Rain Barrels in the Winter: What to do

Prepare Your Rain Barrel for Winter

Did you ever leave a full bottle of water outside or in the garage over winter? If you did you probably found a cracked bottle in the spring. You may have figured out that the water froze, expanded, and broke the bottle because it had nowhere else to go. Well, that’s exactly what will happen to your rain barrel if you leave it full over winter in a cold climate: the water will freeze, swell, and actually split the barrel.

To keep your barrel safe during the long, hard freeze of a northern winter all you need to do is leave the spigot open. The water can drain out so it won’t freeze and crack your barrel. As long as the spigot is open, the barrel will be empty and you can safely leave the rain barrel outside all winter.

You can, of course, tip the barrel over and empty it that way and leave it upside down for the winter. If you have a simple rain barrel without a spigot, that’s what you will have to do. Some people recommend removing the downspout, diverter, and/or connector, but others find this extra precaution is not worth the effort.

Rain barrels are a simple, yet elegant technology. They don’t need much care. To protect them over the winter just make sure they are empty before the cold winds blow. Then they will be all ready when April showers come your way.

If you live in a part of the country where there is rarely a hard freeze, you can continue using the rain barrel during the winter. If you see a weather report that a freeze is coming, just be sure to drain the barrel and don’t forget!