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A flooded basement is a homeowner’s nightmare. A sump pump protects your home from heavy rains and rising waters that leave behind enormous repair costs and structural damages. It's important to know which of the different types of sumps pumps best fits your needs. Below, we will guide you through how a sump pump works and how to choose the right one for your home.

How does a sump pump work?

Sump pumps move water from your basement out of your home. A sump is a naturally constructed pit, usually a hole carved below the main surface of your basement floor. This pit, known as a basin, holds the sump pump. The pump is equipped with valves that sense escalating water levels or pressure. When the water gets too high, sump pumps automatically pump excess water out of the basement and away from your property using a discharge line. This line, called an effluent, connects the sump pump to a designated drainage area.

Where should a sump pump drain to?

Sump pump water discharges to a designated area, such as a dry well, a creek or pond, or even a neighborhood drain. Be careful not to set your drain point somewhere that water will return to your home. Ideally, keep the pup 10 to 20 feet away from the foundation of your home. Some cities have building codes that determine where your sump pump can drain, so it is always best to check with your local government. 

Keep in mind, you may need to attach an extended drainage hose and increase the horsepower of the sump pump you choose to compensate. 

Types of sump pumps

Submersible sump pumps

Submersible pumps contain the pump and motor in one unit. They sit submerged and closed inside a basin in your basement. Because submersible pumps are completely submerged in the water basin, they are often quieter, save space in your basement, and clog less than a pedestal. However, due to the effects of water submersion, they may not last as long as other sump pumps. This is still the best option for homes with major flooding concerns.

Pedestal sump pumps

Unlike a submersible sump pump, a pedestal sump pump consists of a separate motor and pump. The motor sits on a pedestal above the basin, with a hose running to the basin where the pump is placed. The pump sends water through the hose and out to your designated drain area. Because the motor is not submerged, it often has a higher lifespan than other sump pumps and can be accessed easier for maintenance issues. However, it also means it can be louder and take up more space than the submersible pump.

Battery-operated backup

A battery backup sump pump is a great way to provide some extra security from flood damage. A battery backup with a float switch allows your sump pump to operate even when your power is out during a storm when you need it the most. When the power goes out the main source of power for the pump does too. Water rises in the basin and the float switch is triggered sending your battery operation into action.

Water-powered backup

A water-powered backup clears the water in your basin through increased water pressure. The advantage of a water-powered system is that there's no need to monitor the backup or replace any batteries. The use of additional water raises your water bill significantly and is a bit controversial. Some cities do not allow them to be installed.

What sump pump do I need?

Selecting the right sump pump is very important for the safety of your home. Choose a pump with enough horsepower to handle your level of flooding. If you select a sump pump with a lower horsepower than necessary for the amount of flooding your area, you're still at risk for flooding. At the same time, a higher horsepower than necessary will cause cycling, turning on and off repeatedly, which lowers the lifespan of the pump. If you live in an average-size home, with an average level of rainfall, that is not built deep into the water table, a one third horsepower submersible pump will be enough for your home. If your home is deeper into the water table, has heavier seepage issues or requires a farther drainage point, a one half horsepower submersible pump can give you the added power you need. Finally, if you are experiencing major flooding issues frequently or are using the pump for outdoor or commercial uses, a sump pump with 13000 GPH will take care of the saturation.

Types of sump pump switches

Sump pumps can operate on a switch system. A switch allows the pump to be turned on independently. But switches operate differently, even though they achieve the same result. Below are several types of switches and how they work:

  • Pressure switch: A pressure switch senses the amount of pressure in the water as it rises and triggers the action of the pump at a certain degree.
  • Float switch: The float switch is essentially a float attached to the pump that sits on the surface of the water. As the water level rises so does the float and the pump kicks on.
  • Diaphragm switch: This switch operates much like your diaphragm, flipping concave as the pressure rises and the back when it lowers, in and out. It is the most commonly used because it rarely gets stuck on or off.
  • Electronic switch: The electronic switch works not by any float, but by sensing the water pressure within the basin. As the water rises, so does the pressure which sets off the probes and switches on the pump.

Sump Pump Accessories

There are also additional add-ons to consider for your sump pump. Accessories like a water alarm attachment provide a last line of defense to alert you when your sump pump fails before the damage is done. A discharge hose helps extend your drainage point away from your home.

Cost of a sump pump

Generally, a basement submersible sump will cost anywhere from $100-$400 depending on the horsepower and flow rate, with $500-$1000 prices for sump pumps with commercial uses. Below is a list of considerations for calculating the cost of a sump pump in your home:

1. Type of sump pump

The type of sump pump you choose for your home will determine your cost. Factors such as the material used to make the sump pump, size, horsepower, additional features, including backup battery or a specified switch type can all contribute to the cost. 

