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Project 19: Build a Solar-Powered Fountain
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When you buy your pump from the manufacturer, it will state on it a number of figures, it should tell you how high the pump will pump water, this is known as the head. Furthermore, it should also state the flow rate of the pump, which is how much water it will pump for any given period of time. What you need to realize, is that as you increase the demand for head, the flow rate will suffer. This is really important to bear in mind when selecting equipment.
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You might want to heed the guidance given in some of the other chapters in this book on correctly siting your solar panel. Furthermore, you want to ensure that your solar panel is correctly insulated and protected against the elements. The waterproof solar panel showcase in Figure 9-3 is ideal and furthermore, looks attractive. Don t hide your panel, proudly display your solar credentials, make it a part of the feature, as shown in the solar fountain at CAT (Figure 9-4).
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When you go to choose your pump, you need to realize that there are pumps, and there are pumps! The type that you require is a DC submersible pump. A submersible pump is already waterproofed and will happily sit in the sump of your water feature. It sucks the water from the sump, and forces it out through a pipe. One of the beauties of this type of pump is that it does not require priming, a procedure which is tiresome and often required by some other pumps.
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In order to keep things nice and simple, we are just going to connect our solar panel directly to our pump (see Figure 9-5). This is nice because it allows you to visually observe the relationship between the water flowing through your feature, and the amount of sunlight falling on your panel. It does, however, mean that in overcast weather your feature will
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Remember the 10:1 rule for working out horizontal distances of pipe. First of all, it assumes you are using pipe that is about 1 2 in. or 12 mm. It requires energy to pump water horizontally, so think to yourself for every 10 units horizontally, it is the same as 1 unit of head.
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You need to pick a pump that has a similar power rating to your solar array. Keep everything to 12 V, and if at all possible, oversize the solar
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Figure 9-3 Waterproof solar panel showcase.
perform poorly, if at all; but then who wants to be outside when it is overcast! Next, before committing to a feature, take your pump, dump it in a bucket of water and connect it to your panel to check that everything is working. Check this setup in good light to ensure that it is your setup, not the sun which is the problem. Now you need to build a sump of some sort for your pump to sit in. Again, a trip to the garden center may yield a nice large-sized waterproof container, butt, or bucket. If you are feeling particularly energetic, you could dig a hole in the ground, line it with fine sand, ensuring that there are no sharp protruding edges, and then line it with a waterproof liner. You want your sump to be able to hold a fair quantity of water the water in our feature will be recirculated, rather than constantly replenished. Ensure that when your submersible pump sits in the sump it is fully immersed in water.
Figure 9-4 Solar panel on display.
Project 19: Build a Solar-Powered Fountain
Figure 9-5 Diagram of the solar water feature.
Project 19: Build a Solar-Powered Fountain
Things to consider Hint
Because of the low-voltage, low-current nature of a single photovoltaic module connected to a pump, many region s electrical codes will not require a fuse, breaker, or other disconnection device; however, check your local regulations to be on the safe side.
Flexible plastic tubing and jubilee clips are infinitely easier to work with than copper pipe and solder. You will want to provide some sort of mechanical protection for your cable to ensure that it does not become chafed, or cannot easily be damaged by gardening activities such as digging. Encase the pipe in a hard plastic pipe, or mount it above ground where it can clearly be seen.
One you have satisfied yourself that your pump and module work together satisfactorily, you will need to install your feature.
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