Rain Barrels in the Winter: Rain Barrel Winterization
District Garden mainly serves the Washington, DC, Virginia and Maryland (and sometimes WV) areas with our installations. All of these areas have extended periods of below freezing and as such it is prudent to winterize your rain barrels. This process should prolong their life. It is possible that large amounts of standing water could freeze and crack the barrel if it is left full.
If you happen to be reading this and you do not have cold winters: Thanks for visiting, but you don’t need to winterize.
Steps to take when you have a downspout diverter (95% of our installations):
Disconnect the hose from the downspout diverter and from the rain barrel inlet (where it enters the barrel) if so desired. If your downspout runs into the barrel, reconnect the downspout as it was before the barrel was installed, funnel water away from the foundation of the house.
Empty the rain barrel utilizing the drain plug and/or spigot. Note, this can be done without having to move or turn the rain barrel over. The photo below is simply for location reference. If this is a linked barrel with no drain plug, simply disconnect and drain via the linking hose between the barrels as well.
Unscrew the two small Phillips head screws and remove the diverter from the downspout.
Install the winter cap with the same two screws over the hole where the diverter was.
Store your diverter and hose in a place that you are sure not to lose if. If you lose it, well, we’ll sell you the replacement parts. Shop on the site here at DistrictGarden.com or shoot us an email.
Winter Use of Rain Barrels
It is possible to use your rain barrel in the winter if you have needs other than watering. However, this will require constant usage and draining of the barrels before freezing periods. Some customers use the water for things like car washing, and do use their barrels throughout the winter. It’s possible, but not common. Common uses include: washing your car, wash windows, clean the bathroom, water house plants (once the water hits room temp), and giving Fido a bath.
But, I have a different diverter!
Never fear, all diverters really run on the same principles. Disconnecting the hose from the diverter to the barrel is always required. Some just need to be capped off at that point. If you have a Y-shaped diverter made from downspout materials, there is typically a lever to divert all water down the downspout. In all cases you should still empty the barrel for the winter and disconnect any hose or downspout that attaches from the downspout to the rain barrel.
The reason we prefer the diverter setup is because, beyond the prevention of gutter overflow, it allows for the rain barrel winterization process to be done easily. You don’t have to move the barrel unless you want to. You don’t have to concern yourself with it again until spring.
And in Spring, you just reverse the process!