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Sump Pump Buying Guide

Sump Pump

Your house is your largest investment and needs to be protected from flooding. Sump pumps are the number one defence against flooding in any house or building. When rain saturates the ground around the foundation of your house, flooding can occur. As water moves through the ground, a drain tile around the foundation of your house directs rainwater into your sump pit. As water rises in the pit, sump pumps automatically activates and empties the pit. This protects your house from flooding.

Sump pumps move clean water, or water that does not contain solids, from a sump basin usually located in a basement or crawl space of a house, barn, or other type of building prone to seasonal flooding. A good sump pump works automatically when the water level gets too high, so you don't have to worry about turning it on and off. Sump pumps are a practical item all property owners should consider to protect homes from water damage caused by mild, moderate, or seasonal flooding.

When shopping for the best sump pump, consider the following:

  • If you are replacing an existing pump, it is a good idea to use the exact same type and size of pump as you had before. Most sump pumps have an identification plate attached on the unit that tells you the pump's horsepower.
  • If you want to upgrade to a pump with more horsepower, consider getting just the next level up to avoid having too much power.
  • Note the diameter of your sump basin.
  • Note the diameter of your existing discharge pipe. A typical sump discharge pipe measures 1 1/4" or 1 1/2" for sump pumps and 1 1/2" or 2" for sump/effluent pumps.
sump pump

Types of Sump Pumps
There are several types of sump pumps. If you are purchasing a new pump that is not to replace an old unit, make sure you understand what type of sump pump you need before making your purchase.

Pedestal Sump Pumps
Pedestal sump pumps are designed to sit above the water level and are not meant to be fully submerged in water. Pedestal pumps have an impeller, or internal propeller, that provides the force necessary to pump water. The impeller is driven by the pump's motor, which is located at the top of the pedestal and not meant to operate under water. Pedestal sump pumps have a pedestal-like shape and protrude up above the rim of most sump basins. If you are looking at replacing a pedestal pump, consider a submersible sump pump instead. Submersible sump pumps offer more versatility and efficiency than a pedestal type sump pump.

Submersible Sump Pumps
Submersible sump pumps are similar to pedestal pumps inthat they are meant to pump clean water, or water that does not contain solids. Submersible sump pumps are designed to operate while fully submerged in water. Advantages to choosing a submergible sump pump include:

  • More efficient at pumping water
  • Less noisy than pedestal pumps
  • Longer lasting
  • Easy to handle
  • Completely hidden inside sump basin

Submersible sump pumps come with either a tethered switch or a vertical switch for auto-activation:

  • Tethered switch type sump pumps require a minimum of 14" diameter sump basin so there will be room for the tether to float up and down with the change in water level.
  • Vertical switch type sump pumps can be used in sump basins as small as 10" in diameter. The switch moves straight up and down as the water level changes to activate or de-activate the pump.

To find the best sump pump that will last for years, look for a sump pump that is constructed using heavy-duty materials and backed by a good warranty. CountyLine® makes a line of cast iron, stainless steel, and heavy-duty thermoplastic water pumps for a variety of applications.

Effluent Pumps
Effluent pumps are meant to remove gray water, or water that is not drinkable but that also does not contain hazardous waste such as human or animal waste. Examples of gray water include used dish water, used laundry water, used shower water, or water from a bathroom or kitchen sink. When properly maintained, gray water can be recycled and pumped into irrigation systems to water your lawn or garden. Gray water should not be consumed by humans or animals and should not be recycled as drinking water.

Float Switches for Sump Pumps
Sump pumps are able to automatically turn on and off thanks to a mechanism called a float switch, or a switch that is triggered when the water level causes a floating device to drift upwards. There are three types of float switches for sump pumps:

  • Tethered float switch
  • Vertical float switch
  • Electronic float switch

Tethered Float Switches
A tethered float switch is good to use on a larger sump pump and deeper sump basins. Tethered switches allow for longer pumping cycles, that is, they allow for the sump pump to be off longer between pumping cycles so the motor can cool off. This helps prolong the life of the motor on the sump pump.

Vertical Float Switches
Vertical float switchs are great for a sump basin that is too small or too narrow to accommodate a tethered style float switch. Vertical float switches cause the pump cycle to be shorter and more frequent, and this usually causes the pump to use more electricity.

Electronic Float Switches
An electronic float switch takes up even less space than either a vertical or tethered float switch. Electronic style float switches are good for small spaces, and they often include options such as a built-in water depth alarm.

Battery Backup Systems for Sump Pumps
When shopping for a new or replacement sump pump, it is a good idea to consider purchasing a battery backup system for your water pump. This will help protect your property from flood damage during a power outage.

Battery backup systems kick in when the sump pump looses power while activated. So when the water is rising and the power goes out, you can rest assured that your sump pump's performance is not interrupted.

