For the finishing touch in your backyard experience, there’s little to beat a solar fountain or waterfall. These are available in every size and type, but they share the common factor that the sound of running water adds atmosphere to your patio, and you don’t need to connect any wiring from your house to them to allow them to function. For convenience they can’t be beaten.

If you want a birdbath with a fountain, or a decorative freestanding waterfall, you will find a range of choices available, both at your local home improvement store, and online, where there is an enormous range. You’ve probably seen the units that pour water from pottery dish to dish, until it’s pumped back up to a jug at the top. Another common type is the copper spiral, where water pours down over the metal leaves. Typically, these types of units have a separate solar panel that you place in a sunny location and connect with a wire to the unit, and they may only work during the daytime. They’re not quite maintenance-free, of course, as you will have to keep the water level topped up and the pump clean, but otherwise they are reliable and you can expect them to keep working day after day.

fontain jars  driven by photovoltaics

Photo: by satit_srihin

You can also buy larger pumps and solar panels, that can be installed in a custom water feature. For a little more expense, for these installations you may want to get a unit that also has a storage battery, or power pack. This will charge during the day from the solar cell, and allow the fountain to run at night. Depending on the size of the pump, you may just need a battery pack, or, for a larger mains voltage pump, you would need an inverter, such as used for a solar home, to convert the DC voltage to AC to drive the pump. This size of pump would typically be large enough for a built-in rock waterfall feature.

If you have a pond, you will be interested in the floating solar fountain. As you might think, these are self-contained, and you just put them on the water and enjoy the sight and sound of the spray. This has a practical purpose, too, as moving water discourages the growth of algae, and oxygenates the water for your fish. In common with all these solar fountains, they share the fact that they work for free, and you can’t get much better than that!

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