Summer thunderstorms, with bucketloads of rain falling, can be dramatic and even a bit fun. But excessive rain can cause water damage, leaks, and flooding of house foundations and basements.
Sump pumps are devices that push water away from the house foundations through a discharge pipe. They’re a good investment for any homeowner as water damage is expensive, difficult, and inconvenient to fix. If you live in an area prone to flooding or dampness, you should especially look at using a sump pump to protect your basement.
What is a sump pump?
A “sump” is a shallow pit that holds excess water, such as can be found on the floor of a cave. In modern-day homes, a sump basin is commonly found in basements or crawl spaces to collect water entering from the outdoors or below ground.
The sump pump pushes the excess water out the basin and away from the house through a discharge pipe. Sump pumps detect the level of water in the basin and when full, automatically empties it.
What types of sump pumps are there?
There are a number of different features of sump pumps that you will likely notice when looking to purchase one. The type of sump pump that you need will depend on a few factors, including how much space there is, your needs, and your area’s water mineral composition.
Pedestal and submersible pumps
All sump pumps are either a pedestal or submersible pump. Pedestal pumps have the motor positioned out of the water, on a shaft above the sump. These types are less expensive, but are at a greater risk of overheating as the motor isn’t cooled down by the water in the sump.
Submersible pumps rest at the bottom of the sump basin. As they are usually surrounded by cooling water, there are not the same overheating problems as with pedestal pumps.
Sump pump switches
Sump pumps have switches that automatically turns on the pump when the water inside reaches a certain level. A properly working switch ensures that the water is emptied when needed. There are three types of switches used, including tethered floats, vertical floats, and electronic switches.
As the name suggests, a tethered float has a bulb that floats up when the sump fills with water. When the bulb floats up as the water fills, the pump is turned on. The pump stops when the bulb drops and the water is cleared out. Tethered floats need a wide diameter to properly function, so they don’t work with narrower sumps. As the float travels throughout the sump, the motor cools off longer between cycles of emptying the water.
For narrow sumps, a vertical float should be considered. This type of float rides vertically up and down the sump when the water fills and lowers. A rod is attached to the switch within the motor housing which starts and stops the pump. Vertical floats cycle more often than tethered floats, so there can be an issue with debris and mineral buildup interfering with the float.
Instead of a physical float, some sump pumps have an electronic switch. These types of switches use sensors to turn on the pump. There’s a sensor at the top of the sump that turns on the pump when it detects water. The pump is shut off when a sensor at the bottom of the sump stops detecting water, as it empties.
These more modern-age pumps are great for a range of different sizes, including more narrow sumps and smaller spaces. Some of these devices also have the capability to include water depth alarms to alert you when there are issues. The downside of this type of switch is that minerals from the water can build up and block the sensors over time. This is especially an issue for homes in areas with hard water.
Sump pump power
Sump pumps come in different measurements of horsepower, which is the power of the motor to pump the water out and to what height. The manufacturer should note both the horsepower of the motor and how many litres of water per hour it can pump. Since the water has to be pumped up and out of the house, if you have an extra high basement ceiling you’ll need a higher horsepower motor. If the horsepower of the sump pump is not high enough, there may be issues with emptying the water basin.
If you’re replacing a current sump pump in your home which has worked well for a long period of time, consider purchasing the same model and horsepower. This will ensure the pump has enough power to properly clear out the water in the sump.
How to properly maintain a sump pump
Sump pumps should only be used for their intended design and to only handle clean groundwater. Don’t use your sump to channel excess water from other appliances, like a washing machine or water softener system. These pumps also should never be used outside for water sources like ornamental fountains or ponds.
As the above sump pump types operate on household electrical currents, if the power goes out and there’s a rainstorm, you may be in trouble. In this case, look for a backup sump pump system with a battery which is kept continually charged.
We’d like to help
Plumbing Paramedics has extensive experience working with sump pumps and we are here if you need our assistance. Give us a call and you’ll speak with a live person to discuss your plumbing needs. We take you through various options and provide three levels of flat rate quotes, to ensure you are comfortable with what work will be done.
Do you have any questions about sump pumps and how they work? What features are you looking for? Any tips or tricks that have helped you? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below with all your questions and insights about sump pumps.