What is a Sump Pump and How Do Sump Pumps Work? [The Ultimate Guide]
A sump pump is a device that reduces the risk of water damage to the underground part of a home. When there’s excess water in the ground around your basement (for example, from rain or spring snowmelt), a sump pump moves that water up and away from the building. Installing a sump pump often helps you save money on your insurance premiums, too.
There’s a good chance that you already have a sump pump if your house is located in a high-risk area. If you’re unsure, though, where should you look? What formula should you use to determine the appropriate power and capacity if you’re thinking about installing a sump pump? Here’s your ultimate guide to home sump pumps:
Table of Contents
What is a Sump Pump?
Liquids are gathered in a low area called a sump. For example, the sump in your car is there to catch oil. Similar to this, homes have a tiny pit dug into the basement floor to collect water that filters through the loose earth surrounding your foundation.
A simple device called a sump pump uses a system of pipes to detect water in the sump and pump it away from the property.
Sumps are typically 18 inches in diameter and 2 feet deep. An electrical circuit is completed and the pump is activated by a floating switch when the water reaches a certain level. Systems typically have a one-way check valve to stop water from flowing back into the pit after being ejected.
Many sump systems have alarms to notify the homeowner if water rises above a certain level, signifying that the sump pump is malfunctioning. Even today’s smart pump alarms can send notifications directly to your phone. A sump pump alarm may also signal that the backup pump is operating, in which case you should check the primary pump (more on the primary and backup sump pumps below).
The sump pump needs electricity. Since they’re operating near (or in) water, it’s important that the outlet you connect the pump to has a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). Additionally, you ought to link your sump pump to a backup power supply. Severe storms that frequently result in power outages are frequently accompanied by flooding. It will be difficult for your sump pump to keep you safe from water damage if it detects water but lacks power to operate.
How Does a Sump Pump Work?
A sump pump will be installed in the lowest part of your basement where a hole around 2 feet deep and 18 inches across is cut into your concrete floor and the pump is placed in the sump pit, also known as a sump basin.
The water will flow into the sump pit, where it will be collected until the pump is turned on.
A float, similar to the one in your toilet tank, activates a sump pump; when the float reaches a predetermined level, the pump starts and the water is pumped out of the sump basin.
The water is then safely removed by the pipes from the house via a drainage point and dumped a distance of several feet from the building’s foundation.
When there is a lot of rain, a lot of wind, or quickly melting snow, sump pumps perform incredibly well. These weather-related elements won’t flood your house; instead, they’ll be collected in the sump pit and pumped to a secure drainage area.
Choosing a Sump Pump
You might not require a sump pump, depending on the local laws. For instance, if your basement is consistently warm and dry and there has never been any standing water there, a sump pump is probably not going to do you much good. However, if the area under your house floods occasionally or feels damp and smells musty, there’s a good chance you have an issue with moisture entry. A sump pump would improve the air quality in your basement and safeguard any items and appliances you store there, along with other waterproofing techniques.
One way you can check whether moisture is getting into your home through your basement floor or walls is by taping a 2-foot-square (61-centimeter-square) piece of plastic onto surface and leaving it in place for a day or two. It’s a good idea to do this in a few different places if you’re unsure of where the moisture may be entering. Check underneath the plastic a couple of days later; if it’s wet, you have a moisture issue.
The first step in dealing with basement moisture is to air it out and run a dehumidifier. Since water draining around your foundation is the primary source of moisture that enters basements, make sure your gutters and downspouts are in good condition and directing water at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) away from your foundation. Repeat your plastic sheet test in a few weeks; if it reveals moisture, a sump pump might be a good idea.
Since sump pumps have many options available, when choosing one, you need to make some decisions:
- Manual or automatic: Sump pumps that are operated manually are available and slightly less expensive, but an automatic pump is much more practical.
- Horsepower: The typical horsepower range for sump pumps is between 1/4 and 1/3. If your moisture issue is minor, you don’t need to go overboard with more powerful motors, which will pump more water.
- Head pressure: The height that a pump can lift water to is known as head pressure. For instance, a pump with a head pressure of 12 feet (3.7 meters) can raise water to that height, minus roughly 10% for physical restrictions like bends in pipes. The pump you select must be capable of raising water from the sump pit to the outlet pipe.
- Cord length: You need to be able to plug a sump pump directly into a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet — you shouldn’t plug one into an extension cord.
- Voltage: Most sump pumps used in the United States homes operate on standard 110-volt circuits. Although they are available, pumps with 220 or 460 volts are more frequently used in industrial settings.
- Backup and alarm systems: Select the alarm notification and backup system that best suits your way of life.
