Performance and reviews of Solar Sippers

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Happy Bird Corporation – Solar Sippers for clean fresh drinking water for wild birds and pets.

Super Solar Sipper Performance Data

Research Data: Report to Happy Bird Corporation on Predicted Water Temperatures in the new Solar Sipper (Model 10040) Compiled by John Duffy, J. J. Associates, Winchester, MA – 1 June 1998

I have been developing a mathematical model of the thermal performance of solar sippers under various weather conditions. I have also been monitoring the temperatures of solar sippers during winter conditions on the front steps of my house on a number of days. Comparisons of performance of the “old” and “new” sippers have been made as well as predictions as to “How cold can it get before the water in the sippers freezes?” I wish to summarize the results of these measurements and analyses.

The methodology of the study briefly was: – Develop a mathematical model of the temperature of water in a solar sipper based on principle of heat transfer, taking into account effects of solar irradiation, ambient temperatures and wind, initial water temperature, sipper material properties that affect solar transmission and heat transfer – Adjust some of the thermal parameters in the model so that the predicted temperatures match closely the measured water temperatures on a typical sunny winter day (specifically Feb 6th, 1998) – Use the model to predict the performance of both the “old” (black top and red sides [Model 10008]) and “new” (HDPE clear top and sides with black interiors [Model 10040]) sippers under other simulated weather conditions

It is important to point out that the thermal performance of the sipper in reality is a function of many variables. Specifically, on any given day the following can affect the temperature of the water:  – day of the year (affects incident sun angles) – geographic location of the sipper (also affects incident sun angles) – degree of cloudiness – degree of shading from external objects (e.g. buildings, trees) – wind speed around the sippers – temperature of whatever is underneath the sipper (ground, wood, air, etc.) – initial temperature of the water – how much water is in the sipper (I would recommend filling to the lip of the lid), and, of course – ambient temperature (which typically varies over the day)

Obviously, if I systematically varied all of the above parameters to find the combinations predicted to result in no freezing of water, the number of such combinations would be very large and difficult to apply for a customer. Even though I have simplified the simulation to keep the results straightforward, it is important to keep in mind the limitations of the results described below.

In the simulations, I kept all weather conditions as on the day I measured the actual sipper water temperature (i.e. a clear February 6th near Boston with no measurable wind near the sippers) and varied only the ambient temperature until the simulated water temperature reached 32 F. The simulated initial water temperature was 63 F, but the results were independent of the initial water temperature. For the “old” sipper {Model 10008) with a constant simulated ambient temperature of 20F, no freezing took place during daylight hours. For the “new” HDPE sipper (Model 10040), the constant ambient temperature could go down to 14 F.

Constant ambient temperatures during the daylight hours are of course very rare and therefore not too realistic. Consequently, I searched a weather database for some recorded hourly weather data to use with the simulation model. The database is called WYEC2, and is available from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO, and is made up of actual historical weather records with different months from different years pieced together to represent a typical meteorological year. I found the coldest day of the year for Boston (a relatively clear January 12th) and entered the ambient temperatures for the day and adjusted the model clear sky solar irradiation to match the daily total irradiation on the horizontal in the database. The average ambient temperature during the daylight hours varied from 7 F to 18 F and averaged 13 F. The new HDPE solar sipper (Model 10040) water did not freeze during daylight hours. (back to top)


Product Reviews, Articles and Testimonials

Birding Business – Early Spring 2003

“Cool, Clear Sizzle – How to promote the benefit of backyard water features”

“Tom Hollyday of Happy Bird has developed a line of products that enforce separation of drinking and bathing. Hollyday has also put thought into energy efficient ways to heat and cool the water to compensate for those seasonal stressors of ice and heat. By separating the mess of bathing from the need for clean drinking water, the threat of spreading disease is removed.”

“Water is cool, and water sizzles. It is key to birding habitat success.”

 Product Reviews, Articles and Testimonials

“Drinking and Bathing Just Don’t Mix”
Dr. Scott Shalloway and Tom Hollyday

“Water. It’s out most precious natural resource. Without it, life as we know it would cease to exist. It’s the source and support of all life on earth. And for backyard birders, water’s the secret to attracting a colorful collections of visitors all year long.

