Sep 15, 2017

How To Install Pond Lighting

how to install pond lighting


There is nothing like watching your fish cruise around your pond at night. It takes your pond to a whole different level. And don't even get me started about entertaining friends campfire-side around your lit pondfree waterfall!

So you're hooked. You need this underwater light stuff in a bad way. Where do you start?

Here's our step by step guide on how to light your water feature.

Step 1 -- Find your water feature viewpoint.

aerial view of pond for underwater lighting tutorial
Thanks to Shawn and Kathy for the awesome aerial view of their backyard!
We're going to be using one of our pond installations (pictured above) for the duration of this tutorial. Shawn and Kathy enjoy their pond from several points -- the deck, the firepit, and from inside the house. We want to make sure that the lights point away from their viewpoint so they're not blinded by the lights!

underwater lighting diagram
Notice the direction of the lights are pointing away from the viewing areas.

Step 2 -- Find your power outlet and take some measurements.

pond dimensions for underwater lighting tutorial

We need to know how wide your pond is, how long, and how long your stream / waterfall length is. Proximity to the nearest outdoor outlet is also important! Notice that the outlet in this backyard is hidden by rose bushes. 

Step 3 -- Pick your lighting style.

Lighting can be soft and subtle or bold and statement-making! Do you have existing landscape lighting? You'll want to blend that style with your water feature.

At the Wickers' house, Steve uses a kind of "outside in" approach. He uses bright spotlights outside of the pond to highlight all of his creeks and waterfalls. The pond is the highlight of his yard! If you'd rather take a little more subtle approach, you can submerge all your lighting units and use uplights in the waterfalls instead of spotlights.

Think about if you want some areas of darkness in the pond to create mystique or if you'd rather illuminate all the water. See the photo below for our 2016 Flower and Patio Show Garden. We had over a dozen lights in that pond. It was BRIGHT.

cool ponds flower and patio show indiana garden
Our garden at the 2016 Flower and Patio Show.


We're going to assume you're going with the Steve "all or nothing" approach for the rest of this tutorial, but if you want help designing your own style, we'll be glad to be of assistance!

Step 4 -- Lay out your lighting units.

lighting diagram underwater lighting how to


It's important to know how far your lighting units' beams will go. Luckily for you, we know our lights very well and can size an underwater light for your specific feature to get the most bang for your buck. Our 3 watt spotlight can illuminate about 12' in front of it. The 1 watt spotlight is better for small fountains, as it only illuminates about 3-5' in front of it.

Consider where your boulders are in the bottom of your pond. You don't want your light being blocked.

We recommend submerging pond lights and tucking them into your rock walls so that you see the light but don't notice the units themselves. We put ours about a foot underneath the water surface -- which is deep enough to illuminate the bottom of the pond but shallow enough to access the lights without draining the entire pond or going for a swim.

Once you plan what you need, physically install the lighting in the pond and leave the connected 14' power cord outside of the pond for our next step!

Step 5 -- Connect your lights.

underwater lighting plug
All lights and connectors have easy to use plugs.

All our lights are easy to plug in to extensions and connectors -- no need to trim wires.

There are many ways to connect your lights, either with splitters, or extension cables. In this example, we're using a 25' extension with connections at every 5'. This is a favorite of our installation crew, as it makes it so much easier and quicker to install lights. 

underwater lighting diagram

All your lights will be connected to a transformer, which then is plugged into your outlet. Transformers come in different sizes, like Bumble Bee and Optimus Prime -- oh, no wait. Different transformers. Our transformers do come in different wattages, depending on how many lights you have.

It is very, very advisable to make a light diagram at this point. Your lights should last you for many years, but occasionally you might need to clean them or swap them out, and once you've wedged them between rocks and slept a few hundred nights, you're bound to forget where you put your lights! A light diagram should show all your connections and give some landmarks to help you find your lights again.

underwater lighting diagram cool ponds
Here's an example of one of our light diagrams. 


A couple of extra points:

This article was written specifically about the underwater lights that we sell at Cool Ponds. We're very familiar with how they work and their capabilities. These lights work perfectly under water or above it -- make sure the lights you use have the same capacity!

Check our event listing to see if we're hosting an underwater lighting demonstration any time soon. You'll be amazed how our water features look at night!

Aug 25, 2017

When Should I Clean My Pond?

So hopefully by now you know that you should clean your pond once a year. If this is new info to you, check out our comprehensive FAQ to Cleaning. But maybe you've heard us talk about fall cleanings, and you're wondering -- when should I clean my pond? What time of year is best?

Fall is a great time to clean your pond! Here are 5 reasons to clean your pond in the fall.

