Here’s a project to build and enjoy in the summer: a DIY solar fountain (in a wheel barrow)!
This is a straightforward project to make. And what’s great is that it’s 100% sustainable, since we’re using solar power to run the fountain.
This project and all Geek Pack Hack activities must be undertaken with a suitable adult completing their own risk assessment and supervising their children at all times.
Read on to learn how a solar pv panel works and how to wire up your own DIY solar fountain.
We’ll list the parts we used and then give you instructions for how to make this project.
You can check out our video tutorial here and subscribe to our YouTube channel to keep up with new projects.
Everything is explained below as well.
Solar photovoltaic or “PV” cells are made of silicon, which is a semiconductor. Being a semiconductor, silicon can be made a better or worse conductor of electricity by introducing impurities or “doping” its structure with elements such as boron or phosphorus.
Silicon that is doped with boron allows its positive charges to move and is known as P-type silicon. Silicon that is doped with phosphorus allows its negative charges to move and is known as N-type silicon.
Solar photovoltaic cells have N- and P-type silicon layered together.
When sunlight hits a solar PV cell, it can knock the electrons out of place.
If both N- and P-type layers are connected as a circuit, the electrons will flow from the N-type layer to the P-type layer as an electric current.
Supplies to make a DIY solar fountain
PVC pipe & connectors (1/2-inch) or tubing to fit the bilge pump
A wheelbarrow, kiddie pool, or some other container of water
Steps to build a DIY solar fountain
Step 1: Place the solar panel
The parts of this project are wired up as follows:
The solar panel will only drive the bilge pump if the whole panel is receiving direct sunlight. Make sure you arrange the solar panel to point directly at the sun.
Step 2: Prepare wire with solar connectors
Your solar panel will probably have wires attached with MC4 solar connectors. To wire up this circuit, you’ll need wires with connectors that are compatible with the MC4 connectors on your solar panel. You can purchase wires with MC4 connectors to attach to your solar panel, or you can purchase the parts (listed above) needed to make your own wires with MC4 connectors.
For guidance on how to attach solar connectors (we used 12 AWG Romex residential wiring), this Instructible is a great resource.
Step 3: Run wire to light switch
Using the wire you’ve prepared with a solar MC4 connector, connect the positive wire from the solar panel to the light switch.
The positive wire can be attached at either of the screw connectors shown on the light switch below.
Step 4: Connect wires to bilge pump
Attach Romex wiring to the other screw connector on the light switch, and then connect that wire to the positive wire on the bilge pump using wire connectors.
Step 5: Connect bilge pump to solar panel
Use your wiring with the MC4 connector to connect the negative wire on the bilge pump to the negative wire on the solar panel.
Step 6: Get creative with PVC pipe or tubing!
Female threaded 1/2-inch PVC pipe connector *almost* fits on the bilge pump. We shaved a bit off to get it to fit.
We then had fun using different pieces of 1/2-inch PVC pipe and connectors to create a variety of fountain structure. Here’s one:
If you enjoyed this project or have questions, please leave us a comment!
Are there other projects you’d like us to build? Let us know!
Check out all of our cool engineering projects.
We also have a helpful basic electronics page that teaches skills such as how to use a breadboard and multimeter.