Should you install the pump yourself or call in the experts once you’ve chosen it? On the following page, you’ll learn how to make a decision.
Types of Sump Pumps
Your system needs one of both the primary and backup sump pumps. The majority of the work is typically performed by primary sump pumps. The backup sump pump is only present to step in if the primary pump malfunctions or becomes unable to handle the water inflow.
Submersible and pedestal sump pumps are the two primary varieties. Either type is available in primary and backup versions. Another way to divide backup sump pumps is according to whether they use a battery or water source for backup power.
Sump pumps that are submerged are large appliances. They are submersible (hence the name) and sit inside the sump pit. They are generally more expensive than pedestal pumps but operate more quietly because they sit in a pit. Additionally, maintenance access is more difficult.
Pedestal pumps are long, upright machines with the pump motor at the top and the impeller at the bottom. A pedestal pump’s motor is not intended to be exposed to moisture. Compared to submersible pumps, these are less expensive and simpler to access for maintenance, but some plumbing specialists believe they are less reliable. Since the motor is located above the sump pit, they are also louder.
Battery Operated Backup
Batteries are used to power the majority of backup sump pumps. They do not take the place of a primary pump. Instead, they reactivate when the primary pump stops working because of a power outage or another issue. They’re typically connected to a sizable battery (like a marine or automobile battery).
Water Powered Backup
The backup sump pumps that are powered by water pressure are not plugged into an electrical outlet; instead, they are driven by regular, ol’ water pressure. There are some limitations, but they have the benefit of unlimited runtime. Strong, constant water flow is required for water-powered pumps, similar to the high-pressure flow found in a city water system. Water-powered sump pumps won’t function properly in a house with low water pressure or well sources that require a pump. Additionally, they require more work to install than their battery-powered equivalents.
Combination Sump Pump
Additionally, you can purchase a sump pump that comes with both a primary pump and a backup pump built into one convenient package. Although they tend to be large and might not fit in smaller sump pits, it might be more affordable than purchasing each separately.
Sump Pump Installation
If you’re a reasonably handy person, you might be able to install a sump pump in your house without the help of a professional. An overview of installing a sump pit and pump in your basement can be found here.
- Determine where water, sewerand utility lines enter your home. You should locate your sump pit at the lowest point in your basement, away from this existing infrastructure (you can use a laser level to find this point). The pump should be at least 8 inches (20 centimeters) away from an outside wall and close to a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet.
- Plan the route for the outlet pipe, which is typically made of PVC and ranges in size from 1 1/2 to 2 inches (3.8 to 5 centimeters). Typically, the quickest way to get the pipe outside is to run it up through a rim joist.
- Buy your sump pump and liner at the same time. The liner, essentially a heavy plastictub with slits to allow water to enter, will determine the size of the hole you dig. Dig the hole at least six inches (15.2 centimeters) deeper and at least three inches (7.6 centimeters) wider than the liner. Make your outline 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) larger by using the liner as a starting point for your template.
- Dig the hole to the manufacturer’s recommended depth before leveling the bottom. Using a jackhammer is the simplest way to cut through the concrete.
- After inserting the liner, cover the hole’s perimeter with coarse gravel. Additionally, scatter six inches (15 centimeters) of gravel across the pit’s bottom. To make sure the bottom stays level, firmly tamp it down.
- When placing the pump into the pit, make sure it is level and stands up straight before attaching the discharge pipe.
- A foot-long (30.5-centimeter) section of PVC drain pipe should be cut. The discharge pipe should be installed in the hole you drilled in the rim joist for it.
- To connect the pump to the inside of the pipe through the rim header, measure and cut pieces of PVC pipe. When you are certain that every piece is in place properly, cement it.
- Fit a section of discharge pipe onto the pipe sticking out of the rim header from the outside. Place the pipe in place by cementing it after running it to the discharge area. The discharge pipe ought to have a tiny vent hole that drains into the pit while remaining above water. This vent hole is intended to stop an air lock from forming in the pump’s lower portion.
- Finish up by caulkingaround the hole in the rim header both inside and outside and supporting the discharge pipe inside the house by attaching it to walls or joists.
- Following the manufacturer’s instructions, lastly, adjust the pump’s float valve. Plug the pump in after testing the operation by adding two or three buckets of water.
The pump will run more smoothly after installation if you perform some routine maintenance. So how frequently should you bring a bucket of water to the basement?
