Browse our FAQs for answers to our most frequently asked questions about rainwater harvesting, the BlueBarrel Rainwater Catchment System™ and our DIY RainKits™. This video answers many of our most frequently asked questions as well:
- 0:00 – About BlueBarrel, and the story behind the barrels
- 0:45 – Example BlueBarrel Systems from all over the USA
- 2:00 – Creative configurations and designs
- 5:00 – Special system features and customizations
- 7:25 – How to customize your own system on BlueBarrel’s website
- 11:40 – Popular rainwater harvesting accessories
- 12:30 – Gravity-fed drip irrigation gear
- 13:40 – How to order a single-barrel setup
*NOTE: This video was produced in October of 2020. Pricing, locations, and other information presented are subject to change.
Video credit: Thanks to FlowsToBay for producing this video!*
FlowsToBay is a public outreach campaign supporting clean water and watershed health in San Mateo County, CA. This video highlights local examples but keep in mind BlueBarrel serves customers all over the USA!
Frequently Asked Questions:
Do barrels come in any color besides blue?
We use blue barrels for one key reason: blue is the industry standard food-grade. The blue HDPE plastic is also naturally UV resistant. While these barrels do come in a few other colors, other colors are not necessarily food-grade, and are more likely to have contained toxics.
Please note: opacity and UV-resistance are important! If you start with white or translucent barrels, you’ll get algae growth faster than you can say “Hey, what’s that green stuff growing in my barrels?!” If blue doesn’t please your palette, you can paint barrels, or mask them in a number of creative ways. See our photo gallery for examples of painted and hidden barrels, although you’ll notice the majority of our customers choose to boast their blue!
How do I know if I can catch enough water to fill a rainwater catchment system?
You’ll be amazed at how much water you can catch off your rooftop, even in a very dry climate. You’ll get over 0.6 gallons per square foot of rooftop for every inch of rain that falls upon it. If you’re collecting off a 1,000 square foot rooftop, you’ll get 600 gallons for every single inch of rain. In climates with long dry seasons, the key to rainwater harvesting is as much storage as possible. An efficient multi-barrel design like the BlueBarrel System is a great way to maximize storage with limited space and budget. Click here for more sizing tools including our rainwater catchment system sizing calculator.
Can I drink rainwater?
Not without treatment. While falling rain is generally the cleanest water you’ll find anywhere, stored rainwater has been exposed to anything that’s on your roof, so for that reason it’s not potable. Check your local outdoors store for treatment units that purify rainwater for regular potable use. Stored rainwater is still a great emergency drinking water supply—it can be treated with the same methods that backpackers and off-gridders use.
What are the barrels made of – how do I know they’re safe?
All barrels that come through BlueBarrel’s participating barrel suppliers are made of UN-rated HDPE food-grade plastic, and yes, they are BPA free. These are the internationally-approved vessels for safe and secure shipping of food-grade liquids worldwide. You can view the prior contents of barrels from each of our participating barrel supplier locations when you use the barrel search in our Online Store.
What did the barrels have in them?
Most of our barrel suppliers come to us from the food & beverage industry. Examples of previous barrel contents are grape juice concentrate, brandy cordial flavoring, food flavorings, pure ethyl alcohol, and organic fertilizers. You will find out what was in your barrels before you select your barrel supplier in our online store. And remember: Stored rainwater is not potable without treatment, so it’s really your plants you’re thinking about here. They should appreciate any traces of organic matter your barrels may contain!
How big are the barrels?
Barrels are 55 gallons each, and with BlueBarrel’s unique under-plumbed design, you can actually access all 55 gallons of water (most rain barrels don’t allow easy access to up to 25% of stored water). Barrels are 35″ tall and 23″ in diameter. You should plan 2′ x 2′ footprint for each barrel, and a finished system height of 3’8″including foundation blocks. Barrels weigh 20 pounds empty (and almost 500 pounds full!). Click here for sample barrel specs. Click here for full BlueBarrel Rainwater Catchment System™ dimension details.
Do you ship the barrels?
No. The RainKit™ and other rainwater harvesting accessories will ship to your doorstep, but shipping barrels is cost-prohibitive (and has a large carbon footprint!) so we make the barrels available to you locally at our barrel pickup sites throughout the USA. Some of our participating barrel suppliers DO offer independent barrel delivery services. You will see barrel delivery options and pricing in the barrel supplier listings when you get to our online store.
Do you ship Internationally?
Yes. While we don’t ship barrels themselves (see above), all of our kits and accessories are mail-order and we can send them to any address in the world. If our website won’t take your address, contact us for a shipping quote.
