Friday was an exciting day here in my backyard, because the end of our long renovation process was finally at hand and the gutters were up and working. The day for to put install new diverters for our rain barrels had arrived.
I guess to a lot of people, the gutters are not very important. But if you have rain barrels you see the arrival of the guy known simply as “the gutterman” as a rather major event.
My old rain barrel set-up had not been optimal. I had taken a rather dull hack saw somewhat sloppily to the old downspouts in order to trim them to the right height for the barrels. Have you ever done this? It is one of the loudest, most screetchy sounds around, what with the metal rasping against metal, and the tubes of the aluminum pipes acting like ear trumpets to amplify the sound up to the top of the house… really I’m surprised we didn’t have a pack of wild dogs show up in response. I actually had to put in ear plugs to survive the process.
Although the end product from the noisy sawing worked well, my cutting line across the downspout was a bit jaggedy. Also, I seem to get a bit lazy about my garden once it turns cold. I could have set it up so that I could take the barrels away from the spouts and put piping back up each winter I didn’t feel like bothering.
The huge snowamaggendon winter of 2010 made me think twice about this arrangement. Most of the time a barrel left in a sunny location will do okay in Maryland during the winter, one of my two barrels sits in deep shade on the northern exposure of the house, so it froze solid and stayed that way for about a month. When the ice and snow melted from the roof, it caused a major back up through the pipe. Nothing was damaged, but the whole thing made me kinda nervous. I began to wish I had a simple way to disconnect or turn off the downspout during the winter without moving the barrels to a new location.
So when I realized we were going to need new gutters due to our construction on the back roof, I began searching around for a more elegant solution for both the sunny and the shade side of my house.
What I found was a Y-shaped downspout diverter which has a small lever on the front. When it rains, you can choose to send the water either down the traditional straight spout or into your barrel. It seemed like a good idea– in theory. The foreman of our renovation project looked skeptical, however, and so did my friends with rainbarrels. I asked around on listservs… no one had used the diverters… so I couldn’t get any feedback on their reliability.
Then the gutterman arrived. I handed him the y-shaped diverters, he shrugged. “Oh yeah, I’ve put these on a bunch of times. I know what these are.” Whew, I thought.
Now, the diverters are in place and working fine. We had a nice big rainstorm on Thursday, and stood on the backporch listening to the lovely sound of the barrels filling up for the first time since last fall. So far, so good. Friday we went outside and peeked inside to find barrels full of lovely spring rain.
Looking back, I think someone with a sharper hack saw and better home repair skills might find the installation of the diverters a snap. In addition to helping us manage the winter snow storms a bit better, I think these will also provide a great “vacation setting” for our gardens. Now that I see how they work in real life I realize they are not that big of a deal. Just something new, not something radical. That pretty much describes rainbarrels in general, doesn’t it?
The picture above shows my barrel, in place and full of fresh water with the new diverters in place.