Cost of a Sump Pump
Generally speaking, the price of a basement submersible sump ranges from $100 to $400 depending on the horsepower and flow rate, with sump pumps for commercial applications costing $500 to $1,000. For instance, the Matala GeyserFlow 3475 GPH Pump costs $243. The ShinMaywa Norus XP 11000 GPH Pump, for example, costs about $900 and has a higher flow rate. You will frequently spend more on labor than on the actual pump when installing a sump pump. Costs for professional installation vary by installation and can range from $600 to $3000. Even though professional installation can be expensive, a sump pump that is properly installed will ultimately cost less than one that is not.
What Sump Pump Do I Need?
For the safety of your home, choosing a pump with an appropriate horsepower is crucial. You still run the risk of flooding if you choose a sump pump with less horsepower than is required for the flooding in your area. Additionally, a higher horsepower than required will result in cycling, or the pump repeatedly turning on and off, which reduces its lifespan. A will be adequate for your home if you reside in a typical-sized house with typical rainfall and that is not deeply buried beneath the water table. A one-half horsepower submersible pump can provide the extra power you need if your house is further below the water table, has more seepage problems, or needs a farther drainage point. Last but not least, a sump pump with 13000 GPH will handle the saturation if you frequently have significant flooding issues or use the pump outside or for commercial purposes.
Sump pumps with cast iron cores outperform those with plastic or stainless steel cores in terms of lifespan. Electric motors are vulnerable to heat because they produce heat on their own. Unlike plastic or stainless steel, the cast iron core is in direct contact with the motor and dissipates heat from the motor much more effectively. You might also want to get a pump with an alarm. In the event of an extreme water volume or pump failure, this will alert you if the water level gets too high.
Sump Pump Alternatives
By establishing drainage routes with the least amount of resistance, French drains help to keep water from collecting. Since water always chooses the path of least resistance to travel, making paths of least resistance that stop water from pooling prevents an area from flooding. French drains use made-up routes to direct water around a house in the most efficient way possible. In order to move water into a drainage system and away from the house, they use drainage pipes with perforations.
Despite their effectiveness, French drains cannot completely stop water from entering a house. A portable sump pump is required in addition to your French drain if you live in an area that experiences frequent rain.
The ability of water to pass through wall holes causes basements to flood. If your house has leaky walls, caulking the cracks with waterproof caulking compound can help stop water from getting into your basement.
Because gutters do not effectively divert water away from the house, basements frequently flood. Dead insects, twigs, leaves, and other debris can clog gutters and downspouts, preventing water from draining from them. You can prevent water from backing up in your downspouts by using gutter guards and downspout filters. Cleaning your gutters on a regular basis will keep them from flooding your home if you don’t have gutter guards or downspout filters.
Sloping the Ground
Before construction, grading, another term for sloping, entails making a small slope all around a house. This slope can become level or even reverse as a house ages. In the first 10 feet surrounding a home, the soil should ideally sink by 1 inch for every foot of ground. Although slopes are always created during construction, grading that degrades over time can be fixed by adding soil around a house.
What to Do If My Sump Pump Alarm Goes Off?
If your alarm goes off, don’t freak out! Condensation may occasionally come into contact with the sensor inside the chamber, triggering your alarm.
If your pump sounds like it’s running nonstop, check the water level to see if it’s too high. It will have a dishwasher-like sound to it. There are many potential causes for the pump to run continuously, and the majority of them are simple to address.
If you require an engineer to carry out sump pump repair then give us a call on 0800 019 9949 and we will endeavour to get someone out to help you as soon as possible.
How Long Do Sump Pumps Last?
Most submersible sump pumps last at least ten years. Your pump will operate as long as possible with regular maintenance. In the long run, maintaining your sump pump will be less expensive for you because replacing submersible pumps can be costly.
To find out how long they advise the manufacturer’s warranty is valid for, it is always worthwhile to contact the pump’s manufacturer.
How Long Can a Sump Pump Run for Continuously?
A high-quality sump pump can typically run continuously for 20 to 24 hours, while a low-quality one can only last 6 to 18 hours.
Sump pumps shouldn’t run nonstop for a long time; if they do, there is cause for concern. Overuse of the sump pump may cause them to burn out.
Make sure the sump pump is inspected for any issues if it has been running for more than 24 hours. A dirty sump pit or a frozen or clogged drain line are just a few examples of the issues.
We advise having a certified engineer check out your basement sump pump system. They can then decide if the sump pump requires maintenance, repair, or replacement.
Why Do I Need My Sump Pump Serviced?
When your sump pump is installed, it’s simple to forget that it exists at all. A sump pump is often installed, but many people are unaware of it until their basement begins to flood. Flooding can occur if your pump has broken, if the pump isn’t powerful enough or if there is a blockage in your perimeter channel.