Backup Sump Pump
For added security, consider a backup sump pump to supplement your main sump pump. Having a backup sump pump will help protect your property should your main sump pump become damaged or fails for some reason.

There are two main types of backup sump pumps:

  • Battery powered backup pumps
  • City water powered backup pumps

Battery powered Backup Pumps
Battery powered sump pump backup systems use 12 volt marine batteries. This type of system has a seperate float switch located in the sump basin that is adjusted to a different height than the main pump, allowing the backup pump to kick on if the first pump fails or is not powerful enough to pump out all of the water before the water level rises to a pre-determined height.

City Water Powered Backup Sump Pumps
City water powered backup systems use the city water supply to power the backup pump. The water enters through a pipe to the backup pump and powers the backup impeller which pumps water out of the sump basin.

Q and Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions about Sump Pumps

Should I get a pedestal sump pump or a submersible sump pump?
It depends on your specific needs. Pedestal pumps use less amperage than sump pumps and are therefor more economical to run. However, pedestal pumps are less versatile than submersible sump pumps because they cannot be fully submerged underwater and are cooled by air flow. Submersible pumps are cooled by the ground water they sit in. Ultimately pedestal pumps and submersible sump pumps are meant to do the same thing, however submersible sump pumps are more efficient at pumping water even though they draw more amperage.

How much horsepower do I need on my sump pump?
The greater the horsepower, the faster the sump pump will be able to move water. If you already have a sump pump and your sump basin fills up quickly, you probably need a pump with more horsepower. You may want to consider increasing the size of your sump basin to accommodate both more water and a larger sump pump. If you just have a small amount of water accumulation in your sump basin, you may be able to get by with a lower horsepower pump.

How large does my sump basin need to be?
When it comes to sump basins, bigger is better. A larger sump basin helps to hold more water and allows the pump cycles to be longer, saving your pump from overheating by allowing it to cool off between cycles.

What material should the pump be made of?
Sump pumps come in a variety of materials, including cast iron, steel and thermoplastic. Cast iron or steel pumps will naturally be stronger and last longer than a plastic pump, however the thermoplastic pumps may be more economical.

Can sump pumps be used to discharge water softener?
In most cases, no. Water softener discharge contains salt and can corrode rubber seals, metal screws, and other metal components of the pump's motor. Even stainless steel and cast iron are susceptible to salt damage. Consider finding an alternative discharge for water softener.

Can I use a sump pump to discharge laundry water?
No. Sump pumps are designed to pump clean ground water. Laundry water and other forms of grey water may contain lint or other debris that could clog the sump impeller. Soap scum build up can also cause sump pumps not to work properly. Purchase an effluent pump to get rid of laundry water and other grey water.

What happens if the discharge pipe freezes or becomes blocked?
If your sump discharge pipe has become frozen or blocked, it is imperative that you unfreeze or unblock it as soon as possible. A sump pump will continue to run whether the discharge pipe is blocked or not, and you do not want the pump motor to overheat. Furthermore, your basement would flood.

Do I need a check valve?
Yes. Check valves prevent water from flowing back into the pump once the pump has shut off. When water flows the wrong way, it will fill up the sump basin and trigger the pump to begin pumping again. Check valves have a one-way flap that only allows water to pass in one direction.

Can I use an extension cord with a sump pump?
It is recommended that extension cords not be used with sump pumps. Plug the pump's power supply directly into a dedicated outlet that is on a seperate circuit breaker or fuse. This way you can be sure the pump is receiving the proper amount of electricity.

Do I need a backup sump pump?
If you live in a place that is prone to frequent flooding or periods of heavy flooding, a backup sump pump is a good idea. If the volume of water coming into the sump basin is too much for the main pump to handle, a backup pump can supplement the main pump during times of unusually heavy rain or severe weather floods. Backup pumps also kick in if your main pump fails.

How long do sump pumps last?
As with any appliance, the more it is used the quicker it will run it's course. If you have a large volume of water entering the sump basin at all times, a sump pump may turn on and off several times per hour, causing the life span of the pump to be shorter than if the pump were only used occasionally.

Where can I get parts and accessories for my sump pump?
Visit your local Tractor Supply Co. store to find pump accessories and special order replacement parts.

Where can I get parts and accessories for my sump pump?
Call or visit your local Tractor Supply Co. store to find pump accessories and special order replacement parts.

How do I get a replacement pump through the pump's warranty?
Call or visit your local Tractor Supply Co. store to ask about warranty replacement for your sump pump.

What size generator do I need to run my sump pump?
Multiply the amperage of the pump by the voltage to get the watt usage of the pump. Keep in mind this calculation will only be accurate if the pump is the only thing you are powering with the generator. Add voltage for additional items needing power, such as lights or other appliances.