What if there’s no barrel pickup site in my region?
Never fear! We are add new participating barrel suppliers frequently! If we don’t have a barrel supplier listed in your region, please fill out our barrel supplier request form and we will help you find compatible barrels near you. If you would like to become a participating barrel supplier, please click here to read about program details and submit our Barrel Supplier Intake Form at the bottom of the page.
How many barrels can I fit in my vehicle?
Good question! Barrels are 35″ tall with a 23″ diameter, so you will need a 35 x 23 x 23″ space for each. Here’s a list of max loads for common vehicle sizes. Remember, some (but not all) of our barrel suppliers offer delivery services if that’s your preference. This info is for estimating only. Car manufacturers have model variations and they change their dimensions each year but this list should give you a general idea:
- 1 Barrel – Four-door sedan or coupe (e.g. Honda Civic)
- 2 Barrels – Station wagon or hatchback (e.g. Subaru Outback; Toyota Prius hatchback with seats down)
- 3 Barrels – SUV (e.g. Toyota Highlander with seats down)
- 5 Barrels – Mini pickup truck with tailgate closed (e.g. Chevy S10)
- 7 Barrels – Full-sized pickup truck with tailgate closed OR mini pickup truck with tailgate open and barrels strapped securely.
- 10 Barrels – Full-sized pickup truck with tailgate open and barrels strapped securely (e.g. Dodge Ram)
- 15 Barrels – Utility van with no seats
- 24 Barrels – 10′ moving truck (e.g. UHaul)
- 46 Barrels – 15′ moving truck (e.g. UHaul)
- 120 Barrels – 26′ moving truck (e.g. UHaul)
What if I already have my own barrels?
Then you’re one step ahead! Just choose the “RainKit without Barrels” option in interactive online store. It will ask you a few basic questions about your barrels to make sure they’re compatible with our DIY RainKit™. And if they are not, you can always order compatible barrels through our participating barrel suppliers.
I have barrels to sell. How can I become an approved barrel supplier?
Click here to learn about our Barrel Exchange Program™ and fill out the intake form to get started with the screening process.
How much space does each barrel require?
Each barrel in a BlueBarrel System™ requires a 2′ x 2′ footprint. The completed system will be 3’8″ tall if you use our standard cinder block foundation. Click here for detailed dimensional requirements.
How many barrels should I install?
What’s the best place for a BlueBarrel System™?
There are a few basic criteria to consider when finding the perfect spot for your system. Check out our short video and siting guidelines here.
I’m a renter. Can I install a BlueBarrel System™ if I don’t own the home?
YES!!! Of course we recommend you get your landlord’s permission, but most landlords will say yes if you can help them understand a few key details:
- For a BlueBarrel System, the only modification to the building is a hole in the downspout, and downspouts are inexpensive to patch or replace.
- The BlueBarrel System™ is easy to take apart and put back together again, so you’ll be able to take it with you when you move. (However we’ve heard many a story of landlords offering to buy BlueBarrel Systems from their tenants so they can continue enjoying the benefits!)
- Rainwater harvesting is a great way to save water. If your landlord pays your water bill, they should be on board!
- Rainwater harvesting not only saves water, it is also a great way to help water infiltrate back into the ground. If your site uses well-water, a rainwater catchment system will help keep your landlord’s well from running dry.
- Rainwater harvesting mitigates stormwater impacts. Your rain barrels will reduce runoff and pooling, which will help protect the building foundation and surrounding environs.
- The BlueBarrel System is designed to send overflow down the normal course of the downspout so excess water will go where it always went.
What happens to the overflow in a BlueBarrel System™?
The downspout diverter that we include with our DIY RainKit™ handles overflow automatically, sending extra water down the original course of your downspout. The beautiful thing about this is that you don’t have to re-do your existing drainage. Of course if you’re in the mood to build a rain garden to infiltrate your overflow, Mother Earth will thank you!
How do I keep mosquitoes out of my BlueBarrel System™?
It’s a great question, and something you’d need to worry about if you were building rain barrels from scratch, or installing poorly designed pre-fab models. Luckily, the BlueBarrel Rainwater Catchment System™ is designed to exclude mosquitoes 100%, in keeping with established standards. Click here for details about mosquito prevention.
Do I need to strap rain barrels for safety?
Probably not, but you may want to anyway. Here’s how.
Can I stack rain barrels vertically?
The quick answer is yes. But there are a number of safety considerations as well as functional ones. We included our best recommendations in this customer highlight, featuring a stacked BlueBarrel Rainwater Catchment System.
What’s included in the RainKit™?
Each BlueBarrel DIY RainKit™ includes a downspout diverter* with pre-filter and flexible inlet hose, barrel caps, tee-in adapters, plumbing fittings, screened vent pieces, isolation valves, no-kink spigot, high-flow bottom drain (for ready hook-up to a gravity-fed drip irrigation system), do-not-drink stickers, BlueBarrel decals, non-toxic prima-glue, sealants, full-color photo-illustrated instructions, Maintenance & Operations Manual, and FREE online access toBlueBarrel’s Complete How-To Video Series.
Our online store will also let you choose optional system features and accessories. A few simple tools are required for installation. You’ll have the option to include those with your order if you don’t have them already.
What else will I need?
You will need to purchase your own 3/4″ PVC pipe (because it’s inexpensive and readily available but expensive to ship; and you get to customize your own lengths to fit your site). You will also need two (2) standard 8x8x16″ cinder blocks for your footings. If you’re working on bare soil, you may want to lay down some crush base rock to stabilize the surface… and of course you’ll need gutters and downspouts on your house!
What’s the difference between the RainKit™ and Add-On Kit?
The Add-On Kit is for customers who have a BlueBarrel Rainwater Catchment System™ already. It includes the same components as the RainKit, but there is no downspout diverter, spigot, or drain valve because you already have these on your original system. The Add-On Kit also includes an extra isolation-valve, couplings, and a special sheet of instructions for a smooth transition as you add new barrels. You will have the same options to select accessories when you order an Add-On Kit, so you may choose to include an extra diverter, spigot, or high-flow drain valve if you would like more of these.
Does BlueBarrel offer a single rain barrel option?
Yes we do. The classic BlueBarrel Rainwater Catchment System™ with all the benefits of our unique under-plumbed design is a multi-barrel system, connecting 2 or more barrels together for maximized access to stored water and optimized flow. But we do sell a single-barrel kit for those who are intent on it. You’ll find it in our accessories menu. Barrels sold separately here.
If you want two (or more) single-barrel systems that are tapped from the bottom, you can order a RainKit along with extra downspout diverters, spigots, and drain valves for each barrel. For example, if you want two single-barrel systems, order a 2-Barrel RainKit, and then add an extra diverter, spigot, and drain from our accessories menu. Then you can split out the parts to build two separate rain barrels.
Do I need to have gutters and downspouts on my house?
Yes. Our standard downspout diverter installs easily into your existing downspout to divert the rainwater into your barrels. When all barrels are full, the overflow automatically goes down the normal course of your downspout. Our standard downspout diverter works with 2″x3″, 3″x3″, and 3″x4″ rectangular downspouts. If you have round downspouts between 3″ and 4″ in diameter, PLEASE CALL US TO PLACE A SPECIAL ORDER. We do have special diverters for round downspouts.
Do I need to install a First Flush Diverter?
No you do not, and in fact we don’t recommend them in most cases. Click here for more information about why. Our DIY RainKits come with a downspout diverter that has an inlet screen. For more robust pre-filtration we recommend a leaf eater.
How long will my BlueBarrel System™ last?
The barrels are made from thick, durable, UV-resistant, food-grade plastic and our unique design keeps plumbing protected from the sun and physical impacts. We recommend you install your system in a fairly shady spot. Once you install your BlueBarrel System™, it won’t go anywhere until you move it!
How much maintenance does the BlueBarrel System™ require?
Hardly any! The most important thing will be to clean your gutters seasonally, or use a reliable gutter guard (you can add a Leaf Eater to your order from the accessories menu in our online store). Screen filters are easy to check and clean. The barrels themselves do not require regular cleaning. The BlueBarrel System’s unique under-plumbed design allows for full drainage so you won’t collect sediments in the bottom of your barrels. Studies show the thin “biofilm” that develops around the inner surface hosts a beneficial biology, and that helps keep stored water cleaner. Check out our simple BlueBarrel M&O Manual (included with the DIY RainKit) for more detail.
Can I move my BlueBarrel System™ after I install it?
The BlueBarrel System™ is designed so that it can be taken apart and put back together. Barrels can be detached from the plumbing individually, and the cinder block foundation can be lifted and moved to a different site. Installation does require a hole in your downspout, but the downspout diverter included in our DIY RainKit™ can be removed and reused on a different downspout. Downspouts are inexpensive to patch or replace.
How difficult is it to install a BlueBarrel System™?
