Rain Barrels, Tanks And More – Forbes Home

There are two basic types of tanks that impact the cost of a rainwater harvesting system. Both can utilize the rooftop harvesting method, and the main difference between the two is the size.

Rain barrel

The cost of rain barrels is between $70 to $840, and their size ranges from 40 to 120 gallons. 55 gallons is the most common size and costs approximately $140. Local programs in some areas may allow homeowners access to free rain barrels.

Barrels are the simplest method of collecting rainwater and are best suited for small water storage purposes such as watering plants. Simply place one on a raised platform under a downspout and gravity will push the water out through a tap at the base. Rain barrels come in a variety of materials, including plastic or more decorative brass and oak.


A cistern is much larger than a barrel and can feed an entire household. The cost of installing a cistern can be for the largest 6,000-gallon units $17,000but the costs vary between $0.50 to $4 per gallon with units as small as 1,000 gallons. Cisterns provide pressurized water distribution throughout the home and balance your monthly water bills. There are two types of cistern rainwater collection systems:

Dry system

A dry rainwater collection system costs $1,340 to $5,300. These rooftop collection systems work essentially the same way as rain barrels, but on a larger scale. They are called dry because the water from your gutters flows directly into the tank and the collection pipe stays dry between rains. The biggest cost factor is the tank size, as installation is relatively easy.

Wet system

A wet rainwater collection system costs Average $6,000 to $17,000. In these underground systems, the water remains in the pipes until the pressure of additional rainfall pushes it into the tank. The tank and pipes are underground and the excavation required significantly increases installation costs. All surface drainage or stormwater systems are technically classified as wet systems.

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