Rainhead screen image gallery
Good and bad examples of downspout inlet screens…
This used to be the rainhead screen used at my Tucson, AZ, home, until I discovered that galvanized steel requires the use of solder containing lead. It might be possible to construct a similar rainhead screen in which the water will never come into contact with the solder, but that’s not the case with this model. But I include more photos of this screen and others to inspire and inform others to make and use better screens. This screen was made by a local sheet-metal shop (both Advantage Air Mechanical and Quick Custom Metals do great work). Bulk of screen is at 45º angle so debris washes off, while the water goes through the screen. Keeps out insects and animals, too. Nice raised edges so incoming water cannot overshoot the screen. Nice shelf at bottom of screen further reduces overshoot. Unlike a gutter screen, you can see a rainhead screen from the ground, and can easily inspect it. Made out of metal so it holds up well under our intense sun. Note how downspout is vertical; this directs water directly onto the screen. Have at least a 2-inch (5-cm) gap between bottom of downspout and screen so large debris won’t get caught and dam up the downspout.
Photo: Brad Lancaster This is the rain head screen I currently use at my home. It is the Leaf Eater Advanced made of lead-free PVC by RainHarvesting.com. As you can see not all debris flows off the sloped screen, so you must inspect your rainhead screens before, during, and after storms. Place the rainhead screen where it is easy to see and access. To reduce the need for cleaning of screen in a storm sweep your roof and clean your gutters BEFORE the rains (I had done that, but during the storm the debris you see fell from the branches that hang over my roof.
Note 1: the manufacturer sells a Hood Upgrade for this rainhead screen, BUT I think the Hood would likely be a BAD idea as it would not allow me to easily see and clean the screen (though I haven’t tested it yet).
Note 2: I painted the exterior of the screen to lengthen the life of the plastic (important in my intense sun climate).
Photo: Brad Lancaster Cleaning my rain head screen.
Photo: Brad Lancaster Rainhead screen now clean and ready for the next rain. Make maintenance easy and fun. Easy access to may rainhead screen for inspection and cleaning (in addition to easy access to roof and gutter to inspect and clean them too.
Photo: Brad Lancaster Placed along the northern property line, the garottage’s two plyethylene rainwater tanks act as property fencing and a privacy screen. First-flush water (dirty/fertile roof runoff deflected before it reaches the tanks) is conveniently directed to tasty dragon fruiting cactus. Tank overflow is directed to cascading basins starting at highest point of yard (not in photo). Gravity-fed rainwater from tanks plumbed to sink faucet. Greywater from sink directed to plantings in the landscape via black branched-drain pipe. Photo: Brad Lancaster Rainhead screen installed for easy visual inspection while standing on the ground, and easy cleaning. The tank and screen are located just outside the home’s side door and beside the home’s outdoor kitchen, so you don’t have to go out of your way to inspect the screen.
Note that white inflow pipe doubles as an overflow pipe, by insuring the overflow has to flow to a higher elevation than the inflow (but the overflow elevation remains below the access port and vent at the top of the tank.
Photo: Brad Lancaster Leaf Eater AdvancedTM rainhead from RainHarvesting.com. I DO like this rainhead, though the lead-free PVC plastic does not hold up as well as metal in my sun-intensive climate.
Photo: Brad Lancaster Leaf Eater AdvancedTM rainhead from RainHarvesting.com has an outlet that can be turned in different directions. Here it is in the vertical position.
Photo: Brad Lancaster Leaf Eater AdvancedTM rainhead screen from RainHarvesting.com has an outlet that can be turned in different directions. Here it is in the side position.
Photo: Brad Lancaster Leaf Eater AdvancedTM rainhead screen from RainHarvesting.com has an outlet that can be turned in different directions. Here it is in the horizontal position, directed to the back—a 90º bend.
Photo: Brad Lancaster Leaf Eater AdvancedTM rainhead from RainHarvesting.com has an easily removable screen so you can clean out the rainhead drain box if needed. No screws, thus no special tools needed.
Photo: Brad Lancaster Leaf Eater AdvancedTM rainhead screen, underside view.
Photo: Brad Lancaster Leaf Eater AdvancedTM rainhead screen, top view.
Photo: Brad Lancaster Leaf Eater AdvancedTM rainhead. Note how the PVC is turning a slight brown and beginning to degrade where it has received direct sunlight. I have found PVC does not hold up well in direct sunlight, thus if I use any PVC pipe in exterior conditions, I paint the outside of the pipe with non-toxic exterior-grade paint. Note: RainHarvesting.com uses lead-free PVC. In personal communication with their research department, they told me that unless PVC is rated “lead-free” it can contain and release lead—especially when the PVC starts to break down in the sun. I have found lead-free-rated PVC to be very rare in the United States.
