Friday, May 18, 2012

Building a Multiple Rain Barrel Water Harvesting System

If you have seen me around town lately and I have had a glazed look on my face, or didn't even notice you, or looked like I was possibly in pain, this is why!  I must admit for the last few weeks I have been running this design around in my brain left and right playing it out over and over.

Would the fittings work?  would the water hold?  would I be able to get water out?

It was a lot of pressure!  I know hubby asked me several times if I was ok.

Whew!!! It's over now!!!  I can breath, till Monday, when the first rain comes!!

Then I will be up inspecting it, for leaks!!!

So, why even build a rain barrel water system?

I like being able to flush the toilet no matter if we have power or what!

Even better I like watering the garden in the summertime without having to use precious well water.  With the garden club and plot of land we have planted up here, I needed a way of watering the garden without using all the well water.

Yes, we have a good well, yes, it's working just fine.  Yes, yes, yes!!!

I think I have heard it all.  So here were my reason's for building this system.

1.  Just because you have a good working well doesn't mean you shouldn't be mindful about keeping it in good shape.  And I don't want to over use it on the garden and not have it be there for us in 10 years.

2.  Rain comes to me for free!  So if I capture it and I decide when to let it go on the garden why not?

3.  We lose power here often and well, with no power we have no water, no water means no flushing the toilet.  This last winter the four days without power were, well, not pleasant.  Especially since there was snow on the ground and I don't drive in the snow.

Yes, people from Michigan I hear you.. You drive in it all the time.  You seriously amaze me and I wish I could be like you.  It scares the hell out of me, and well, I don't have to drive in it, so I am blessed and I don't.  If I can at all help it!  Besides, all the roads I have in my area have either a mountain on one side or a cliff with a river on the other, not to mention the shoulders are literally 6 inches wide (less in some points).  There is no room for error up here!!!!

It would be really embarrassing to have someone I know show up to pull me out of my car that is stuck in the river.

Really embarrassing!!!

So, moving on...

Mom (Garden group coordinator) actually worked her magic and found 55 gallon drum barrels from some of the farmers around our county that didn't need them and since we were going to use them... Let us have them.  We declined on the one's that held formaldehyde in them but took the ones that held the teat dip (Iodine) in them.  As one funny farmer told me... 'We use teat dip to clean the tits before we hook it up for milking.  There's an allowed small amount in all the milk you drink so I can't see why it wouldn't be safe.' 

I later did research and found from several sources that iodine is what they use to purify water.  So, I cleaned them really really really good and then cleaned them again and I was good with that.

So was a lot of other people on the internet that make rain water barrel systems that I read about and watched video's of.

With that said, make sure you research what was in your barrels and if you are OK with it.  In the end, it's all up to you.

Now, off to make a watering system with them.

These can be done elaborately or actually really simply.  Let's look at the simple part first...

I had left over gutter pieces from the main project so I just used it to install the piece over the front door.  This is the area that you are pelted with large drops when you let the dog in or out.  Not my favorite spot.  So...since the front porch is next years project...

Before Front Door
 Keep in mind as you view these pictures.. that I am working on making this pretty... The whole thing is only a little over a year old!  And yes, I know the ladder on the left is upside down.  :-) 

After Front Door - Gutter added!
 All I did was screw the small gutter piece over the front door and installed the extra down spout on the end.  It's actually easy to install this system.  Why did the men always lead me to believe that gutter installation was back breaking hard complex work???  It's really all click and screw stuff!

Down Spout to barrel
I didn't plan it very well.. Note the down spout is directly in front of the electrical outlet!!!!  Ugh!!!

I am sure a man wouldn't have done this!

The barrel was actually unusable on the main system I built.  The top was already cut off of it and opened up so it couldn't be used in the closed system.  To much gunk would get in.  However, it could be hooked to a simple bucket drop and grab system.  In the future it will make a really nice collection system in the back of the house.  But for now, it's gonna sit at the base of the down spout and collect water to water the front part of the garden.

It's leveled with a brick!
 This might be all someone would need.  But for us, we have a big garden up there and want to grow awesome plants.  So, meet our new 400 gallon water collection system!

Take notice on how pretty it is!  Seriously!  The one's you see on the internet are all really, well, blue doesn't go well in my garden.  White would stick out and I like things to match and look eye pleasing!!

Let's go step by step... But first, check with your county and state to make sure that you can actually do this.  I scoured everywhere and found that Oregon actually has building codes in hopes to encourage this, and instructions on how to do this (if you are not the homeowner) and Portland is near begging you all to do it. But some states do not let you harvest your own rain water.

I know!!!

1,  Wash your barrels.  However you chose to do it.  For me, Mom came over and helped me, we rinsed them out a few times with a little bit of water and then poured water in them (about 5 gallons) I rolled them around the land (funny visual I know!!!) and let them sit overnight then poured them out.  I looked inside and if the water was still soapy I flushed it out again.  Just about a gallon of water at a time. 

If you are going to paint them (as I assume everyone wants pretty barrels)If not, shame!! and skip to #5.

2.  Sand them.  I used 80 grit with my mouse sander that Mom and Dad bought me for Christmas several years ago.  (This girl loves non pink tools!!)  Don't go crazy, just rough sand them!!

