Make the design as simple as you can and with as few moving parts as possible, thereby eliminating the need for high maintenance on your rainwater system. There are a lot of gadgets on the market that seem like a good idea until they malfunction or the power goes out. The products we sell are locally produced and as fool proof as they can be. Please check them out on the image links below.
Rainwater Harvesting can be as simple as...
a single barrel with a spigot and a hose, or it can be a 'Whole House' system that supplies most of your water needs year round. We will discuss various types in order to help you decide which is best for your particular needs.
Starting at The Top
Most types of roof structures will work with a rainwater collection system. However, some are definitely better than others for obtaining water that can be ultimately used as irrigation or potable water.
Composition roofing is the most common type of roofing material here in North America. It has been relatively cheap while having a fairly long life span. There is a lot of conflicting and/or negative information about asphalt roofing, but here is an interesting article from The Center For Rainwater Harvesting that cites this report from USGS that indicates it may be better than we have thought in the past. For irrigation purposes, it appears that it does not pose any problem whatsoever. And with proper filtration, it can also be used for drinking water and other uses where potable water is needed.
Here is a short article from Earth Times Roofing for rain - best materials for rainwater harvesting
that gives sources for a few good research papers.
In short, most types of roofing will work well if the water is properly treated along the way to where it is going to be used, and substances like chlorine are avoided if possible.
A good gutter system is essential. This is where your water is going to enter the rainwater system. A properly installed gutter system, with regular maintenance will serve you for many years, whether it is a metal or plastic gutter. In cool climate where freezing is a regular occurrence metal gutters do a lot better as they are not susceptible to cracking.
With regards to keeping leaves needles and other debris out of your gutters, there are a lot of options out there. From our experience though, there is only one type of product that will eliminate the need for you to spend a lot of time on a ladder to insure that your gutters are clean or that your filtering system isn't plugged up. What we recommend are gutter guard systems, or sometimes called gutter hoods. The image to the right depicts what they do. All of the larger debris goes over the edge while the water, and finer particles, enter the gutter. This type of system is superior to anything else out there, including any downspout filter that is designed to catch leaves and larger debris. There are two reasons for this. First, a well designed hood will do anything than a downspout filter will do plus a lot more. Secondly, you get the advantage of never having to clean your gutters again. So it might take a bit more time to install them, but once installed, you can take the chore of gutter cleaning off of your list. Here is a site that describes them as well as other types of debris filters for your gutters. Gutters.com . This site also shows the insert types of brushes and foam system to avoid.
At this time we don't carry any gutter hood products, but they can be gotten at a variety of price points depending on your needs or budget. The least expensive we know of is Amazon for PVC and Aluminum hoods. Our favorites are shown in the column on the left of the page.
Good water tight downspouts in conjunction with a First Flush Diverter at each downspout will ensure that you get a much better quality of water in your tank than otherwise possible. There are a growing number of styles and types on the market today to deal with different sized rainwater harvesting systems. Simplicity is the key with these items. Here is a very functional variation on the First Flush from The Water Institute
We make component parts and a kit that comes with a complete design guide to assist you in getting a filter that will work correctly on your rain collection project by building a diverter on site that is specific to your system.
The two images to the left illustrate a couple of variations of first flush devices made from the basic kit we supply. The far left image show the downspout entering a single barrel that is connected at the bottom to a remote storage of 1400 gallons. The closer left image is of a unit that we designed as a two stage flush. It works very well and is based on our initial design with an added chamber.
There are many, many ways to store your rainwater. We tend to lean towards recycled Totes because of their availability and durability as well as their low cost and adaptability to different configurations. For the Do-it-yourself-er they can be a perfect solution. Get ones that have been used for food products as they will have been NSF certified as a food grade container.
For a more mainstream type of installation, this link to the gallery of a great Installer in Texas, Rain Harvest Resources, that uses some of our components in their tanks.
Whatever direction you decide to go, try to aquire your tank(s) from as local a source as you can. Large Poly and steel tanks are now produced in most states. It doesn't make much environmental sense to buy an imported tank from half way around the world when most of what is being shipped is air.
Some US manufacturers are now using recycled polyethylene in their construction process. Make sure that the tank(s) you get are food grade (NSF), if you plan to filter the water for consumption or showering purposes.
Now that you have a place to put your, relatively clean rainwater, it's important to take care of it and make sure that you have easy access when you need it. We have spent considerable time developing simple solutions for this aspect of rainwater harvesting.
The first item is a Floating Intake Filter. We make and sell them in three different sizes depending on the size of your system needs. You can buy imported ones for several hundred dollars or one of ours that's made here in the USA and will do the same thing for way less.
The next item is the Tank Minder. This simple valve will quickly become an integral part of your system once you understand its signifigance. Having an alternate water supply that only fills the rainwater tank with just enough water to supply immediate needs while waiting for the next rain can save thousands of gallons of purchased water when irrigating or using rainwater rainwater for household needs.
Knowing how much water is in your tank at a glance is pretty important. Our Water Tank Level Indicator is effective and about as simple as it gets. The brass float is always at the same level as the water in the tank.
About Gravity. When first using a rain barrel or other simple tank system, the first thing a person who hasn't had experience with collecting rainwater will do is possibly try to attach some kind of sprinkler or sprayer to the end of their hose coming out of the bottom of the barrel thinking that they will get some kind of spray to water their plants. When this doesn't happen, and they only get a trickle of water when the hose is close to the ground, some will give up on the idea thinking that it isn't practical. In actuality, gravity systems are very practical. You just have to remember the rule of head pressure. Every 28 inches in water height in the container equals 1 PSI ( pound per square Inch) in water pressure. A rainbarrel is about 40" tall, so there's not going to be much pressure out the end of the hose. Irrigation has to be done with low laying hoses that feed at ground level or below. Entire gardens can be irrigated in this fashion and if you get a little creative you can get by quite nicely.