Adding a fountain to your outdoor space is the perfect way to create the backyard sanctuary you’ve always wanted, and building a solar powered fountain is an extremely cost-effective and manageable project that will add a nice touch to any garden, patio or deck. Plus, you can feel good about this addition because not only will you save money on electric bills, but also be adding an environmentally friendly feature
This project can be completed in a weekend's time, and shouldn't cost you more than $200, but chances are it may be significantly cheaper depending on the materials you use. Look to your local hardware store to purchase necessary materials.
Before you begin this project, it's helpful to know how a fountain works, and what it's comprised of. A fountain is water that flows through a pipe, then trickles down some kind of sculpture and into a reservoir of water, where a pump works to push the water back up the pipe to the top of the fountain where it repeats this cycle. Generally, the pump is powered via electricity, but in the case of a solar powered fountain, it is attached to a solar panel instead of an electrical outlet. This panel turns the heat of sunlight into energy, which it uses to enable the pump. Not only is this method cheaper and more environmentally friendly, but it also makes the positioning of your fountain more convenient, since you don't need to worry about placing it near an electrical outlet.
The first thing you’ll want to consider is what style fountain you’d like. Whether your fountain is above or below ground, you will need a waterproof basin to start with as a reservoir for the water and pump. If you don't plan on basing the fountain in the ground, you'll want to choose a tub that you find attractive. You will also need to think about what materials you would like your fountain to include. This can be as easy as choosing some rocks for water to flow down, resurrecting an old birdbath, or repurposing forgotten pottery. This sculpture can consist of any material that will stand up to the constant flow of water. Though achieving the constant movement of water may take some trial and error, your unique creation will prove worth it in the end. This is your chance to be thrifty and imaginative! Using recycled materials will cut down the cost of this project. Materials can be assembled by drilling holes into them, and using a steel rod to ground them, or in a number of other imaginative ways. Be sure to test out the ebb and flow of your tower before making anything permanent.
Next, you'll need to purchase a pump and a solar panel. A pump should run around $30, and in order to choose one you will have to look into how many gallons per minute you wish to pump. This depends on your design and the volume and height of the fountain. For example, if you want water to flow from the top of a tall sculpture, you'll need a more powerful pump. If you're going for more of a babbling brook feel, a less powerful pump will be sufficient. Purchase a pump that is meant to be fully submerged in water, and one that runs on a direct current. Notice the wattage it takes to power the pump, as you will need to choose a solar panel that meets these specifications. You will also need to purchase piping to screw into the pump, and reach the top of your fountain sculpture.
The solar panel you choose depends on the energy required to power your pump. A large panel will work for a more powerful flow, or if the panel won't be receiving constant direct sunlight. A smaller panel is sufficient for a slower flow, or if the panel is receiving direct sunlight all day. Your solar panel may be incorporated into the design of your fountain, or it can be placed separately, as long as it receives sunlight. Keep in mind that most solar cells need about six to eight hours of sunlight to power a fountain.
If you plan to base your fountain underground, you will have to start by digging a hole. Using a pointed shovel, dig a hole that is about two inches deeper than the waterproof tub you are using, and wide enough to contain it. If you don't plan to incorporate the solar panel into your fountain design, you may also want to dig a shallow trench in which to run the wire from the panel to the pump. Hiding the wire will add to the mystique of your new garden addition. Lay two inches of drainage gravel down before placing the basin in the hole.
Whether your base water source is above or below ground, next, you will want to fill the basin with water using a hose, then assemble the pump according to the manufacturer’s directions, and place it in the basin. Make sure the pump is fully submerged. If your basin is in the ground, and you wish to keep large debris out of your fountain source, you will want to lay down some screen atop it. Be sure to include a “trap door” of sorts in the screen so you can run the wire to the solar panel, and have access for pump maintenance later. If you are building your fountain directly on top of the source, you’ll also need to lay down a waterproof support structure, such as composite decking.
Finally, connect the pump to the solar panel the same way you would connect it to an electrical outlet. Your fountain should flow once the solar panel has collected some energy. Now, sit back, relax and enjoy your new outdoor oasis. The peaceful dribbling of solar powered water will put your mind at ease and give your wallet a rest.