The virtues of water are many, but most importantly water satisfies thirst. Animal tissue is approximately 70 percent water. Water lost in urine or evaporation can be replaced by eating water-rich foods such as insects and berries, or by simply taking a drink.

Water also provides a convenient place to bathe. During warm weather birds routinely immerse themselves in shallow puddles of water. They fluff their feathers and flap their wings to insure that every feather gets soaked. When they leave the water, they fluff and shake their feathers, and preen. Clean feathers insulate the body from summer heat and winter cold.

Finally, after a cold bath on a hot day a bird might just feel better and look better to other birds. A good soaking may relive the itch and discomfort caused by mites and feather lice. And a smartly groomed male, whose appearance helps attract females, holds a mate’s attention, and deters competitors, may be taken more seriously than its less fastidious counterparts.

These virtues have been known for years and in large measure explain the historic popularity of backyard bird baths. Bird lovers go to great lengths to satisfy their backyard visitors. Unfortunately bird baths are just that – baths. After just a few soakings, a traditional bird bath turns into a warm soupy broth of dirty water, shed feathers and droppings – hardly an irresistible place to take a drink.

In 1989 Tom Hollyday, a lifelong animal lover, decided backyard birds deserved better. “I wanted to build a device that would keep water cool in the hot weather, use solar power to keep water liquid in cold weather, and was easy to keep clean,” he recalls. “In the process I eliminated the drudgery of scrubbing traditional bird baths and the expense and bother of electric heating elements.”

Hollyday presented his solution to the bird dilemma and called it the “Solar Sipper.” It consists of three parts. The top cover keeps dirt and debris from soiling the water, while a single small hole offer thirsty birds an ideal drinking platform. The main bowl rests inside a larger outer bowl. The air space between the bowls insulates the water from temperature extremes. In winter, the passive solar heats keeps the water from freezing down to 20 degrees F when the fresh water is placed out in the sun. During the summer, the air space prevents the water from overheating. In other words, the Solar Sipper provides clean fresh drinking water all year long – simply, reliably and inexpensively. If you already have a bird bath, the Solar Sipper is a perfect complement to insure that clean drinking water is always available.  

Though the Solar Sipper can be post-mounted, it works even better when placed directly on the ground. Dr. Scott Shalloway, one of the nation’s leading authorities on attracting backyard birds, calls the Solar Sipper a “remarkably simple and effective watering device. So often the best ideas are the simple ones. I’ve seen everything from cardinals to blue jays to chickadees and goldfinches drinking for my Solar Sipper, which I keep on the ground about five feet from a tray feeder.”

Product Reviews, Articles and Testimonials

Cornell Handbook (top)
Cornell Bird Library Guide – (Cornell Lab of Ornithology) – The FeederWatcher’s Guide to Bird Feeding

“Suggestions on birdbaths”, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Bird Bulletin #9/219
“… look for a basin that can be cleaned easily and has a gentle slope that will allow birds to wade into the water… consider one made of indestructible plastic that won’t break if water freezes… plastic is easy to clean… try to imitate a natural puddle… position it close to the ground, better yet on the ground… birds can’t fly well when wet. (Nearby) cover will allow a quicker escape… remember to clean it every couple of days…”

Product Reviews, Articles and Testimonials

Cornell Bird Library Guide – (Cornell Lab of Ornithology) – The FeederWatcher’s Guide to Bird Feeding


Product Reviews, Articles and Testimonials

Bill Board – Seasonal Update to The Bird’s-Eye reView, 1994

Water will help withstand winter”


Product Reviews, Articles and Testimonials

Bill Board – Seasonal Update to The Bird’s-Eye reView, 1994

“Pull the Plug in Too Frigid Weather”

Product Reviews, Articles and Testimonials

WildBird Magazine, 1994

“In many cases, winter water proves to be as popular as foods put out in feeders to attract a variety of birds. The trick is to keep the water from freezing; open water is a rare commodity in winter’s freezing temperatures in northern climes.

“The Solar Sipper is one of those ingenious inventions that make you want to slap your forehead and ask, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ It requires not electricity or extension cords. It is absolutely safe, and it provides fresh water in areas where they may be no potable water.”


(click each image to enlarge)

Product Reviews, Articles and Testimonials

WildBird Magazine, 1990
Product Report: Solar Sipper
“The advantage of not having to provide power to create unfrozen water in winter is environmentally sound.”

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