Solar Water Pump

Tips for Setting Up a Solar Powered
Water Pump System

The basic concept of a solar water pump is a water pump that uses the sun's power instead of electricity as its power source. How are solar pumps used, and what types are best for your home? These are some tips to help you set up a solar powered water pump system.

Solar water pumps use the DC power generated by solar panels to pump water from any number of water sources to where you need them. A solar pump consists of a water pump, a pump controller, and solar panels. In some cases, you may want a battery backup system.

Applications for a Solar Pump

  • Cattle ranching - pumping water across miles of land to reach livestock

  • Rural homesteads - fresh running water

  • Landscaping - waterfalls and smaller water features such as fountains and bird baths

  • RVs - using a local water source, you can pump water to your RV for washing clothes, cleaning off the vehicle, or watering plants

  • Aerate small bodies of water

  • Emergency water for cooking or drinking

  • Irrigation

  • Remote locations that don't have access to electric - homes, businesses, vacation spots

Types of Water Pumps Using Solar Energy

There are two major categories into which a solar water pump would fall: submersible and surface. The differences between the two are important depending on the purpose for using a solar pump and the amount of water needed or desired.

Surface Water Pumps

A surface solar pump utilizes suction to get water from small bodies of water such as a pond or stream or it can be used to obtain water from a storage tank or even shallow water well. A surface pump is idea for obtaining water located no more than 20 feet below the surface.

A delivery pump is considered a surface pump and is used to simply transfer water from one location to another. Delivery pumps can handle high pressure or low-pressure applications. This type of surface pump can handle slow flows of 1/2 gallon per minute or can move water from one location to the next as fast as 30 to 40 gallons per minute.

Submersible Water Pump

Submersible solar pumps are used to obtain water from a water well. A submersible pump will work at depths of a few feet or they can pump water to the surface from as deep as 1,800 feet below the surface. Ideally, they're used to pump water that's beyond the capability of a surface pump, which is a minimum of 20 feet below the surface.

Typically a submersible pump will work only when the sun is shining, unless you opt for a battery or AC power backup energy source. Or, if you want to keep your system simple, you can use a storage holding tank - excess water - for obtaining water during cloudy days. The power generated by this type of solar pump is about 1/4 HP to 3 HP.

Tips for Setting Up a Solar Water Pump System

  • A surface solar pump will not run efficiently if you need water located deeper than 20 feet under the surface. If you attempt to suction water that's deeper than that, the pump will be stressed, get very loud, and eventually wear out completely.

  • The solar module should face south for optimal performance.

  • It's a good idea to mount your pump controller and solar modules high into the air to avoid damage from livestock, other wildlife, or inclement weather conditions such as deep snowdrifts.

  • The solar panels can be located in a different location than the actual water pump, which means you have a lot more options when it comes to where you will place your system.

  • Angle your solar panels so they can receive the most sun possible throughout the year.

  • It's possible to install a submersible solar pump yourself once the hole is drilled into the ground by a professional. The surface pumps are relatively easy to set up and install yourself as well.

  • Piping size for low flow applications of under 100 feet of piping - 1/2 inch pipe

  • Piping size for applications over 100 feet - 3/4 inch pipe

A solar pump is the answer for many remote and rural locations throughout the world, but it is also yet another way to utilize the sun's energy for suburban and urban locations as well. The possibilities are nearly limitless as more is learned about solar energy and its capabilities.

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