* Prices may differ from that shown
After building a fish pond we had some pond liner left over and not liking anything to go to waste, particularly when liner is so expensive, we decided to build a nature pond on some ground near my veggie patch. This is of course the royal 'we'. I decided and my partner was sent outside to do the building. It is not very big, about 6' by 3' and about 12" at the deepest parts. The idea of this pond was to leave it and see what comes to live in it. Apart from a few plants on the sides and some oxygenating weed from the other pond the idea is for nature to take over. My only real concern was that the water may become stagnant if it was just standing. So after some research I decided on a small solar powered fountain just to circulate and aerate the water.
What you get.
I ordered my Sunjet 150 solar powered fountain by Smart Solar from an online garden centre, who I had used before, and it arrived within 5days. The kit comprises of a solar panel measuring 5 ½" x 5", the pump with 3m of cable, two extension tubes with a choice of three fountain heads and a mounting kit for the panel. There is also a helpful instruction booklet.
Putting together is easy - just insert the pump, which is cylindrical and about 4" tall, onto the base which is a flat circular ring with a plastic sponge like filter. Depending on the depth of your water you will need one or two extension tubes which are each about 3" long and then decide which fountain head you want. The choices are between a simple stream of water, a narrow spray or a wider spray. The height of the water jet will depend on the strength of the sun. Very bright sun will produce a jet of up to 10" and this becomes less as the sun intensity decreases. Now place the pump in position under water, standing on a brick if necessary, depending on the depth of your water.
It is important to remember not to run the pump out of water as it will quickly overheat. Extend the wire from the pump to where you have decided to position the solar panel and connect the two. You need to make sure the connection is water tight by pushing and then twisting the two connectors. They have a kind of rubber skirting to make it water resistant. Although this part does not go under the water it is out in all weathers. The solar panel should be placed, obviously, in a sunny position. I have mine mounted on a small spike (which is supplied) on the ground, but it also comes with a fixing kit to mount the solar panel onto a wall or fence. When the sun shines the fountain will leap into action.
When being used for the first time it will take a few minutes for the air to be pumped out of the system and for the water to come through so don't be alarmed.
After a period of time the pump may start to loose power or even stop. This would most likely be due to a build up of sediment or dirt in the filter. The system is very easy to clean. Do remember to disconnect from the solar panel before you remove the pump from the water, alternatively if you prefer, do your maintenance at night! Remove the pump cover at the base and take out the impeller. This looks like small aeroplane rotor blades. Clean out any gunk that has accumulated and replace the impeller and cover. Put back in the water and reconnect to the solar panel. I have done this three or four times now and it is very quick and easy.
I find the only other parts to become blocked are the tiny holes in the fountain spray head. All you need to do is pull this off, knock on the ground a couple of times or poke with a small length of wire to dislodge the bits and put back.
The only maintenance the solar panel needs is occasional cleaning with a soft cloth and a propriety glass cleaner.
The technical details are as follows; the solar panel has a voltage of 4.8V, current of 149mA and power of 0.7W. The pump has a voltage of 4.8V, current of 100mAh and produces a flow rate of 150 litres per hour which is about 33 gallons per hour.
I must point out that this pump is really intended for ornamental water features such as a bowl on the patio or a bird bath but I have been very pleased with it in my nature pond. It seems to produce just enough circulation to the water for it not to become stagnant and as a bonus looks very pleasing. Probably, although I can't be certain, if it is in a bowl of clean water (like the recommended ornamental bird bath) it will not suffer from the blockages that I have experienced.
This pump would not be powerful enough to aerate a fish pond but larger and more powerful (although also more expensive) versions are available, as are some that store the energy in a battery so they will operate when there is no sun.
Where to buy and how much.
This pump is manufactured by Smart Solar who have been trading since 2003. Based near Oxford they make solar products for the house and garden. They only sell to the trade so you need to find a store that stocks their products but if you are interested in renewable energy products then you will find their web site interesting viewing at www. smartsolar.com.
I bought my solar water pump and fountain about 3 years ago but I have just checked and it is still available from Amazon for about £30. There are also several garden centres on line which sell it for £30-£35 but one was charging a massive £75, so look carefully before you decide where to buy.
Would I buy it again?
Yes I would. It is not expensive to buy, it comes with a two year guarantee, is easy to set up, there are no operating costs and it is environmentally friendly. It is completely safe to use as there is no need for power cables. My nature pond is now teaming with all sorts of mini beasties and provides a lot of fun and interest for my children. A big plus is that the sound of running water is very relaxing, unless of course it sends you rushing for the loo.
The only real down side to this system that it does need full sun to operate. Even on a bright but overcast day it struggles. There is not much I can do about a lack of sunshine.
I hope you enjoyed reading and are inspired, if not to build a nature pond, maybe to install a small water feature on the patio.
©perfectly-p 2008 (aka perfectlypolished)
3 Different fountain heads. Operates in direct sunlight.