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How to Size a Solar Water Pumping System | altE Bog

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Solar Water Pumping Part 2 How to Size a

Solar Power News & DIY Solar Tips > Solar Water Pumping > Solar Water Pumping Part 2 How to Size a

l Amy Beaudet
} May 13, 2016

m Solar Water Pumping booster pumps, dynamic head, friction head loss,
solar water pumping, solar water pumps, submersible
2[8/30/2017 10:23:58 AM]

How to Size a Solar Water Pumping System | altE Bog


This second part of our blog series on solar water pumping. Be sure to read Solar Water Pumping Part 1
first to get a background on water solar water pumps are and what are common options.


In this blog post were going to show you how to size and determine the various basic components that
make up a submersible solar water pumping system:

1. Solar powered submersible pump that goes in your well

2. Holding tank or cistern to store a reserve of water
3. Solar panel array to power the pump
4. Linear current booster that optimizes the power from the solar panels to the pump
5. Booster pump to increase the pressure of the water to usable household levels (if your cistern isnt high

This blog posting will covering solar pumping systems where you are drawing water from a well
andnotwhere the source of the water is a pond, lake, river etc. These shallow pumping sources will be
covered in a future blog posting where one would use a surface pump powered by solar.

When determining what pump(s) to get, you need to evaluate your pumping needs. How much water a day
do you need, how many days of storage, how high and far does it need to be pumped, and what is the
source? Seventy fiveGallons per day (GPD) per person is common for domestic use. Your local weather
patterns will help determine the amount of storage; do you have long stretches without sun, or is it only an
occasional cloudy day?


Lets use an example of a family of 4 in Ohio to supply their off-grid house with domestic water. They need
to store enough water for a week of bad weather. They have a well 800ft away from the house, running
through in plastic pipe. The cistern is 80ft higher than the water level, and 25ft higher than the house.[8/30/2017 10:23:58 AM]

How to Size a Solar Water Pumping System | altE Bog

A solar water pumping system that includes a submesible solar pump and a booster pump to increase water pressure for
household use.

Sizing the Water Storage Tank or Cistern for a Solar Pumping System
To figure out how much water they need to store in case there is little sun during rainy days wewill take the
amount of water theyneed per day per person, multiple it by the number of people and then how many days
you canexpect (worse case) towould would go without sunlight. So, in this example, theywould need a
tank that can store:

75 gallons x 4 people x 7 days = 2,100 gallons storage

Sizing the Submersible Pump for the Well

There aretwo pieces of information we need to select asolar water submersible pump to meet
theirneeds they are:

1. Pumping Rate: How many gallons per minute will the pump need to move water when its powered by
the sun?
2. Effective Dynamic Head: How high, vertically, will the pump have to move the water up? Plus, how
much effective head is added due to friction loss in the pipe?

Determining How Many Gallons per Minute the Pump Needs to be Capable of[8/30/2017 10:23:58 AM]

How to Size a Solar Water Pumping System | altE Bog

To calculate the needed gallons per minute theirpump will have to do per minute we will first make an
assumption of how many hours per day the pump can be reasonably run of the solar panels. Then we will
simply divide the gallons they need per day by the total number of minutes the pump would be running. So
in thisexample, a submersible pump would need to provide 300 gallons of water a day (75 gallons of water
used per person x 4 people = 300 gallons), plus extra for stretches of bad weather, so lets say 400 gallons
of water a day. If we figure most of the pumping will be from 9AM to 3PM, thats 6 hours of pumping, or 360
minutes. And so we can determine how many gallons per minute we need theirpump to be able to do

400 gallons 360 minutes = 1.11 gallons per minute

Determine Total Dynamic Head

We know that the pump has to raise the water vertically 80 feet. But it also needs to push it 800 feet
horizontally. Even if the 800ft is completely horizontal, there will be friction loss from flowing through the
pipe. The rate of flow will determine how much Friction Head Loss you will get.

Friction head loss is a way to take into account the friction of the water moving through the pipe and
incorporate the additional load on the pump as if it were part of the vertical pumping distance (i.e. dynamic
head) the pump has to get the water up to. Fortunately, there are handy tables that can tell us how much
effective dynamic head we have to add due to every foot of pipe for different pipe sizes and rates of
pumping the water through them.

In the chart below, each 100 of pipe length will be equal to the corresponding number of vertical feet of
head. In our example, in pipe flowing 2GPM though it will be equal to 1ft vertical head per 100ft. So 800ft
of horizontal pumping will equal 8additional feet of head, for a total of 88ft of head (80ft of actual vertical
head + 8ft friction head loss).

