Buying a Sump Pump: What to Look For When Buying a Sump Pump
Sump pumps are designed to prevent flood damage in your basement. Excess water is channeled into a well or basin called a sump. A pump then forces the water out of your basement through a drain pipe. While the process is simple, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to choose, purchase, or install a sump pump. We take a look at reasons to install a sump pump, how to choose the right model, and discuss a few other considerations. With the proper planning and the right maintenance, a sump pump will keep your basement dry for years to come. However, there are a variety of models on the market, so you need to know what to look for when buying a sump pump.
The 6 Parts of a Sump Pump
A sump pump consists of six primary components that work together to remove excess water from your basement and prevent floods. There are also two additional components to a sump pump system.
- Water Collection System – Water collection systems vary, but most involve channels that route water from around your basement foundation into a sump basin.
- Sump Basin – Also called a well or sump well, the sump basin is a collection well set in the floor of your basement. It’s usually two or more feet deep and stores the water before removal.
- Primary Sump Pump – The primary sump pump removes water from the sump basin. Pumps come in submersible and pedestal models. They also come in an array of power ranges from ¼ to 1 horsepower (HP).
- Pump Switch – The pump switch is the trigger that engages the sump pump. Switches come in a variety of models but are categorized as either mechanical or pressure. Mechanical switches use some type of float inside the basin, while pressure switches measure the force of the water sitting in the basin. Most switches use a piggyback switch that turns the power to the pump on and off.
- Discharge Pipe – Sometimes called a discharge hose, the pump forces water out of the basin, through the discharge pipe, and out of your property.
- Check Valve – The check valve prevents water from flowing backward in the discharge pipe. This ensures water from outside does not backflow into your property.
- Backup Sump Pump (Optional) – A backup sump pump adds an additional layer of protection, ensuring that the sump pump system works even if there is a power failure or issue with the primary pump. There are a number of different backup systems, but the most common is a battery backup pump.
- Water Level Alarm (Optional) – Water level alarms make an audible noise if the water level reaches a specific level. They are often installed in place of or in addition to backup pumps.
How Sump Pumps Work
The channels for the water collection system are usually installed along the inside of your foundation. In some cases, they are installed outside the foundation or even both. The water collection system channels prevent groundwater from seeping through seams and cracks in your foundation.
The collection channels direct groundwater into the sump basin. The primary sump pump typically stands inside the sump basin. The basin usually has metal or plastic walls that are perforated to all water to fill the basin. The collection system also drains into the sump basin.
As the water level in the sump basin rises, it trips either a mechanical or pressure switch on the pump that turns it on. Many sump pumps use a mechanical switch with a float that sits on top of the water in the basin. As it rises, the float flips the switch and engages the pump. Pressure switches, on the other hand, measure the force of the water inside the sump well.
When the pump activates, it sucks water out of the basin and forces it through the discharge pipe. Ideally, the discharge pipe will run several feet away from your home, preventing water from pooling along your foundation again. If the water discharges too close to your foundation, it can leak back into your sump pump system. This will cause it to operate too frequently or even overflow.
In some cases, the discharge pipe is connected to your sanitary sewer line. This is especially common in older installations. However, this is unwise, as sanitary sewers are not designed to handle the high volumes of water involved in heavy rainstorms. More often than not, this results in a sewage backup. It is usually okay to connect a sump pump to storm sewers but review the ordinances in your city first.
If you have a backup sump pump, there is a secondary switch above the switch for your primary pump. As the water level rises, the primary pump will empty the basin. But if it fails, the second switch will engage the backup pump once the water level reaches it. This is especially helpful in the event of a power outage.
Water level alarms are also available. Like the pumps, they have some type of switch that measures the water level. Once the water reaches the alarm switch, it will go off. Like a fire alarm, it alerts you to a potential problem.
What to Consider When Buying a Sump Pump
A flood can occur at any time, in any state. Even if you’ve never had a flood or basement water issue before, that doesn’t mean you could have a problem in the future. You should consider buying a sump pump if you live in an area near water, in a lowland area, or notice water pooling around your foundation walls regularly.
- Automatic vs Manual Pumps – While manual sump pumps are available, they will require you to manually operate them. The only reason to go manual is if you truly cannot afford an automatic system. If you go manual, we recommend upgrading as soon as possible o save yourself from needing to pump out water by hand in the middle of the night.
- Submersible vs Pedestal Pumps – Submersible pumps sit completely inside the well, which allows you to install a cover. The cover will reduce noise, limit the debris in the basin, and keep the moisture levels in your basement lower. Pedestal pumps typically sit half in and half out of the sump basin. This prevents you from installing a cover, which increases noise and moisture levels.
- Cast Iron vs Plastic Pump Core – Sump pumps come with either cast iron or plastic pump cores. As the pump operates, the unit will heat up. Both will wear out over time, but the cast iron core will last longer.
- Mechanical vs Pressure Switch – Almost all mechanical switches rely on a float that sits on top of the water level. Pressure switches, however, rely on the force of the water weighing down on a sensor. While mechanical switches and floats are not entirely infallible, they are usually more reliable than pressure switches. Choose a solid float as well. This prevents it from becoming waterlogged and making your pump run unnecessarily.
- Screen vs No-Screen – Some sump pumps have a screen that covers the pump intake to prevent solid items from clogging the pump or discharge pipe. While this sounds like a good thing, the screen itself can still get clogged, which is just as bad. When possible choose a no-screen model to reduce the likelihood of an overflow due to a clog.
- Backup vs No-Backup – If have a sump pump or are installing one, you are likely concerned about basement flooding. A backup pump is optional, but we recommend adding one to ensure your basement stays dry. There are a number of types of backup sump pumps available, so consider the right option for your situation.
- Alarm vs No-Alarm – Some sump pumps come with a water level alarm and you can add a separate alarm to any sump pump system. Again, this is an optional accessory, but it’s worth considering when installing or upgrading a sump pump. We recommend installing an alarm if you live in an area prone to extremely heavy rainfall or near a river or lake that is prone to overflowing.
- Head Pressure – Head pressure is important to take into consideration because it determines the height that the sump pump can raise the water to remove it from your home. Before buying a sump pump it is important to measure how high the water will need to be lifted.
- Horsepower – Sump pumps can come in a range of horsepower, but the most common are one-quarter to one-third horsepower. Depending on how much you think you will need to use the sump pump should determine how much horsepower you will need in the machine. If you don’t anticipate using the machine that much then a lower horsepower will work fine.
Perform Regular Sump Pump Maintenance
After buying a sump pump system, you need to perform regular maintenance to keep it working properly. From testing the GFCI outlet and inspecting the power cord to cleaning the basin and pump, you should perform sump pump maintenance at least once a year. You should also test the pump by pouring a bucket of water into the sump basin at least once every couple of months.
Water Damage from a Sump Pump Failure?
If you’ve had a crawlspace or basement flood as a result of a sump pump failure, Restoration Local will connect you with a local water damage restoration company in your area. Find a qualified and experienced water damage restoration company near you now or call 1-888-443-3110 to speak with our on-call contractor. Our on-call water damage contractors are always local and offer a free estimate on water damage services.