The best rain barrel can significantly reduce the amount of water you need to use to tend to your plants and garden. In this comprehensive buyer’s guide, we reveal the best five barrels available, and offer helpful tips on how to choose the model that’s best for your outdoor space.
Did you know that the average American family uses around 320 gallons of water every single day?
According to a report from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), at least 30% of those gallons are spent on outdoor uses such as watering our plants and lawns.
In some particularly dry areas such as the southwest, that figure can be as much as 60%, which is why more and more homeowners are on the lookout for the best rain barrel to help them cut back on their water usage.
These helpful and affordable garden essentials collect runoff rainwater from your roof that would otherwise be wasted. When you need to, you simply reuse that water to take care of your lawn and plants.
Not that living in an area that is prone to droughts is the only reason to use a water barrel in your garden.
Eco-Friendly Lawn and Garden Care
Runoff rainwater from your roof is typically wasted and does little more than increase the risk of damp and flooding to your property. A rain barrel collects this water and puts it to good use.
The more water you use to take care of your outdoor spaces, the more water your suppliers have to channel from rivers, streams, and other natural sources.
It’s bad enough when you consider that all this extra work carried out by your water supplier means a significant hike in costs.
According to CBS News, Americans typically pay an average of $104 per month in water and wastewater bills, an increase of over 30% in less than a decade.
Yet cutting costs is only one reason why many eco-friendly gardeners are turning to high quality rain barrels to help them reduce water waste.
Plants and wildlife need our natural water sources to survive, so the more we draw away to keep our lawns looking green, the less there is to protect Earth’s delicate ecosystem.
In the long-run, this means potentially irreversible damage to the world around us.
Not that it has to be all doom and gloom.
Most of us likely agree that we’re keen to do all that we can to protect the planet, which is why anything that can help us harvest and reuse rainwater can only be a good idea.
In the long-run, a good quality rain barrel like our number-one ranked XXX can help us reduce environmental damage while still ensuring that our lawns and gardens look beautiful.
How do Rain Barrels Work?
Not quite sure what a rainwater barrel actually does? This helpful guide from Lowe’s Home Improvement explains all.
After placing your new rain barrel in an appropriate spot outside your home, you can use a rain barrel gutter attachment or a special rain barrel diverter kit like the popular Fiskars Rain Barrel DiverterPro Kit to connect it to your guttering.
These helpful devices catch the runoff rainwater in your gutters and send it into your barrel.
You can usually buy a good quality diverter kit quite cheaply, though if you know what you are doing and want to save money, attaching a flexible piece of tubing should do the trick just as well.
Eventually, the rainwater collects in your barrel. You can then use the spigot at the front side of the barrel to transfer that rainwater into a jug or watering can, or even attach a garden hose to it.
Choosing the Best Rain Barrel for Your Backyard
We all know how invaluable a good quality rain barrel can be, but since the barrel you buy will play such an important role in our garden space, you also need to know that the one we buy is the best quality and is actually worth the investment.
How do you do that?
You read through our ultimate buyer’s guide to the very best rain barrel available.
In this comprehensive review, we’ll talk you through how to guarantee that you’re getting the absolute best value for your hard-earned money when buying a rain barrel.
We’ll also offer our pick of the very top barrels currently on the market, as well as offering our expert advice on the extra steps you can take to start a stunning garden with minimal impact on the environment.
Top Five Picks – Best Rain Barrels
Later, we’ll share our in-depth best rain barrel reviews of what we consider to be the five very best rain barrels around, but if you don’t have time for that, here’s a quick overview of our top five picks.
|Rain Barrel Gallon Capacity
|Rain Barrel Style
|RTS Home Accents Barrel 50 Gallon Capacity
|Good Ideas RWURN Rain Wizard 65 Gallon Capacity
|Kyoto RBSS-75 Rain Barrel
|Gardener’s Supply Company Rain Barrel
|Algreen Cascata Collection & Storage System
What to Look for When Picking a Good Quality Rain Barrel
Before we dive into our detailed reviews, you might find it helpful to know exactly how we came up with our top five picks.
