Setting Up Solar Power Garden Fountains

Garden fountains are popular backyard fixtures that add a decorative touch, comfort and soothing sounds to a backyard landscape. Instead of having a static pond, solar power garden fountains can add moving water to the display that both you and the local birds can enjoy. This garden water feature is an easy and inexpensive way to create entertaining water effects including streams, sprays and waterfalls. They come ready-to-assemble in kits or can easily be assembled from readily available parts.

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The simplest way to create a solar power fountain is with a one-piece pump with an integrated solar panel. These self-contained units do not require any wiring or plumbing. Some come with submersible pumps that will generate bubbles while others float on the surface of a pond to create a spray. These units are usually small, decorative ornaments that are only able to move a small amount of water over limited distances. They are practical for patio ornaments, trickle waterfalls or birdbath fountains.

Large, in-ground ponds and streams require a greater flow of water. Constructing a solar power system for these installations requires a submersible pump, inverter and solar panel. First determine the required flow rate and the total height you need to lift the water. As an example, one fountain pump may be engineered to deliver 24 gallons per minute (gpm) up to 1 meter in height or 12 gpm up to 2 meters in height. Select one that is appropriate for your layout.

Most of the larger submersible fountain pumps run off of 120 V AC. Select a unit that is powerful enough to move the intended amount of water and check its power rating (Watts). You will need a solar panel that delivers slightly more power than is required, since it needs to compensate for losses or inefficiencies within the system. Since solar panels produce direct current (DC), an inverter will be needed to convert the energy into alternating current (AC). With this system, the pump will be operational during daylight hours only.

Tips - Choosing a Garden Fountain

  • Select an appropriately sized pump for your application. One with a flow rate that is too low will not move enough water and you'll have a stagnant pond filled with insects. One with a flow rate that is too high will produce destructive torrents that will ruin the appeal of the ornament.

  • Use a solar panel that's detached from the pump so it can be placed in the sunniest location possible, which might end up being some distance from the fountain.

  • If you want the fountain to be operational at night, select a solar panel that's large enough to run both the pump and charge the battery during sunlight hours.

  • Check to see if the pump can withstand cold temperatures. If not, drain the solar power garden fountain and remove the pump during the winter months.