Lots of talk about Solar fountains and even solar birdbaths, easy to install and no running costs, they sound like a landscapers dream, eco friendly and a renewable energy source. They require no specialist wiring, plumbing is as normal. But do they work?
Yes they do work, and pictures right we have a very simple DIY solar fountain. It is simply a water bowl, solar pump and fountain spray head.
However it does need sun to work, even if you cast a shadow over the solar panel by standing in front of it, it simply stops. So not great on cloudy overcast days in hte UK.
We review the pros and cons of solar pumps for ponds, fountains and birdbaths.
Solar fountains are indeed a great addition to the garden and if you live in a sunny climate they will work a treat, when the sun shines. If you went to arid areas you would find solar pumps used to pump water for cattle, these are really sophisticated systems and not what you would buy in your local garden centre. So the old adage of 'you get what you pay for' applies to the price of solar pumps.
Battery Back Ups for longer life
The problem is that solar panels are just that, and with no sun they just stop producing electricity and the pump stops, so no fountain.
The solution is to attach a battery back up, this means that when the sun is shining the battery charges and the pumps will work as the clouds come over, or into the night. Remember to get an estimate on how long the back up will last for, some will only last 1hr.
Can solar panels also run outdoor lighting, easy as long as its the LED type.
Choosing a solar fountain or pump
So before you rush out and buy a solar fountain decide if you are happy to have a fountain when the sun shines and a still water feature when it does not.
And yes we do have a solar fountain, and no we do not have a battery back up, we are happy to have the water moving on a sunny day. Ours is a fair way from the mains power so its a necessity.
In birdbaths the problem of low water levels and pump clogging is heightened as birdbaths are shallow, evaporation is high, splashing from birds and wind also lowers water levels. Small feathers will clog any pump.
More powerful models tend not to clog as easily as those with smaller motors, you will need to determine the 'head height' and 'flow rate' before you buy one. Look for a model with an adjustab le flow rate so you can control splashing and height of water spout.
Advantages of Solar Fountains
- easy to install
- no running costs
- cheaper than installing mains power
Disadvantages of Solar Fountains
- will not work when the sun is not shining
- cheap battery backups may only last 1 or 2 hours after the sun goes down
- a good battery back up with long life increases costs
- more powerful models are expensive
Problems with Solar Fountains
Pump stops working
- No sun
It is a common problem, direct sun please
- Sun blocked by trees or shadow
If you stand in front of the panel your own shadow can stop the pump, so place it up in the air
- Water level has dropped and pump needs priming (sucking air)
Ensure adequate water level for any pump
- Algae or slime has blocked or clogged the pump
Same as for any pump, turn it off, remove it and clean it, you may need a strong jet of water or even some tweezers to remove algae strands
- Leaves have covered the intake
Again, same as for any pump, clean the fountain regularly
- Faulty pump
This is why you want a warranty
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