How to use a solar fountain in the UK
There are a number of ways to use a solar fountain ; in general these can be split in to these main categories:
• Small container
• Small pond
• Medium / Large Pond
• Existing water feature (using tubing connected to the pump)
• Waterfall (using tubing connected to the pump)
For points 4 and 5 above please also see:"Attach a solar Pump to a Water Feature"
In general the smaller the container the smaller pump and panel needed and the smaller the price!
It's all about judging what effect you want to achieve, and looking at the specifications of the pump, PowerBee have been supplying solar pumps for many years so you can always call us on 0845 094 8821, and our experts can advise you on the best pump for your needs.
How to choose the correct solar power fountain for your pond
As a guide each fountain has in the specifications a maximum jet head, this is to give you a rough guide of what to expect, for example the SE 500 solar power pump will spray a maximum jet head of 4 feet, this measurement is based upon using the single jet head, where the pump is only just submerged in water (optimum position for the pump), the single jet head has only one hole in it, so makes a good way to visualise the height you can achieve. The height for example if you changed heads and used the ornamental fountain head would thus be reduced.
The other main more standard way of expressing the power of the pump is the max flow rate expressed in L/H ( Litres per hour ),this tells you how many litres of water the pump will push every one hour of operation, and can be used as a general guide of pump power.
Where to position your pump
In general the best location to have the pump is as close to the surface of the water as possible,
many people tend to overlook this and install the pump at the bottom of their container or pond, the best way to look at this is that the further that the pump has to push water, the more energy it takes, additionally the bottom of a water container is where most of the organic debris settles, this can clog the filter of the pump and make it harder to push water.
If your pump is close to the surface of the water then it will take far less energy for the pump to push the water up, additionally your pump will remain far cleaner, this means that in most cases you will be able to turn the power of your pump down (via a dial on the pump) to achieve the same result, more power will remain in your battery, which means that your solar power fountain will last longer in terms of operation and will also operate more consistently.
How to position your pump
Each pump has suckers fitted to the bottom, this allows you to 'stick' the pump to a flat surface, to do this many customers use a piece of non porous flat material for example slate, and then place this on top of a column that has been built inside the pond, for example some customers use an upturned flower pot to create a raised column and then place the slate on top.
The float is one of the best ways to fit your pump, because this solution ensures that the pump is just below the surface of the water, there is also the additional benefit that the float will automatically raise or lower itself according to the level of the water in the pond, for example if evaporation occurs on a hot day, or the pond is refilled with water.
Tethering the pump does ensure that there is no movement, if there is not a possibility of using the suckers then simple string can tether the pump in location, however please ensure that you can easily remove the pump when you need to clean the filter out.
Locating the solar panel
With solar power it's all about light, light generates a voltage and this is stored in the battery so the location of the solar panel is of paramount importance.
For the best possible results the panel needs to be South facing and angled towards mid day sun, without shade if possible. The fountains will work facing east or west however the performance will be diminished.
If you cannot avoid shade then it is better to go for an amorphous silicon solar panel for example the Sunspray SE 360 : Amorphous silicon panels are designed to work better is shadier environments. Many customers compare solar led lights with fountains, but it is much more difficult for fountains to work well in shadier conditions as there is a lot more energy needed to physically move water than to illuminate an led. However if you choose the correct model and try to locate the panel in the sunniest position, combined with buying a good quality solar fountain, then you can achieve very satisfying results.
There are two basic options with regards winter, you can choose to store the solar fountain or to leave it in place and accept a reduction in performance over the winter period
Storing your solar fountain
If you choose to store your fountain during winter time then there a few basic steps which will ensure that when you retrieve the pump out of storage it will work straight out of the box these are:
• Clean the pump prior to storage: pumps are far easier to clean than many people imagine,
inside the pump normally there are only two parts, an impeller and an axle. You simple twist the casing off (please refer to instructions) and clean any debris or muck out, it is also a good idea just to smear a small amount of oil over the parts.
• Leave panel connected to battery: Whilst you are cleaning and storing the actual pump, you can leave the panel connected to the battery box for 1 additional week in the garden, this ensures that the battery is charged when you place the unit in to storage. The panel will charge the battery whether the unit is switched on or off, and you will not be using any power to run the pump.
• Don't let the battery go flat, disconnect internal battery if possible: All batteries loose power over time, so you want to try to avoid your batteries going flat, there are several ways to avoid this, however to leave a battery for 1 year without any charge at all is not really recommended and may result in you needing to buy a spare battery (not the end of the world but annoying if you repeat this every year!) If you follow point 2 above then disconnect the battery inside the battery box, then the batteries charge will last longer because it is not connected to any internal circuitry. It is also recommended that you just connect the panel to the battery and place in the garden for a few days every three to four months. This will top the power in the battery up.
Performance in Winter
Winter time in the UK is an incredibly difficult time to produce any spray at all, It requires such a large solar panel to generate enough voltage to run a pump consistently that it becomes economically unfeasible to commercially produce such a unit, this is not the case for lighting however, it is possible to produce for example a set of solar fairy lights that will work in UK winter time. The solar fountains will still work during winter but the operation will be greatly reduced, in most cases the unit will sit and wait until it has enough voltage then it will operate for a short period of time, this can reduce the probability of your pond becoming frozen over.
There is also the SE 500 unit which comes with a timer function, this function instructs the unit to operate for 10 minutes in every one hour, if there is not enough voltage in the unit to operate it will skip operation and wait for the next hour to try and so on.