Thursday, May 12, 2011

Finding the Perfect Playground Hand Pump for Sand and Water Play

I have been on a global (web) search for the perfect hand pump for a sand and water feature on a playground.  It will be a water source for a public playground sand and water feature. The pump limits the amount of water being used and gives the kids more exercise!

My Requirements:
- Must be playground proof. Kids can kick it, pump it really fast for a long time, and shove sand in any opening and it must continue working.
- Must operate like a hand pump to a well, but I do not have a well I have a pressurized water line and i do not want to create a tank or well.
- I prefer that it has a reasonable price, can ship within a month and does not come from the other side of the globe.

My Specified Hand Pump:
The Goric farm pump is my usual go-to piece. It is a playground piece, it operates on a pressurized line, but it costs a lot, comes from far away and takes a while to arrive. This is not the best for my current project that has a short timeline and the contractor has not ordered it yet. Either way it is still the best piece I have found. The supplier is willing to work with us to hit our deadline. That is a major plus in my book.

Lesson Learned: Order this piece early and check up on the contractor.

A Simple Pitcher Pump
So, I started to look for a simple pitcher pump. There are a ton out there. But, after talking with a few pump engineers they suggested I gut the pump and run a hose through it. Picture this... my playground, a hose decoratively running through the pump, running ALL THE TIME where anyone can grab it. Recipe for disaster!

Lesson learned: Because my line is pressurized it can not be hooked to a classic well pump used to draw water up. Creating a well has a host of its own problems and I am not going to go there now.
Another Classic Pump:
I am including this Simple Pump mainly because it is pretty cool. They have had one hit with a baseball bat repeatedly and it still keeps pumping! Simple design, strong, and unaffected by sand. Unfortunately a pressurized line would stop the pump form working at all. Watch these informative videos on the pump for more info.

Lesson Learned: Same as before... but these folks have a great product and are responsive.

Another Playground Piece:
Natural Playgrounds supplies this pump and tank system, but is also does not work on a pressurized line. I understand their justification for wanting to use a real pump, but for a public playground it does not make much sense.

 Lesson Learned: I may just need to design a tank system!

"Obviously, pumps need a source of water, but hooking up a hose to a pump is NOT the way to go. Pumps are passive machines, originally designed to pull water from a well, and the whole idea behind them is to make children work for the water they need for play. Water coming from a hose is under pressure, and if you hooked the hose up to a pump, it would force water into the pump chamber, past the piston, and out the spout with no way to turn it off. Besides that, kids would not learn a thing about pumps, drawing water, priming a pump, getting upper body exercise, etc etc. Bad idea - hooking up a hose directly to a pump."  From the natural playgrounds website.

A Water Playground Pump:
I knew I was getting off track when I found this. It is a splash playground 'pump'. Looks like a pump but all the parts are stationary. arggggg

Lesson Learned: Sometimes in the name of safety and ease we can take the fun out of everything.

Basic findings is that all these pumps are actually pumps and need a well to pull from. I could create a small pumping well or tank below the pump. It sounds easy. But the pressurized line would have to have some sort of on and off switch so it did not overflow the tank. Like a float switch that refills the tank when empty. I could custom design this tank and float switch, but I can just see the already overworked parks maintenance staff groaning at me now. A system with a manual and replacement parts is a cleaner and easier way to go. That does not mean I won't go ahead and design one! It is just not my first choice.

So, I am back to asking the Goric supplier to rush deliver the Goric Farm Pump. Do you have a pump that works well in this circumstance? If I find, or design a solution I will be sure to post it.


  1. Hi Michelle,
    Thanks for the positive feedback. The Goric Farm Pump has become so popular that we typically keep them in stock now (delivery time of about a week from order). And if it's not in stock then the delivery time ranges 4-7 weeks (sometimes shorter). I hope this is helpful for your future projects!
    best regards,
    Laura Wilson from Goric

  2. Thanks Laura, this is great news! a one week delivery time would be amazing on the goric pump.

  3. How much does that Goric pump cost? That is EXACTLY what I want, but just for my backyard for my home daycare. Wondering if it is at all in the price range I am looking at....

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  7. Hi in England and looking for a hand pump for a playground. I am using a reservoir that will be filled and cleaned by the playworkers.
    Obviously needs to be tough easy to pump 3-6 year olds and have a good flow of water.

  8. Wow! Amazingly I really like the images of the pump because I remember my old days that I used to hold that pump just to get some water.-sand pumps-

  9. Hi. Check out the winder pump from Eibe. Don't have all the details, but looks like it would serve our purpose. They also have a mushroom device. Have fun!

  10. George - Thanks for the info. I believe that Goric is not supplying the Ebie farm and winder pump. I will have to go see the mushroom one. Thanks!

  11. Hi,

    Im designing a play area and I'd like a pump that pumps waterfrom a container to a higher container. Most pumps bring water up to where they are. I'd like one that pushes water up to a higher point.

  12. Cal, I have never used a negative head pump in a play area. I did a little searching and could not find anything. Let us know if you come up with a good solution.

  13. Cal, why not try a bilge pump, They can push water to a higher level and hand operated ones are not that expensive

  14. Do any of these fit the bill?

  15. I would be interested to try the pitcher pump! But, it does need a non-pressurized line. I usually try to avoid a well of sitting water. I do Like natural Playgrounds and have ordered a few of their pieces before. Maybe it is time to try that pump. :)


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