Are you interested in investing in a fountain for your pond, but you’re not sure where to get started? Today, we’re debunking some of the most common pond fountain myths so you can feel comfortable and confident when it comes to pond fountain maintenance.
With our pond fountain tips and tricks, you can create an outdoor oasis and have a positive outdoor experience. Here’s what you need to know about pond fountains:
Myth #1: Pond fountain horsepower is the best gauge
The idea of rating a pond fountain's pumping volume on horsepower is rarely a good idea. Certain old-time manufacturers of pond fountain pumps place a great bit of emphasis on pump horsepower, perhaps largely in part due to the public's perception that horsepower is the best way to rate a pump. Kasco and Scott, we would say, are honest about their pump's horsepower, and there are other old-time manufacturers we would also consider reliable.
But really the pond fountain market is unregulated, and all kinds of claims are made that are suspicious. Take for instance, our FT-6000 pump, which we rate at 6000 gallons per hour after flow testing slightly above that mark. We have found the identical fountain pump produced under a different brand name advertised at 7900 gallons per hour. Again, this is an unregulated industry.
Likewise, claims about horsepower are also quite suspicious. Very high horsepower ratings claims are often made about very small pumps that use very low wattage. That’s not possible since the pump's horsepower and wattage are related. We suspect some companies are citing input horsepower but really what's more accurate of what a pump is accomplishing is output horsepower.
Besides, when it comes to fountain pumps, what matters is how much water is being pumped out of the pump and with what pressure. How much water is being pumped out (volume) and at what pressure (head) are the determining factors in aeration and display.
It depends on the goals of the pond fountain. Flow rate and discharge pressure are determined by the intended application of the pump.
Irrigation pumps for deep wells might have to push water up hundreds of feet and lots of pressure is needed. But that’s not the way fountains work. Displays are generally somewhere between five to thirty-five feet tall and wide.
There are exceptions, of course, for very large fountains, though really huge displays also combine the force of air compressors. Again, what’s needed is high volume and high enough pressure to reach the goals of that particular fountain design.
Myth #2: The pump’s flow rate is the same as the fountain’s flow rate
The kind of nozzle used is going to deeply influence the volume of water going into the air. Small-holed nozzles make for taller and wider displays, but they also can tend to clog up and they definitely restrict flow. Anybody who has used a garden hose and restricted flow with a nozzle knows how this process works.
A 5,000 gallon per hour (or 83 gallon per minute, same thing) pump might only pump out 1,500 gallons per hour once the water escapes the nozzle. Aerating fountains (as opposed to purely decorative) reduce the discrepancy by using propellers (which create less pressure) instead of impellers (higher pressure) and the “nozzle” is essentially a large hole, thus not restricting flow the way intricate, many-holed decorative nozzles do.
Also, some floating fountains produce tall displays that look more like sprinklers than they do fountains. The small holes create a misty effect, and the water droplets are sometimes so small as to be tiny.
Companies like Kasco find out their system’s actual flow rates by having them independently tested in sophisticated test tanks. Still, probably because the industry is so unregulated, they don’t publish their flow rates because they would be compared to rates published by unscrupulous competitors.
We can find out actual flow rates for you if needed. Flow rates can be measured two ways, free-flowing without nozzles and with the nozzles. You need to know the flow rate coming out of the nozzle, not the free-flow rate.
Myth #3: Running a 220-240 volt floating pond fountain is cheaper than running a 110-120 volt pump
Energy companies charge by kilowatt hour, not current. Now if you are running a powerful pump with thin-gauged wire, your pump will lose a lot of its power due to wire resistance and thus not have energy-efficiency.
Thin-gauged wires also create a safety hazard as the wire and insulation heat up, deteriorate over time, or fail completely. 220-240 volt pumps require thinner-gauged cords to run long lengths than lower voltage pumps do.
So if it’s the case of you using thin-gauged wire then, yes, your 120-volt pump will waste electricity and cost more to run than a 220-240 volt system because 220v draws less current for a given power rating than the 120-volt equivalent. But if the wire is properly gauged, the voltage won’t matter as far as your energy bill goes.
