Selling pond pumps

If your aquatic store serves the outdoor water gardening segment then one of the must-have stock lines is pumps.

When a new pondkeeper embarks on their first pond project, it is usual for their first purchase to include the pond / liner, filter and pump all together. To maximise this sale and gain the reputation with that customer as a one-stop-specialist, you will need to stock a range of pumps that will meet the needs of the type and size of pond that your typical customer will install.

Why will a pump be on your typical customer’s shopping list?

Your customer’s pond and fish are best maintained by a reliable pump, working in conjunction with a filter. To ensure their long-term satisfaction, it pays to sell them the right hardware that will help them to achieve success.

A pump is not essential for keeping a pond clear and stocked with fish but by adding a pump that circulates water through a filter, your customers will be able to keep more fish in their pond and guarantee clear water (when using a UVc).

Which pumps should you stock?

It can be very daunting when deciding which pumps to stock when you consider the vast array of different pump makes and models on the market, each with their own features and performance claims.

What pondkeepers will be looking for when choosing a pond pump?

Before you can recommend the pump that is most suited to a customer’s pond, you need to know their pond’s volume (in both gallons and litres) and their anticipated stocking levels (light, standard or heavy). This will also allow you to recommend the right filter for the job.

You will also need to take into account any additional ‘work’ that the pump will have to do, such as pumping up a waterfall (measure the vertical distance (or head) from the pond’s surface to the top of the waterfall) or a fountain or ornament. Any additional ‘head’ required of a pump will reduce its overall turnover. Check the pump’s performance details (often represented as a curve) to confirm its suitability for your customer’s project

1. Pump Flow Rate

A useful guide when recommending a pump is to find one that circulates the volume of your customer’s pond at least once every 2 hours.

Most pumps are marketed with flattering specifications, perhaps stating that a particular model will pump 1000 gallons per hour. This flow rate is probably measured at the pond surface without any restrictive pipework or fittings attached. As soon as a pump has to move water vertically, the turnover of that pump is reduced. The greater the head, the lower the turnover. If a pond has a volume of 500 gallons, it requires a turnover of at least 250 gallons per hour. If that same pond has a waterfall that is 3 feet high, then a suitable pump would be one that provides a turnover of 250 gallons per hour (minimum) at 3 feet of head, which will mean recommending a more powerful and pump than at first expected (which in turn means a greater sale!).

What volume is required for a waterfall to look realistic?

For a waterfall to look realistic, with the full channel width covered in flowing water, sufficient water must be delivered by the pump to the top. A useful rule of thumb is that an average running tap represents approx 200 gallons per hour. A flow of 500 gallons per hour is usually required for a waterfall 6” wide. If a pump is not able to deliver this flow, then your customer’s waterfall will be a trickle rather than a cascading flow – and they are likely to return to you dissatisfied. So returning to the earlier example, if the waterfall is 6” wide, then the pump must be able to deliver 500 Gph at 3’ head for the waterfall to look realistic.

2. Other performance factors to consider for your customer.

a. Solids Handling.

Garden ponds present some of the most demanding environments in which pumps are expected to perform. Let’s face it, both you and your customer want to install a pump and forget about it. In response to pondkeepers’ reluctance to get their hands wet for the sake of pump maintenance, many pump manufacturers have re-engineered their models to handle solids. This means that rather than clogging up with debris as they may have done before, they simply pass this debris through to the filter. Check out those pumps that can handle solids, and pass on the benefits to your customers.

b. Variable hose fittings.

You may be recommending a pump to replace or upgrade an existing model. If so, it will be worth checking that the new pump is compatible with the existing pipework that is buried beneath their rockery and waterfall. If not then you’ll need to supply a stepped hose connector that will allow their new purchase to fit a range of hose sizes, included their own.

3. Running costs – The Hidden Extras.

As a pump is likely to be used continuously (and you should make this clear to any new pond keeper), the running cost is a significant consideration when recommending a pump for a particular customer. Power consumption is measured in Watts with the greater the figure relating to a power-hungry pump. The wattage does not necessarily relate to the overall performance of the pump as many efficiencies in design and construction enable low wattage pumps to outperform pumps with larger motors. For example, when comparing 2 pumps each rated at 500 gph, one may be a  65W model while the other one may be a 100W model. Which would you recommend? The difference in running costs over the years could amount to the price of a new pump – and this should be made clear to your customer. When the running costs are forecasted across the 3 years (or longer) of the guaranteed life of a pump, you are able to get a true picture of the real cost of that pump.

4. Guarantee

As pondkeepers have demanded more from a pond pump, their design and construction has become more rugged and reliable. Consequently, most pumps are now sold with a free extended warranty of 3 years, with some models even carrying a 5 year guarantee. This is a measure of how reliable (and competitive) pond pumps have become. With standard care and the use of correct pipework so as not to produce high back pressures, then such guarantees can easily be exceeded. Pumps are likely to be more temperamental if they are switched on and off rather than used continuously and problems can also occur with pumps becoming blocked with debris or blanketweed, choking the impellor and leading to a burn-out.

Those pumps that are not solids-handling are fitted with foam or perforated plastic pre-filters to prevent impellors from becoming blocked. These prefilters can soon reduce pump performance even when only partially blocked. Self-cleaning pre-filters are available as a remedy for this common blocking problem and as mentioned earlier, pumps that will handle solids up to 10mm are now available on the market.

In summary, there has arguably never been a better time to stock pumps. The choice, quality and back-up offered by most manufacturers are excellent. There is a huge range to choose from, most of which offer your customer the latest engineering and efficiency, giving both them and you complete peace of mind. Be prepared to offer a quick, reliable recommendation (you know how hectic the pond section can become) – better still if your customers bring their pond’s measurements to your store.

Depending on the size of their pond etc it would be wise to have a set, proven pump (and filter) that will allow them to succeed at pondkeeping. Use a quick checklist as outlined earlier to ensure they go away happy, having been recommend the best pump for their pond.

Kill blanketweed and string algae.