There’s an obvious fit between all kinds of gardening and the environment – and nowhere is this potential more apparent than when it comes to ponds. It’s little wonder, then, that there’s an ever growing range of solar powered devices on the market to make water features greener and more eco-friendly than ever, not to mention a lot quicker and easier to install.
Solar powered lights have been around for years, but the recent advances in solar cells and batteries coupled with the growing use of LED “bulb” technology has revolutionised their usefulness and helped make them increasingly relevant for all kinds of applications. Whether you’re looking for a little of the typically gentle illumination that solar lighting has traditionally provided for your pond’s edge, or a more dramatic spotlight to pick out a particular plant or feature, there’s sure to be something to suit.
From submersible, coloured lights to add a little mood and atmosphere, to PIR-operated, motion sensing security lighting to deter next-door’s fish-eating cat, solar systems can offer a straightforward solution and at a surprisingly low initial outlay.
Not so very long ago, cheap solar pumps were rather feeble affairs, and powerful ones were hideously expensive; in a few short years, however, all that has changed and the latest generation units provide a good balance of price and performance. Granted, if you want one that will drive a spectacularly large fountain or cascade, it’s still not going to be what you’d exactly call cheap, but prices have come down considerably, bringing them into the realistic realm of just about any pond enthusiast.
Some of the latest versions even get around some of the age-old problem of what happens when the sun doesn’t shine, by adding a battery to the unit so that the water keeps flowing. They obviously don’t offer 24 hour operation – at least not yet – but it does avoid your magnificent fountain turning into a pitiful dribble every time the sun goes behind a cloud. If you’re thinking about getting a solar powered pump, it’s vital to make sure that you check its performance to avoid disappointment. Some of the cheaper models, though excellent for small ponds or water features, don’t have anything like the power to drive big waterfalls – so check the specification carefully, especially the pump’s head and volume rating, before you buy and make sure your chosen model is the right one for the job.
Solar aerators are a relatively new entrant to the market, but they’re wonderfully practical and very affordable accessories to consider. They work pretty much like the familiar aquarium air pumps, to add much needed oxygen to the water – and being solar powered, the brighter the sun, the faster they work, which is ideal since the warmer water gets, the less oxygen it naturally holds.
Simply place your unit beside the pond – the solar cell is usually integrated into the casing of the aerator pump – fit a few metres of standard, narrow-bore air-line, add a diffuser stone and you’re off! It really couldn’t be simpler and it’s the perfect way for any keen fish-keepers to ensure that there’s enough oxygen whatever the weather decides to do.
Like the other solar pond accessories, they’re available from garden centres, pet shops and online, as well as increasingly featuring in a number of the home shopping catalogues that regularly fall out of your favourite magazines, so it isn’t hard to get one.
Solar powered lights, pumps and aerators aren’t the ideal solution for everyone or for every pond, but they certainly have a role to play, particularly for smaller water features and especially where running lengths of cable is likely to be difficult or expensive. When it comes to convenience, they’re hard to beat; just purchase, site and stand back – it could hardly be simpler – and in addition to avoiding the need to call in an electrician, running costs are zero. Today’s range of solar powered water features offer a simple, green and remarkably cost effective alternative to traditional pumps and lighting and best of all, they’re great fun too!