Singing the Praise of the External Pump

4 minutes read

When people come to the store wanting to build a pond from scratch, replace a malfunctioning pump or make the pond more maintenance-free I immediately go into my song and dance number —the famous if-it-were-me-I-would-install-an-external-pump routine!


An external pump is the most important component to a pond system. It offers the pond-owner a less troublesome, longer-lasting, less expensive (in the long run) piece of equipment than a submersible pump that runs the same amount of gallons per hour.


When I suggest an external pump I often encounter a look of surprise then expressed concerns about everything from the noise of the pump to the ticket cost. I must be getting better with explaining the virtues of the external pump because I’m finding that more people are now willing to consider one when making their decisions of which pumps to purchase.


The PRICE of the external pump is HIGHER than the submersible but the COST is LOWER. Sure, you’ll pay 50% more — sometimes twice as much — for a good external pump on the day that you purchase it. The moment you plug it in, however, you begin saving money with an external pump. Many external pumps are energy efficient, much more than their submersible counterparts. One can replace parts on external pumps but not on most models of submersible pumps. So when a submersible pump goes — it goes for good. It makes financial sense then to install an external pump if one plans to have the pond more than a couple of years.


It’s easy to install an external pump on an existing pond. When the submersible pump goes out in an existing pond it is a perfect time to change to an external model. One has everything to gain by converting. The question of how to get the water out of the pond and to the external pump is easy to answer. One does not have to tear the pond down and install a bottom re-circulation drain into the liner. All that is needed is either an inverted bottom drain or a RetroStrainer Assembly. These are slipped onto flex hose, often the same hose that the submersible pump was on.


External pumps are easy to hide. If the pump is to be installed at above water level of the pond it should be placed within a few feet of the drain and not expected to PULL water up too high. Pumps push better than they can pull so to avoid problems in the future and for best pumping results it should not be placed where it would have to pull water up past a few feet.


External pumps are relatively easy to hide. One might be a little anxious about placing the pump right there by the pond. The units are low to ground, only about a foot tall and about 1 1/2 feet long. This makes it easy to tuck it behind shrubbery, a decorative planted trellis or low stone wall.


External pumps are only loud when they are “taxed”. One of the problems that will occur when a pump is located too far away or too high up from the drain area of the pond is that the motor whines. It’s literally crying for help. 2-speed pumps are built so that they normally run on low, a speed that is energy efficient and extremely quiet. High speeds are used for backwashing bead filters and when one wants to show off for company. All 2-speed pumps are loud on high.


External pumps are easy to operate and clean. Anyone whose submersible pump needs cleaning once or twice a week can testify to the aggravation it can cause and time it takes to clean it. It must be lifted out of the water and can be (and often is) very heavy and cumbersome. Whenever an external pump clogs it needs only to be turned off, the leaf trap top unscrewed and emptied. That’s why installing an external pump is the first big step to creating a pond that requires less maintenance.


The external pump allows a cleaner system. The external pump and bottom drain (or inverted bottom drain) combination allows dirt and debris to be easily removed from the bottom of the pond and places the muck where one can have easy access to it. Without a doubt the external pump system is the most efficient way to have a cleaner pond with less maintenance required.

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It’s been our experience that once a pump goes on the blink it becomes extra weight in the trashcan. There’s very little middle ground. They either pump up a storm or they hum with no water flow at all. You’ll also notice that pumps go out on you at the worst possible moment. You may have a dinner party planned or it’s prom night and the waterfall is the backdrop for the pictures you plan to take. The pump may decide to go out just as you begin your PP treatment. But before we get too carried away and start shopping for a new one it’s worth a try to see if it’s only a matter of a good cleaning.
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You’ve got to give it to them, the companies presently running these wonderful marketing campaigns. They hold seminars that lure in the landscaper and other entry-level pond builders and convince these innocent people how simple their product is to install and "teach" them what an effective job their product does. Their product is the handy-dandy all-in-one filter / skimmer / pump combination. Just dig the hole and line ‘er up with the pond and your job is halfway done — And it’s affordable!