Building a solar fountain
If you are looking to build a solar fountain then, rest assured, solar fountains are one of the easiest and straightforward DIY solar projects and suitable for any skill level.
Solar panels and pumps work well when combined and you can. literally, connect the two wires that come from a solar panel to the pump and the pump will run when the panel is in daylight- the more daylight the better the pump runs.
A basic solar fountain setup consists of the following parts:
- A fountain ( this would be the actual fountain structure)
- A lower water reservoir
- The pump
- Some tubing to carry the water to and from the pump
- A source of power ( in this case solar panel)
On some fountains an upper reservoir is used to hold water, which is then used for the fountain, this type of system can help to maintain a steady flow of water on a cloudy day. When there is plenty of light the reservoir fills with water and then when it is shady or overcast there is plenty of water to keep the fountain in business.
You can build a solar fountain to be any size that you like, and it can be indoors or outside, the options are endless and subject to your imagination, you can create a fountain that sprays the water up like a traditional fountain or you could have more of a cascading effect where the water trickles and gurgles down.
It’s possible to make a solar fountain from as little as $50 or you could really go for it and spend thousands.
DIY solar fountains come in all shapes and sizes so there are options for everyone.
Making a basic solar fountain
An easy diy solar fountain can be made from two halves of a barrel or a plastic barrel cut into two separate halves.
With one half of the barrel positioned underneath the other and slightly to one side, the pump draws water from the lower half, deposits it into the top and, via a faucet, drain or pipe the water drains from the top half back into the bottom, where, the process starts all over again.
This gives you an idea of look...
The parts that you'll need are:
- Two halves of a barrel or other container – they need to be watertight. You can often buy oak barrels at garden centers or nurseries – try to buy them already halved, cutting them in half yourself is a difficult job.
- Clear sealant – use this to seal any cracks and leaks that you find.
- A strong support for the uppermost barrel. Ideally this would be made from bricks or blocks, remember water is heavy and a barrel full of water could cause injury or damage if it fell over. Keep the top reservoir as level as possible. The lower one can rest on the floor, its back edge supporting the top half.
- A valve. In the picture above a handpump style faucet is being used for the water flow. Yiu can let you imagination run wild here and use a whole variety of things. An old tap, a suitably drilled garden gnome, a statue, even an old teapot – the list is endless and up to you. Consider the route that the piping needs to take and whether you need to get any additional fittings to keep things secure.
- A 12 volt DC submersible pump that can pump at least 0.5 gallons per minute with 2 feet of head pressure. If you are making a large solar fountain then you’ll likely need a higher capacity pump. Most stores can help with your needs and are happy to provide advice.
- Plastic tubing that can connect to the pump – aim the get about four feet of this. Clear is best as it is less visible.
- a 5 watt or larger solar panel with a 12 volt output. Try to match the power of the panel to the needs of the pump. You can often buy complete kits with panel and pump from retailers or online.
- A means of mounting the solar panel. Some panels come with their own stakes so that you can shove them into the ground, others will need some means of securing them to prevent damage and movement. try to position the panel where it will get most sunlight across the course of the day.
- Wires to connect the solar panel to the pump.
- An on/off switch.
Putting it all together
- Seal any leaks in the barrels with with silicone sealer. In one of the barrel halves drill a hole near to the bottom and install the faucet that you have chosen. In the same barrel drill another hole about an inch from the top – this will serve as an overflow.
- Put the top and bottom halves of the barrels together in their final positions, put the upper part onto its support securely.
- Install the solar panel and pump – the pump goes into the bottom barrel half, as low as possible. The solar panel should be in as much sunshine as possible. The tubing from the pump goes into the top reservoir.
- Complete the wiring, connect the solar panel to the switch and the switch to the pump. Keep your wiring as short as possible and make neat and tidy connections to reduce the risks of failure.
Working DIY Solar Fountain
With the switch in the ‘off’ position and the faucet valve also closed, fill the upper reservoir with water one quarter full.
Fill the lower reservoir with water until it is an inch from the top, and then turn the switch on.
Adjust the faucet valve until the upper reservoir fills slowly on a sunny day.