What Exactly Are Solar Birdbaths?
What are Solar Birdbaths?
Solar birdbaths were a mystery to me when I first learned about them. I thought, “How can anything in a birdbath be solar powered?” The answer is that it’s not the birdbath itself that’s solar powered, it’s the pump that circulates the water. The most common types of bird bath pumps are electric powered, but these can often be costly to install and can present an electrocution hazard. Solar birdbaths can be less expensive to install, safer and generally don’t require permits.
How Do Solar Bird Baths Work?
The bird bath pump, or heater if you have one, contains a solar, or photo voltaic, cell. These cells convert sunlight into electricity at the atomic level. The solar cell contains a semi-conductor that releases electrons when light hits the cell. With an electrical conductor attached to the semi-conductor, the electrons are captured into a current, otherwise known as electricity. You can read more about how solar cells work at NASA’s website.
Many solar birdbaths have an integrated solar panel and pump unit that recharges by day and automatically keeps the water circulating from a hidden reservoir. On some models, the solar panel also supplies the power that lights the bird bath by night. Like other birdbaths with pumps, the circulating water of solar birdbaths helps discourage the breeding of mosquito larvae and the growth of algae. In colder climates, the circulating water does not freeze over as easily.
Other solar birdbaths include a heater. These models are less common, and you may need to look around quite a bit to find one. This is because the cost of collecting enough sunlight to heat the water is not worth it, so if you’re looking for a bird bath heater, an electric model may be a better choice.
There are a couple of possibilities if you’d like to install a solar-powered bird bath in your yard : either purchase a model with an integrated solar cell and pump, or connect separate solar cells to an existing bird bath. If you choose and integrated model, you will need to place the birdbath in direct sunlight. If you choose non-integrated solar panels, the birdbath can be placed in the shade, and solar cells in a sunny location.
The Audubon Society offers free instructions on how to build your own solar powered birdbaths, and suggests placing the solar cells about 10 feet from the basin. You can find the free instructions here. Remember, too that it is always possible to retrofit existing birdbaths with a solar pump.
A variation of solar birdbaths that you may wish to consider is the « Solar Slipper Bowl ». This is a solar-heated bowl with a plastic cover that absorbs the sun’s heat and keep the water warm, even in temperatures as low as 20F. A cover keeps the water from becoming contaminated and the unit can be mounted in a variety of locations, such as trees, decks and wooden posts. Remember, though that this does not include a solar heater or pump. It is made of materials that absorb and hold the sun’s heat and keep the water warm.
The solar slipper bowl is available at Amazon here:
Whichever solar birdbath you choose, be sure to select one with a pump that’s not too loud to avoid scaring off the birds. Also, be sure that the pump only circulates the water during the day, otherwise the splashing water at night may attracts predators, such as raccoons and cats.
Make Your Own Solar Birdbath
If you would like to make your own solar birdbath, you can do so by following the instructions on how to make any other type of birdbaths. Here are some ideas for unique do-it-yourself birdbaths. Follow the instructions to make any of those birdbaths, then add a solar powered pump. Prettypurpledoor.com also has good instructions on how to make solar birdbaths.
Here are some recommended solar birdbaths on Amazon: