Making A Solar Powered Pump Birdbath

Being green energy enthusiasts, Trudy and I always think of different ways to use renewable energy in our home and garden. Trudy felt it was time we jacked up our garden a bit. So the first thing we decided to do was to make a birdbath with a solar powered pump and small fountain.

The advantages of a birdbath with a solar powered pump are that:

  • It keeps the water circulating, preventing it from going stagnant.
  • It requires no conventional electricity
  • A small dc pump is used, so no inverter is needed
  • The pump requires little power, so only one or two small solar arrays are needed.
  • The pump only really needs to operate during the day when the sun is out and the birds are around, so no batteries are needed either.
  • We had experience in making our own solar photovoltaic panels, so cost was not really an issue.
  • As long as it is the sunlight, it can be placed anywhere in your garden, without the need for unsightly wires spoiling the garden.

So, what do you need to make a small solar powered pump?

The easiest way to make a a birdbath with a solar powered pump is to simply get a birdbath with a pump and fountain system already installed. Then all you need is to add some solar panels to replace the conventional electricity supply.

The second, more do-it-yourself option, would to buy a birdbath that is ready for a water-pump installation (the right holes have already been drilled), and then buy or make the individual pump components.

For the second option, you will need the following:

The birdbath:
There are a variety of birdbaths and fountains to choose from – such cascading fountains, copper fountains, terracotta fountains and resin fountains. But, we decide to go for the conventional ceramic fountain. Just make sure it is ready for any water pump installation.

Thin flexible PVC piping:
This is for the water to flow through. It is best to ask the local nursery or hardware store about the various irrigation options, or simply look at finished powered birdbath models and take it from there. Just make sure the piping is not too thick, else the water pressure will not be great enough for the system to work.

A fountain attachment:
This is where the water spurts out from. It can be sourced from your local nursery or hardware store.

Small DC power pump:
Depending on the size of your birdbath, the amount of water needed, and how high the water has to be pumped, will determine the size and voltage pump you need. We had a medium-sized birdbath that only required a small trickle of water, so we found a small 6 Volt DC pump to be adequate.

Usually the pump does not come with long enough wires. An easy way to get the right wiring is to take the pump to an electrical shop where they can quickly determine what is needed. Or ask the pump seller to supply additional wiring with the pump.

Silicon Sealant:
This is to seal where the piping enters the birdbath to prevent any water leaks. It can also be used to insulate any bare wires where they have been joined, to protect them from water and short-circuiting.

Solar panels:
This is what sets our system apart from conventional birdbath fountains. The number of solae panels needed will be determined by what voltage water pump you have. A 6 Volt solar panel is the minimum required to power a 6 Volt pump, but for reliability we went with two panels, making 12 Volts in total.

For the solar panels, you have two options:
1) Go the expensive route and get professionally installed ones OR
2) The cheap route – make them yourself. Luckily we have experience in making our own solar panels so we did not have to rely on the experts. You can also learn to make your own solar power panels by visiting Earth4Energy. For the skeptics, you can Try Earth4Energy For FREE first if you like.

The solar panels are then fixed to a simple frame, in such a way as to get the most sun throughout the day.

Putting it together:

By buying a birdbath ready for pump installation, it was rather simple for Trudy and I to get the system working quickly. All we had to do was mount the pump, fix the piping to the right length and seal it, then wire up the pump to the solar panels. I think it literally took us about 2 hours to do everything.

Here is a quick video of the finished birdbath:

In fact, our little diy project was so successful, we plan on installing more water features throughout the garden, to give it that tranquil feeling you get from running water. But we agreed we would use batteries next time, so the solar powered pump can run 24/7.

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Originally posted 2008-12-04 12:05:18.

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