Updated: June 8, 2015

Sump Pump Guide - How Do Sump Pumps Work?

Description: Keep your basement protected against water overflows from ground water, flooding, and leaks with a professional quality sump pump. Sump pumps can help ensure you can easily remove excess water from your basement to prevent water damage.
Have you recently learned that you need a sump pump for your basement or building? If so, you may be wondering, what is a sump pump? Simply stated, a sump pump is a pump that removes water that has gathered in a pit or low point, usually in the basement of a home or a boiler pit. When the water reaches a certain level, the pump automatically comes on and moves the excess water to a drainage system, such as a storm drain or well. The invading water may be groundwater or due to excessive rain. If you have water in your basement, it may be because you don't have the best external drainage. A sump pump will take care of that situation. Although buying and installing a sump pump may seem complex at first, really the process isn't that difficult or costly once you have examined the options.
best sump pumps


What are the Best Sump Pumps?

The majority of sump pump devices are installed by professional basement repair contractors who include the devices as part of a comprehensive basement waterproofing solution, although this can drive up the overall costs of setting up a sump pump. As a result, many home and property owners opt to install the devices independently, resulting in extensive cost savings that can help you get a higher quality device within your budget (a number of online retailers like Amazon sell sump pumps -- here is list of the best-selling sump pumps). Among the most popular brands of sump pumps are Flotec, Dayton, Craftsman, and Zoeller, but sump pumps are made by a wide variety of manufacturers. In general, sump pumps are more common in areas where flooding is common. The best sump pump to buy depends somewhat on your exact needs.

Two types of sump pumps are pedestal sump pumps and submersible sump pumps. The submersible pumps can work entirely under water and have a float switch intended to turn the pump on when water rises. Pedestal sump pumps use a motor, which is on top of a pipe. A pump turns a shift to operate the underwater pump impeller.


These non-submersible sump pumps tend to be a bit older and usually stick out above ground. There are also water powered sump pumps, which are powered by water pressure instead of electricity. When a flood occurs, this sump pumps automatically ejects water from the building. These water powered pumps are really only used when municipal water is available. They are not usually recommended for homes, as they may risk overtaxing the well system due to inadequate flow. Also it is important to note that older versions of these pumps have been illegal in some areas due to potential cross contamination. Always check with the local building code before installing a water powered sump pump. Another potential problem with water powered pumps is that the manufacturer may not give adequate information on the volume of water that is necessary to run the pump. You really need good information on water consumption and removal before installing a water powered sump pump.

How much do sump pumps cost?

Depending on your budget and basement setup, a quality sump pump can range between several hundred and several thousands of dollars. You can buy sump pumps from large retailers like Amazon. Also plumbing stores, and stores like The Home Depot and Sears sell sump pumps. In general, the thinner the housing for the sump pump, the cheaper the cost. You can buy sump pumps that come in plastic housing, metal housing and even cast iron. However, when you are buying and installing your sump pump it probably isn't the time to pinch pennies. After all, you are dealing with a potential flooding issue when you buy a sump pump, so it may be worth the extra money to buy a more expensive model. You can also find pumps with various horsepower ratings. If you aren't buying a battery backup, you may also want to spend money for a good switch and float system to ensure that the pump works optimally.

One leading brand on the market today is Storm Pro, which makes affordable lightweight Stainless Steel sump pumps backed by a 2-year limited warranty, thermal protection, over a 5,800 gallon carry capacity and a powerful 3/4 horsepower motor. Metropolitan Industries, the manufacturers of Storm Pro, have been making reliable primary flood prevention systems for over 5 decades. A more affordable high capacity option are the 1/3 horsepower cast iron submersible pumps from Zoeller. With a basic carrying capacity of 2,680 gallons the M series pumps feature a reliable 1/3 horsepower motor and a clog and heat-resistant structure to ensure operations under adverse conditions. Sealed with reliable carbon materials, the sump pumps will work under a variety of conditions.

The Importance of the Battery Backup Sump Pump

Since sump pumps must work under flood and other adverse situations, having the right battery backup can ensure successful protection of your basement environment. Sump pump battery backups use a rechargeable battery, which is connected to regular electricity and a charging system. Battery backup sump pumps are recommended for users who frequently have power outages in their buildings. Sump Pump battery backups cost anywhere between $150- $300. For example, a highly recommended battery backup sump pump is the Zoeller 507-0005 Basement Sentry Battery Backup Pump System which runs about $300. For a bit more money, you could also buy the Wayne ESP45 24-Volt Cast Iron Battery Back Up Sump Pump System for about $430. The iron construction helps reduce heat in the motor. Another popular brand is Basement Watchdog which produces the SPD-BWS model, which provides over 7 hours of backup power and automatic startup during power outages. An integrated control mechanism provides real time monitoring of the device, which is capable of channeling over 2,500 complete gallons of water per hour powered by a 12-V battery that is recharged over time. Weighing just 100 pounds, the unit is easy to install and setup in nearly any environment for under $500. One of the negative points of the battery backup system is you must remember to change your battery every 4 years.

Sump Pump Installation

If your house or building already has a sump pump installed and you are replacing that pump, you likely have the easiest job. On the other hand, installing a sump pump from scratch is going to be more cumbersome. You may need to break a concrete floor and dig a hole. The sump pump installation process will also include connecting a pipe to the sump pump. Many people hire a professional for this job. If you are feeling industrious and want to do this sump pump installation yourself, there are a variety of helpful resources available to you. Popular Mechanics has a tutorial that you can access for free at: http://www.popularmechanics.com/home_journal/home_improvement/1276106.html. This Old House also offers a free video on how to correctly install a sump pump: http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/video/0,,1631605,00.html.

Additional Tips for Sump Pumps

Some good practices about sump pumps is to get an alarm which will go off when the sump pump is not operating. A sump pump alarm, like a backup sump pump, can be very effective and well worth the price in the ability to deter flooding. These types of options are particularly good backups for any buildings that may be left unattended. Another important tip is to use a dedicated circuit for the pump. Another potentially important tip is to have a basin that is appropriate for the sump pump. A common recommendation is one that is about 2 feet deep. The sump pump must have the room it needs to work effectively. Owners are advised to examine sump pumps every year. Some pumps in areas with radical weather conditions should be examined even more.