Myth #4: Stainless Steel Pumps are Superior for Your Pond Fountain
Sometimes it is true, but it's not because of the stainless-steel housing. The water does not care if your housing is stainless steel or a durable plastic, as neither corrodes. It’s sometimes true that a stainless-steel pump is made of superior parts inside the housing.
In that case, yes, the pump is superior. But what matters is what’s inside, not the housing material (though stainless steel provides more "wow" when unpacking from the box).
Myth #5: Floating Pond Fountains Don’t Require Maintenance
False. They do require maintenance.
Kasco Marine recommends replacement of anodes (not difficult or expensive) at least once per year. And all fountain pumps can get dirty, though to varying degrees. Regular maintenance should be performed. For our Fountain Tech “hybrid pumps”, the impeller should be removed and cleaned, along with the cavity in which it fits, at least once a year.
In areas of the country that get really cold, floating fountains need to be removed during winter months. (You can do any kind of necessary maintenance then, too).
Fountain pumps are not intended to freeze! And though a running pump is unlikely to freeze, you might lose electricity. Then what?
Also, some plastics used in making floats and other parts might not withstand iced-up water. Even when you do bring in a fountain pump, it’s difficult to get all of the water out and so you should store above 32 degrees as water trapped in cavities will expand as it freezes, potentially cracking or warping components.
Myth #6: The Longer the Warranty, the Better the Deal
We generally respect anything written by the Fountain Guys, and we would like to borrow an idea from them here. They ask the question, Is a pump with a long warranty worth it?
We agree with them; it depends.
To produce pumps with long warranties, factories must increase the price of the pump. Some of the very cheapest fountain pumps we see on the market have 90-day warranties (we won't mention the brand). It could be that the cheap pump will last for years. It depends on water quality and whether the pump is allowed to jam up (or in small indoor and outdoor fountains, to run dry).
But in any case, the customer needs to balance the difference between initial cost of the unit and how much it would cost to replace the pump should it stop working outside of warranty. Does the company you order from offer replacement parts? And how limited is the warranty? There are companies that reject warranties for a number of reasons like too much mineral deposit or clogging.
We know of one particular southern California company that tends to reject warranties outright. We have always had great luck with warranties on Kasco and Scott units (though honestly these hold up quite well).
We honor almost all warranties on the Fountain Tech line of pumps, though we more often than not find that when a pump is returned, the impeller has clogged up or actually "frozen" in place and is nearly impossible to move, even with a hammer. Most damage to pumps can be prevented by keeping the inlet clean and operating the pump in water that isn’t full of substances that will jam the pump.
We recently had a customer call us about two pumps that had stopped working in a day. We recommended he remove the impellers and clean the insides and re-insert and the problem was fixed.
He’s a very honest customer who reported to us that he had sealed the ponds with a creamy substance and it had created a sticky film inside the impeller cavities that caused the impellers to freeze up. Water quality is going to be the number one factor in pump reliability. When too much algae or hard-core mineral deposits and sand get inside, the impellers can freeze up and if let to run too long with frozen impellers, they will stop working altogether.
We would consider any Kasco Pond Fountain to be of the highest quality if you are looking for long life spans! Just look at how well they’re put together in a sample image.
Myth #7: Solar powered fountains for ponds are the only option
Sometimes it’s difficult to get an electrical outlet out to your pond, so solar is an option to consider. But we just want to warn you that they’re expensive to purchase.
Also, most do not include batteries, which means that they only run when it's sunny out, and how much they display at any given time will depend on the degree of sunniness. If you do add batteries, remember that batteries go bad over time and will need replacement. We aren't trying to discourage you; we merely wish you to know the facts.
How to choose a pond fountain: Final thoughts
When buying a fountain pump, it’s volume that mostly determines the feature's design, not horsepower. Nozzles always restrict flow; how much water is exiting the pump's nozzles is the true flow measure. 110v is not more expensive than 220v. Pumps should be plugged into a ground fault interrupter.
Pumps, even the very best quality, need to be maintained. Stainless-steel housing does not make a better pump; it’s what is inside that counts. Long warranties often cost you more money and are not honored due to loopholes.