Plumbing water butts together

My garden has three water butts in it, for some reason I keep writing about them on this blog. To make use of the water I used to own a mains powered pump but due to a minor electric shock issue that’s now on its way to my nearest e-waste pile.

Does your water butt also store electricity? Mine did. Getting a bit of a zing while trying to make the pump’s float switch activate was a bit too much excitement this morning.

Here’s my multimeter with one lead dangling in the water and the other poked in the ground. 97v AC is quite tingly.

It wasn’t bad enough to trip my house circuit breaker though, but now that pump is an ex-pump.

So I have three water butts, one contained a pump and it was pretty good being able to water the garden using rainwater. However once the water butt ran dry, it was awkward moving the pump into the next butt. So my plan was to plumb them all together and then the water can just level itself out between them.

After emptying the butts of all their suspiciously stinky water I noticed my shed was looking a bit sun beaten, and since I stained it dark brown it suffers from getting cooked in the sun. On a recent visit to my sister I obtained some white masonry paint. So now the shed is white.

My plan for linking the butts was to use 15mm PEX piping and plastic fittings. It’s the same stuff they used in my house, and after poking a hole in the hot water line in my house and seeing how easy it was to repair, I went shopping in Wickes and bought a bunch of taps and connectors. I already had some pipe from an attempt at using it on the allotment.

Plumbing it up was so easy, it just suffers from that plastic piping thing of being quite bulky so I will need to avoid banging into the pipework when mowing. Although there’s no glue used anywhere, so if I break it, it’ll be easy to repair. And being plastic it’s quite bendy.

Coming out of each butt is one of those isolation valves used on taps and toilets so I can shut off each butt if I need to do anything, without needing to drain the whole system. At the end of the run is a tap so I can fill a watering can easily. The original taps are still on to completely drain each butt if needed.

My plan is to isolate each water butt in the winter and drain the joining pipe so it doesn’t freeze. Otherwise it’ll stay open so the water levels equalise, although I will need to shut off the third one as it sits higher and will never fill up fully without making the others overflow.

Since I’d emptied the water onto my garden (which wasn’t a waste, it’s been dry and sunny for the past month, everything needed a good soaking) I leak tested the system using the hose. And it works! nothing leaks! Each butt has some water in now to stop them blowing away if it gets windy.

And that’s it. I just need some rain now. And a new water pump that won’t try to electrocute me.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at