Essentially, we tested and judged each model according to five key criteria:
Storage capacity, safety, filtering, materials, and price.
With so many different options to choose from, keeping these five factors in mind should help you determine which barrel is best suited for you and your garden.
A typical rain barrel can fill up pretty quickly, so if you’re planning to store a lot of water then your best option is to either pick a larger size or link multiple barrels together like this. Rain Barrels by Jennifer C. is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Even a small amount of rainfall can fill up a 50-gallon capacity barrel pretty quickly.
If you’re anticipating a heavy amount of rainfall in your area, or if you plan on storing lots of water for a long time, you might want to go for larger options like our number three pick, the Kyoto RBSS-75 Rain Barrel rather than a standard 50-gallon capacity model. This can really help with your water bill.
Though this isn’t universally true, it’s generally the case that the larger the barrel, the higher the cost, so if budget is a big determining factor, this is something you’ll have to keep in mind.
Likewise, we know an increasing number of garden owners who prefer to link several rain collection barrels together.
If you’re planning to do the same, you’ll need to look for an option which offers an outlet to attach a linking hose. One or two spigots also makes a difference.
As gardening equipment goes, a rain barrel is a relatively benign product, but that doesn’t come with its own potential hazards.
It’s not unheard of for animals and small children to try and drink the stored rainwater. This can cause all kinds of health problems as water that has come into contact with your roof and even with the barrel itself can pick up toxins which -while otherwise harmless- can be damaging if consumed.
So, if you have young kids or pets, you may want to consider whether your chosen barrel is child and animal proof.
Speaking of safety, be sure that the base you place your barrel on is sturdy and secure so that it can’t be knocked over and cause an injury.
A quality mesh screen guard can prevent wasps, mosquitos and other bugs from getting into your harvested rainwater.
Without a proper cover, barrels used for rainwater harvesting can serve as a haven for mosquitos and other bugs.
That’s not to mention the amount of dirt, debris, twigs, and leaves that can work their way in and pollute your water, making it unsafe and unusable for use on your garden.
Thankfully, most of the leading rain barrels come with a mesh screen over the top to keep such things out. We recommend only buying a model with one of these screens fitted.
As you can probably imagine, high quality barrels come in all kinds of styles and are made from all manner of materials.
To take your eco-friendly gardening to the next logical step, you might want to consider buying a rain collection barrel made from recyclable materials.
That said, the one thing that most homeowners look for when choosing a barrel is one that matches the look and feel of their home and outdoor space.
Typical options include:
Polyethylene or Plastic
It’s no surprise that molded plastic rain barrels and BPA free polyethylene water barrels are among the most popular choices out there.
Not only are they the most lightweight option around, but they’re also incredibly cheap when compared to barrels made from other materials, making them a particularly good idea if you need to keep an eye on your wallet.
What’s more, they come in a huge array of shapes, sizes, and colors, meaning you’re more likely to find one that blends in well with your home aesthetic.
Still, nothing in life is exactly perfect, and these are no exception.
Being cheap and lightweight may have its advantages, but it also means that these are the least durable of all the different barrel types. As such, you should expect to need a replacement far sooner than you would with a less destructible option.
Ceramic clay and stone
Beautifully designed, stone and clay options like our number two ranked Good Ideas RWURN Rain Wizard make a wonderful addition to small, ornamental gardens.
They’re also pretty good at catching larger amounts of rainfall than plastic or wood models, making them a good choice if you have a lot of water to store.
However, keep in mind that they’re generally much heavier and more expensive than other varieties. They can also be more difficult to install, something which may rule them out as a good fit for novice gardeners.
Stainless Steel and metal
If you’re expecting a lot of rainfall, or if you simply think that you might need more water storage than the average 50-gallon large capacity model can provide, then stainless steel may well be the way to go.
