Monday, June 1, 2009

How To Make A Solar Powered Pump Birdbath

By Tim McDonald

If you are thinking of doing a few upgrades to your garden, have you ever thought of getting a solar powered pump birdbath? In fact, why buy one, when you can make it?

So why would you want to make a solar powered pump birdbath?

The Advantages Are:

a: Fountains circulate the water, keeping the bird bath from going stagnant

b: The fountain is wireless and does not have to be plugged in

c: The pump works on direct current, so no inverter is required

d: The pump uses minute power (only 6volts) so very few solar panels are needed

e: No batteries are required, since the pump only really needs to operate during the day when the sun is out and the birds are in the garden.

f: You can save more money by making the entire birdbath and fountain yourself, even the solar panels.

g: The birdbath is wireless making it very portable.

So, what do you need to make your own solar powered pump fountain?

The easiest way is to simply buy a birdbath with a pump and fountain already fitted. Then all you need to do is wire up some small solar panels.

The cheaper, more labor intensive approach would be to get a birdbath with the right holes drilled for the fountain to be installed. And then add on the pump, fountain attachment, irrigation and power supply.

If you decide to make your own fountain, you will need:

A Birdbath

There are a variety of birdbaths to choose from - cascading, copper, terracotta, resin, or ceramic. It does not matter what you get, just as long as it is ready for a fountain to be installed.

The Fountain Spout:

This is optional, but it makes the water spout out the top, instead of just trickling out. It can be found at your local nursery or hardware store.

Small DC Pump:

Depending your birdbath size, the volume of water to be pumped and how high you want to pump it, will help you decide on the voltage and size pump needed. For your average, medium-sized birdbath, a small 6 volt DC pump will suffice.

Tubing for irrigation:

This tubing generally should be narrow enough to keep the water pressure high, so that the water can be pumped properly. My advice would be to visit the nearby garden center and have a look at what piping is used.

Silicon Sealant:

This is one of those essentials that you should already have lying around the house. It will help seal all those joins and also protect electrics from water damage.

Solar Panels:

This is what sets this off-grid system apart from conventionally powered birdbath fountains. The pump will help determine how many solar panels you need. For a 6 volt DC pump, you will need at least a 6 volt solar panel, but rater double up on the solar panels for times when the sun is weak.

NB: For the solar panels, there are two options:

1 : Buy a small commercially available solar panel from any outlet, such as Wallmart.

2: Make your own solar panel. This is actually much easier than people make it out to be. With the right instructions you could build your own panel in an afternoon. If you want to go the diy way, then keep reading...

To get the maximum sunlight, the solar panels need to be fixed in simple frame, and be south-facing (if you are in the northern hemisphere).

How simple is it to build?

With the right tools and parts and a the right attitude you could have a fully functional solar powered pump birdbath in an afternoons work. It really depends on your level of experience, but many of our friends (even housewives) have managed to make their own fountains.

A nice added extra is to hook up some batteries to the system. That way you can store any excess power, and the pump could run all day and night. If you do want the fountain to operate for 24 hours, then you will need the following:

1) 12 volt battery:

Because the pump is only 6 volts, a 12 volt battery is more than enough. It should be a deep cycle battery (car battery) that can store the power for a longer time.

Charge Controller:

It is not vital , but if you want the battery to last longer, a charge controller will protect the battery from over-charging. It is wired from the solar panels and then to the battery.

Over and above it being affordable to build, what I like about putting together my own solar powered pump birdbath, is that once the first one is finished, making the second or third one just gets easier. It could even be a fantastic gift for a close friend or newly wed.

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