Making solar powered fountains is a fun weekend project to spruce up a back yard in preparation for spring or summer. Solar fountain pumps are free to operate and require fewer wires than standard pumps. They do cost more, but because operation is free, they cost less over time. If you want to make your own solar fountain, you can do so with these three simple steps.
1. Choose a Basin
To make a fountain, you first find a basin of some sort to hold the water. The pump sits at the bottom with plenty of room for water to flow over it. Some examples of fountain basins are an old galvanized steel pan, a large ceramic bowl, an old cast iron crucible or glazed flower pot. If you use a flower pot, make sure it is vitrified. That means it has a glassy surface and won’t allow water to seep through the wall of the pot. Some terracotta pots are not water tight and will slowly lose water which may disintegrate the pot over time. If you want to use terra cotta or any basin that has holes in it or is not water tight such as a wood planter or partly rusted through metal bucket, then line it with thick plastic.
2. Choose a Pump and Panel
Water pumps are rated by “lift” or how high they spray water into the air. Solar water pumps are rated under optimal conditions, meaning full sun at solar noon. When the sun is low in the sky or there is cloud cover, the pump will be less powerful. Both 17” and 24” lifts are common for small pumps. For larger backyard fountains a lift of 48” is more appropriate.
Many panels and pumps come as a package deal. If you get yours separately make sure that they are the right size for each other. Insure that the panel supplies enough electricity to power the pump without over powering it. Real Goods sells a solar fountain pump and panel for about $60.00 that is ideal for making your own solar powered fountain.
3. Put it all Together
Place the pump in the empty water basin and position the tubing at the location and angle you desire. You may want to secure the tubing in place with stones nestled in the bottom of the basin. Connect the solar panel and position it so that it receives full sun. Finally, fill your water basin and let the pump do its work. After turning it on, make adjustments to get the water to come out in a pleasing way.
Tips and Warnings for Solar Powered Fountains
A simple solar fountain like the one described only operates when the sun is shining. If you want your fountain to work at night, add a battery and controller. This makes the set up a little more complex and adds to the price tag but it is quite doable if night time operation is important to you.
The volume of water your solar pump puts out varies with the sun, so the spray should be designed to look good at a range of water flows. Fountains that form domes of water at full flow may dribble out oddly at lower flows and won’t look as pretty. Jets shooting straight up or slightly arched look pretty at different flow rates and are ideal for solar water features.
Endless possibilities exist for making solar powered fountains. Get creative with yours and have fun with it. Pile up some pretty rocks and let the water cascade down, or use multiple basins of differing sizes that spill into each other. Once you are satisfied with the result, you are finished. Now sit back and enjoy the sight and sound of your new solar fountain.