How to Use a Solar Powered Water Pump

By on April 02, 2015

Solar power is a great way to generate clean electricity, and now there is an affordable kit to power a water pump using solar energy!  Whether you’re looking for a way to pump water from the pond in your back yard, or you want to go entirely off-grid, solar power a versatile solution for your water needs!

Use Anywhere the Sun Shines

The Sunflower Smart Solar Pump Kit is quick and easy to set up, no electrical training required! It can be used to pump water from a pond, water tank, well, creek, cistern, or any other body of water, and then deliver the water directly to irrigation or livestock tanks, or to move water to storage or holding tanks before delivering water to their end use.

Solar water pumps are great for many situations, including:

  • Drip irrigation
  • Open irrigation
  • Livestock troughs
  • Emergency water supply
  • Off-grid or undeveloped properties
  • Low yield wells and springs

The Sunflower Smart Solar Pump Kit is portable, making it easy to move to wherever you need water supplied. For example, if you practice pasture rotation with your livestock and normally let them drink from the creek, you can protect your fragile creek banks by pumping water from them into a trough, and move the pump and trough set up with the livestock. This would be similarly beneficial for watering numerous fields of crops on a rotation, especially if watering from an open ditch or stream, or from multiple irrigation wells.

Works When Conventional Pumps Fail

If you already have a conventional pump in your well, the solar water pump is a good idea for providing emergency water supply. It can be installed in the same well as your conventional pump, without the need to drill a second well if your well is the standard 6” size. Or you can use it to keep a emergency water tank filled, which can be gravity powered in case of power outages or wildfires.  It’s cheaper to operate than a generator, too! Depending on the amount of sunlight and local fuel costs, a solar pump costs on average 17cents per kwh, versus around 50cents per kwh for a generator.

Conventional pumps are designed to pump a lot of water quickly. They do not work well in wells and springs that are slow or low producing. Solar pumps are ideal for these situations, as they pump slowly and have no minimum available gallons per minute from the water source.

 

Although it has a built-in filter which allows it to be run in virtually any body of water, a sand shroud (available at most hardware stores) can be used to protect the pump filter from clogging in sandy or silty water. For open source water such as a pond, it is also recommended that the pump be placed inside a basin to keep out the silt.

Meeting Your Water Needs

The solar panel will operate at its strongest power during the hours of 10 am to 3 pm when placed in full sunlight. However, it can operate at lower capacity outside of those hours. In the summertime, when water needs are highest, sunlight hours are also more abundant, allowing more water to be pumped than in shorter days of winter.

Approximately how much water do you need per day?  (For livestock and plants, the higher numbers are for hotter months)

  • Drinking water: 1-3 gallons/person
  • Household water (bath, toilet, laundry, etc): 10-80 gallons/person
  • Large livestock (cattle, horses): 5-25 gallons/head
  • Small livestock and Pets: 1-3 gallons/head
  • Poultry: 1-3 gallons/10 birds
  • Fruit trees: 1-15 gallons
  • Gardening: 5-10 gallons/100 sq ft
  • Grapes (established): 1-10 gallons

This pump has a maximum 230 ft of vertical lift and pumps up to 700 gallons a day with 6 peak hours of sunlight.  It delivers 1 to 2 gallons per minute, although exact gpm will vary based on numerous factors including vertical lift from pump to point of delivery and amount of sunlight. Need more water or power? Custom kits are available in larger sizes, contact us for a quote.

If you need water supply for more hours, or at night when no power is being generated to run the pump, it is recommended to use the pump to move water to a holding tank at a higher elevation than where the water will be used. Then you can use gravity to move water to where you need it.

If you want to run the pump itself any time instead of using a water storage system, you can modify the system with a storage battery (not included). In this setup, the solar panel will charge the battery, which in turn runs the pump. The pump can then be run at night or other low-sunlight hours. However, this will result in approximately 20% loss of power due to inefficiency. If you are planning on making this conversion, it is recommended you consult a trained electrician for assistance; or contact us for a quote on a custom solar water pump kit.

Getting the Most Out of Your Solar Kit

Maintenance for the solar pump kit is easy. In order to keep the solar panel working at peak efficiency, just rinse the dust off with clean water every few months or as needed. It is recommended that you remove the pump in the winter if your water source will freeze solid around the pump. You should inspect all the parts once a year for damage.

Before setting up your system, you will need to verify with your local water board or other governing agency that you have the correct water rights for your intended use.

Many governments also offer tax credits for installing solar power, which in some localities can be up to 50% savings on your kit. Check with your accountant for information on whether you qualify for federal, state, local, and USDA tax incentives. More information on tax credits is also available at the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.

  Comments (2)

W

would this unit work to pull water up from a well whose water head is 100 ft below the ground?

Posted by w.f.grady on Jun. 03, 2017 at 7:32:02 PM

W.F., the pump can be used in a well, keep in mind the GPM may not be what you would get with a regular well pump. Here is the link the the solar water pump page, https://www.groworganic.com/sunflower-smart-solar-pump.html. There is a table with the GPM pumped depending on the vertical lift.

Posted by Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com on Jun. 05, 2017 at 11:26:17 AM

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