Reason 1 -- Eliminate toxic build-up in the bottom of your pond.

pond cleaning algae



When a layer of leaves and other organic debris build up in the bottom of your pond, some bad stuff starts to brew down there. Anaerobic bacteria begins to grow, and woah is it smelly stuff! Not to mention that it can be harmful to fish. Plus, as that debris starts to decompose, it will pull oxygen from the water, essentially choking your fish.

Reason 2 -- Keep your fish safer this winter.

pond fish in winter



If you have a large build-up of debris (we're talking a few inches) on the bottom of your pond, then you could be taking up precious pond depth. Your fish need room on the bottom of the pond, which will be a little warmer than the surface, in the winter time. Fall is a great time to purge this debris layer and make sure your fish are warm and cozy this winter.

Reason 3 -- Give algae a little less to munch on this winter.

pond scum debris sludge


Every January, we get the string algae calls. People call in, panicked, "There's so much string algae in my pond, but it's too cold to use Remove Away!" First off, it's totally fine that string algae is growing. It's doing you no harm other than making your pond look a little messy.

If you clean your pond in the fall, however, you remove a lot of the organic waste that algae feeds on.

Reason 4 -- Clear up your pond to enjoy it this fall!


pond fall flowers mums water lilies


This is the MAIN reason, right? There's nothing quite like the cool, autumn breeze, a cup of warm cider in your hands, your feet propped up next to your campfire, while listening to your waterfall and watching your fish swim. It's hard to do that if you're looking at your pond saying, "Ugh what a mess!"

Summer time is rough on our ponds. String algae thrives in the heat and low rainfall. And even when we get that string algae under control, all the dead algae bits hang around in the form of suspended debris. Your water might be cloudy or just downright dirty!

Although we have some great filters to filter this debris out, the quickest and most efficient way to get rid of debris is to do a complete pond cleaning (NOTE: draining your water part-way doesn't cut it!).

Reason 5 -- Give yourself less work to do next spring.


pond relax water garden


When the snow begins to melt and the early spring flowers start to bloom in the spring, we're elated to finally have great weather again. And then our to-do lists for our yards begin to grow. Weekends off mean getting gardens ready, mulching, planting, planning. Wouldn't it be nice if cleaning up the pond was one of those things that was left OFF your to-do list?

Cleaning in the fall means that's just that less work you have to do in the spring! Just start dosing your water treatments when the water temp is 50 degrees, and you're set to start your season!


Join us the second Saturday in September for our fall cleaning demo at our Indianapolis store. Or call us today to schedule our professional maintenance technicians to clean your pond for you!


Jul 14, 2017

How exactly does rain water harvesting work?

So if you read Why Harvest Rain Water?, you're probably wondering, okay but HOW?



The diagram above is a cut out of a pond-free basin. The basin holds water under ground that powers the pond-free. A rain water harvesting system uses this same set up but has a much larger basin to hold more water.



Underneath the stone and the permeable pavers pictured above is our basin. Our gutter also empties into this basin. Any rain that falls on the patio or the roof gets collected in this basin.




This hose and gutter pictured above is attached to the same rain water harvesting system. The hose is attached to a pump in the basin, so we can use rain water to fill ponds and water our gardens whenever we need it!

This rain water harvesting system makes it extremely easy to use the collected rain water, and the system keeps the water oxygenated so you won't have any anaerobic, smelly bacteria collecting in your basin. If you're interested in learning more or want Cool Ponds to install a rain water harvesting system, contact us today!

Why Harvest Rain Water?

When we have a huge downpour of rain, it breaks my heart to watch all that precious water get dumped into the storm drains. And it breaks my heart even more when, on a dry day, we drag out our garden hose and spray our plants with chlorinated water. It just doesn't make sense!

Here are the figures why that doesn't make sense. I even put it in a nice infographic if you don't feel like reading!



A 2,000 square foot space (think your roof or your driveway) will accumulate 1,250 gallons of water during a 1" rainfall. Now let's take an average June in Indianapolis, which has about 4" of rainfall in the month. That's 5,000 gallons of water that's accumulated just in that 2,000 square foot space in one month. That water typically will fall into the street in front of your house, empty into a storm drain, into a storm sewer, and out into a river. That river then empties into the ocean. Essentially, that water is not used!

So what can you do with 5,000 gallons of rain water (in a month)... Hmm...

How about topping off your pond from evaporation? Watering your plants? Even watering your grass lawn!

Not only will it save you money (and the Earth!), but rain water is so much better for your plants and your pond than chlorinated city water. 

