Can You Install An Outdoor Water Feature Without Electrocuting Yourself?

If you've always dreamed of constructing your own outdoor residential oasis -- a koi pond, small waterfall or fountain, or even a larger pond -- you may be wondering whether the combination of electrified lights, pumps, and motors with constantly-flowing water may be a bad idea for the novice do-it-yourselfer to attempt to construct. However, there are several small projects that are relatively safe and easy for the average homeowner to tackle in a weekend, and they can provide outdoor relaxation for years to come. Read on to learn more about how you can construct a small water feature on your property yourself, as well as a couple of projects best left to the professionals. 

Which types of outdoor water features can you construct yourself?

One of the most popular residential water features is a koi pond -- a small pond-like enclosure, perhaps including a waterfall, which houses large koi (a type of goldfish). Koi tend to be friendly fish, and you may delight in watching them come to the surface of the water to beg for food as you approach. When properly cared for, these koi can live for decades; some are even reported to have lived for centuries. 

Many koi ponds are sold in kit form -- a large plastic basin with a pump, filter, and wiring included. These kits are quite easy to install, and you'll need only to dig a hole for the basin, ensure the pump and power supply are unobstructed, and run the electrical line from the power supply to your closest outdoor electrical socket. Essentially, these ponds are powered by an underground extension cord that shouldn't require you to perform any re-wiring. 

Because koi fish are sensitive to very low temperatures, if you live in a part of the country with cold winters and don't have the resources to move your fish inside for the season, you may also want to install an outdoor heater that will help keep the water temperature more comfortable and prevent injury to your fish. This process also shouldn't require any electrical re-wiring, although if you choose to install this heater after your pond has been finished, you may be forced to dig up your existing power supply so that you can connect the heater.  

For which types of projects should you enlist professional help?

Unless you have a background in landscape design or electrical engineering, you'll want to steer clear of any water-based landscaping projects that require more electricity than you can supply using a single extension cord and prefabricated kit. These projects can include anything from an extensive waterfall to a large heated pond. Such projects will likely require the services of an electrician to help install additional outdoor outlets to prevent circuit overload or to run an electrical switch to the pond so that the waterfall or heater can be quickly turned off and on. 

You may also want to enlist a professional to help if you're planning to build a "natural" pond that still includes an electric filter or heater. Because natural ponds don't generally contain a liner, it can be more difficult to get them to hold water, and a professional landscape designer with experience in this area should be able to expertly arrange rocks and other natural features to help your small pond retain water. 

Finally, it's important to remember that when in doubt, you should always seek professional review and guidance. While a poorly-installed non-electrified pond may simply fail to retain water, a poorly-installed and electrified pond could pose the danger of fire or electrocution for your family members and pets. While these water features can be relaxing and peaceful, it's always easier to relax when you know a job has been performed properly.

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