It may be necessary to perform an annual service to verify any insurance or guarantee you may have on your basement in the event of a flood and to prevent any loss of personal property that may be kept close to your pump. To make sure your pump is operating properly, routine maintenance is advised.
How Often Should I Get My Sump Pump Serviced?
To keep your sump pump in good working condition, we recommend having a service every 12 months. Pump usage varies, though, depending on the type.
For instance, because of the accumulation of silt in their basement drainage channels, we frequently attend pumps in London that are heavily used. In such cases, we advise a service every six months to make sure the pump is operating as it should. Customers who need service every six months can receive competitive discounts from The Basement Sump Pump Company.
If your pump is used to drain the water from a washing machine or dishwasher, it will also be put to a lot of use. Additionally, we offer sewage pump maintenance, which may call for a thorough cleaning every other year. This can be evaluated when you have your pump serviced.
How Do I Know If I Need to Replace My Sump Pump?
It’s very likely that you need to replace your sump pump if it’s older than ten years, making loud noises, running for an unusually long time, cycling irregularly, or exhibits any of these symptoms.
Loud noisescoming from the sump pump’s pit indicate that there is a serious problem afoot with your pump. The motor of the pump will begin to roar as it pumps the water away from your house as it nears the end of its lifespan. Although all sump pumps make some noise as they remove water from the basement, the noise shouldn’t ever be loud enough to disturb you from your upstairs apartment. Motors that are rattling, clanging, or screaming are signs that they are about to fail or that the pump was initially installed incorrectly. Sharp angles in the discharge lines coming from the sump pump pit will cause a lot of noise to be produced. The basement will shake as the water slams into the tubing angles. To reduce noise, you might think about insulating the pipes, or you might hire a plumber to reroute the discharge pipe in a more efficient way.
A damaged impeller may also cause loud noises. If the impeller of the sump pump is clogged with debris like leaves, dirt, or sticks, the pump will screech and rattle as it tries to draw water out of the basin. When in use, an impeller that has been broken or otherwise damaged may rattle loudly. Consider taking the pump apart when it’s not in use to check that none of the parts have been damaged or clogged.
If the pump isconstantly running, this indicates that your pump is either at the end of its lifespan or rapidly approaching it. Never let a sump pump run nonstop. The possibility that the pump is completely the wrong size exists. A pump that is undersized for the amount of water it is expected to move will always have trouble keeping up with the demands made of it. The pump will become overworked and prematurely fail as a result of this.
A faulty or jammed float switch may also be the cause of a pump that runs continuously. The device that causes the pump to start up is the float switch. Lightweight flotation switches will float on the surface of the rising water. The switch will signal the pump to start pumping floodwaters once the basin’s water level reaches a predetermined level. This float switch will continuously alert the pump that the water level is elevated if it gets entangled in wires or pipes or is blocked by debris. If the sump pump moves within the basin and the float switch is pressed up against the pit’s walls, the switch may also become jammed. The pump will have to exert an excessive amount of effort to run continuously if the float switch is stuck. This will stress the motor to the point where it will break down much earlier than the pump’s intended lifespan. Before your pump completely wears out, it is wise to find the cause of the constant pumping sound.
Furthermore, the pump will have to perform unnecessary work if the float valve is installed too low in the basin. If only a few inches of water are required to start the pump’s cycle, the pump will run continuously. The pump and its mechanical parts are put through stress as a result of this short-cycling. It’s likely that the pump doesn’t have enough horsepower to do its job if it takes too long for it to empty your basin. If a severe storm or flooding occurs, a pump that can’t empty the basin during a typical downpour will quickly become overworked.
Regardless of how effective your sump pump is, it will eventually need to be replaced, typically every ten years. Although some pumps may last longer than ten years, issues are more likely to develop after this age. Your home will be less likely to sustain water damage and consequently incur higher repair costs if the pump is replaced every ten years.
Why Do You Need a Sump Pump?
You need a sump pump installed if you have a beautifully finished basement that has been tastefully transformed into the ideal space to unwind and relax with gorgeous carpets, the newest electronics, and more.
It will lessen the chance that inclement weather or a change in the water table will ruin your ideal basement.
If your basement has previously flooded, you should also think about getting a sump pump repaired. if you reside in a low-lying or flat area with soil that is easily and readily capable of trapping water.
If your current pump is six years old or older, as they typically last up to ten years, or if you live somewhere that experiences frequent extreme weather conditions, such as heavy rain or snowfall.
It is crucial that your pumps receive routine maintenance in order to keep them operating effectively and avoid any unwanted buildup if you want to get the most out of them.