Photo: Brad Lancaster Another view of my old rainhead. Note how in a very low-flow event, water drops straight onto screen due to the (very short) downspout that drains vertically (straight down) onto rainhead screen.
Photo: Brad Lancaster I can remove the rainhead screen to clean rainhead box below screen. So far such cleaning has not been needed, but I’m ready just in case. Screws ensure screen does not accidently get removed, but it would be nice if drill weren’t needed to remove screws.
Photo: Brad Lancaster Screen removed. Note how debris will often collect on the shelf of the screen. This is not a problem as I can easily brush off the debris when I inspect the rainhead before, during, or after a storm.
Photo: Brad Lancaster Side view of screen and its underside. Note metal fins which help direct the water that flows on the underside of the screen down into the rainhead drain box. Surface friction results in about 20% of the water flow running on the underside of the screen.
Photo: Brad Lancaster Side view of screen.
Photo: Brad Lancaster Another view of underside of screen and its fins.
Photo: Brad Lancaster GOOD. Bottom lip of screen must be placed on the inside of the rainhead drain box to ensure that the water flowing on the underside of the screen flows into the rainhead drain box rather than flowing out. Photo: Brad Lancaster BAD. If bottom lip of screen is not placed inside the rainhead drain box, the water flowing on the underside of the screen will escape between the lip and the edge of the drain box, and be lost.
Photo: Brad Lancaster Inside view of BAD rainhead drain box. Notice the solder around the drain. The solder that adheres to galvanized metal contains lead, thus incoming water will come into contact with the lead in this case. It may be possible to design and construct metal rainhead screens without solder (tap welding instead) or by only using solder where it won’t come into contact with the water, but this is not the case with this design. The Leaf Eater Commerical (Zincalume) available at RainHarvesting.com MAY be an option, but I have not tested one, so I cannot speak from experience. Photo: Brad Lancaster Leaf BeaterTM rainhead screen from www.rainharvesting.com.au. Most leaves flow off screen. Leaves you see here are clearly visible and can be easily brushed off—much easier than cleaning a gutter. But the screen is too large to keep out insects like mosquitoes. Thankfully RainHarvesting.com sells a new upgrade replacement screen that does keep out insects. It is called the Clean Shield Screen – Leaf Beater. Photo: Brad Lancaster This is the old original version of RainHarvesting.com’s Leaf Eater rainhead screen. I do NOT like it because it is difficult to see if it needs cleaning, and it is difficult to clean because the fine screen that keeps out mosquitoes is inside the screen box and you must remove the larger screen on top in order to get to it. Thankfully RainHarvesting.com has made an upgraded replacement screen that replaces BOTH of the old screens. The new one is called Clean Shield Screen – Leaf Eater Original. Photo: Brad Lancaster Side view of a Rain CatcherTM rainhead from RainHarvesting.com. Photo: Brad Lancaster Rain CatcherTM rainhead from RainHarvesting.com. I HATE this rainhead. It is shaped like a nest, and I’ve found it just accumulates a bunch of crap through which your incoming water must then pass. Unlike the other rainheads, this one is self-dirtying rather that self-cleaning. You cannot see the screen from the ground. It creates the need for more maintenance, including more-frequent inspections and more-frequent cleaning out of the nest-like cavity. In 2007 while at the RainHarvesting.com headquarters, I asked the manufacturer to stop making and selling the Rain CatcherTM for these reasons. Photo: Brad Lancaster Looking inside a Rain CatcherTM rainhead from RainHarvesting.com. Photo: Brad Lancaster A dead bird and other debris collected within, rather than diverted away from, a Rain CatcherTM rainhead from RainHarvesting.com. Photo: Brad Lancaster Looking inside a Rain CatcherTM rainhead from RainHarvesting.com, screen removed. Bad idea that you have to go out of your way to look inside the box to see and access the screen. It should be more convenient to see if maintenance is needed. Photo: Brad Lancaster This is NOT a rainhead screen. It is a shade cloth covering a water tank, but acts as a tea bag of sorts when the tank is full as is the case here. As I approached the tank birds were bathing in the water (and potentially defecating into the water). Mosquitoes can also access the water when the level is full, as it is here. Photo: Brad Lancaster
Check out the following award-winning books available at deep discount direct from the author (
Volume 1 has a set of guiding principles specific to the design of active water-harvesting tank/cistern systems):
Be sure to locate your rainhead screen in a convenient location where it can be easily examined and cleaned – so maintenance is a joy. If you place it in an out-of-the way, inconvenient location, you’ll likely never examine it, nor clean it. Here the rainhead screen (highlighted with red arrow) is conveniently placed within easy reach from the home’s terrace at Stone Curves Co-housing in Tucson, AZ. Photo: Brad Lancaster
See the new, full-color, revised editions of Brad’s award-winning books
– available a deep discount, direct from Brad: