Connecting rain barrels in series

I have to confess that I have no plumbing or irrigation skills. It took me forever to figure out how to connect three rain barrels in series. I knew I wanted flexible tubing to connect them, and that I didn’t want to mess with drilling new holes in the barrels or gluing PVC pipes and spigots.

My water barrels all had male outlets on their spigots. One connects female adapters, such as are found on the end of garden hoses, to the male outlets.

I did know one thing about plumbing. There are male ends and female ends. The male end fits into the female end. If I was going to connect tubing to the male spigot, I’d need some female ends on the tubing.

I bought some female hose connectors at Home Depot. I also bought a Y hose bib to split the flow from the collecting barrel to two auxilliary barrels.

A female hose connecter or adapter. The piece of plastic with the yellow label is just to hold the two parts together. Snip that at a thin spot and your two pieces are ready to use.

The Y-hose bib with three clear vinyl 3/4" ID tubes attached.

I know one other thing about plumbing. Tubing has an inner and outer diameter (ID and OD). Since my hose bibs were 3/4 inch, I got vinyl tubing with 3/4 inch inner diameter. The hose adapters worked for tubing that was 1/2″ to 3/4″.

I cut a length of vinyl tubing and connected female adapters to both ends. First I opened up the clamp and slipped it over the tubing. Next I jammed the adapter into the tubing until it was well seated. Final step was to tighten the clamp. I repeated this for other end of tube. I attached one end to the collecting rain barrel and the other end to the Y-hose bib.

I cut two more hose lengths and attached female adapters to both ends. Then I connected each one to the Y-hose bib and an auxillary barrel. That gave me three barrels in series, which hold a total of 150 gallons of rain water. One good rainfall more than fills them, so I’m thinking of adding yet another barrel.

Here’s what I used:

1 rain barrel with male spigot and an overflow vent to collect water from a downspout (the “oak” barrel cost about $200 from Gardener’s Supply Co.)

2 auxillary barrels with male spigots (the Fiskars barrels cost $98 each from Home Depot)

6 cinder blocks on which to put the barrels ($0.83 each)

1 Y-hose bib connector (can’t remember price, maybe $15)

6 female adapters ($1.98 each)

length of 3/4 ” ID tubing (or an old hose that you can cut up)

Two rain barrels hooked up.

I got my first rain barrel, the one that looks like an old oak barrel with black staves, from Gardener’s Supply Company. It’s made of recycled plastic. Rain goes from the downspout onto the debris screen on top. That barrel has an overflow vent and a clear tube on the side that shows the water level.

The fiberglass barrel behind the fake oak barrel is made by Fiskars. I got two Fiskars barrels at Home Depot. They are designed to connect directly to rectangular downspouts, but our downspouts are round. That’s why the “oak” barrel is under the downspout, with the other barrels connected to it. Here is a link to one of my previous posts, showing how the first barrel was installed.

If you go to Youtube, you can see videos of other rain barrel systems. Here is a 3-minute video (hope it isn’t copyrighted) that I found on Youtube that shows how to use a trash barrel to make a really inexpensive rain barrel. This one has no debris filter.

Here is a good video of how to hook up a Fiskars barrel to a rectangular downspout.

With the Suncast rain barrel that we put under the eaves, plus several trash barrels set up to collect water from the chicken coop roof, we now have a rain water storage capacity of 400 gallons. A cistern in the ground would give us the best storage, but our landscaping is mature and we don’t want to go that route.

Our Suncast rain barrel collects water dripping off the eaves, with no downspout connector.

I did this project by myself (except for sawing the downspout and setting up the first barrel.) I’m a 67-year-old granny. If I can hook three rain barrels in series, so can you!

About Lou Murray, Ph.D.

I'm a retired medical researcher, retired professional writer/photographer, avid gardener, and active environmentalist living in southern California. I wrote a weekly newspaper column on environmental topics in the Huntington Beach Independent for many years. I also supervised environmental restoration projects and taught at the Orange County Conservation Corps before retiring in the summer of 2016. This blog chronicles my efforts to live a green life growing as much food as possible for my husband and myself on a 4,500 sq ft yard that is covered mainly by house, garage, driveway, and sidewalks. I am also dedicated to combatting global climate change.
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4 Responses to Connecting rain barrels in series

  1. David Grist says:

    Glad to see you’re using one of our barrels from Gardener’s Supply. I especially like the fact that you did it yourself and took the time to share all the details. Congratulations, and may you collect lots of rain. -David Grist, Gardener’s Supply


  2. Ali says:

    A 67 y/o Granny who gardens and does conservation work, snort! Not your average Granny, I suspect! Thanks for the post, we have not set up overflow barrels yet — after the rainiest summer in Maine’s recorded weather history, we had no need, but do plan to one day.

    I will have to look into online membership with Food and Water Watch. SO much citizen policing needed, and we are obsessing over Toyotas!


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