Usually built for industrial and commercial use, they can generally store a lot more water than their wood, plastic, or ceramic counterparts.
However, if aesthetics are more important than you may want to give stainless steel a wide berth.
Though there are some good-looking options out there, most of the rain barrels made from steel leave a lot to be desired when it comes to design.
An authentic wooden barrel like this one can add a certain rustic charm to your garden or outdoor space.
A wooden barrel is a perfect choice for adding a certain traditional, rustic feel to your outdoor space.
For a truly unique look, you can find models made from recycled beechwood, hickory, oak, and cedar.
As with other options, however, you’ll need to pay attention to cost as you’ll typically find wood barrels at the upper end of the price scale. Also see what else the barrel comes with – any helpful attachments or accessories such as a brass spigot shut off valve.
Top Five Best Rain Barrels
Now that we know what we’re looking for, let’s dive deep into our detailed reviews of the five very best barrels currently on the market.
1: RTS Home Accents 50 Gallon Rain Barrel
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Durable, functional, and with an attractive oak-style finish, this 50 gallon rain barrel or water collection barrel frequently earns rave reviews among gardeners and self-sustainability enthusiasts. So, when we tried it ourselves, it came as no surprise to find that it did everything we could want from a high-grade rainwater barrel, and then some.
Ideal for those of you who may want the look and feel of an authentic whiskey barrel without paying the kind of premium-level prices you’d typically pay for such a tool, this attractive piece of kit adds a gorgeous, traditional look to your outdoor space.
Barrels like this 50-Gallon Capacity Rain Barrel combine all the authentic charm of a traditional whiskey barrel with effortless functionality and practicality.
Yet let’s be honest, looks are rarely the only thing on your mind when it comes to choosing a rain barrel.
Fortunately, RTS Home Accents more than hold their own in other areas too.
Despite the wood-like finish, this barrel is actually made from injection-molded, food-grade BPA free polyethylene that has been specially treated to resist rot, fading, insect damage, and mod.
That’s to mention all the helpful design features.
This one features a flat back so that it can slot neatly up against the wall of your house, as well as a front side overflow valve to help you siphon off excess water.
Of course, there’s also a handy aluminum filter screen to keep out insects and all manner of debris, while the brass spigot makes it incredibly easy to attach a hose but incredibly difficult for small children and animals to get at your rainwater supply.
Oh, and if that wasn’t enough to make RTS Home Accents the king of rainwater collection barrels, this one is also made from 100% recyclable material.
All in all then, a quality product that combines effortless functionality with brilliant design.
Size: 50 gallons of water
Style: BPA Free Polyethylene with oak-style finish
2: Good Ideas RWURN Rain Wizard Rain Barrel Urn
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Even though we gushed over the RTS Home Accents model, we have to admit that Good Ideas’ beautiful Rain Wizard Barrel Urn is by far the best looking barrel on our list.
Made from solid ceramic clay, its smooth, graceful curves and decorative features ensure that it adds to the look and feel of your garden rather than merely complementing it.
Not that attractive design is all this one has going for it.
Along with being the best looking, the Rain Wizard also happens to be one of the biggest barrels we’ve featured, with the storage capacity to hold up to 65 gallons of water.
It also comes with a planter on the top which not only enhances its look but also drains extra water to prevent root rot.
Much like our number-one ranked model, the Rain wizard also includes a flat back to fit it snugly against a wall and has a solid mesh screen to keep out bugs and debris.
So if this truly is such a good product, why is it only in second place?
Simple, it’s much more expensive than the RTS Home Accents model and we’ve also found it a little trickier to set-up and install. Despite that, this is still a fine piece of garden equipment.
Size: 65 gallons of water
3: Kyoto RBSS-75 Rain Barrel
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With its smooth, bold design that somehow manages to effortlessly blend vintage style with a sense of contemporary elegance, the Kyoto RBSS-75 would make a great addition to a stucco home or similarly styled dwelling.
