Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Solar Power: Way to Go!

We own a 12.0-inch diameter, 9.0-inch high urn-shaped fountain carved from limestone by the Tennessee artist Scott Wise. The fountain features a round shallow indentation on top into which water needs to be pumped slowly through a 0.5-inch center bore to feed a gentle, steady glistening pour over the ledge and down the sides of the rugged surface of the stone.

I set the fountain on two weathered brownstones in a 14.5-inch diameter, 4.0-inch deep pan sold for changing automotive oil, threaded a plastic hose through the center bore, sealed it with Macco Adhesives LN903 Liquid Nails Heavy-Duty Construction and Remodeling Adhesive, and connected it to a small pump nestled between the stones. I balanced the fountain stone with small flat river stones to allow the water flow down evenly on all sides. The pan holds more than enough water for the fountain to perform properly. However, owing to evaporation we need to top the water in the pan at least once a week to protect the pump from overheating. If we live in a dry climate, we need to check more regularly. At our first home, I used a pump fed by a power line laid underground in 0.75-inch diameter PVC tubing. I had to dig a foot-deep trench from our home across the entire yard. The job meant considerable work for a small flow of water.

To minimize the effort at the fountain's new location, I opted for a solar-powered pump which I purchased from Shore Power Inc. / BatteryJunction.com.

Power is generated with a 5.875-inch by 9.625-inch solar panel that can be installed at a distance from the fountain. The pump is equipped with a 14-foot long power cable. Where we live in the Southeastern U.S., the setup works great. However, the panel's effective angle is narrow; it must face the sun directly to produce the greatest power. We had to place it in the sunniest spot of our yard. Perhaps, mounting the panel on top of a wind-up clockwork that turns it along the sun's course is worth a consideration. Regardless, the smallest cloud blocking the sun will shut the fountain down. Despite, I got used to the intermissions, enjoying the sight of the bubbling little flow glistening in the sunlight as an affirmation that solar power does work indeed. However, if we wish to power our home with solar panels, it must be located in a particularly sunny spot, we probably need plenty panel surface, and the panels must be oriented such that a sufficient number face the sun at any time of the day. My small experiment is supposed to constitute an affordable test, informing us on the costs we may have to anticipate, if we aspire to convert our home.

Addenda
  • Solar power windows sound like a great idea. Watch this Reuters report (08/11/2011):
  • Listen to this broadcast by Laura Krantz and Nicole Beemsterboer with the title "Colorado Voters get Revved Up Over Energy Policy" aired on National Public Radio's Morning Edition today. The New Belgium Brewing Co. in Fort Collins, CO, known for Fat Tire Beer, has got ideas on energy conservation worth pondering (10/3/2012).

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