The Solar Powered Water Fountain
The solar powered water fountain is a great way to enrich the garden and the backyard. Any water fountain, water fall or garden pond can enjoy the power of the sun. The following paragraphs explain what solar water fountains are, how they work, some tips about solar garden lighting and the advantages and disadvantages of solar water garden features.
What is a solar powered water fountain?
A water fountain is a close loop water stream that can be found in a large variety of styles. Choosing the style is up to the homeowner or the gardener and it is supposed to blend with the trees, shrubs, and flowers, walking pavements, swimming pool, lighting and all other garden features. Technically, water fountains and waterfalls where the water falls into a reservoir work the same. The visible part is the downstream, the stream of water downward due to gravitation. In this downward direction, potential energy (mass multiplied by altitude difference) is converted to kinetic energy and flows to the reservoir. The part that is invisible, and requires an external energy source is to pump the water back to the higher altitude from the reservoir. For that, an electric pump is used; the pump converts electrical power into potential energy. The novelty in a solar powered water fountain is that the external energy source (the electricity that operates the pump) comes from the sun radiation.
How does a solar powered water fountain work?
Solar fountains come equipped with a solar kit. The kit includes a small solar electric photovoltaic panel that converts the sun radiation photons into DC electrical current (electrons). The solar panel must be exposed to the sun to operate the pump. The solar kit also includes a rechargeable battery that stores electric energy during the day that can operate the pump during the night.
What other features can solar power provide to the garden?
Solar power can be used for lighting the garden, I recommend using LED garden lights as well as swimming pool LED lights. It is better to distribute a few small solar kits (a small solar panel plus a small rechargeable solar battery), one solar kit for each feature. This will add robustness, prevent the need for long runs of wires and it is more flexible. It is easier to conceal the small solar power panels than to conceal one bigger panel.
The step by step approach to solar powered water fountain
- Choose your water fountain
If you already have a water fountain, skip this stage.
If you buy a new water fountain the water fountain kit contains a water pump.
A solar water fountain kit also include the solar panel, some kits will include the solar rechargeable back up storage battery as well.
- Choose a water pump
In case you need to buy the pump, size it correctly. The size of the pump depends on how much water goes through the pump (Gallons per Minute, or litters per second), and on the head in feet (or meters). The head is the altitude difference between the lowest parts of the fountain to the highest part of the fountain. Although most water pumps are AC operated pumps, prefer a DC operated pump that will match in voltage the solar panel rating and the battery rating.
- Buy a solar panel and a rechargeable battery
Look for a solar panel that matches in its voltage rating to the voltage rating of the DC operated pump and that can supply the rated current of the pump. If the solar panel also needs to recharge the battery, you need to buy a bigger solar panel that can also charge the battery during daylight. The fountain is to be equipped with a valve that can control the amount of water flow, it is assumed that the flow over night will be reduced; some flow is needed to keep the close loop in good shape.
- Solar inverter?
A solar DC to AC inverter is needed if the water pump is AC operated, its input is matched to the panel voltage rating and its output voltage matches 115V 60Hz in the US (230V 50Hz in most other regions) and its current rating matches the current drawn by the pump
- Installation of the water fountain
Install the water fountain in the location that was assigned in the garden.
- Solar kit installation
Install the solar panel in an area of the garden that enjoy sun radiation facing South as far as possible. Since the solar panel works backstage, try to find a place near the fountain where the solar panel is “almost invisible”, you can use the wall facing south or the south slope of the roof for installing the solar panel.
- Read the instructions
Read carefully instructions in the manuals of the water fountain manufacturer, the pump manufacturer and the solar kit manufacturers. Adhere to the installation procedures, maintenance procedures and the safety instructions
Disadvantages of Solar Powered Water Fountains
Even though the water fountain contributes substantially to the overall appearance of the garden, there are disadvantages to water fountains in general and to solar operated fountains in particular:
- Water features need periodic maintenance such as filters’ cleaning
- Water is lost due to evaporation and the loss is to be replenished. A typical water fountain flows 30 to 60 gallons every hour that that amounts to over 21,000 gallons per month. Even if only 10% are evaporated, it amounts to over 2,000 gallons (5 cubic meters) water loss. In some regions water prices are high, and water loss must be considered.
- Freezing conditions might damage the upstream portion of the water plumbing and the pump
- The distance between the fountain and the solar panel is limited to 15 feet or less, this limitation not always can be overcome
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