Demystifying the Downspout Connection
By Jesse Froehlich, ARCSA A.P.
I hope the new season finds you well! Now that autumn has arrived, we’re just waiting for the sky to open with a fresh flush of rain. It’s time to get those gutters cleaned out and to complete that downspout connection in order to be ready to catch as much free-falling rain as you can store!
Often, the last part to complete with a rainwater harvesting system is the downspout connection. I always remind folks that every downspout tie-in is a custom downspout tie-in and you have many options. Because the BlueBarrel System is designed to allow multiple barrels to function efficiently as one larger tank, you will only need to install one inlet to serve all of the barrels in your system. By contrast, if you have multiple free-standing barrels or cisterns, you will need a downspout connection for each. If you’re still looking for the right solution for your own system(s), read below for my notes on a handful of approaches.
Simple Home-Made Downspout Connection
I used a a very quick and inexpensive (yet highly functional) method for my first downspout tie-in: I simply removed the existing downspout and routed all water through my BlueBarrel System using inexpensive Flex-Drain.
I drilled an entry port for the pipe on the top of the closest barrel using a hole saw, and used some silicone caulking to seal the opening after inserting the Flex-Drain.
A 1/16th” rough filter on the inlet is required for keeping leaves and insects out of rainwater catchment systems. To meet this requirement, I simply taped some 1/16th” fiberglass screen to the pipe entry (leopard print duct tape optional!). You can purchase a roll of fiberglass mesh at the hardware store, or re-purpose an old door or window screen.
Finally, I used a pipe strap against the wall to hold the Flex-Drain in place.
Voila! One hour and ten dollars later, my original BlueBarrel System was ready for the rain!
If you choose this simple and inexpensive method for your downspout connection, you will need to drill a second hole in your system to serve as an overflow. Luckily, crafting an overflow is just as easy as crafting an inlet. See the sidebar for some detail on how to install an overflow.
Prefab Downspout Options
As rainwater harvesting gains popularity amongst environmentally- and resource-conscious gardeners, many prefab options for pre-filters, downspout diverters, and other accessories are hitting the market. Every time I go the hardware store I find new products on the shelf. Friedman’s Home Improvement, with locations in Sonoma and Mendocino counties, has been my most consistent source for rainwater harvesting accessories. Harmony Farm Supply in Sebastopol is a tremendous resource for irrigation supplies and expertise, and will be stocking their shelves shortly with various options for rainwater harvesting. The Urban Farmer Store is another trusted source for rainwater harvesting equipment for those in Marin, San Francisco, and the East Bay.
There are many options out there. Read below for my notes on installing just a few of them.