3.  Primer them!  I used an all purpose primer for everything from my favorite blue toy store!

4.  Paint them to match your house!  I used the accent color of the house.

Aren't they pretty?

Just make sure you have enough paint on hand before starting the project.

I got 8 done before I ran out of paint.  Have no fear, I was going to big girl town the next day!  Of which 30 minutes into the trip I remembered I left the paint chip at home!

5.  Install gutters.  With downspout (but wait to install that till you have your barrels in place).

 To drill into the garage (which is metal) I used these screws... The rubber washers will give you a tight seal and create less to no leakage!  I hope!!!!

However, I also had to reinforce the side of the garage roof. I never would have known how it was set up if a tree hadn't fallen on it and knocked it loose.  So I screwed these screws in on each side of the main roof headers before installing the gutters.. If you have a metal roof, inspect how it is made first...

 This screw is actually screwed into the roof and the metal piece below it... Essentially holding them both together.

6.  Make sure you have all your below ground draining systems in place.  You can see a prior post I made about this called 'Redirecting water the story of my life'.

7.  Level the area.  The lowest rain barrel will set the water level for all the others.  This is where the law of physics and school would have been good.  You will want to have a map of where you want them set up by this point.  Meaning you will want to know where your inlet and outlet and overflows will be.  Can you see me now, walking around thinking of overflows and valves???

You also want to make sure to set them up above the ground.  Mine, for now, are 1 concrete block high.  However, they will end up higher in the future.  But I also keep in mind that this is the highest area of our land.  All the other planter beds are lower then this.  I also plan in the future to get a solar water pump to connect to the system for higher water pressure.

Physics!!!!!  Apparently there are laws on this stuff!!!

8. Setting up the first barrel... Intake...  I purchased a 3 inch to gutter adapter and was amazed that is almost fit the round opening.  So, taking the wood chisel and hammer I gently chiseled away at some of the lip around the plastic valve opening and ....

Coupling fits

cut a section of window screen to act as a filter and slipped the coupling over the hole.

Then set the gutter into the coupling... and your intake is done!!!

Outake #1 - We get heavy rains here and I purposely placed the main intake barrel higher then the others by about an inch.  So, this barrel, along with the one at the end will have outflow valves on them.  So, in case of major rainfall the barrels will fill and if there is to much water they have 2 exit points, in hopes not to fill up the gutter system.

Now, you are going to have to drill the barrels.. If you drill wrong, your done!  So, I used the Styrofoam that was laying on the garbage can to test drill and test fit. 

Not my most smartest idea!!  However, I did realize I needed a different size drill bit.  Which I didn't own and had to go purchase at the little hardware store.  Of which I locked myself out of the garage when I was closing up to go... while in a hurry before they closed... I made it 10 minutes before they closed.

Drilling, a hole on the side of the barrel I used a PVC male threaded fitting and just screwed it directly in.  (use some caulking to water seal it).  It fits extremely snug. 

Then I attached a 1 1/2 inch elbow to it and measured for the final pipe.

The pipe goes directly down into the drainage pipe that I installed and will flow out to the bottom of the property.

9.  Connecting all the barrels.  For each barrel you will need an in and out.  I used washer hose adapters.  It was a more expensive way to go, but I wanted it to be a moveable system.  Gluing all the PVC tubing together and to the barrels just didn't seem very moveable and changeable.

Each barrel was drilled with a 15/16 paddle drill bit.  Then threaded with a male to male adapter.  Getting it to actually thread took a bit of time and a metal file to widen the hole in some areas.   But once screwed in, they are tight!!!

10.  Gather all your pieces together and just measure and build.  I purchased a 50 ft garden hose and just hacked it apart.  I put a female end on each end... so that it would connect to the adapters.

11.  Set up and connect all the barrels.  The hoses allow for movement to happen.  We don't live in California anymore but, we have had earthquakes up here.  In fact, a fault line is just a few miles up the road.  If they fall, they won't crack there piping.  And if I want to remove them, I just unscrew them.  I actually put a shut off valve on one set of barrels.  The land they are sitting on is not really firmed up yet from all the digging and I want to be able to shut off the water to those barrels if needed.

Can you see now why I was looking all dazed around town!!?

Here they are, all lined up in a row....

Here is the front view.  Notice the second outflow valve on the side.  It goes directly to the drainage pipe as well. 

I will be putting screens over these outflow sections to protect from dirt and gravel falling in them.

This is the front view that most everyone will be seeing when they are in the back part of the garden.

Since this is the front, this is where the faucet is at.  Now, I plan to make the barrels higher later on.. so if you aren't sure of your placement of the faucet.  You want it low enough to get all the water out of the barrels, and high enough to get a bucket under it.  There will always be water in the barrels.  You won't be able to get it ALL.

Point to remember ----  If you live in an area with wind, make sure all your valves and faucets are at least 2-4 inches from the bottom of the barrel.  To leave enough water in them so they do not tip over during a wind storm.  We can easily have 30-40 MPH winds up here.

  See the cute faucet at the base?   I will be doing some touch up painting as soon as I get back to the big girl town.  Rolling the barrels around in the gravel nicked them up just a little!

It's done!  Now, off to build a studio!  This one the hubby is in charge of.. I am the cheap hired labor!

But, I may be able to get another project in before then!!!!
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