also will a water hose screw into this valve?

A couple of things about rain barrels-they are not totally maintenance free. Obviously you have to do minimal work with them such as attaching hoses and directing the downspout to the top of the barrel in some way. It all depends on how fanatic you are and what type of setup you have.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2007 at 11:05AM
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jannabeen(z5 US/z6 Canada)

I'll try to answer your questions. The rain barrel is connected to a downspout which is bifurcated: one part goes into the rain barrel, the other either reconnects to the downspout or to an overflow pipe. The overflow pipe is rigid and about 20 ft long. The kind w/o an overflow pipe redirects overflow back into the downspout, which goes into the sewer instead of into the rain barrel. In both kinds there is a way to shut off the rain barrel in winter.

The city will not install a rain barrel that uses the sewer for overflow/winter. From their perspective, one of the purposes of installing free rain barrels is to keep the city sewers from overflowing during storms.

Cheers, Jannabeen

    Bookmark   March 8, 2007 at 8:51PM
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Judy_B_ON(Ontario 5B)

I think the issue in Toronto is that in older areas of the city the storm and sanitary sewers are not separate systems. When too much storm water enters the system, the sewage treatment plant is overwhelmed and untreated sewage gets discharged to the lake. Many older homes have the water from downspouts from roofs connected to the storm system. In newer areas, storm and sanitary systems are separate and downspouts are directed onto grassy swales (specially designed to direct water away from house foundations) between houses so that the water is absorbed by the ground, not into the storm system.

The City of Toronto is in the process of establishing separate storm and sanitary systems and is disconnecting roof downspouts from the storm system. Sounds like they are using the free rain barrels as an inducement to homeowners to disconnect the downspouts from the storm system.

Jannabeen, any rain barrel needs an overflow pipe of some kind to deal with excess water after it is full. If your yard has not been graded to direct water from the downspouts away from the house foundation and you allow the overflow to dribble out the barrel beside the house, you will end up with a wet basement. That is why the barrels have the long, rigid overflow pipe.

If you want a rain barrel without a rigid overflow, you can buy one at most garden and hardware stores.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2007 at 9:32PM
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cindra(z5b Ont)

It sounds as though the type of barrels the city if offering will not work for you in your situation because of the lack of space. You will either have to purchase a barrel and convert it over to fit your situation or as Judy suggested purchase one at Canadian Tire or somewhere else. You will need to get one that you can attach a hose to the overflow so you can direct the water away from your house foundation. I don't have anything directing my overflow but the ground around it does that for me as it slants away from the foundation. Maybe someone else can give you more ideas..I hope so.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2007 at 8:30PM
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What about mosquitos breedind in those barrels ?

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 9:19AM
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Judy_B_ON(Ontario 5B)

Clairdo2: Rainbarrels have a screen to prevent mosquitos from laying eggs. Besides, mosquitos like to breed in shallow water, not deep water like in a barrel. If concerned, add a few feeder goldfish to the barrel.

Jannabeen: here is a link to a brochure about downspout bog gardens, production was co sponsored by the City of Toronto. NANPS will be running seminars during the summer and into next year on how to build one.

Here is a link that might be useful: Downspout Bog Garden

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 2:38PM
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I just got my latest water bill:

For 40 cubic meters which is 40,000 litres they charged $40.49 water plus $40.49 sewer so $80.98 for 40,000 litres.

So divide by 40 that means $2.0245 per 1,000 litres then divide by 2 which means $1.01225 or Less than $1.02 for 500 litres.

At $225 dollars for this rain barrel it will have to be filled and emptied 494 times before you see one penny of savings! At an average of say 20 rain falls per Spring,Summer,Fall which is very optimistic it would take 25 years before this rain barrel paid for itself and started to save you money.

WOW, such a deal, better get TWO!!! LOL

    Bookmark   June 17, 2007 at 4:08PM
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Judy_B_ON(Ontario 5B)

Jimmyjojo: the point isn't to save money, its to improve the local environment. Using treated drinking water to water plants is wasteful.

