If you like the idea of harnessing solar energy but aren't ready to do it on a large scale, you may enjoy adapting solar panels to run a pond pump. A basic system requires only the pump and a panel to run it, although you may need a battery to compensate for cloudy weather. When tallying the pros and cons of solar-powered pumps, lack of sun is the biggest problem.
Solar Pump Systems
You can choose from a variety of solar pumps that operate on the DC power supplied from a solar panel, and a basic system can consist of one of these pumps, a panel to power it and a connection cable. You can even use a conventional AC pump by including an inverter in the setup. If you want the pump to run at night and on cloudy days, you'll also need to include one or more batteries and a charge controller to prevent them from overcharging. If you use batteries, your panel needs a blocking diode to prevent being damaged by them.
From Simple to Complex
Among the advantages of the most basic systems are that they are inexpensive and compact and that they require little maintenance. They only operate when the sun is out, however, and the dependence on sunlight could leave living things that depend on the pump gasping for oxygen. Systems that are more complex circumvent this problem by storing energy but they are more expensive to install and deployment of the system components becomes an issue. You'll probably need to construct a storage area for the batteries and inverter, if you use them, to protect them from wind and rain.
The initial cost and effort involved with setting up a moderately complex solar pump system begin to be worth it after the system is operational. Your pump uses sunlight to move water, which in turn generates oxygen to help whatever is living in the pond to thrive. A pond teeming with life is more than merely decorative -- it's part of the local ecosystem and contributes to the health of the terrestrial environment that surrounds it. The energy to make this happen is free, but it takes the technology you've introduced to make it available.
The system you've set up to create your special ecosystem isn't maintenance free. Panels need regular cleaning to keep them working to maximum efficiency, and you may need to regularly prune nearby plants to ensure maximum panel exposure. Batteries also need maintenance, including regular filling with distilled water. Moreover, the pump filter becomes blocked periodically with algae and sediment, and you have to remove it and clean it. You must add these and other tasks to your regular home and garden responsibilities.
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