Rain barrels are a great way to save energy and money throughout the growing season, but for those who live in cooler climates, rain barrels can be problematic when temperatures drop below freezing. Preparing your rain barrel for winter can prolong its life and save you from replacing it anytime soon.
Step 1: Drain your rain barrel completely once the growing season has ended. Run the discharge hose over to an established tree or use the remaining water on other nearby vegetation. Plants need moisture throughout the winter, so water away.
Step 2: Clear away any debris whether it is on the top of the barrel, inside its strainer basket or in the down spout itself. Now is a good time to trim back vegetation or tree branches that may have grown around the area.
Step 3: Remove the drainage and overflow hoses and store them in a safe and protected area. Keeping garden hoses out of the elements will prevent them from prematurely cracking or hardening.
Step 4: Open the spigot located at the bottom of the barrel and leave it open until spring arrives. This will allow any water that may accumulate in the barrel to flow freely out and onto the ground.
Step 5: Once the hoses have been removed and the bottom spigot has been opened, it is typically safe to leave the rain barrel in place over the winter. Ideally, any melting snow or winter rain will flow through the barrel and out the spigot without doing damage to the barrel itself.
Step 6: If the empty rain barrel is removed and stored indoors for the winter, it is imperative to extend the existing downspout down and away from the home’s foundation. An easy way to do this is to purchase a flexible downspout extension and attach it to the existing downspout using short, self-drilling, sheet metal screws. Downspouts and extensions should always be secured into place using sheet metal screws to prevent them from slipping loose. Improperly drained gutters are the No. 1 cause of damage to home foundations.
Step 7: When spring draws near and the threat of one more deep winter freeze has passed, close the rain barrel’s spigot, reattach the overflow and drainage hoses and start using your virtually free water supply once again.