Should you get a Rain Barrel? | Old House Tips

Rain barrel Old house

Are you wondering whether or not to get a rain barrel? Does it make sense for your lifestyle? Where do you put a rain barrel? Does it really help the environment? Will it cost a lot of money?

These are all questions that we have been asking ourselves as we decide whether or not to add a rain barrel to our old house. We share what we’ve found out with you…and yes we are definitely gonna get one!

I have always wanted to green our old house. Not just to save money on our electric and water bills, but also because it seems like the right way to give an old home a chance in the future.

I love the simple and minimal living that my old house naturally supports, bringing me back in time to a simpler way of life. Living in an old house should not mean you cannot live a modern life, though, with amenities like modern day electricity and plumbing.

Old houses were built without air conditioning. Some were even built without indoor plumbing, electricity, or even heating outside of a the use of a fireplace. How we integrate these modern systems into an old house is important. Why not make them functional, beautiful, and sustainable?

Being efficient and keeping a smaller environmental footprint was how old houses were when they were originally built. I bet most of them had some sort of rain barrel too. Harvested rain water may have been used to wash clothes, irrigate a garden, or as drinking water for livestock like a goat or chickens.

Rain barrels and greening an old house

THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE GETTING A RAIN BARREL

A rain barrel can save you money on your water bills plus collecting rain water was probably an original feature of your old house anyways! However, there are certain questions to ask so that you can decide if a rain barrel makes sense for your house and lifestyle.

WHERE DO YOUR DOWNSPOUTS DRAIN TO?

Greening your old house rain barrels downspout

The first thing we did when considering if we should get a rain barrel was to see where our downspouts end. Our county states that if a downspout leads to an impermeable (hard, non-porous) surface that would be a good place for a rain barrel.

Why? Because that rain water is running off into the street and into the stormwater system where the city then has to use a lot of energy to clean it.

We have a downspout that goes into the ground which I believe connects into our french drain system. We could collect that water, but it won’t help the county or the environment.

However, we have two other downspouts that lead to our concrete driveway. Bingo! Those two downspouts would be ideal candidates for a rain barrel.

WHAT DO YOU NEED WATER FOR?

Greening an old house rain barrel plants

Next we thought about where we would use this water. We have some plants on our porch where I have to fill a watering can..several times…and drag that heavy thing through the house trying not to spill it.

I’ve always wished we had a hose bib on our front porch but we only have one in back. But, we do have a downspout right next to our porch by the driveway. A rain barrel would be PERFECT there. It’s next to the porch for watering plants and next to the driveway for washing the car!

The hose bib in back is not close to a downspout or that would be a great location too. We also grow herbs back there and I’ve read that some roof materials can make rain water unhealthy for your edible plants. I’ll have to look into that more!

WHAT SIZE RAIN BARREL IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

Rain barrel Old house

A quick search on Home Depot or Lowes will show you that there is a wide range of sizes. From 20 gallons to 100 gallons. But which size is best for you?

It seems counterintuitive but recommendations show that if you live in a dry climate you may want a larger rain barrel since it will not fill as often. The water you harvest will last you through the dry period.

Where we live it rains almost weekly during the hot summer with a rare dry spell. In that case it means we can go with a smaller rain barrel for the minimal watering we will be doing on our front porch and occasional car wash.

IS THERE A REBATE PROGRAM IN YOUR COUNTY OR CITY?

Greening your old house rain barrel rebates

There are so many rebates our there! If you are saving your county or city money there is likely a rebate as an incentive. Plus with climate change there are lots of cost saving projects that will save you way more money in the long run. (The price of water will just be going up and up in the future!)

In our county, Prince Georges County Maryland, we have the Rain Check Rebate Program that offers rebates for environmentally friendly home projects that also help out the county with their water management.

EXAMPLES OF REBATES
  • cisterns
  • green roofs
  • pavement removal
  • permeable pavement
  • rain barrels
  • rain gardens
  • urban tree canopy

In our county they offer $2/gallon for a 50 gallon or larger rain barrel. Which means we’ll go with the 50 gallon rain barrel! Most are 40-80 so 50 is on the smaller side but will still save us money through the rebate.

So, decision made, we are going to get rain barrel!

We promise to share more on the process with the purchase, rebate, and install once we add a rain barrel to our old house.


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