2. Basement material

The floor of your basement can play a part in the cost of installation. If your basement is made of cement or concrete, then the floor will need to be removed in the lowest point of your basement where you plan to install the pump. The thicker the cement, the higher the cost of labor.

3. Drainage

If your city requires a drainage point a distance from your house, yard drainage lines or extension hoses can increase the cost of installation. Not to mention, they can be hazards to your yard or even freeze in the winter.

4. Permits

The cost of a permit will vary depending on location, so it is best to consider beforehand. The guidelines will also help you factor the cost of the job.

5. Licensed professional

Installing the sump pump yourself can cut costs dramatically if you know what you are doing. But if you are unsure, it is best to go with a licensed professional. Installation cost is cheaper than treating a flooded basement.

Are sump pumps necessary?

Sump pumps are necessary in homes prone to flooding. Whether it is from above-average rainfall or basements built below the water table, flooding can be disastrous for your home and your health. Even if your home does not flood, moisture can cause several types of mold that increase the risk for upper respiratory infections, allergic reactions, and asthma complications. If you don't have a way to move water outside, it's going to accumulate and eventually flood or dampen your basement.

Why do sump pumps fail?

Sump pumps can fail due to installation, machine, and lifespan errors. If you are installing the pump yourself, make sure you are familiar with the process. The money you save doing it yourself is nowhere near the money you will lose in water damage if you install it incorrectly. Also, pump errors can result from continuous cycling or switches that get stuck on or off. Lastly, sump pumps like any machine, have a lifespan which is often between 7 to 10 years depending on the amount of usage.

How do I know if I need to replace my sump pump?

If your sump pump is making loud noises, running for an unusually long amount of time, cycling irregularly, or is older than ten years, it is very likely you are due for a sump pump replacement. 

Loud noises coming from the sump pump's pit indicate that there is a serious problem afoot with your pump. As the pump approaches the end of its lifecycle, the motor will start to make roaring sounds as it pumps the water away from your home. All sump pumps will make some degree of noise as they pump water out of the basement, but the noise levels should never reach you upstairs in your house. Rattling, clanging, and screaming motors all indicate that the motor is approaching failure, or that the pump was installed incorrectly to begin with. If the discharge lines running from the sump pump's pit are angled sharply, this will generate a great deal of noise. The water will slam into the tubing angles, sending banging noises throughout the basement. Consider wrapping the pipes in insulation to dull the noise, or call a plumber to reroute the discharge pipe in a more streamlined fashion. 

Loud noise can also indicate a damaged impeller. If the sump pump's impeller has become choked by debris like leaves, dirt, and sticks, the pump will screech and rattle as it attempts to suck water out of the basin. If the impeller becomes broken or otherwise damaged, it can make loud rattling noises when in use. When the pump is not in use, consider removing the pump and inspecting the components to make sure they have not become clogged or injured. 

If the pump is constantly running, this indicates that your pump is either at the end of its lifespan or rapidly approaching it. A sump pump should never cycle continuously. It is entirely possible the pump is altogether the incorrect size. A pump that is too small for the volume of water it is tasked with displacing will perpetually struggle to keep up with the demands placed upon. This will exhaust the pump, overwork the motor, and lead to premature failure of the pump. 

A pump that is constantly running could also be the result of a damaged or jammed float switch. The float switch is the apparatus that triggers the pump to turn on. Float switches are lightweight devices that will rest on the surface of the rising water. Once the water in the basin reaches a predetermined height, the switch will alert the pump to begin displacing the floodwaters. If this float switch becomes tangled in wires or pipes or jammed by debris, it will be signaling the pump that there are elevated water levels perpetually. The float switch can also become jammed if the sump pump shifts within the basin and the float switch becomes pressed against the walls of the pit. A stuck float switch will keep the pump running constantly, forcing the pump to exert an unsustainable amount of effort. The strain placed on the motor by this will cause failure far before the designed lifespan of the pump. If you hear your pump running perpetually, it is wise to quickly identify the root of the issue before your pump wears out entirely. 

A float valve positioned too low in the basin will also place extraneous work on the pump. If it only takes mere inches of water to trigger the pump's cycle, the pump will kick on and off constantly. This short-cycling of the pump places strain on the pump and its mechanical components. If your pump is taking too long to empty out your basin, then the pump probably does not have enough horsepower to perform its job. A pump that is unable to empty out the basin during a normal rainfall will quickly become overwhelmed in the event of a serious storm or flooding.

If you think its time to replace your pump, dive into our exhaustive guide on how to replace your sump pump at home! 

If you still do not know what type of sump pump is right for you, comment below or contact us with any questions you may have. In the meantime, follow our learning center blog to learn about other water systems that can improve your water quality.


7 comments

  • Thank you, Marco! Glad you enjoyed it.

    John Woodard, Master Water Specialist on

  • Nice Post! You have well explained that why we use sump pumps and how to use. Thanks for sharing.

    Marco on

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