And where I live, water is in short supply and our city limits water use during the summer. We have lawn watering bans and limits on shrub/tree/garden watering. My rain barrels provide me with water for my plants.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 10:15PM
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A rainbarrel makes sense but it doesn't necessarily have to be that expensive. I do think some companies are making money out of our attempts to conserve water. Use any barrels to grab this rainfall. Keep the water during periods of drought. And by the way, the climatologists have already predicted a dry summer. We may have periods of sudden rain showers but these sort of events drive contaminated water into our drains, which causes spillovers into our rivers and eventually to our lakes. Guess where we get our drinking water -- the lake. So the less contaminants that are washed in the lake the better it is for us. Every little effort helps.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 9:52AM
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I love my rain barrel - and so do my plants. We have had hosepipe restrictions here in Stouffville for a number of years and can only water every other day between certain hours. On really really hot days some plants need watering once a day, or even twice, so the rain barrel water comes in really useful. I always use rainwater whenever I can for watering my pots - it's so much kinder for the plants.
Our rain barrel doesn't have a long rigid overflow pipe, it has a short (maybe 3ft) collapsible plastic one which seems to do the job just fine.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 12:59PM
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Rain barrels don't have to be expensive. I bought 4 plastic, food-grade barrrels with tops for $5 a pop at a nearby vinegar plant and my husband linked them together for me. The spigot is on the right barrel, on the side. Works pretty darn good ;) The attached link shows you all the steps on how he made it.

I've got sweet autumn clematis and a climbing zepherine drouhin rose covering it now ;) We use a submersible pump connected to the house out of the top bunghole and I connect it to the sprinkler. Works like a charm.

Here is a link that might be useful: How to Make a 4-Barrel System

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 5:29AM
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argh! I meant "We use a submersible pump connected to a hose..." not house! Must... have... coffee...

sure wish we could edit our original posts ;)

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 5:34AM
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That's a clever system. Thanks for sharing it. We all have to be good at improvising. These things should not become 'luxury' items. Gardening is about simplicity.

Some people create rain gardens to trap these overruns which is another way of using that rainwater. Works well in places that have a gentle slope and a large yard.


    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 9:26AM
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I picked up mine from the local recycling center for $50 each. I've had them for 2 years now and so far so good. They came with everything (almost) I need, including a flexible overflow pipe to direct the overflow away from the house. From the street, you don't really see the overflow pipe. The barrel itself attracts more attention.

My first year with them, I drained and moved the barrels into the garage for the winter. Must say that took up too much space. This last year, I just drained, cover the barrel openings, and just wrapped the overflow hose around the barrel. I attach a flexible downspout to the aluminum downspout on the house (similar to what krystine has running from the barrels to the ground) to direct the rainwater onto the ground (I don't have downspouts connected to the sewers). I found this to be much less work! This spring there was some water in there (I forgot to cover it) but the barrels are fine. Mind you, we had a rather mild winter.

I have a question for krystine: I've been looking into purchasing a submersible pump for my rain barrels but I'm having trouble finding exactly what I need. Can you share the specs of your pump? I'm neveous about purchasing something that is too strong and then again for something that is too weak.


    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 1:43PM
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To be honest, I just use the pump we use to drain our hot tub :) It's 1/6 HP, Click here to view it. If I were to purchase a pump specifically, I would go a little bit stronger I think. This one threw the water okay to water an area this big -- it's my 'holding bed' of plants that don't have a permanent home yet.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Chaotic Gardener

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 2:24PM
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jannabeen(z5 US/z6 Canada)

Well, I'm impressed with your "holding bed"! And thank you for posting the low-cost rain barrel. I strained the budget with a shrub-buying binge :)


    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 2:41PM
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Krystine is smart!! :)

Judy_b is not :(

Jimmyjojo: the point isn't to save money, its to improve the local environment. Using treated drinking water to water plants is wasteful.

Remember the old saying, "A Fool and her money are soon parted". The Point is "Always" to save money.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2007 at 9:43AM
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Pieter zone 7/8 B.C.

While I recognize from where this posting began, I know there are plenty of gardeners at opposite coasts and all in between that are not in the center of the universe and each and every city and municipality in this wunnerful country of ours has gardeners that are looking to do their bit for the environment, their plants and their pockets.

