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We often refer to a pond pump as the heart of your pond. They power everything from your pond’s waterfall to the filter that helps keep it clean… and much more!
One particularly popular type of pump is what is known as a submersible pond pump. And while they have their pros and cons, we want to focus on one specific aspect – safety.
So, are submersible pond pumps safe? Let’s jump right in and find out!
What Are Submersible Water Pumps?
A submersible pump is an electric device with a hermetic seal that allows you to submerge it in water. It functions by drawing in liquid through its intake tunnel, where an impeller flushes through a diffuser with a powerful force.
Technical jargon aside, a submersible pond pump is essentially a pump that you can place under the water. The pump pulls water in through the intake and expels it out. The expelled water could be used to power a fountain, a waterfall, or could be biologically filtered and fed back into the pond.
Alternatively, there are external pond pumps available, which live outside of the pond.
Submersible pumps have a few advantages over their external counterparts. They produce less noise and they are easy to hide since they live under the water.
They also have a few disadvantages when compared to external pumps. That’s another topic in itself, so check out our pond pumps guide for a comparison of the two.
Are Submersible Pumps Safe for Your Pond?
Despite their airtight construction and built-in safety features, submersible pond pumps should never be used in a pond meant for swimming or any sort of human immersion. And if you care for the wildlife in your pond, you might want to reconsider that submersible pond pump, as well.
Simply put, water and electricity are a deadly combination.
But, let me be clear. Pond pump manufacturers do design their pumps to be safe. They house the electrical components in a durable, airtight casing and any electrical wires are sealed.
However, their strict safety measures do not remove all risks. Here are a few ways a submersible pump can fail.
The engine of a submersible pump is inside a cast-iron casing with many internal safeguards to prevent water from touching its electrical components and moving parts.
But, like anything in life, these seals can degrade over time or fail. The result is water can come into contact with the electrical components creating the worst-case scenario, electrified pond water.
Just as they do with the casing of the unit, manufacturers put a lot of care into properly protecting any wires or cables that may come into contact with pond water.
Pond pump manufacturers typically encase any electrical wires in a neoprene (a synthetic rubber) coating. And any gaps on the unit are often filled with an epoxy, which helps ensure no water can enter.
But, again, through age, impact, mishandling, the neoprene coating, and epoxy can crack, allowing water to contact the electrical components.
If your pond doesn’t completely freeze over in winter, it’s typically fine to leave your pump in the water. However, if there is any chance that the water could freeze, it's best to remove your pump.
Any water in your pump that freezes will expand, potentially causing the casing or any seals to crack. And when Spring rolls around and you turn your pump back on, you could be in for a shocking surprise (pun intended).
When storing your submersible pond pump for the winter, be sure to store it in a bucket of water in your house to prevent the seals from drying out.
Wrong outlet Type
In the good ol’ US of A, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Electric Code (NEC) require that all homeowners have a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets where there is water present.
A GFCI intelligently detects power surges or leakages and automatically cuts off the power if it senses anomalies.
Most new homes have GFCI receptacles. However, many older homes don’t. If you plug in a submersible pump to a regular outlet, it could experience a power surge and increase the risk of electric shock.
Just to reiterate, always plug your submersible pond pump into a GFCI outlet. If you only have a regular outlet available, replace it with a GFCI outlet before plugging in your pond pump.
How To Improve Safety When Using A Submersible Pond Pump
- Before installing the pump, check it for any damage, cracks, bad seals, etc. Contact the manufacturer immediately if you find any of the aforementioned.
- Only have qualified personnel install or repair the pump. Any wiring should be performed by a qualified electrician.
- Only connect the pump to a GFCI outlet.
- Isolate the pump from sharp objects and sand.
- Do not allow people or pets to swim or immerse themselves in a pond with a submersible pond pump. If you must enter the pond, be sure to turn the power off to the pump.
- Be sure to disconnect the pump from its power source before handling it.
- Do not use the power cord to lift the pump out of the water.
- If you remove the pump from your pond for an extended period of time (during winter, for example) be sure to store it in a bucket of water in your house to prevent the seals from drying out.
- If it fits your pump needs, opt for a low-wattage solar-powered pond pump.
- Finally, ask yourself, do I really need a pond pump? If you don’t have any water features in your pond and it's full of oxygenating pond plants, you might not even need one. Many fish, like goldfish, will survive in a pond without a pump.
The takeaway here? We don’t want to discourage you from using a submersible pond pump. In fact, we recommend them here on this site. But, whenever you deal with electricity and water, you need to use extreme caution. So, feel free to responsibly and safely use a submersible pond pump to power your pond components.