Power to the Pumps
How to safely get electricity to outdoor water features
Your bubbling waterfall or gurgling fountain needs power to run the pump. But simply plugging it into a house outlet or an extension cord is unsightly and unsafe. (And cutting off the plug and hard-wiring the pump voids its warranty.) When Mark Piantedosi of Commonwealth Lighting and Landscaping in Acton, Massachusetts, installs water features, he brings the electricity right to where it's needed through buried Schedule 40 PVC conduit. "The hardest part is figuring out where to hide the receptacle," he says. You'll need an electrician to connect the wires to the circuit-breaker panel, but you can keep expenses to a minimum by burying the pipe yourself, using Piantedosi's code-compliant approach.
1. Dig a trench. Make the run from house to receptacle about 20 inches deep—the conduit's top edge must be at least 18 inches below the surface—and as straight as possible. (The sum of all angled fittings must be less than 360 degrees.) Line the trench bottom with an inch of sand to cushion the conduit from rocks.
2. Glue the pieces. Measure and cut the pieces of gray conduit so they will fit in the trench. Before gluing the pieces together, tie a threaded nut to a length of mason's line a couple of feet longer than the trench. (This is the "messenger line" to pull the electrical cable through the conduit after it's buried.) Drop the nut through the conduit at one end of the run and through its fitting. Glue the pipe to the fitting, then drop the nut through the next piece of conduit, and so on, until all the pieces are fitted together and the messenger line is sticking out both ends. Cement an outlet box to the end of the conduit closest to the fountain and a pull box to the end nearest the house. (A pull box is an inexpensive way to connect to the breaker panel, but your electrician may suggest other options, such as drilling straight through the foundation.)
3. Bury the conduit. Fill the trench with 4 or 5 inches of dirt. Then lay a warning tape along the trench to alert future diggers that there's an electrical cable buried there. Add the rest of the soil up to grade.