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October 2013
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November 2013

Rain barrel project upgrade - Solar powered pump!

The days of hauling buckets of rain water around the yard were finally over last spring.  I installed a new system for it that included: a solar panel, 12volt marine battery, and 12volt water pump.  

The results were better than I had expected.  After hooking up a 100ft hose and multi-function  nozzle, I tested the flow of water around different parts of my yard.  The water pressure still provided plenty of throughput even on the opposite side of my house.

The basic setup is a 6watt Coleman solar panel (Home Depot), 12volt deep cell marine battery (Costco), and a 12volt Wayne water pump (Home Depot).  And also a rubbermaid tub with lid to hold the battery and pump and keep them protected from the weather.

The pump came with a short 3/4" hose that I connected directly to my rain barrel spigot.  My regular garden hose connects to the outlet of the water pump.  I cutout holes and fitted rubber grommets in the tub for the input/output hoses to go through.  The alligator clips from the solar panel clipped easily to the battery terminals with plenty of wire left for me to mount the solar panel where I needed.  

Finally, the 6watt solar panel was tested during an average sunny day and resulted in a 20v output. It also has an auto shutoff to prevent a reverse power drain at night.  Since it's a low power output there's no need for a power controller to regulate the trickle charge.

While I'm saving money by going solar, I don't think it'll pay for itself by the time I need to replace the battery.  But on the plus side, it's good to know it will be my backup marine battery in case my main sump pump battery fails again.  (nightmares of Hurricane Sandy revisited) I'm also looking into some solar adapters to charge small electrical devices. Last summer, my phone never lasted more than a day during a power outage.  So I had to rely on my car charger to keep it running.  But my favorite aspect of the upgrade is-no more filling up buckets manually.  

So now that I've tried out the system for a summer, I can say it's worked out very well.  Draining 110gals of rainwater takes about 45min -1hr depending on where I have to water and what setting the nozzle is on.  So goodbye manual, helloooo solar!