New Energy-Efficient Solar Pumps Saves Utility Bills

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COLUMBIA - The city hoped to increase use of water saving rain barrels by promoting the addition of energy-efficient solar pumps.

The city added a new solar pump to its existing rain barrels, which water over 20 community gardens around Columbia.

Stormwater educator Mike Heimos has four 50-gallon rain barrels at his house and he said he has been saving a great deal in utility bills.

Rain barrels are primarily used to water plants and flowers in the spring and early fall.

"The rain barrel takes about 6-8 hours to charge it, but once it's fully charged, it will run for about 15 minutes on a full charge," Heimos said. "And for someone at home that's watering their plants outside, that's just about enough time that it would take to water."

Heimos said around 650 gallons of water would come off the roof of a 1200 square feet house with one inch of rain.

One disadvantage to the solar panel pump is that it will only charge in full sunlight. Heimos said he is testing out different ways to make his own solar pump run even without full sunlight.

Health Educator Maureen Coy said the city is currently working on a way to have the water running longer than 15 minutes to water bigger gardens for a longer amount of time.

"We want to buy a bigger solar panel system and a bigger pump that would allow us to be able to run that water from the rain barrels constantly or throughout the day, so we just don't have 15 minutes of charge, but we're able to do it for hours on end," Coy said.

The city recently offered 50-gallon rain barrels on sale for $62.00. The barrels come with all the components needed for set up and are made of 50% recycled material.

Columbia sold more than 400 barrels last spring and they will be available again next spring.