To prolong the life of your rain barrel, it is necessary to winterize it in places where the temperature regularly drops below freezing and stays below freezing for long periods at a time. If water remains in the rain barrel during these periods of cold, it will freeze, expand, and crack the rain barrel.
In warmer regions where the low temperature is rarely below 35 degrees, winterizing is not necessary. If you do plan to water year-round, whether containers, vegetables, or cool-season bedding plants, keeping the rain barrel functioning is useful. If you do not plan to water during the winter, you can save wear and tear on the rain barrel by winterizing it.
3 Easy Steps to Winterize
- Disconnect the downspout from the rain barrel, and re-connect a downspout extension to the main downspout to funnel water away from the foundation of the house.
- Empty the rain barrel.
- Flip the rain barrel upside-down and store it outside, or, if you have room, move the rain barrel into a garage or basement.
Using the Rain Barrel During Winter
Depending upon the site of the rain barrel, you might be able to use the barrel all winter. In a warm climate, or in a cooler climate with the barrel positioned along a south-facing wall, preferably a south facing brick wall, the water might stay warm enough to keep from freezing. If you plan to keep the barrel up during the winter, you will want to disconnect the hose from the bottom spigot, because the hose might freeze, which can impact the fittings of the spigot.
Leave the spigot open during the winter, unless you specifically want to collect and store water for a particular task. This will allow any water that flows into the barrel to exit promptly without freezing and breaking fittings.
Other Uses for Rain Water
If the garden is put to bed during the winter, but you need “greywater” for other winter tasks, water collected in the rain barrel can be useful. You can use water from the rain barrel to wash your car, wash windows, clean the bathroom, water house plants (after it has been brought to room temperature), fill bird baths, and bathe pets.
Winter Storms, Rain and Snowmelt
Winter is the rainy season for some geographical areas. It also results in heavy snows in other parts of the country. Heavy winter storms-whether they bring rain or snow-can cause stress on the rain collection system. Most rain barrels cannot hold the entire runoff from a roof during a heavy storm. If you keep your rain barrel functioning during the winter, and a storm is predicted, you will want to re-attach the overflow hose to keep the barrel from overflowing at the top and leaking water back to the foundation.
After a heavy snow, the rain barrel can collect the snowmelt, which is high in nutrients and good for watering houseplants once it warms up.
Whether you winterize your rain barrel, or continue to use it throughout colder weather, these tips will help you make sure that your rain barrel lasts for many years.