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Best solar water feature 2023: Create an at-home oasis from just £6

Best solar water feature

Add a trickling water soundtrack to your days spent outside with our pick of the best solar water features

Water features lend an extra level of personality to your garden, and there are plenty of benefits to solar-powered ones. Aside from being eco-friendly and virtually free to operate, solar water features are easy to install, safer than electricity and don’t require wires snaking across your lawn. They’re also fantastic for local wildlife, doubling up as a bird bath or drinking vessel thanks to the constantly flowing water.

Design-wise, there are many options. Choose from elegant fountains and cascades, realistic rock arrangements, imaginative sculptures and whimsical rustic designs that add a little touch of magic to your outdoor space.

But how do you choose the best solar-powered water feature for your garden? Are you looking for a statement piece or something unobtrusive that blends into the background? What kind of space do you have – and is there enough sun to power the solar panels? To help you choose, we’ve reviewed some of our favourite water features, along with a short guide to the more logistical aspects of solar water features.

Best solar water feature: At a glance

How to choose the best solar water feature for you

How do solar water features work?

It’s a pretty simple setup: a solar panel connected to a water pump generates energy when exposed to sunlight. This will power the submerged pump, activating a jet or stream of water.

The main thing to worry about is how much sun your garden receives, as the solar panels do need adequate exposure to keep working. Some water features will have a backup battery that charges during sunny spells and should kick in on cloudy days or at night. Low-budget water features may not have a battery, so be aware that in overcast conditions you’ll have a lovely bird bath instead. Bear in mind, too, that if batteries are relied on too heavily they can dry up.

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Where should I place it?

Consider whether you want the water feature to be a focal point of your outdoor space or not. You can direct attention to it with walkways and potted plants, and placing it away from overhanging branches will prevent leaves and debris from dropping into the water. You’ll need a spot that receives bright sun, either for the attached solar panel or the feature itself, and you’ll have to place it on a flat, level surface – which can be grass, decking or even a flowerbed. Just make sure it’s not going to topple over at the slightest breath of wind or be overly exposed to the elements.

How do I maintain my solar water feature?

Solar panels tend to have a typical lifespan of 25 years, but the water pump mechanism is more likely to need replacing after two to four years. If you keep up a regular cleaning schedule it will prolong the pump’s life: just be sure to rid the pump and surrounding area of sediment buildup, algae, plant life and debris. Checking the water level is important, too, as is changing it out for fresh water regularly.

READ NEXT: The best solar garden lights

What’s my budget?

You won’t usually need to pay someone to install a solar water feature, so the cost focuses mainly on size and material used. Solid stone will be pretty expensive; ceramic options such as glazed terracotta or clay are more reasonable, but can also be delicate and fragile. A popular material is polyresin, which is lightweight but has the appearance of something more solid and weighty. For a simple water pump you’ll pay around £10 to £15; most mid-range water features are between £60 and £100, and the higher end can be anything from £200 to £1,000.

What else should I consider?

Sound: The speed of water flow can vary the sound quite significantly – anything from a gentle trickling to a loud splash – and both the tone and volume can change, too. Usually, you want a relaxing sound that blends seamlessly into your garden’s aesthetic rather than the dulcet tones of a dripping tap.

Weatherproofing: Even though most solar water features will be used exclusively outdoors, some materials are at risk of weather damage in the winter. Check for instructions on how to best care for your water feature, which may mean bringing it inside during the colder months.

Cable length: You might have the perfect spot in mind for your water feature, but it’s not particularly sunny. If your water feature has a solar panel connected by cable, then good news! Just check said cable’s length and make sure there’s a sunny spot within the requisite distance of your chosen location. If the solar panel is integrated into your feature then it will need to be somewhere sunny permanently.

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The best solar water feature you can buy in 2023

1. Smart Garden Direct Chatsworth Water Feature: Best solar water fountain

Price when reviewed: £195 | Check price at RHSThe Chatsworth water feature is a timeless classic, acting as a bird bath, fountain and eye-catching centrepiece in your garden’s design. It’s made from polyresin with an aged stone finish and reinforced with concrete, so feels nicely weighted and not at all cheap.

Split into two levels, water cascades gently from the shallow upper bowl into the lower, then it’s recirculated through a low-voltage pump via the integrated solar panel. This provides more of a trickle than a splash, sound-wise. One potential issue is the placement of the solar panel: located in the upper bowl, it can stop working if covered with algae or general leafy debris, so keep an eye out. That said, the absence of a cable to place the solar panel elsewhere makes this water feature a neat, compact and trouble-free option, as long as you have a good sunny spot for it.

The Chatsworth fountain can be split into three parts for moving and cleaning, and you’ll need to top up the water occasionally if it’s evaporated or been drunk by thirsty birds. Be warned that in the depths of winter it’s worth bringing the fountain inside, as frost damage is possible and will crack the material.

