The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Rain barrel overflow pipe

Overflowing rain barrel

Our first rain barrel has only been in place for about ten days, but already I wonder how we ever lived without it.  The container ran dry just a day before a thunderstorm dumped enough rain on the farm to fill the barrel back up, and I was cheering the storm on all the way.

However, I'm still finding features I would definitely change in this workshop-designed rain barrel.  The slight leak around the faucet turns out to be quite minimal, so even though I'd probably follow a reader's advice of turning the barrel upside down and using the bung holes if we made another, I haven't felt the need to drain and seal our current barrel.  The overflow pipe is more problematic, though.

The photo above shows how I have to resort to moving the pipe from the gutter away from the rain barrel once the reservoir fills up.  The issue is that the outflow pipe should be bigger --- not smaller --- than the inflow pipe.  Since the outflow pipe is so small, once the barrel is full, water starts gushing out the top (and all over the porch) rather than being channeled through the outflow pipe into the outside world.  In busy summer mode, that just means I wander by and move the inflow pipe to the side Premade rain barrelonce the barrel fills up, but our next rain homemade barrel will definitely have a better design.

As a side note, it's interesting to see that the fancy premade rain barrel that Mark's mother found by the side of the road a few years ago has the same spigot and overflow-pipe issues.  I do like the big screened top, though, which allows me to stick the premade barrel under a roof without installing gutters first.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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The overflow pipe has been issue for my rain barrel for the past 2 years - I haven't had one. This year I cut a notch in the top of the barrel and fitted a piece of flexible downspout tubing in the notch. I caulked it and it doesn't seem to be leaking but I should probably put some glue on there to hold it more securely. Overall it is working great.
Comment by John Amrhein Tue Jul 1 22:00:20 2014

Put a water hose on the spigot , keep turned off until it rains then open it and let water flow anywhere you want. After rain close the spigot before loosing your water. mom roseanell

Comment by roseanell Wed Jul 2 08:32:06 2014

The overflow should equal the inflow from the downspout. We have two overflows on our setup near the house. One is a small overflow and has a threaded connection so we can connect it to a garden hose which runs to a swale about 15 feet away. The secondary overflow is a 2" overflow (about 1" higher on the barrel) for when the small hose is overwhelmed which only occurs in very heavy rains.

The hose overflow could easily be further away as long as the termination point is lower. The overflow could passively fill remote barrels around the property where roofs aren't available for the rain collection. The hose could also be unthreaded from the overflow and threaded on to the tap to fill remote barrels actively as well assuming they are lower than the spigot on the barrel.

3:50 into this video shows an example of this done with PVC instead of a hose but is the same concept as the hose I described above.

Comment by Brian Wed Jul 2 10:53:03 2014

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