The How Zone

Installing a backyard Pond

I sing the pond electric

To power the little pump in our first pond I ran a heavy duty extension cord from an outlet on the porch. It was buried in one spot, just to keep us from tripping over it, and ran all the way to the pond's edge. The pump plugged into it and the plugs were sheltered under an upside down plastic bucket. Lo-tech all the way.

Even before I ran into the well wire I had been planning to install the pond's electrical wiring underground. So in a sense the well wire problem turned into an opportunity to do it right, running both wires from inside the house, through conduit, and to their respective locations.

Wiring run

I started the weekend off with a 50 foot roll of 10-3 (ten gauge, three conductor electrical wire), a 50 foot roll of 12-3 (twelve gauge), and a whole bunch of three quarter inch schedule forty plastic conduit and connectors. Everything fit at the store, but there's fitting and then there's fitting.

Finished digging all of the trenches, layed out the conduit, double checked and triple checked length and fit, then cut and glued most of it together. It was a wonderful thing, elegant even.

Now to snake the wire through the pipe. I caught a cool trick on the Hometime show a while back where you tie a little plastic bag corner to the end of your snaking rope and hook a shop vac to the other end of the pipe to suck the rope through. Worked like a charm!

Then tape the rope securely to the two wires, get Faith to pull the rope from one end and I feed the wire into the's about fifty feet with two gentle bends. No. Way. Jose.

If you aren't familiar with 10-3 cable let me describe it. Hold out your hand and grab your pinky. Wiggle it. The cable is about that size except it doesn't really wiggle. Tape a slightly smaller sibling to its side and you have zero wigglebility. Sure, if you are holding a ten foot section it may bend begrudgingly but inside a pipe with barely enough room for a thumb it doesn't bend at all.

We tried gooping it up with slippery soap but after a few feet the operation came to a halt. Disconnect the second wire, try just the well wire, and with lots of grunting and sweating it finally made it through. Which is a shame, because that proved absolutely nothing.

Luckily 3/4 inch pipe is super cheap (a buck and a half for a ten foot section), we gave up on it and went back to the store. I end up going back to the store a lot during these big projects and I wonder if it is just me or does everyone suffer these mini failures? You measure, plan, and analyze to get the optimal solution only to find out that the store just doesn't make the kind of tools or supplies you came up with. It may have taken days to come up with the plan and you are faced with re-thinking the whole thing in the plumbing aisle of the hardware store.

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