Total Dynamic Head = Vertical Head + Effective Additional Head Due to Pipe Friction
= 80Ft + (1ft effective vertical head / 100ft) x 800ft
= 80ft + 8'
= 88ft

Friction Head Loss (in feet per 100ft plastic pipe)

Nominal Pipe Diameter

GPM 3/8 1 1 1

1 3.3 1.1 0.3 x x x

2 11.8 3.8 1.0 0.3 0.1 x[8/30/2017 10:23:58 AM]

How to Size a Solar Water Pumping System | altE Bog

3 42.5 13.7 3.5 1.1 0.3 0.1

4 62.2 20.7 5.3 1.6 0.4 0.2

5 x 29.0 7.4 2.3 0.6 0.3

6 x 49.5 12.6 3.9 1.0 0.5

8 x 74.5 19.0 5.9 1.6 0.7

10 x x 68.6 21.2 5.6 2.6

20 x x x x 11.8 5.6

30 x x x x 20.1 9.5

40 x x x x x 9.5

50 x x x x x 14.4


So we now know that this family in Ohio willneed a submersible pump that is capable of pumping at
least1.11 GPM and up 88ft of head. With just those two pieces of data we can go and drill down to any of
the submersible solar pumps specification pages and there will be a chart for each pump that will tell us
what each model can do for that pump rate (some will be in GPM, others will show an hourly GPH) and
dynamic head. We then just need to narrow down which one will do at least as much pumping in GPM as
we will need for a total of 88ft of dynamic head.

As an example, lets look at Sunpumpsto see if one of their pumps would work. Well check out their SDS
series of pumps. Well just plunge into one of the specification pages, open up the PDF datasheet under the
Documents section of one of the pumps product pages on our website to find the graph. Lets get started

Pop Quiz!
Without scrolling beyond the bottom of the graph below, can you figure out which pump(s) will provide us
with at least 1.11GPM at 88ft of head? Note that the total feet of head is along the bottom of the chart
(meters is along the top).[8/30/2017 10:23:58 AM]

How to Size a Solar Water Pumping System | altE Bog

An example of a typical chart for a submersible solar pump, where it shows us 6 different pump models and what they can do for
gallons per minute with a given total head height.

Starting at the bottom of the graph, the Sunpump SDS-D-228 can pump about 1.2 GPM at 88. Thats a bit
close for our needs, lets see what the next size up is. The SDS-D-128 can pump over 1.5GPM at 88ft. Over
360 minutes, that would be 540 gallons. We determined we needed 300 gallons a day, so that gives us a
nice buffer for bad weather.

At this point we could also look at other submersible pumps options, like those from Shurflo or SunRotor,
but we will run with SunPumps SDS-D-128 model for now as the example.

Determining How Many Solar Panels Youll Need to Power the Pump[8/30/2017 10:23:58 AM]

How to Size a Solar Water Pumping System | altE Bog

Once you have figured which models of pumps could work for our application the next step is to figure out
how many watts of solar panels we will need to power the pump and ensure it provides us with the water we

To find theSDS-S-128s power requirementswe got to thetable within the detailed specification page on
altEs website. A general rule of thumb is to oversize the solar panel by about 30% to make up for less than
ideal weather conditions.

We see in the chart below that at 92ft (close to our target 88ft) Total Dynamic Head (TDH feet), it can pump
1.55GPM, which confirms what we saw in the previous graph.

Figuring the Voltage of the Solar Panel we Should Use

With the motor at 30 volts DC, it recommends at least a solar panel of 116 watts (W). Since a nominal 24V
solar panel has a Vmp (i.e. Maximum Power Voltage iswhat voltage at which panel produces the
mostpower) of about 36V,we caneither use a single 24V nominal solar panel or two 12V panels wired in
series would work.

Determining the Wattage of the Solar Panel for the Pump

To calculate the minimum wattage solar panel we should use we oversize the wattage rating of the pump by

116W x 1.3 oversizing = 151W of solar panels or greater

We could use one altE 24V 200W panel, or two 12V solar panels that are half the wattage, like the altE 12V
80W solar panels in series for 24V nominal 160W total.[8/30/2017 10:23:58 AM]

How to Size a Solar Water Pumping System | altE Bog

A single altE 200W 24V nominal solar panel could be used or two altE 80W, 12V nominal solar panels.


To optimize the amount water you can pump in a day it is important to use a pump controller, which are
often referred to as a Linear Current Booster (mentioned in Part 1 of this solar water pumping series). The
controller will get your pump to turn on earlier in the morning and stay on later into the day. Each
manufacturer has a pump controller they recommend for their series of pumps but there are a number of
other linear current boosters that are from other manufacturers that provide other features that may work
with the pump you choose, such as afloat switch or water level switch. In this example, the SDS series
pumps use the SunPump PCA 30-M1D Pump Controller.