Out in here on the left coast, in sunny Richmond, we have a rainbarrel program subsidized by the city and after humming and hawing for weeks we took the bull by the horn and got our first 2 rainbarrels installed 3 weeks ago. We're converts!

Check out our installation below, and check with your local authorities to see whether or not there is a similar program in place where you live, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Here is a link that might be useful: Scroll to the bottom of Pieter's page for the rainbarrels...

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 1:00PM
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jannabeen(z5 US/z6 Canada)

Just curious: where did you get the diverter? I assume it's the white contraption that says "watersaver".

Cheers, Jannabeen

    Bookmark   June 29, 2007 at 12:22PM
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Pieter zone 7/8 B.C.

Janna, I got it from the municipal yard, BUT, it is readily available by mail order. Check out the link below.

Interesting sidenote: when we were picking up the diverter and the barrels at the yard the lady there told us she only had the closed top barrels but was expecting the removable top ones in any day. As it happened, while we were there their supplier for these barrels dropped by with a small supply and we immediately picked one that would allow us to daisychain (you need one with an outlet on the top right and the other on the top left if you want both of them to have spigots on the front).

Who dropped them off: the chap who invented and sells the diverter! If you check his website you will find he encourages people to look for a local source of plastic barrels, it gets very expensive for him to ship the barrels. The kicker for us was that we could buy all the needed bits and pieces from the city for less money than from their supplier: the city subsidizes the program!

Here is a link that might be useful: Water Saver

    Bookmark   June 29, 2007 at 1:57PM
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Would you be able to tell me what size the T-shaped plumbing part is in your setup? I think it might be 3/4" x 3/4" by 3/4". Also, what is the diameter (inner and outer) of the tubing you used to connect the barrels? It looks like there are ring clamps to hold the tubing in place.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2007 at 1:45PM
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Today the news came that jimmyjojo has put his grandma on an iceflow. When interviewed, jimmy was heard to claim her medical expenses outweighed her income and you ALL know The Point is "Always" to save money.


Here is a link that might be useful: Our website

    Bookmark   August 14, 2008 at 4:01PM
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I think rain barrels are great...and sometimes WAY overpriced...I found a rain barrel company in Toronto that sells them CHEAP!!! Only downside is that you have to pick them up...but, then again, you'd have to pick them up at the store, too...never mind...! check out www.yellowdograinbarrels.com. really cute dog, too!!!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 5:24PM
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Hello everyone! I would like to point out a new and affordable rain harvesting system that I fell in love with - The Rain Collector. It is made from a food-grade plastic barrel and comes in one of 4 colours. I chose Hunter Green - yay! It came with everything I needed to install it, even a cool diverter system for the downspout. All that I needed was a hacksaw and a pair of tin snips. This this is so great, that I bought one of their TWIN systems, too. Company is out of Newmarket, Ontario. http://www.theraincollector.ca

Here is a link that might be useful: The Rain Collector

    Bookmark   August 21, 2008 at 1:06PM
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If anyone has any information about companies/contacts that sell recycled barrels, that would be awesome.

My parents are looking to convert their new home to a fully functional green home. Meaning green roof, green walls, rain barrel system, and photovoltaic units. I even tried to convince them to somehow generate hydro power using the captured rain water. haha.

Anyway, contact numbers and names, especially for CHEAP barrels, would be AWESOME.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 11:05AM
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Cheap barrels at gotbarrels@gmail.com...$20 each!!!

or cheap rainbarrels at www.yellowdograinbarrels.com...$57 each!!!!

Give it a look. I've used both before.


    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 8:58PM
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These are the MOST gorgeous terra cotta rain barrels out in the market right now! And they're made right in Cambridge, Ontario!


Here is a link that might be useful: Rain Barrels

    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 5:00PM
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trowelgal(Kansas Zone 5)

I am new to rain barrels, just had three installed. The water has so little pressure behind it that it takes forever to get water out. Is there a pump that forces the water out of the barrel at a faster clip? If so, where to buy and the cost. Thanks to anyone who can help. I am headed out to fill my detergent bottles and water the plants, be back in three hours:) to check for your responses.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 9:21AM
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I use a submersible pump.

Here is a link that might be useful: submersible pump

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 11:03AM
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