In order to protect your rain barrel from damage over the winter, it’s recommended that you drain the water from your barrel prior to the first hard freeze, leave the faucet open, and disconnect the downspout from the rain barrel. Once the barrel is empty, store it indoors if you have the room. If that is not practical, you can turn the barrel upside down, or cover over the barrel inlet (top of barrel) with plastic sheeting or a sheet of wood or plastic (make sure covers are secure). Since the barrel will no longer have water in it to weigh it down, if left outside, the barrel should be tied down to keep from blowing around your yard. A simple method is to drive a 2in x 2in post into the ground alongside and tie the barrel to it.
Since you won’t want to leave your downspout hanging at the height of the barrel, you should extend the downspout to the ground using a short piece of downspout and a plastic connector (inserts into the upper and lower downspout pipes) purchased from a hardware store. Place an elbow in the bottom of the downspout to direct water away from the house. In order to secure the bottom of the downspout, you can screw one or two plastic downspout clips or metal downspout straps to the side of the house and attach them to the downspout. Modifying the downspout for winter is demonstrated at the end of our rain barrel installation video.