After recently (almost) completing a major electrical project, I needed to do something to clear the mind. Setting up a rain recovery system has been on the to-do list since we moved here and experienced the drought of 2009. I had already acquired four 55-gallon food-class barrels, so a quick trip to the big box to get some wood and plumbing parts, and I was ready to go.
In my prior research of such projects, I found an interesting one on YouTube that was my inspiration (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tdqzn...eature=related). My plan was to have the four barrels setting up on a wood frame, connected together through a manifold system (so all barrels filled and drained equally, connected with one spigot), and filled from the gutter of one large section of roof. I also wanted to have shutoffs between each barrel, so that I could service one barrel without draining the rest, if needed. I would put it against the exterior wall pictured below, tapping into the blue downspout for the water source. It collects rain from a large expanse of roof, so there should be no problem filling 220 gallons.
First step was to rinse out the barrels. One of mine had held peach syrup flavoring, one held distilled vinegar, and two held some other flavorings I couldn’t recognize. All could use a good rinsing!!
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Next step was to build the frame for the barrels to sit on. Each 55-gallon barrel would contain 440 lbs of water when full, so the frame needed to be built strong. I decided to use 4x4 posts, with 2x6 beams notched into the posts.
So the first step was to cut the notches. I figured to bury the posts 16”, and have the barrels sit about 2.5 feet above the ground, so I marked out the notches accordingly.
I then set the depth of my circular saw to 1.5” (actual thickness of 2x material). I carefully cut the marked ends of the notch, then I quickly made a bunch of cuts between the ends, about ½ inch apart. Once cut, I took a hammer and tapped out the middle pieces. A bit of trimming with a sharp chisel, and the notch was good to go.
I laid out the posts and 2x6 against the actual barrels, to determine where to trim the 2x6. Transferred that measurement to the 2nd 2x6, and cut. I secured the 2x6 boards into the notches using 3/8” x 2 1/2” lag bolts
I then made 45˚ cuts on the two leftover 2x6 pieces to make some extra supports for one side. I then used the leftover 45˚ cut pieces to shore up the other side. Waste not, want not!
Now for the fun part: Digging holes for the posts. I did the back side first, and started with the right side, since it was slightly up-slope from the left side. Dug the right side 16”, then the left side slightly less, until the 2x6 span was level. I then cemented the posts into the holes.
Then did the front side – same technique. I only needed a couple pieces of scrap wood to hold the assemblies against the house for support during curing overnight.
Next day, I placed the barrels on the frame, and determined where to place the 2x4 supports – two per barrel. I wanted the supports to straddle the middle of the barrel, so the plumbing would be accessible underneath. Once spaced properly, I screwed in the supports using 2.5” decking screws.
Next, I took a bung from each barrel, and drilled out the insides. Most bungs have a ¾” threaded hole in the middle, which just needs the cap drilled out to use. I planned to screw in a PVC male fitting, to which I could glue in the rest of the PVC plumbing.
Continuing to prep the barrels, I drilled a ¾” hole into the bottom of each barrel. The barrels would be mounted upside down, and these holes would be on top, as air pressure relief holes. To keep bugs and trash out of the barrels, I cut discs out of some leftover window screen material, and secured them to the barrels using a good quality outdoor/waterproof silicone.
Before permanently mounting the barrels to the frame, I removed the remaining bungs, and re-inserted them using a heavy dose of Rectorseal pipe thread sealant. I used the same treatment for the PVC fittings screwed into the drilled-out bungs. Sealing these was a critical step, as unsealed plastic bungs are notorious for leaking when the barrels are on their side or upside-down.
Before I did any plumbing setup, I wanted the barrels to be secured. Easy enough: I positioned the barrels to their final places, and simply drilled them in with 2.5” deck screws (2 per barrel; one front, one back). That kept them from moving when I started gluing up pipe.
As I started cutting and dry-fitting the PVC, I realized that I could support my manifold system by having the center pipe – the one to be attached to the spigot – come out of the 2x6 beam through a hole. This also allowed me to screw the spigot into the beam, providing rock-solid support.
As you can see, the plumbing was straight-forward: Each barrel feeds into a horizontal run, with shut-offs between each barrel. Between the middle-two barrels, a tee branches off forward, attached to a male threaded fitting, which attached to a female-threaded spigot. Careful spacing allowed the spigot to be secured to the wood with two deck screws.
Finally, routed a hose to the top of the first barrel, and ran enough water to put a couple inches in all the barrels. No leaks, no obstructions, and the water ran out the spigot nicely!
Now things got tricky. I wanted to create some kind of diverter, so that water coming off the roof would first be routed to the barrels. When the barrels were full, the water could then be routed to the underground pipe, to be carried away from the house.
My first plan was to use a flexible pipe, and manually move the end to the barrel top or a section of downspout, as needed. However, I was unhappy with the quality of flexible drain pipe I was able to get at the big box stores (tried orange and blue; same products).
Next, I decided to build something on my own. I tried to fabricate a diverter paddle, which would fit into a gutter downspout. I’d have the top cutter angled to feed toward the barrel, and use the diverter paddle to route the water to the barrel or downspout.
Alas, my skills as a metal fabricator sucked. My home-made paddle just didn’t fit well inside the gutter pieces once I put one piece into another. I never even got around to determining how to keep the mess from leaking. After a couple hours of trying, I finally gave up for the night.
Next day, I made a trip to the big box, to see what else I could come up with. The gutter parts in roofing looked just as inadequate as the last time. However, a guy there suggested I check out plumbing for parts that might help. In plumbing, a knowledgeable associate helped me come up with a bludgeon of a solution.
I started with a shutoff. The largest they had was 2”; however, I felt I needed a 3” main drain to handle the water volume that could come off this roof. So I put a conversion fitting above the shutoff, and put in a 3” pipe with a branch-off. The branch-off plumbed to the underground runoff pipe. Hard to describe, but the photos show the story.
So, the way this works: When the shutoff is open, water will fall straight down into the barrel. When the shutoff is closed, water backs up, and has to divert through the branch-off.
After messing around with my crude diverter paddle idea, this version seems like a scientific wonder!
I cut and dry-fit all the pieces, then glued it up. I added a strap around the top the long vertical pipe to secure it to the house.
…okay, not quite finished. I still need to get a ring clamp to secure the screen that filters water coming out of the gutter feed. Also, I want to add some cross-bracing on the ends of the frame, to give it a bit more rigidity. But basically it’s ready for tonight’s scheduled rain!
Not bad for a 2.5 day project. Tomorrow, guess I’ll get back to cleaning up the electrical project. Tonight, I relax.
Nice setup, I have 5 of the 55g barrels, one is in my greenhouse
I've been thinking of how I want to hook them up
I don't have an area that is behind the garage out of sight
So my setup(s) will need to be "finished" to blend in
I also picked up (2) 275/300g tanks to connect
I'd love to pickup a bigger tank
You see people with a 3000g tank to collect rainwater & use the water for their house too
I'd love to convert my toilets & use rainwater
Crazy to use drinking water to flush a toilet
Just noticed your location...I guess freezing is not a huge problem