My new favorite thing... rain barrels. They collect water from your gutters via the downspout and store it for later use. It is beneficial to the plants, which don't need cold, treated tap water. Rain barrels also help you save money on your water bill, and re-use a resource that otherwise goes to waste.
I recently installed a rain barrel in my back yard. I am thrilled! My barrel holds 50 gallons, and originally held Greek pickled peppers. I plan to use it to water my wilting flowers, and keep the lawn more green than yellow. Mine cost $80 for the "blemished" barrel + $24 for the downspout diverter. I put it on a hose box, so the hose and the barrel are in one place, and to get more pressure from the elevated barrel.
The picture shows water rushing into the barrel, just minutes after we set it up. It took about 5 minutes in a heavy downpour for the barrel to fill, so it's important to have a hose diverter to move the water away from the house. The downspout diverter I got is nice because when the barrel is full, I just close it and the water flows down the downspout as normal.
Make your own!
The Nature Center at Shaker Lakes is having a workshop in August on making your own rain barrel.
Tip of the day: Lower your thermostat 2 degrees in winter, and raise it 2 degrees in summer.