What is a Sump Pump
By: Matthew Verville
A sump pump is an electric pump that is installed in the basement of a home and used to pump water out of the basement. Sometimes water is drained into the house’s drainage pipe system and sometimes it is pumped outside. Sump pumps generally work in combination with a sump pit, a hole usually dug in the basement to collect water for pumping outside.
Types of Sump Pumps
There are two types of sump pumps: a pedestal or upright style and a submersible style. The pedestal style sump pump sits above the sump pit. Because its electrical motor is exposed, it’s not safe for use if the basement tends to flood. The submersible sump pump actually goes down into the sump pit itself and is designed to operate when it is fully or partially submerged, and as a result, is much quieter, and is therefore recommended for finished basements. Submersibles are sealed to prevent electrical short circuits when water collects in the sump pit.
The pedestal sump pump is essentially a motor that is mounted on a small pedestal with a pipe running from the motor down to the bottom of the sump pit. It works much like a toilet. A float is attached to a separate metal rod connected to a switch on the pump. When the basement floods the water starts to fill the sump pit. As the water rises, the float rises until it gets high enough to switch on the sump pump. Water is then sucked up through the pipe and into another pipe or hose that leads to your septic system or sewer system. The pedestal sump pump motor is not designed to be under water.
On the other hand, the submersible sump pump is just as it says, able to be submersed under water without doing damage to the unit. It does not have a connecting pipe that draws the water out. Instead the water is filtered right through the bottom of the sump pump. The advantage is that the bottom of the pump has a screen or filter that keeps out gravel or debris that could be sucked into the impeller of the pump. The impeller is the device that creates suction. This style pump also removes the water gathered in the sump pit with a pipe or hose that leads to the outside, or in select municipalities, into the sewer system. A submersible sump pump should be installed in a sump pump well or sump pump pit. Rising water levels in the sump pit trigger this type of pump also.
There are many high quality pumps out there to choose from. These variations of brands and styles are offered in many price ranges. Depending on the size of the house and the general amount of water that comes into the basement, a professional can recommend the proper size for your home. It is best not to oversize the sump pump as it will cycle on and off too frequently and will greatly shorten the pump’s life span.
Backup Sump Pump
Sump pumps generally run on electric power from your home, but for areas prone to power outages, some sump pumps also have a battery backup system in case the electricity goes out, which is somewhat likely given the circumstances of sump pump use, which is often during heavy rain and storm conditions. If the pump is electric, a backup power supply system is needed in case the primary power system fails. In this way, the backup can pump water out of the house for several hours even without power. A battery backup sump pump generally operates on one or two 12-volt-batteries.
Things to Consider When Buying a Sump Pump
When choosing a backup sump pump, or any sump pump, it is important to acquire products from a reliable manufacturer and choose the right size for your home as it can affect performance of the system. Other important considerations include pump rating, expressed in gallons per hour, water usage efficiency with water powered pumps, (one gallon of water input usually sucks two gallons of wastewater), and floater action, (a backup system should not have electrical parts for the floater. It should be stable and must not easily rub against other parts). Other considerations include covers, alarms, ease of installation, and of course, the warranty. It all depends on the needs and preferences of the user.
Properly maintained sump pumps should last anywhere between 10 and 15 years. General maintenance involves cleaning it out and removing any debris that might clog the pump. For submersibles, water needs to be run through it to check it for proper operation. Water can be run into the sump well using a garden hose to check it for proper operation. The pump should come on at the set height and shut off at a lower level automatically. If not, a new pump or service is in order. It is best to check your sump pump regularly to ensure it’s operational.
Though a sump pump is a simple device, it can be the best investment for your home you ever make. Almost any homeowner who has a below grade basement should consider having a sump pump installed as a precaution, because even an inch of water can do extensive damage.