With only 25ft of head (vertical distance) from the cistern to the house, you will get 25ft x .433 PSI/ft = 10
PSI of water pressure from gravity feed, so a booster pump will also be needed to maintain house water
pressure. The Booster pump would be connected to the battery bank to allow you to have house pressure
whenever needed, not just when the sun is shining.[8/30/2017 10:23:58 AM]

How to Size a Solar Water Pumping System | altE Bog

Pumps that are specifically made to be booster pumps to pressurize water can be used but surface pumps
can also be used in this application. The Shurflo 2088 is available for a 12V or 24V battery bank, and
provides up to 40PSI pressure, runs at around 2GPM and consumes about 65W when running (from the
graph below we take 24V DC x 2.71A = 65W) . If the pump only runs one hour a day, that is only 65
watthours (Wh) a day.

Chart for the 24V DC version of Shurflow 2088 surface pump which can be used to pressurize a homes water lines.

The Dankoff Standard Speed Flowlight Booster Pump (which has various voltage options) can pressurize
your homes water up to 65PSI, and at 40PSI moves water at 4.3GPM while using about 180 watts when
run at 24V DC.[8/30/2017 10:23:58 AM]

How to Size a Solar Water Pumping System | altE Bog

The Dankoff Flowlight series of booster pumps is specifically made for pressurizing household water.

Typically the batteries for pressurizing pump system would be the same one
as the off-grid households battery bank. However, if your application is one
where you are going to have a battery bank dedicated just to this
pressurizing pump you can treat sizing this system like sizing a small off-grid
solar powered system.

We recommend using our off-grid solar sizing calculator to determine how

large of a battery bank, how many watts of solar panels and what size solar
charge controller you would need. Your load (in watt-hours) for the system
will be the power it consumes (i.e. multiply the pumps running voltage times
itscurrent, Amps, to get the watts)times the number of hours it would run
total in a day. Youll feed that information into the calculator.

A PRESSURE TANK IS RECOMMENDED A pressure tank, which can be

purchased locally, is typically
Typically you would connect the output of the pressurizing pump into charged by the pressurizing
pressure tank. The larger the pressure tank is, the less that pump has to turn pump. The larger the tank is the
less the pump has to turn off
off and on, increasing the life of the pump, reducing the soundfrom it cycling
and on.
and, importantly, themore efficiently it runs using less energy from your

Typical sizes for the pressure tank ranges from 20 gallons to 100 gallons or larger. A larger tank can also[8/30/2017 10:23:58 AM]

How to Size a Solar Water Pumping System | altE Bog

supply pressurized water longer in the case that your batteries powering the pump get too low or the pump
has to be pulled due to maintenance.

A pressure tank can be skimped on but expect the pressure of your water to surge up and down as you use
it, and if your flow rate is more than water the pump can produce in the moment you may never see the full
pressure desired.


The drawing below shows the solar water pumping solution for our domestic water use example. Please
contact us at the altE Store to help you find the right solution for your water pumping needs.


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How to Size a Solar Water Pumping System | altE Bog

Amy Beaudet
Amy Beaudet has been in the solar industry at the altE Store since 2007. Shes been a
sales rep, an instructor, and an all around solar evangelist, sharing her passion for solar
around the world. When not at work, shes either sailing or skiing, depending on the
season, but odds are good shes still talking about solar on the boat or on the slopes.


SHURflo Surface Pumps Solar Water Pumping Solar Water Pumping:

Part 1 Basics Do I really need a
control box?


Richard Bizon June 3, 2016 at 8:20 pm

Solar Water Pumping Part 2 How to Size a System

altE Solar Blog > Solar Water Pumping > Solar Water Pumping Part 2 How to Size a System

there is a mistake in using 12v 80 watts pannels. you would need 4 panels not the 2 in the article.

Amy Beaudet (Post author) June 8, 2016 at 12:17 pm

The way we calculated it was it said the pump needed at least 116W or 3.08A at 24V. If I
oversize the array by 30%, thats 150W or 4A. Wiring two of the 12V 80W panels in series,
we get 24V, 160W, and 4.4A, so two is enough.

Calvin June 18, 2016 at 7:45 am

Hi am in africa in remote area i want to connect a solar pump myself .i bought a pump which is rated 48[8/30/2017 10:23:58 AM]

How to Size a Solar Water Pumping System | altE Bog

volts at 450watts & 2 solar panels which 300 watts .my well deep is 20 metres ,water level 13 metres .my
tank wil placed at about 40 metres away incuding depth . my pump is rated 100m lift at 32mm pipe please
help i need to know if i have got the right matiriel

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