How do I look after my water butt in winter?

A rainwater harvesting system is invaluable during drier months and when we tend to garden more but when the weather changes, we garden less and our once often used water butt can become neglected. This season is as important as any when it comes to maintaining and caring for your water butt so that you can use it all year round. For it to survive the temperatures and lowered usage just follow our handy hints and your system will still be at its best come summer time.

Drainage In Winter Months

Many manufacturers advise draining your water butt before the frost sets in as iced water can cause the tank to split. This can be rare, but it is still a good idea to drain and leave the tap open during frosty winter months. If you are lucky enough to live in an area that warms up during the day, you may be able to collect rain while the sun is up for use that day (for watering indoor plants, washing cars etc) but you may need to drain before the evening frost sets in. Leaving the tap open will ensure that water will not collect and potentially damage your water butt.

Splits due to frost do not happen frequently but if you live in a high rain and low temperature area, it is best to drain water off regularly, if not completely. This is because water will expand when frozen and if it has no where to go, it will expand inside the tank, causing the tank to break.

Insulation and Prevention In Icy Weather

If you would prefer to avoid draining your water butt, you can insulate it to stop ice forming. Anything from bubble wrap (reuse any wrap you have collected from deliveries or house moves) to gardening protection fleece can insulate a rainwater harvesting system and guard it from harsh weather.

Elevating your water butt from the ground will also avoid freezing. This can be done by placing your water butt on a stand, but do make sure it is empty when you move it as tanks can be heavy when filled with water.

image of small bird in winter

If draining your tank or water butt is not easy, you could add a sponge or rubber ball to keep water moving and cause the water to push against the ball, not the tank wall.

Underground tanks are protected by the earth surrounding it and will not need extra care in the winter. Also, installed systems that pump into homes and businesses as a water supply are usually used so frequently that freezing and cracking should not occur, but it is worth checking that your tank is not so full that water expansion could cause an issue. It may also be a good idea to drain fully before going away over the holidays or for an extended period.

Cleaning and Care In Winter

If you have not cleaned your water butt during the autumn, it is a good idea to do it now as algae can form when water remains stagnant. This can cause water to stink and not be good enough for use on plants. If you wish to maintain rainwater collection in your water butt throughout winter, adding a Freshatank Microbial Silver Disc will help alleviate fungus and bacteria build up. Make sure you remove any debris at the bottom of the tank when cleaning and consider installing something like a Hedgehog Gutter Brush to avoid collecting leaves and junk in your gutter. Fitting a filter to your downpipe will also cut down on your need to dismantle and clean your tank. You can also set a diverter and filter to keep water running, which means you may not need to drain your tank and waste water but you can use the rest of the water in the tank and collect no more during winter. This is a great idea especially for those with busy lives or have tanks that are not easy to access.

After cleaning your tank, pop the lid back on and check it is secure. If there are gaps around the lid or tap, mosquitos and other larvae laying insects will find your water butt to be an amazing place to leave their eggs and breed. Consistent drainage every 7-10 days will also prevent them from settling down in your tank.

Looking after water butts in the winter can be a simple task and when you’re into the swing of this routine every year, it gets easier. Installing filtration systems for use all year round will make cleaning and care much easier come winter as debris has been prevented from entering your tank in the first instance. Insulating your water butt can stop water from freezing and getting frost on it, which can prevent your tank expanding and splitting. Winter can be a harsh season for some areas of the UK but your rainwater harvesting system needn’t suffer!

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