I know I've touched on this subject before but I figured since its raining today, I'd go into a little detail about rain barrels and how they can be utilized for maximum efficiency. A rain Barrel is generally a 30 to 50 gallon container (generally barrel shaped) that catches the water from the downspouts on your gutters and stores it for later use. Generally, you can fine rain barrels for sale in Home Depot or Lowe's, that cost almost $100.00 just because they have a special label, but thats just insane, and yet another way the stereotype of high cost green living is perpetuated. What is it really, its a barrel with a lid, and a hole drilled 3 inches up from the bottom for a faucet to be installed... So heres how to build your own.
Step 1) Get a barrel. Generally a food grade 50 gallon barrel in blue, black, or white, can be had off Craigslist for less then $15.00 but if you don't have any in your area, go to Wal-Mart (they are everywhere) and pick up a trash can without wheels. Make sure it has a lid, and be sure it doesn't have drain holes in the bottom. It doesn't have to be expensive, it just has to hold at least 40 gallons. they generally run about 14-20 dollars depending on what kind you get.
Step 2) Get a faucet. these don't have to be fancy either, you just need a plastic one, that has a locking nut on the inside and are able to attach a standard garden hose on the outside. this little piece of hardware will run you about 4 dollars, and i suggest getting 2 of them.
Step 3) get a piece of dryer duct flex hosing, and a dryer vent flange. you'll also want to pick up 2 clamps if they don't come with the hose, and 4 bolts with nuts, since you'll be mounting this flange to the lid.
Step 4) Figure out where your going to put it, a good location is on the corner of the building, somewhere close to your driveway.
Step 5) Assembly. Measure up from the bottom 3 inches, drill a small hole big enough for the first faucet to fit though, and put faucet 1 in this location. With the lid on, measure down 1 inch on either side, to the left or right of the main faucet. You don't want it on the back because thats where the water will be coming in. once you have your location, install the second faucet, and open it. This will be the runoff for excess water so your barrel doesn't overflow. I suggest adding a hose to this and running it to your garden to act as irrigation, but you could let it go directly into your where your gutter used to empty into.
Remove the lid, cut a hole big enough for the flange pipe to fit through from the inside, and bolt it to the lid. attach the flex pipe to the piece of pipe sticking up from the outside and place it right in front of the downspout of the gutter. Measure up about a foot and a half from the lid, use a hacksaw and cut the down pipe of the gutter clean off. Connect the other end of the flex pipe to the remaining gutter so that the water from the downspout is diverted into the barrel as opposed to straight into the city's drainage system.
Make sure the bottom faucet is closed! VERY IMPORTANT!
Step 6) wait for it to rain and watch how quickly you fill up! You'll be amazed!
This water can later be used to water your lawn, wash your car, irrigate your garden, you name it, the possibilities are endless!