Though it’s made of durable, UV-resistant plastic, the RBSS-75 boasts a charming, authentic stone finish that is so well done you’d never tell from a distance that it wasn’t the real thing.
Yet don’t mistake this one as being all style and no substance.
A premium brand rain barrel like the Kyoto RBSS-75 Rain Barrel helps you keep your garden looking immaculate without using water sourced from the tap.
In terms of features, we particularly like the handy drain plug that lets you quickly drain away water and sludge from the bottom of the barrel.
There’s also a useful overflow spout and addition drainage system that makes this a very effective product.
Elsewhere, the corrosion-proof filter screen that is perhaps one of the most effective we’ve come across so far, while the brass spigot is well placed so that it’s easy to fill up your watering can.
As you’ve probably figured out for yourself, this is the largest rain harvesting barrel on our list, so if you do need 75 gallons of water storage at a time, this is ideal.
Otherwise, you may find that a smaller and more affordable option does the job just as well.
Size: 75 gallons of water
Style: Plastic with stone finish
4: Gardener’s Supply Company Flat Back Design Rain Barrel
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This may be one of the more expensively-priced 50-gallon capacity barrels around, but we’re quite fond of it anyway because Gardener’s Supply Company are one of the more fashionable garden brands around with a reputation among in-the-know gardeners and landscape designers for their cool, contemporary products.
If this product is anything to go by, then it’s not hard to understand just why they’re so highly acclaimed with its flat back design.
Along with the stylish, aged-wood finish and flat back design, a highlight of this high-brand Rain Barrel is the spigot which is placed higher up than on other models near the top of the barrel, making it easy to attach a hose.
Together with the separate hose attachments, this makes filling up your watering can a breeze, and even means you can run your hose or sprinkler on the lawn while simultaneously filling your can to tend to those flowers.
Size: 50 gallons
Style: Polyethylene with authentic-look wood finish and flat back design
5: Algreen Cascata Rain Water Collection and Storage System
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Though it’s made from plastic, the Algreen Cascata Rain Water Collection and Storage System is so tough and weather-resistant that it might as well be created from the kind of durable ceramic it appears to be on appearance.
One of the more unique items in our buyer’s guide, this rainwater collection and storage system contains all of the essentials you’d expect from a good quality barrel.
A corrosion-proof filter screen, brass-style spigot, and Dual water overflows are all present and correct, as is the option to link multiple barrels together for additional water storage.
Yet there are a few things that truly set this 65-gallon capacity model apart from the crowd.
For one thing, it has a wonderful planter on top which adds to the overall aesthetic.
For another, there’s a useful six-foot hose with shutoff nozzle which makes it easy to fill multiple vessels at once.
However, it’s far from perfect.
We’d probably rank the Algreen Cascata Rain Water Collection and Storage System higher if it had a flat back, a better quality hose, and a spigot made of actual brass rather than just a cheaper, brass-colored version.
Size: 65 gallons
Style: Plastic with ceramic-look finish
Other Rain Barrel Options
Besides the top 5, other rain barrel options we have heard good things about include:
- FCMP Outdoor US4000-TC Urn Style Rain Barrel
- FCMP Outdoor RC4000-BRN Rain Barrel
Additional Benefits to Using a Rain Barrel
Throughout this guide, we’ve talked extensively about how using a quality rain barrel can help you limit the environmental impact of taking care of your garden by enabling you to reuse rainwater rather than drawing from your home water supply.
Yet while that may be the main benefit, it’s not the only one.
Here are three more compelling reasons why you might want to consider rainwater harvesting products for your home.
Natural Rain Water is Better for Your Garden
Using natural rain water produces healthier, more vibrant flowers and plants than using water sourced from the tap.
Did you know that tap water contains salt, fluoride, and chlorine?
Some experts suggest that these chemicals can harm plant roots and microorganisms. Meanwhile, rainwater has none of these chemicals, is well oxidized, and has been shown time and time again to be lead to stronger, healthier plant life.
