Rain water collection or rain water harvesting is becoming more and more popular these days as people become more aware of the many benefits and possible uses of diverted rainwater. Instead of allowing rain water falling on a roof top to drain in limited spots around the perimeter of a home's foundation or else be channeled into the sewer system, rain water can be collected in rain barrels, conserved and put to good use. Assuming your home already has a gutter system and downspouts, rain water collection systems can be fairly simple and relatively low cost or they can be very elaborate systems which run into thousands of dollars. Collected or harvested rain water can be used to water plants, gardens, lawns, house plants, for cleaning or washing and to distribute rain water to sheltered or protected areas which don't normally get much water. Rain water is naturally soft and free of fluoride, chlorine and other additives found in tap water and is healthier for plants and the lack of hardness improves cleaning and washing. Rain water is perfect for washing your car leaving no hardness spots. There can be savings too on the purchase of city water if significant rain water is collected and used instead. How much rain water can be collected? Even very small roofs, say for example a 1000 square feet roof is capable of collecting up to 600 gallons of rain water run off with 1 inch of rain accumulation. Quick rule of thumb to estimate how much water falls off your roof with a 1" rainfall, is to multiple the square footage of your roof by 3/5th. Most rain water collection involves some variation of a rain barrel or storage tank and those average about 55 gallons in size. They fill up surprisingly quickly with a decent rainfall. What do you need to get started? To collect rain from most roofs, you usually need to have a gutter system with downspouts. Flat roofs with low retaining walls require roof scuppers or rain spouts feeding scupper boxes and downspouts. If you don't yet have a gutter system then get one not only to harvest rain water but to protect the walls and foundation of your building from water damage. Now assuming you have a gutter or roof drainage system with downspouts, you need to splice into, attach or insert a downspout diverter or rain water diverter into one or all of your downspouts. A downspout diverter simply put has a two-way valve which can either divert the roof rain water flowing through the downspout into a rain barrel, storage container or tank or otherwise allow the rain water to exit the downspout normally.
Virtually any style. type and size of gutters and downspouts will work. Downspout rain diverters are available for rectangular corrugated downspouts (shown above), smooth square or rectangular downspouts and round downspouts in virtually any durable gutter downspout material such as aluminum, copper, zinc, galvalume or stainless steel. Rusty steel gutters and downspouts should be refinished or replaced though to prevent staining. There is no reason to use plastic downspout diverters or rain collection system parts. Plastic gutters and downspouts may detract from your home's appearance and are not as strong or as durable with temperature extremes, UV radiation and such as metal gutters and downspouts. Among metal gutters and downspouts, copper gutters are the most attractive pick, for copper requires no finishing, coating or paint, copper requires no maintenance, copper weathers beautifully with it's own built-in natural corrosion protection, copper is the most durable architectural metal lasting nearly a century and copper is 100% recyclable when it finally is replaced. This also makes copper the greenest, most environmentally friendly choice. Copper is also unique in that it possesses remarkable natural antimicrobial and fungicidal properties which are a great attribute for gutter and rain water collection systems. The small traces of copper salts present in the runoff water are also needed and healthy for plants and vegetation as well as for humans and animals.
To keep large debris from clogging up your gutters, downspouts and entering your rain collection it is advisable to at minimally use a downspout strainer at the top of each downspout and better yet gutter screens or gutter guards to catch even smaller debris from entering. An inline downspout cleanout or cleanout box may be also be used to filter larger debris and are designed to be serviceable closer to the ground. Some sort of basic filtration or screen may also be used at the input to your rain barrel, container or storage tank. Screening or filtering placed inside or over all exposed openings and sealing or caulking any gaps also helps prevent mosquito breeding. The rain downspout diverters pictured above are designed to present no restriction and allow full flow downs throughout the downspout system. Some types of diverters and also use of rain barrel screening with very tight mesh or foam filtering can restrict your water flow and cause excessive back pressure or backup where eventually your gutters might overflow. Using larger diameter downspouts and downspout conductor head reservoirs inline high up on the downspout can help alleviate this and maintain flow.
Storage tanks, containers and rain barrels come in hundreds of styles, shapes, sizes and materials. They can range from costing virtually nothing such as old discarded metal or food grade plastic barrels or large containers to ornamental urns with decorative planters on top, architecturally attractive lined wooden containers, faux granite or terra cotta and even hidden tanks underground or low profile tanks under a deck. Use your own personal preference as to the look, shape, size and materials for your rain water collection container as long as you ensure the top is enclosed and other exposed openings such as the overflow outlet are screened to keep out mosquitos, bugs, wildlife and domestic small animals. Unless they are already present, the rain barrel or tank container should allow you to cut openings to attach or insert your downspout pipe and plumbing fittings such as a faucet to which you can also attach a water hose. Rutland Gutter Supply is one of the largest downspout gutter suppliers in the world and can equip you with virtually everything you need to set up your rain collection system such as downspout diverters, downspout extensions, downspout brackets, downspout elbows, downspout offsets, downspout goosenecks, downspout adapters, downspout strainers, downspout clean-out box, downspout conductor leader heads and gutter screens. Visit Rutland's downspout diverter - rain diverter web page to gather more ideas, explore the links or just get started collecting rain water. Rain barrels or storage containers can be such stylized and very individual choice, you should decide what kind of look you want or prefer and easily obtain your choice from many local sources. Plumbing fittings for hose attachment, screening and caulking for your rain water container are all available from any hardware or home improvement store. This has been a general overview of rain water collection. In future blogs we will go into more detail on rain water collection system installation, sophisticated underground water tanks with pumps and water lines, filtering and disinfecting the rain water for potable use, rain water conservation benefits and useful ideas on constructing your own custom rain barrels or decorative water tanks.