Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rain Barrels for Habitat

A few months ago, we were contacted by Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity about rain barrels. They are building nine houses in Bridgewater, close to the Raritan River, and they were interested in rain barrels. The NJ Water Supply Authority purchased rain barrels, automatic downspout diverters, and soaker hoses to outfit each house with two rain barrels to conserve water and reduce stormwater runoff. The Habitat staff learned how to build the barrels, and built 18 inch high stands for the rain barrels. Habitat staff and volunteers put the rain barrels together and so far, have installed 9 barrels.

This setup is different than the typical setup we have promoted in the past, and from what is in our rain barrel brochure. The automatic diverter eliminates the need for a separate inflow and outflow, as well as the need to reconfigure the downspout each winter. The diverter can stay on your downspout, as it is metal rather than plastic, and only the plastic tubing needs to be removed and the holes plugged up. The barrel should still be drained in late fall.

The setup takes a little more time than just cutting the downspout and adding a flexible downspout attachment, plus an overflow hose to the top of the barrel. In this setup, when the barrel is full, it backs up water in the flexible green hose, which sends the rain water down the regular downspout, which may drain to your yard (we hope), driveway, or the street.

How the automatic diverter works
If you are interested in installing a rain barrel on your house, you should check into an automatic diverter system. Be aware of the material of the diverter (plastic vs. metal) and fully understand the installation before purchasing. Also realize that a diverter system may affect the construction design of the rain barrel itself. These barrels do not have an open top (they are screw off for cleaning) and do not require a mosquito screen.

Happy rain barreling!

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