Commercial rain barrels and their attachments are more expensive and complicated than regular plastic garbage cans. Winterizing them can protect against cracking during freeze-thaw cycles and guard a homeowner's investment in the equipment. In areas where temperatures don't dip to less than 35 degrees Fahrenheit, it is possible to use rain barrels throughout winter to collect water for trees, shrubs and cool-season plantings. Even in warmer areas, though, some winter adjustments are wise.
Place the rain barrel along a south-facing wall to keep it as warm as possible, if it is going to be used in winter. Disconnect hoses to avoid accidental freezing and damage to fittings. Leave the spigot open except when collecting water for a specific purpose.
Prepare for major winter rain storms. Reattach the barrel's overflow hose when a storm is predicted so the barrel won't overflow into the home's foundation.
Disconnect the rain barrel from the gutter downspout if it won't be in use during the winter months. Attach an extender to the downspout to divert water away from the home's foundation.
Flip the rain barrel over away from the house's foundation and completely empty it.
Store the rain barrel and accessories in a garage or garden shed if space is available. If not, place it upside down in a sheltered area of the yard.