Key specs – Dimensions: 70.6 x 53.3 x 53.3cm (HWD); Battery: No; Material: Polyresin; Weight: 14.5kg; Length of cable: No cable needed

Check price at RHS

2. Argos Home Solar Powered Water Feature – Terracotta Pots: Best cascade water feature

Price when reviewed: £100 | Check price at ArgosFor a bright and cheerful solar water feature that won’t take up much space in your garden, these terracotta pots from Argos are a great choice. The tilted jug at the top pours a steady stream of water into three successive pots below, each of which has a small spout at the side to guide water into the largest dish at the base. There’s an unobtrusive clear pipe that runs up from the pump in the base to the top jug, and a separate solar panel with a five-metre cable that can be placed anywhere that receives good sunshine. There’s also a backup battery unit for gloomy days.

The pots are made from hard-wearing clay and coated with durable resin that’s wonderfully weather resistant, and we love the personalisation aspect of this water feature: you can add gravel, stones and shells to the various bowls, which also helps to weigh them down. Some customers say the pots don’t sit particularly deep in their metal frames, so it’s worth keeping the water feature at a distance from speedy children or running dogs – and moving it inside completely when high winds prevail.

We think this water feature looks best when sitting among other pots and potted plants on a patio or decking, but it would look equally good on the lawn or in a rockery between flowers.

Key specs – Dimensions: 53 x 38 x 38cm (HWD); Battery: Yes; Material: Terracotta and metal; Weight: 5kg; Length of cable: 5m

Check price at Argos

3. Blumfeldt Ocean Planet Solar Fountain: Best water feature for a rock garden

Price when reviewed: £115 | Check price at Argos The Ocean Planet fountain is certainly something of a statement piece for your garden. A shiny, sleek and smooth black oval-shaped stone nestles atop a second orb in a lighter grey colour, and together they look like a modernist art sculpture. The water softly bubbles through the top of the black stone and flows downward, creating a rippling effect on both surfaces with a gentle relaxing sound.

Power wise, the long connecting cable allows the attached solar panel to be placed in a sunny spot while the actual water feature can sit practically anywhere. There’s also an integrated 3.7V/2Ah backup battery that charges through the solar, and built-in mood lighting with four white LED bulbs that create a gentle glow.

The water feature is made from lightweight yet robust polyresin which is both weather and UV-resistant, so the fountain can stay outdoors in bad weather and won’t rust or tarnish. We think this is a great option for a camouflaged water feature that looks best among similar shapes and darker or similar colours, so a rock garden is the perfect spot.

Key specs – Dimensions: 31 x 49 x 49cm (HWD); Battery: Yes; Material: Polyresin; Weight: 6.3kg; Length of cable: 5m

Check price at Argos

4. Smart Solar Frog Glazed Ceramic Water Feature: Best low-key water feature

Price when reviewed: £60 | Check price at Keen GardenerThis frog-themed bird bath sits at ground level, making it a gorgeous low-key addition to your borders, flower beds or tucked beneath a bush. Made of glazed, dark green ceramic, the bowl’s scalloped edge is decorated in a leaf pattern and features a charming little ceramic frog that spouts a steady stream of water from its mouth into the bowl below.

Thanks to its small size this water feature is easy to move around, as long as the solar panel – connected via a three-metre cable – remains in full sun. The panel doesn’t hold any excess charge and there’s no backup battery, so once any shade hits the panel the fountain will stop operating.

Some customers have had trouble fitting the frog to the bowl: the frog slots in sideways at first, then should be gently twisted until it faces forward. Be sure to refill the water regularly, too, as the bowl is pretty shallow.

Key specs – Dimensions: 16cm x 37 x 32cm (HWD); Battery: No; Material: Glazed ceramic; Weight: 6kg; Length of cable: 3m

Check price at Keen Gardener

5. Smart Solar Heywood Mill Fountain Water Feature: Best rustic solar water feature 

Price when reviewed: £100 | Check price at AmazonThis quaint little water feature is right at home in gardens with other decorative ornaments. The Heywood Mill Fountain involves a lower level of reddish bricks around the base, a pile of rocks at one side, and a small drain at the top that delivers water into a turning wheel. As you may expect, it’s not actually made from brick and rock: the material is in fact resin, which makes the water feature both lightweight and maintenance-free. 

To fill, add water to the tank at the side and level it with the bottom of the wheel. Some customers report a ‘plopping’ noise as the wheel hits the water, but this usually means it’s been overfilled. The sweet spot will achieve a gentle trickling sound.  

The mini solar panel has a three metre cable and should be placed in the sunniest spot in your garden. There’s no backup battery, so the wheel will only keep turning when the sun’s shining – but that does mean you don’t have to bother switching it on and off. We also recommend moving the Mill Fountain inside during colder weather as it’s susceptible to frost damage. 

Key Spec – Dimensions: 50 x 34 x 25cm (HWD); Battery: No; Material: Resin; Weight: 8kg; Length of cable: 3m 

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