Collecting Rain Water Protects Your Home
Over time, excess rainfall can cause moisture to settle around the foundation of your home which has the potential to cause mold or even flooding.
By harvesting rainwater, you limit the amount of moisture around your property and thus reduce, if not completely eliminate such damage.
Keep Water Features Filled
If your garden design includes a wildlife pond or similar water feature, then you may find that these have a tendency to dry up in the hot summer months.
Your rain barrel water can be used to fill these up again, keeping them functioning, looking beautiful, and even providing the right environment for wildlife to flourish around your home.
Frequently Asked Questions About Garden Rain Barrels
What do I do when the rain barrel is full? How do I stop it from overflowing?
The best rain barrels will always have a valve or drainage solution to prevent overflowing.
The easiest way is with a rain barrel gutter diverter kit which is designed to shut off when the barrel gets too full.
That way, the water starts flowing through your gutters again until you empty the barrel to make room for more water.
Another option is to buy a barrel with an overflow valve. You can then connect an old piece of pipe or hose to it and control where the excess water will go.
With this approach, you could even connect two or more barrels together and direct the overflow from one into the other.
Do I need to buy any additional equipment to use a rain barrel?
It’s entirely possible to use a barrel effectively without ever investing in any other products.
If you have enough spare piping lying around, you could use this to connect your barrel to the gutter.
That said, you may find that buying a few extra bits of equipment will really help you make the most of your new investment.
Along with the aforementioned gutter diverter kit, you might also want to consider buying a secure, sturdy base like the RTS Home Accents 50-Gallon Rain Water Collection Barrel Stand to elevate your barrel so that it is easier to fit a watering can or jug against it for filling.
Stands like these also improve the water pressure so that your water flows faster through hose pipes, and can be effective in preventing flooding and overflow.
What do state laws say about collecting rainwater?
In a small number of US states such as Arizona, California, North Carolina, and Texas, there are specific rules and regulations about rainwater harvesting which you may need to be aware of.
It’s always worth checking the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) website, which provides up-to-date information on whether or not your state has such laws, and what those laws are.
Conversely, some US states actively encourage rainwater harvesting and you may find that you’re entitled to a rebate on your water bills if you use one.
What’s the best way to take care of my rain barrel?
Along with our advice on rain barrel maintenance, be sure to follow these top tips from gardening expert David The Good on how to make the most of your new barrel.
Good care and maintenance will keep your rain barrel at its best for longer, ensuring you enjoy maximum value for money.
The most important task is to clean out both your barrel and gutters regularly to prevent the kind of blockages and build-ups that could lead to overflow problems.
Likewise, you’ll want to check for holes and other damages that could lead to leaking water and flooding issues.
It’s also worth thinking about what you’ll do with your rain barrel in the winter months when extreme weather could damage it.
If your barrel is not going to be in use, consider bringing it indoors or at least covering it up to protect it from the elements.
How else can I save water while tending to my garden?
Besides using a barrel, there are lots of things you can do to reduce your environmental impact and cut down on your water usage while still creating a beautiful outdoor space.
Take Care of Your Soil
Mulching and adding organic matter to your soil can help improve its structure so that it retains more moisture. The more moisture your soil naturally retains, the less you have to water it.
Many of us water our gardens much more than we need to, so one effective way of reducing our water use is to simply cut back on how often we break out the hose pipe.
One effective way to check if your soil actually needs water is to slide a spade into it. Look at the soil about a spade-deep down. If it’s still damp, it’s still good.
If it’s dried out, however, then yes, it’s time for some watering.
Water When it’s Cool
If you water during the blazing heat of the midday sun, a lot of that water is simply going to evaporate, so you’ll find that it helps to water your garden early in the morning or late in the evening when it’s cooler.
That way, the soil retains more moisture, meaning you get to spend less time watering your garden and more time simply sitting back and enjoying it.