We call it an intermediate do-it-yourself (DIY) project. If you have construction or plumbing experience, this project will be a breeze, but if you’ve never held a drill, it might be a little over your head. If you’re comfortable with basic household fix-its, can take measurements, aren’t afraid of a power drill, and can lift 20 lbs. at a time, then this project is probably right up your alley. As with many projects, an extra set of hands always helps, so recruit a friend to help you out – and then help them build theirs!
How long does it take to install a BlueBarrel System™?
That depends on the size of your system. A BlueBarrel System™ can be as small as 2 barrels and as large as 50 or more! A person with building experience will need about 30 minutes per barrel, but beginners may budget a little more time. If your ground surface needs significant leveling, you might dedicate one day to your foundation and another day to the BlueBarrel System installation. If the sun sets before you’re done, never fear! You can always continue on another day, but be sure to cover all your barrel openings and move your plumbing fixtures indoors. You don’t want any little creatures crawling in to an unfinished system while you’re not looking!
What if I’m not a do-it-yourselfer?
Order your RainKit™ and then call your local landscape professional or handyperson to install it for you. Our products are designed to be user-friendly for the DIY-er. Installation of a BlueBarrel Rainwater Catchment System™ is a beginner-to-intermediate DIY project. If you choose to hire a third-party installer, concerns related to the quality of installation services should be directed to the service provider. BlueBarrel does not assume liability for the work of installers.
Why would I choose the BlueBarrel System™ over other options that are available?
We were hoping you’d ask! Check out the unique features of our system here. We think you’ll be impressed. And our price per gallon can’t be beat−even if you’re trying to jerry-rig something on your own (we’ve got stories!), so what have you got to lose?
How much does the BlueBarrel System cost?
We use dynamic pricing, which means the more barrels you include in your BlueBarrel Rainwater Catchment System™, the less you pay per 55-gallon unit. Our interactive online store lets you customize your order and it will price out your combination as you go. Visit our pricing page for a current listing of pricing for systems of different sizes.
How do I get a rebate for my BlueBarrel System?
Many cities, counties, and water agencies offer rebates for rainwater harvesting. Check out our list of rebates and incentives to find rebates in your area. If you don’t see any listed in your region, contact your local water agency or municipality to see if they offer any incentives. New rebate programs are popping up regularly throughout the USA. It is the customer’s responsibility to apply for rebates. BlueBarrel cannot guarantee eligibility. BlueBarrel provides itemized receipts that will qualify you for most rain barrel rebates.
Can I just go to the hardware store and piece together my own rainwater catchment system?
Sure you can. But we’ve found that most folks (even experienced builders) make the same mistakes the first time, and some of the necessary parts are hard to find. We can share many stories of well-meaning DIY-ers who hoped to save money by staking out on their own and spent up to four times as much as they would have with our RainKit™. All this on top of many trips to the hardware store, a project that dragged on and on, and design flaws that can’t be reversed without starting over.
We’ve worked out all the kinks, so let us lend a hand for a successful first-time experience. We think you’ll find our RainKit even saves you a few bucks given the trouble-shooting (and repeat trips to the store) most first-timers go through. Your result will be a clean-looking system that drains every gallon of storage capacity and meets plumbing code standards.
Keep in mind that if you go the solo route, your result may be a rainwater catchment system made from blue barrels—and you may do a stellar job, to boot!—but it won’t be a BlueBarrel System™, which is a proprietary design of BlueBarrel, LLC, and the trademark we stand behind. Click here for a full list of advantages that the BlueBarrel System™ offers.
How are you able to offer such a high quality rainwater harvesting solution at such a low cost?
Waste is expensive (in more ways that one), and we’ve focused our efforts on eliminating as much waste as possible. The customizable nature of our DIY RainKit™ means you don’t pay for tools you already have. We also optimize the amount of non-toxic glue and sealant for your complete order. And most of all, by facilitating a local exchange of high-quality recycled barrels, we’ve cut out the tremendous expense of manufacturing, storing, and shipping bulky barrels.
Where are you located – can I come see a system?
Our office and fulfillment center are in northern California, but our business model is online mail-order. You’ll use our interactive online store to customize your system. All RainKits and accessories ship to your doorstep, and we have barrel pickup sites conveniently located all over the USA! You can view many examples of our customers’ BlueBarrel Systems™ featured on our testimonials page and in our online photo gallery.
What’s your return policy?
We accept returns of any unopened and undamaged merchandise within 30 days of purchase. On behalf of our participating barrel suppliers, we maintain a no-return policy on barrels. See more return policy details in our online store, and in our complete Terms of Service.
Can BlueBarrel help me plan my system?
Yes of course! Contact us for help by phone or email.