In the quest for water self-sufficiency, one of the easiest and most baseline sources of water for preppers to take advantage of is rainwater harvesting.
This is usually done by collecting the water coming through your rain gutters and down through your downspout.
It doesn’t need to be complicated, but to get a simple system setup, there are a few bits of groundwork and supplies.
Table of Contents
- The 3 Best Downspout Diverters
- Best Downspout Extensions
- Best Downspout Filters
- Best Rain Barrels:
- Best Gutter Downspout Guards
- DIY—Want to create your own?
- Ready to Give it a Shot?
The 3 Best Downspout Diverters
One of the most import components of the whole thing is your downspout diverter. The diverter is the part that redirects water from running straight down the downspout and out into the landscaping, into a water barrel (or series of barrels).
Make sure to get a downspout diverter that is easy to install and high quality, so it doesn’t fail you in the middle of a rainstorm.
If you don’t already have one, these are the 3 best to check out:
A simple piece that connects directly to your downspout, the Gutterworks Inline Downspout Diverter makes collecting rainwater a breeze.
Part of what makes this downspout diverter so special is its versatility. If you want to place your barrel right in front of it, water will pour directly in. Should you opt for a larger barrel, you can connect a more elaborate tube system for longer transport to bigger collection basins.
As a failsafe for when your barrel reaches capacity, a simple flip of a switch turns the diverter system back into a traditional gutter and downspout. Rather than allow your barrels to overflow, the switch makes it so that rain runs to, and out, the downspout.
- Comes in two different sizes (2×3 & 3×4)
- Multiple color options
- Complete diverter is on the larger size, requires additional room for installation
If you’ve had the pleasure of tapping a Maple tree, you’ll have no problem figuring out how the Earthminded Flexfit Diverter works and is installed (and if you live in an area where you can’t get syrup in your backyard, it’s not a difficult process to learn).
Due to the smaller opening, this diverter makes the most sense for people placing barrels directly under their downspouts. While rain frequency and roof size should not completely regulate your purchase, it must be considered. If you plan on collecting rainwater off of a smaller roof, or even a shed, there is not a better diverter out there.
- Built-in overflow protection
- Easily installed into new or existing downspouts
- Only fits 3×4 rectangular downspouts
It might take a few steps to install, but the Oatey Rainwater Diverter is about as effective of a system as any other. Thanks to a seamless design, the structure of your existing downspout is unchanged, but waterflow certainly is. With four feet of hosing included, you can easily build this system to fit your home.
One of only downsides is that there is no overflow protection. For most people this is not a big deal. On the other hand, for those who are saving their water for a “rainy” day, or who do not have overflow protection in their actual barrels, it could lead to flooding in the immediate area. Bottom line, use the water you collect and you have nothing to worry about.
- UV Coating is not weakened if you paint the diverter
- Requires minimal changes to existing downspout
- Only fits 2×3 rectangular downspouts (Know your size!)
Best Downspout Extensions
If you have more rainwater than can fit in 1 barrel, the best thing to do is get more barrels, and connect them in sequence, so that you can continue to harvest water.
But whether you have 1 barrel or many, if you aren’t using your rainwater quick enough, eventually you will have too much to hold.
What do you do with the rainwater you cannot collect? Do you let it pool around the foundation of your house, which over time will cause considerable and costly structural damage? Absolutely not.
If you don’t want flooding, and you don’t want damage, you need to reroute the excess water. This is usually done with a downspout extension (also called a downspout extender) or splash block. Thanks to a variety of products, finding the perfect fit for your home is no problem.
While some are more complicated than others, all products of this nature have the same goal—get the water away from your home. As to how they accomplish this, that’s where things start to differ.
Downspout extenders and splash block’s come in all shapes and sizes. Additionally, they can be installed above or below the surface. They’re easy to see and serve a practical purpose.
You won’t trip over them and they require little to no maintenance. As long as they’re installed properly, this is a water collection component that you can set and forget.
These are our 3 favorites, which you can see below. By giving you a little taste of the variety out there, we know that you’ll be able to find an extender that works for you.
Best Downspout Filters
These components go by many names—filters, downspout screens or strainers. Regardless of what you call it, they serve the same purpose. These protect your downspout from clogging at the hands of leaves, debris and anything else floating around the air.
Downspout screens make it so you do not need to regularly clean your gutters since they will not become clogged as easily. Additionally, they ensure rainwater is the only thing getting through your downspout. As long as you’re okay going all the way up to the top of your roof, installing a proper screen will pay off in dividends.
There are people out there who are stuck with the antiquated perception that filters, screens and strainers don’t work. This is because they haven’t had the pleasure of using the right one. Even ten years ago, these claims were valid—now, not so much.
In the past, these measures have been both ineffective and difficult to maintain. Thanks to recent advances and a considerable amount of resources allocated to perfecting their designs, there are now effective products available. Below, we’ve included the two we’ve found to work the best.
Best Rain Barrels:
Where does the water you collect go? Even though you’ll be using it to water your lawn, plants and for a variety of other things, you can’t just fill a watering can. You need a large barrel with a system in place for you to use the water without moving the tank. That’s where rain barrels come in.
These aren’t your typical barrels. On the outside, they appear rather plain. Inside, they feature a variety of protections that ensure your water remains pure and unaffected by any external hazards. Between screens to keep bugs and debris out and strong seals keeping the structure intact, these are of vital importance. Not to mention, these won’t leak.
