Rain barrel follow up

Here is more detailed information on the temporary rain barrel set up that finally provided us access to running water (see also 06/24/2009 post). Let’s start with some labels:

The water is coming from the downspout into the homemade diverter assembly, which has a 2-inch discharge into the filter on top of the barrel. The filter is basically a (rusty) metal paint bucket with the bottom cut out. It has a window screen mesh at the bottom so it catches any debris from the roof and keeps mosquitoes from breeding in the barrel.

I can access the water through the three faucets I mounted onto the barrel, but typically use the one in the middle.  The water quality is usually best in the middle, where it tends to stay fresh and cleanest. The water in the bottom may be subject to anaerobic conditions, where as water at the very top may have some fine, floating debris that was not caught in the filter.

Once the barrels are full, excess water is discharged into the yard through a 2-inch overflow assembly. The size of the inflow from the diverter assembly equals the size of the rain barrel overflow, so the water should not back up. I just have to keep an eye on the filter to make sure it doesn’t clog up.

Let’s look a little closer at the home made diverter assembly? I got myself a couple of PVC pipe fittings from the hardware store along with a plastic bucket that is 8” in diameter so that it fits under the 6” downspout. I cut a four-inch round hole in the bottom of the bucket and a two-inch round hole on the side at the very bottom. A 4-inch PVC male adapter hub is fitted into the bucket bottom, while another 2-inch hub is fitted into the smaller hole in the bucket wall and then connected to the rain barrel filter with some piping.

Last but not least I cut out a section out of the downspout where I slid in and placed the diverter assembly. Water coming through the downspout tends to cling to the walls. It then drops into the bucket and is diverted towards the rain barrels. If it rains so hard that more water is coming down the downspout than can pass through the 2-inch diverter, it can overflow into the downspout below through the 4-inch hub in the bottom of the bucket.

I don’t expect this homemade diverter assembly to last forever, but it will do the job for the time being. I will probably purchase a sturdy, prefabricated assembly once I am ready to switch to a permanent solution.


About Marcus de la fleur

Marcus is a Registered Landscape Architect with a horticultural degree from the School of Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Sheffield, UK. He developed a landscape based sustainable pilot project at 168 Elm Ave. in 2002, and has expanded his skill set to building science. Starting in 2009, Marcus applied the newly acquired expertise to the deep energy retrofit of his 100+ year old home in Chicago.

2 thoughts on “Rain barrel follow up

  1. Thanks for posting the design of your diverter assembly. I more-or-less copied it at home, and it works splendidly.
    Since the canister is transparent, you’ll see that my 4″ sits up a bit higher, which basically just puts more workload on the overflow line atop the barrel, but luckily it can only come in as fast as it can go out, given that it’s a garden hose on both sides. 🙂
    I also had the 4″ piece pierce the bottom and continue down about 2 feet from the canister, so that rather than trying to attach the assembly to the bottom half of the downspout, I could just stick that piece of pipe in there and let it rest on top.
    Very clever & simple design. Thanks again for sharing it!

  2. Check these out, I think you can find some interesting designs.

    For installing a faucet on the barrel without silicone (and they have a video on how to install the fitting and there are other companies that sell it, don’t buy it at Home Depot though, their plastic fitting contains lead):


    (I used a hole saw instead of a spade bit, because I already had a hole saw. )

    Compare water flow with regular garden faucet and 1/4 turn ball valve
    (both screw into same size hole and fit a garden hose):


    Inlet and overflow diverter, requires no drilling to install by
    using existing barrel bung hole (I used the overflow to go to a “t” fitting on the next barrel, and then vented that down down to the ground for overflow.):


    Easy connecting as many barrels as you want on the top of the
    barrels with no drilling, and no silicone, with part numbers for the
    pvc parts:


    If you want to put in a manifold to connect the bottom of all barrels to
    a single faucet, here’s a great way to do it without silicone:


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