Jul 13, 2017

Creating a Backyard Habitat

If you're reading this, I doubt we need to talk about why you should want to turn your backyard into a wildlife habitat. But just in case you need some extra motivation, this article we wrote earlier this year explains a few cost-saving and back-saving reasons!

First of all, you don't have to have a forest in your backyard or a wetland moat around your house to have a backyard habitat. You'd be surprised how little you have to add to your yard to help in huge ways!

I'm going to jump on a soap box for just a moment here: when we say "wildlife," we are not being exclusive. We are not saying, "Okay all the cute birds and butterflies but NO BEES or NO GROUNDHOGS." The truth is, no matter what wild critter it is (even bugs!), they are all necessary parts of our ecosystem, and it is a true compliment when they visit our yards. If you're more inclined to invite wildlife in -- but with exceptions, then habitat creation may not be for you. Okay, off my soap box now!

Let's break down what a viable habitat has and some ways to add them to your yard. We'll break the steps into "Beginner" and "Advanced" versions, so you can tackle what fits your wallet and your ability!

Shelter



What It Is: 

Shelter is important to hide small critters from predators, to provide shelter from weather, or to provide a place to raise little critters. The brush pile pictured above is great shelter for insects (which birds obviously love to munch on). Thick coniferous trees or shrubs are great for bird perches. Artificial shelters like bird houses or bat houses work well too!

Beginner Plan:

Plant a shrub like Service Berry or a coniferous tree or shrub like Norway Spruce. Placing groups of these plants together will provide a great wind break as well as help birds and insects go from plant to plant.

Advanced Plan:

Mimic the diversity of a natural ecosystem in your plantings-- open sections of wild flowers, tall deciduous trees, groupings of coniferous trees, and smaller trees like red buds with low canopies.

Create brush piles away from view. In the fall, let the leaves in your yard create a nurturing leaf litter.

Food



What It Is:

When we think of nurturing wildlife in our yards, feeding them is often what comes to mind first. Almost everyone and their cousin has at least one bird feeder hanging up! Providing food in habitat goes well beyond throwing out bird seed, however. After all, you don't see cracked corn scattered on the forest floor, do you? 

Providing natural sources of food as well as "supplemental" sources (i.e. bird seed) is important. So what do birds eat naturally? Seeds from flowers such as coneflowers, insects, fruit like that from a mulberry tree. Flowering plants feed a wide variety of critters, and having something blooming in your yard from March to October is ideal (and possible!).



Beginner Plan:

Put up a tray feeder with a bird seed mix (the most accommodating type for the most amount of birds). Keep it near some dense vegetation so that skittish birds can comfortably fly to the new feeder and back to safety quickly.

Plant native perennial plants like coneflower or a native fruit-bearing shrub like service berry. Birds, butterflies, bees, and even more will thank you!

Advanced Plan:

Set up bird feeding "stations" with a wide variety of seed. Throw some seed on the ground like white millet for ground-feeding birds; have tray feeders with whole peanuts; and provide fat-rich suet for clinging birds in the winter.

Plan your plantings so that there are flowers blooming from early spring to late fall. Insects will appreciate the prolific food, and you'll get quite a show with butterflies and hummingbirds too. 

Water



What It Is: 

For most of you reading this, this is probably the easiest part of habitat creation-- because you already have this! Your pond or pond-free waterfall is an ideal source of water for critters. 

The most obvious use of water is for hydration and for birds to keep their feathers clean. But water is so much more important than that even. Water itself is a fantastic breeding ground for a whole host of beneficial insects, including our beloved dragonflies. 

Not all water is created equally. The best water is not stagnant, which can collect harmful bacteria, but instead constantly moving. Having a variety of water depths in your water feature as well as some slower-moving pockets of water is great. Think of a natural creek or river. There are many different parts and functions to those natural water bodies, and yours should have them too. Not to toot our own horn or anything, but we're kind of experts at this! So if you need advice, we've got you covered.

Water is also just as important if not more so in winter. Although there might be snow on the ground, it takes a lot of caloric energy to melt a mouthful of snow into water, and it puts birds and mammals at risk of dehydration. Keeping a small section of your pond or pond-free free of ice will help out so much.

Beginner Plan:

Assuming you don't already have a water feature, add a bird bath with a water wiggler. This will keep the water agitated and fresh-- and free of mosquitoes!

Advanced Plan:

Keep a creek with a variety of depths and some slower moving pockets perfect for insect life and for bird bathing. 



This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the ways to make your backyard a great habitat. In addition to asking us specific questions in the store or having us professional install a habitat in  your  yard, we encourage you to check out the Indiana Wildlife Federation website. You can even get your yard officially certified as a wildlife habitat!

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