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Sump Pump

What is a Sump Pump?

A sump pump is a device found in the lowest part of a home that collects excess liquids around the foundation and moves it outside and away from the building. Sump pit holes usually measure around 2 feet deep by 18 inches wide and sit in a small, dug-out pit inside a basement. They’re convenient during rainy seasons or when snow is melting and include valves that sense increased water levels or pressure. When the levels or pressures get too high, it automatically pumps excess water out of the basement and away from the building through its discharge, or effluent, line.


 Types of Sump Pumps

Sump pumps are either primary or backup; your system should have one for optimal operation. Primary sump pumps handle most of the workload, while the backup sump pumps will take over if the primary fails or the water inflow is too much. 

Submersible pumps

A submersible sump pump features a motor and pump which sit submerged entirely within the sump pit. This compact pump is more powerful, quieter, and clogs less than a pedestal pump. It can also pump out a lot of water at once. These sump pumps are the best option for homes with significant flood concerns; however, they may not last as long as other alternatives.

Pedestal pumps

Unlike a submersible sump pump, the pedestal sump pump has a separate pump and motor; it does not have a submerged engine. Instead, it sits outside the basin and sends water through a hose to its specified drainage location. These pumps have a prolonged service life compared to other sump pumps since they’re not submerged and have more convenient maintenance access. However, it is louder, takes up more space, and is less potent than a submersible pump because it is exposed.

submersible sum pump
Battery-operated backup

In a power outage during a flood, a battery-operated backup sump pump will ensure extra security from flood damage. When the power is out and the basin hits a certain amount, the float switch will trigger and turn on the battery.

Water-powered backup

Another backup option is a water-powered backup, with removes the water in the basin through increased water pressure. This alternative is beneficial because you do not need to monitor or replace batteries. However, since it operates through water pressure, it will significantly increase your water bill and is not allowed in certain cities.

What size pump do I need?

Sump pumps come in various sizes. Each pump features a reference chart label stating how much water it can move. These charts contain two columns; the heat refers to the vertical distance water travels from the sump pump to the outlet pipe, while the flow refers to how many gallons of water it can pump per minute.

Determine flow rate

To determine the sump pump’s flow rate, wait until it’s raining and operate your pump until the water falls below the shut-off level. Afterward, disconnect the pump from all power sources and measure how far the water rises in one minute. For an 18-inch sump, one inch of water equals a gallon. In a 24-inch sump, one inch of water equals two gallons. Once the flow rate is calculated, multiply it by 1.5 to margin for severe storms.


For the vertical distance, measure the bottom of the basement to the outlet pipe, which is usually at ground level. After measuring, check the pump chart to determine if the flow rate is sufficient for head distance. Most experts recommend a sump pump with 1/3 horsepower for average homes. Users should also consider elbow joints, narrow pipes, and check valves, as these increase friction and may require a pump with more power.

Maintaining a sump pump

Sump pumps need regular maintenance since debris, such as dirt and sand, can block the pump and reduce its functionality during an emergency. Most homeowners discover their pump is failing when it’s too late; because of this, you should get your pump inspected every six months.