How to Winterize a Rainwater Harvesting System

This post is about How to Winterize a Rainwater Harvesting System.  We are preparing our 4-IBC tote, 1200-gallon system for winter so the water in the pipes and tanks don’t freeze and burst.

The Picture

How to Winterize a Rainwater Harvesting System

How to Winterize a Rainwater Harvesting System

If you notice in the picture the IBC-totes are in groups of two.  The two that are furthest from the camera are covered with black plastic and the two closest to the camera are uncovered.  I uncovered the two closest so you can see the system a little better.  I will be completely removing the IBC-totes from the system and the metal cage and painting them so that the cover is no longer needed.  The cover / paint prevent sunlight from getting in, so algae doesn’t grow and clog up the system.

Water the Plants

The tanks will need to be completely drained.  Instead of just dumping the water onto the field behind the garage, we are watering the food forest one last time.

Drain the Pipes

Some of the pipes are below the level of the pump.  In order to drain the lower pipes, we will disconnect a connection in the pipes at the lowest point.  This will drain all of the water out of all of the outside pipes and tanks.

Stop Future Water

How to Winterize a Rainwater Harvesting System

How to Winterize a Rainwater Harvesting System – “Y”

Draining everything now doesn’t help much if the system just fills back up with water.  At the downspout we have a “Y” connection that has been set all summer to fill the IBC-totes.  With winter now approaching, we are going to change this “Y” connection to the winter setting that will drain the water out to the field and bypass the rainwater harvesting system.  In the Spring, we will change it back to the other side to fill the system again.

The Pump

Because some of the areas I need to water is uphill and other areas need pressure, I put a pump system in to pressurize the water.  The pump system consists of a safety valve to shut the system down if we run out of water, the pump itself, a pressure tank, and a filter system to remove debris that would clog up my sprinklers.

How to Winterize a Rainwater Harvesting System – They System


Before I drain the pump system, I will shut power off.  I have a local switch by the pump that I will shut off and I will also shut the circuit breaker off.

The Freeze

Even with the pump system in a protected garage, it still gets below freezing and will burst pipes, pumps, and filters.  So the entire system will need to be drained.

The Pump

The pump has a plug that can be removed on the bottom side.  I will remove the plug and open several valves that will allow the water to exit the pump.

Rainwater Harvesting Winterization

How to Winterize a Rainwater Harvesting System – The Plug

The Pressure Tank and Filter

There are several valves that will allow any water in the pipes, pressure tank, and going to the filter to drain.  I will remove the filter chamber and take the dirty filter out and dump all of the water.  Then I will put a new filter in and loosely put the filter chamber back in place.  Everything will be tightened back up in the spring.

The Filter

That’s It

That’s it for rainwater harvesting winterization.  I will check on it several times over the winter just to make sure I didn’t miss anything or make sure if water does get in that it is not leaking out anywhere in the garage that will cause issues.

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The Video

Check out the video below titled Rainwater Harvesting Winterization.

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  • Jim says:

    I finished winterizing my system today. I have not been using a first flush system nor have I conered the tanks to minimize alge. What a mess! I still had adequate water flow but there was several inches of sludge in the bottom of the tank. I will be installing a first flush system and a diverted soon. Thanks for the update.

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