EarthMinded RainStations semi-review
Back in early February, I ended a podcast on Water-Wise Gardening with a short interview with Edwin Beck, who helped design the EarthMinded RainStation, so of course I mentioned both him and it in the parallel post. But I discovered I had way too much to say on the topic for that post, so here’s the rest.
First, I’d better say that this isn’t really a full-fledged product review, as I haven’t used the things myself. (Yet.) But it’s such a whole-hearted endorsement that I feel compelled to add that no, I’m not getting paid to do this. (I won’t endorse a product for a price, period.) But while I’m being upfront and center, I’d better be thorough about it and admit that people whom I feature in a product spot on my podcast do get approached by Matrix Media (the syndicating company) as potential sponsors for the show. So Rain Station might turn up later as a sponsor. If I’m lucky. At present, though, at the time of this writing (9:46 p.m. Mountain Time on Thursday, March 15th, 2012), there is no financial arrangement between me and Mr. Beck.
When Edwin and his partners designed the RainStation water barrels, they had in mind a few modest goal: They wanted to make a product that’s easy on the eyes, the environment, the user, and the user’s basement.
They ended up with something shaped like a huge ceramic flower pot—the kind with a couple of rings around the middle—topped by a lid that can be converted into a planter. Now, people can argue until the cows come home about whether something’s pretty or not, but it seems to me fair to put a check beside “at least moderately good-looking, as rain barrels go.”
The barrels are made of 30-90% recycled material, and their tapered design means that they nest, one within another, so tightly that there’s only a four-inch gap between their bottoms—just enough room for the fittings and parts. As a result, they take up far less space in warehouses, trucks, (and your garage, should you choose to store them over the winter) than traditional barrel-shaped items. Less space on trucks means less fuel spent on transporting them. (Yes, a load weighs more, but over a long distance, it’s more efficient to ship fewer, heavier loads than more, lighter ones.)
Put a check beside “smaller environmental footprint.”
Then there’s ease of set-up, and I’m going to cheat here and include a bit about other gadgetry. A RainStation comes with a spigot (you know, so you can get water out of the thing), and with the hardware that links it to your rainspout, AND with the saw you need to cut through the downspout. You can also get gadgets to connect barrels to each other, as well as a kit to convert any barrel into a rain barrel. (A word to the not-so-wise: don’t use one that has contained oh, say, oil or fertilizer or anything you wouldn’t want to eat.)
Now, lots of rain barrels—but not all— come with spigots, and some come with the necessary hardware, but I haven’t seen another that includes a hole saw. In fact, on a lot of sites, it isn’t at all clear what does come with the barrel (if anything), or how in fact it is meant to be used. Now, I haven’t used the EarthMinded hole saw, so I can’t go too far out on a limb here, but I’m willing to put at least a tentative check beside “easy to install.” At least you’ll have all the necessary parts.
Finally, there’s that small matter about being easy on the basement, which in this case means not flooding it.
Many rain barrels just sit beneath a shortened downspout, which seems perfectly fine until you really think about it–or until there’s a heavy rain, whichever comes first. I was caught quite off-guard when Edwin said that some barrels actually flood basements when they overflow. Clearly, I hadn’t really thought about it. But apparently I’m not the only one: EarthMinded receives a lot of calls from people upset because their rain barrel (bought elsewhere) overflows when it’s full. When an EarthMinded barrel fills up, a diverter directs the excess water back into the downspout which, one hopes, directs it away from the foundation. (This is good, by the way. Away from the foundation is good.)
So how do these barrels stack up against the competition? Well, there are other moderately attractive barrels out there*, including some with a flat side that can be set flush against a wall. And there are others that can be linked up in series, some with spigots, a few with diverters, even a couple with planter lids (though none as big as the planters on the RainStation, so far as I’ve seen.)
But I have not seen a single rain barrel designed to nest, one within the next, except the EarthMinded RainStation, and by now I’ve at least glanced at dozens. As far as I can see, this is the only one designed to save transportation costs. And as far as I can tell, this is the only company that’s even thought about trying to save on those costs.
Chalk up a big one for the RainStation.
* In my opinion there’s a limit to how pretty a huge hunk of plastic can be make to look. So it should come as no surprise that the only rain barrel I’ve seen that actually makes me swoon is a full-fledged, retrofitted wine or whisky barrel made of wood. They’re beautiful, but they cost a minor fortune, and they do not nest.