Since these barrels will sit outside, unprotected from the sun, they need UV protection. While water can never go “bad”, without additional protection, harmful chemicals will infiltrate your water supply. With this protection, you don’t need to worry about keeping your water safe, it will be ready for when you need it.
Getting one of these is non-negotiable. Having a rain collection system without a proper barrel is pointless. Take a look at our top choices for rain barrels below.
Best Gutter Downspout Guards
If your roof sits below large trees, or is otherwise exposed to a lot of debris, you’re going to need a little more protection. That’s where gutter downspout guards come in.
Rather than cover only where your downspout and gutter connect, Gutter guards span the length of your roof. Whether you have 22 feet or 5100 feet of gutter to cover, companies like Flexxpoint have you covered.
At minimum, gutter downspout guards will prevent excess leaves and debris from clogging your gutters. At peak efficiency, these additional fixtures will help you dramatically cut down on the number of times you need to get up on the roof and clean out your gutters (or hire someone to do the same thing).
DIY—Want to create your own?
Sometimes buying a standard product doesn’t help fill all of our needs. Sometimes we need to take things into our own hands if we want them done right. Collecting rainwater is not exempt from this.
Well, if you’re more of a DIY-type person, you’re in luck. You can get a kit that requires a little more assembly, like those offered by EarthMinded. With their rainwater collection kit, you will have no problem transforming your downspout and other household items into a sturdy system for conserving water.
If you want to go even more “bare bones”, there’s another option you can put together on the cheap.
For less than $7 you can create a DIY downspout diverter for your rain barrel that looks good and will remove in the winter in less than 30 seconds and the unit will self-store!
My Experience Creating a Rain Barrel Diverter
I’ve had my rain barrels for two years now trying to figure out a way that I can divert the rainwater from the gutters into the barrels without breaking the bank. Plus, I didn’t want to take apart the gutters to add the diverters. I have four rain barrels so this was sounding like a lot of work.
After two years of contemplating the problem, I came up with this solution and LOVE IT!
The first one I put in was horizontal. I tested it by throwing a hose on the roof, running water into the gutter and out the water came! That is when I noticed that I needed caulk.
These are created from the “Ground Spout” which I purchased at Menards for something like $5 or $6 apiece (if you don’t have a Menards near you, any other hardware store should have them or Amazon does).
They will mount either vertically or horizontally on a standard 4″ down spout. Because not all of my pictures turned out for the first horizontal installation, so I am showing you the vertical installation with a few of the horizontal pics that turned out.
How To Make a DIY Diverter
First, you need to install and level your rain barrel. I used four cement blocks stacked because it would get the spout high enough to put a five gallon pail under it.
I also created treated plywood bases for my barrels. It was easy to level (actually I tipped them slightly forward) because under the board I put a slip of wood where I needed it.
If you have a lot of wind where you are your empty barrels may want to tip over. If needed – placing a cement block on top will hold it in place. Be sure to note where your overflow valve is pointing.
Then you need to find a leftover piece of vinyl flooring and cut it. You should be able to tape the photos to make them larger if needed.
Now figure out where and how you want your diverter placed on the down spout. Pre-drill the rectangular piece of plastic in the corners for your screws.
Take the rectangular piece and trace around the inside with a Sharpie marker and mark your screw holes so that you can pre-drill for the holes (this took a smaller marker for me).
Now drill some fairly large holes INSIDE the marked out hole so that you can insert tin snips (that is what I had on hand, but it would work easier with a jigsaw and metal black).
Once you have cut out the hole (Don’t sweat this as it won’t show or very little of it will only during the winter. Just mash the edges down with a pliers if you are concerned about the sharpness).
Pre-drill the screw holes with the appropriate bit. I am using small diameter self-tapping metal screws. Perhaps a man could get them to self-tap, but I couldn’t. Now put caulk all around the hole. I used clear silicone caulk.
Set your screws into the plastic first – Trust me, it is easier having dropped a half dozen screws trying to put them in without starting them first. Now screw it into the downspout.
Next, fold the long side of the vinyl flooring for insertion. Then, insert the vinyl into the hole and push to flatten again the sides.
Make any adjustments you need with a scissors to the vinyl. Now put the ground spout hose on and clip it in. If you have any bend at all it won’t stay put.
Pre-drill a hole through the top of the rectangular piece for the cotter pin and pre-drill a hole in the bottom round into the round for another cotter pin. Take it down and drill a couple of holes where you need to for some fishing line.
Note: You could just use a nail or a screw but I wanted something very easy to detach some winter and I wanted it to self-store. Fishing line is pretty much invisible and extremely weather resistant. I can pull the pins, not lose them for next year, pull the vinyl and shove it into the spout and lay it to the side until spring.
Now put the spout back in place and insert the pins. If you have a wicked turn, you may need a screw. Try to put it where you can reach it without going on a ladder come winter. More useful information about rain barrel/tanks installation and accessories can be read here.
Done for the year!
Ready to Give it a Shot?
Once your rainwater collection system is in place, you’re ready to begin conserving water.
You can go to a hundred houses and see a hundred different rainwater collection setups. And here’s the thing–none of them are wrong. As long as they accomplish the goal of safely collecting and storing rainwater, they check all the boxes they need to.
Your system can be as simple or as complex as you’d like. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that you are storing water.