Putting Your Rain Barrel Down for a Long Winter’s Nap
By Steve Donohue
In addition to raking all those leaves, another job I do every fall is put my rain barrel away for the winter. If you have a rain barrel, you’ll want to do this before a hard freeze can damage your barrel, valve, or overflow piping.
I have had a rain barrel for many years and often leave it up until after Thanksgiving, and I have never had a problem with freezing where I live near Philadelphia.
But when it’s time to pack it up for the season, your first step should be to drain the barrel as much as possible by removing plugs and opening the valve. Every inch of water represents 10 or more pounds, so save your back and be patient! While it is draining, I disconnect the downspout, clean the screens and filters, and remove the overflow piping.
Next, I open and check the inside of the barrel for sediment. You’ll want to remove this dirt and organic matter to prevent clogging your valve and to start off clean next spring. I swish the remaining water in the barrel to loosen the sediment and quickly turn the barrel upside down over my mulched bed to keep it off the grass. Even fully drained, you might want an extra pair of hands to wrestle your barrel off its platform.
I store my rain barrel inside my garden shed for the winter, but you can cover it in place or turn it upside down in the yard. The key is to keep water out that could freeze and damage it or the fittings.
The last step is to reconnect the downspout to direct water away from your foundation and prevent erosion. As with any roof drainage, if possible, direct it away from impervious surfaces like concrete and asphalt to slow it down, spread it out, and soak it in.
With your rain barrel safely tucked away for winter, you can relax, kick your feet up and watch some football…at least until it’s time to start shoveling snow.
To learn more about rain barrels, visit http://www.epa.gov/reg3esd1/garden/rainbarrel.html or watch this video about the benefits of rain barrels
About the author: Steve Donohue has been an environmental scientist at EPA for over 20 years. Currently, he works in the Office of Environmental Innovation in Philadelphia where he is focused on greening EPA and other government facilities.
The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.
EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.
EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.