This simple valve on a rain barrel downspout diverter keeps your house protected.
About three years ago, I built myself a rain barrel from a 55-gallon plastic pickle container. I set it up on concrete blocks about 2 ft. off the ground and placed it directly underneath a sawed-off downspout on my garage so the water flows directly into the barrel.
It works OK, but I’m a little under-whelmed with my rain barrel for two reasons:
1. Even though I set it up on blocks, there’s not enough water pressure to send the water through the spigot at anything more than a trickle.
2. The overflow port on the barrel is inadequate. During rainstorms, the barrel fills so fast that the water spills out of the narrow overflow opening as well as the top of the barrel and runs down the sides. Since the barrel sits against our old, decrepit, soon-to-be-replaced detached garage, I’m not that worried. But if this were happening near our house foundation, it could be a real problem.
A 1,000-sq.-ft. roof will shed about 620 gallons of water during a 1-in. rainfall. That’s about 155 gallons per downspout if you’ve got four of them. If you’ve got a rain barrel hooked up to one of your downspouts and it works (or doesn’t) like mine, once the barrel fills there’s a lot of water being dumped next to your basement. Don’t forget to check out our collection of decorative rain barrels.
Here’s a simple solution—a rain barrel downspout diverter. The rain barrel downspout diverter attaches to your downspout and channels water into the barrel until it’s full. At that point, the diverter automatically sends the water through the downspout and away from your foundation. Fiskars’ new DiverterPro water diverter kit ($40) is nifty because it attaches to almost any rain barrel system and it works with the two different size downspouts (3 x 4-in. and 2 x 3-in). It also includes a removable filter to keep debris out of your rain barrel. (Click here to purchase the Fiskars DiverterPro water diverter from our affiliate Amazon.com.)
I have one last piece of advice and this applies whether you have a rain barrel or not. Make sure your gutter downspouts discharge water at least 10 ft. from your home to prevent basement flooding and water damage to your foundation. If yours don’t, consider adding extensions in addition to a rain barrel downspout diverter.
— Elisa Bernick, Associate Editor
Want to build your own rain barrel? Use these step-by-step instructions to build a rain barrel.
Rain barrels are a simple home project designed to catch water runoff from your roof and gutters for later use. Of course, you can't use this water for drinking or washing, but it's an excellent choice for irrigation, especially with a large setup that can contribute enough water after a rainstorm to water your garden or flower beds. Additionally, rain barrels can be literal wooden barrels that make for excellent landscaping additions to a backyard, so you don't have to sacrifice appearance.
Insulate Hot Water Pipes
Are your hot water pipes insulated? Remember, pipes (especially metal pipes) conduct heat, and your hot water can lose a lot of heat traveling through cold pipes, which means you'll have to let your faucet run longer before hot water comes out. Insulating pipes is an affordable solution to this problem, keeping heat contained within the pipes and shortening the time it takes for your water to run hot so you waste less.
Use Your Water Meter
A water meter isn't just for show! These meters provide valuable information about exactly how much water you are using—even water use you may not be aware of. Use the water meter to track water use during weekdays and weekends, and look for high-use days or times. Then try to change your habits to reduce unnecessary water use.
Your sprinklers should water your plants and grass—and nothing else. If a sprinkler is aimed at a fence or siding, it's wasting water (and potentially damaging those surfaces). Reposition sprinkler heads so that they only spray what they need to. If the angle or width is wrong, buy new sprinkler heads with the right pattern for the area you want to water.
Cover Bare Soil
Bare soil is bad news for water: It allows moisture to evaporate too quickly and dries out the ground. Cover bare soil around your yard with mulch to help retain moisture in those areas, and route water to where it's needed most before it evaporates.
Xeriscaping refers to landscaping that uses drought-resistant plants and various techniques designed to save as much water as possible. For example, opting for accent plants that require little water or even replacing the lawn with more native grasses. The plants will thrive with little effort from you and you'll save water, to boot! If you decide to try xeriscapting just remember to adapt your watering schedule so you don't overwater.
Implement Micro Irrigation
Micro irrigation is all about highly localized watering. There are several popular forms of micro irrigation. One option uses underground tubes with holes that allow water to seep out directly to roots. Another option uses small sprinkler heads with a spray radius of just a few inches for watering flower beds with very little waste. Self-watering drippers are another good option for both indoor and outdoor plants.
Water in the Morning
Schedule your sprinklers and other watering tasks for the morning. Temperature and humidity combine to make this an ideal time to soak the earth with water. Water evaporates quicker as the day goes on, so watering in the morning can help save some water.
Check out these other tips for keeping your grass green and achieving a healthy lawn.
Use Low Flow
Today's low-flow appliances save water while still providing all the water pressure you need around the house. If you have the money to invest in a low-flow showerhead or even a new toilet, you can save a significant amount of money on your monthly water bills. Don't underestimate how much water home appliances use!
Don't Let Water Run
Think of all the activities where you keep the water running: shaving, washing pans, brushing your teeth, the list is a long one. If you want to save water in the house, set new guidelines. Shut off the water when you're not using it. A few good habits can save gallons of water a day!