We used to sell traditional electric pumps, but gave them up.
The energy hogs weren't in line with the eco-friendly green nature of our products. Like pond owners, maintaining the products and transfomers and other electric supplies weren't fun to work with.
If you pick the RIGHT solar pump and are willing to maybe tweak your project design, solar pumps work great for far more projects than you might think.
This post demonstrates how to use our Hydraulic Head Pressure Calculator to pick the right pump, and other tips to think about for your next outdoor water feature product.
When a customer called us about her non-working electric pump, we asked her questions about her pond and water feature to determine the best size for her.
We asked questions about the size of the pond and the fountain that she wanted to retrofit with solar instead of replacing the damaged (and ugly) electric conduit. What to measure is outlined in the diagram below.
From this we determined what solar pump was best for her water garden and fountain. Specifically, we measured:
- Vertical Lift: 1.5 feet, the length between the spout of the fountain and the surface of the water was 1.5 feet.
- Conduit/Tube: 5 feet. Because the pond had a lot of silt at the bottom, we placed it on a block for stability. This also allowed us to shorten the conduit length, reducing demand on the pump.
- Number of Fittings/Bends
- We used the figure of one (1) 90-degree/T-bend to factor in the arch of the existing conduit drilled in the granite fountain
- There was one (1) fitting required to connect the pump to the tube that carried water through the fountain and out the spout
We then entered this information into the calculator, shown below, and found that the hydraulic head capacity required was five feet or 60 inches.
We recommended the 10 Watt Solar Pump that has a capacity of 6.5 feet or 78 inches. While a smaller pump would have worked, it's always best to buy one size up.
How did this retrofit work? See for yourself.
Why the Bigger Pump?
Almost all pond pumps can be turned down, but you can't turn them up beyond the maximum volume. This is true for solar and traditional electrical pumps.
We always recommend that if you can afford the extra cost, pay more for the same strength pump with a solar rechargeable battery. Here's why:
- The manufacturer specified hydraulic head capacity assumes ideal sun conditions. Nobody has complete sun all the time. When it's overcast or clouds pass over, the hydraulic capacity will be temporarily reduced or the pumps may stop working all together.
- Pumps with batteries due double duty: during the day, the solar panel not only powers the pump, it trickle charges the battery. This means the pump can run off the battery during overcast whether and even at night.
- Solar has lots of benefits, but sun is a necessity. Without a battery, your pump (be it in a pond feature or a stand-alone fountain) works when Mother Nature lets it. The battery give you more control.
- Mosquitoes like to feed and breed in the early evening. A fountain or waterfall is a great way to keep the water moving enough to prevent mosquitos from breeding.
Example 2: Pump Used for New Waterfall
Waterfalls are a bit more complex because there are usually bends so tubes can be placed around and beneath stones before water flows back into the pond. So, can solar pumps work for waterfalls?
Yes! As long as you are happy with a natural flow or trickle as opposed to a strong flow provided by electric pumps, but solar pumps are much quieter and don't run up electrical bills.
The trick to successfully using solar pumps for waterfalls: use as few 90-degree or "Ess" bends as possible. The hydraulic demands of bends dramatically increases the amount of head pressure, especially when they are located above the water (the area of "Vertical Lift") where hydraulic demands increase because there is no external water pressure on the tube.
When this date was entered into the calculator, it calculated a hydraulic head /lift capacity of 7.7 feet or 92 inches was needed. A stronger stronger pump (we would recommend our 20 watt solar pump with 118 inch lift capacity) was necessary.
Check Back Soon for More Product Selection & Maintenance Tips
Now that winter is finally over, we'll be adding more tips to select and care for solar pumps, self-contained water fountains, solar lights and other solar-powered garden products. Additional tips are on our off-site blog, Solar LightingSmart.com.
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