how does a sump pump work: How Does A Sump Pump Work And Why Should You Get One

If there is a basement in your house and you want to keep it safe from flooding or excessive moisture, the sump pump can be your savior. It’s estimated that more than half of the homes in the US face the problem of underground wetness and due to the high chances of flooding or hurricanes in some areas, having a sump pump becomes a necessity. Not only that, if your basement surroundings are moist, there is a high risk of unhealthy mold and mildew growth. Sump pumps are kept in specially designed sump pits that keep any water coming from drains or through the soil, away from the pit; leaving the underground dry. This could save you thousands of dollars of renovation that could otherwise happen if your basement were affected by flooding.

How Does a Sump Pump Work?

As mentioned before, a sump pump sits in a pit. When the pit fills with water, the pump is turned on. This happens because of two key components – a pressure sensor and a float activator. As water applies more pressure on the sensor, the pump gets activated. A float activator is a floating ball that sits on the surface of the water and moves the arm as the water level increases.

There are many types of Sump Pump, both manual and automatic. Automatic pumps can be turned on only when you want them and many houses now have automatic sump pumps installed in their basements. Though manual pumps can be turned on whenever you want them, the process is very inconvenient. The pump pushes out water through pipes that lead to places away from the house. These pipes have check valves that prevent the water from moving back into the pit.

Which Sump Pump Is Right For You?

Sump pumps are generally powered by mains electricity, but some come with battery backups. Those backed up by batteries get very helpful in cases of power failure, especially during the tropical storms when chances of flooding are the highest. Since pumps are surrounded by moist environments, it is best to have a ground fault circuit interrupter so that electrocution doesn’t occur accidentally. Depending on your budget and the place you live in, you should choose a sump pump that best suits your needs.

In the US, most houses typically have centrifugal pumps. When the pump turns on, a device called ‘impeller’ inside the pump starts to rotate. This spinning causes the water to move to the sides, creating a low pressure region in the system where more water moves in. As it occurs, more water is moved out of the pipes because of the spinning force generated.

There are two types of pumps based on the design while both have sizes between 2 and 3 feet. Submersible pumps, as the name suggests, stays in water. However, it is waterproof as it is enclosed inside a casing. The pump lies at the bottom while the pipes are on top. A grate covers the bottom which keeps out the debris particles. When the pump is activated, water is sucked through the grates and is passed on to the pipes. Submersible pumps are usually installed in Crawl space and the process is somewhat complex

Pedestal pumps separate the pump from the pit so the pit can remain full with water without affecting the pump at all. A small inlet pipe goes down to the bottom and drains the water out. Pedestal pumps are loud but are also cheaper than the submersible pumps.

When to Get a Sump Pump?

You can pick a sump pump of your choice and install it near your basement, but how would you know the right time to buy this machine? Well, there are some ways to find this out. The area under your house may feel damp or smell kind of funny. If that’s not enough as a proof, you can try a little experiment. You can tape 2-feet sized plastic sheets onto the walls or surface of your basement in multiple places. After a few days, check if there are water droplets on the sheets. If it is wet then you know you need a sump pump. Wet walls and floors are home to mold and microorganisms that could cause opportunistic infections. In order to deal with the problem, you can use a dehumidifier to reduce the moisture in the air. Then repeat this experiment again after a few days. If the problem still persists and more water droplets are seen, it’s time to get a sump pump.

Features You Should Consider When Buying a Sump Pump

If you live in a disaster-prone zone or areas with moist surroundings, sump pumps will be of serious help. Depending on your budget, you should buy a sump pump that has these absolutely necessary features:

  1. Is the sump pump manual or automatic? If you’re short on cash but need a sump pump immediately or for temporary use, you can go for a manual sump pump. However, automatic sump pumps are better and more hassle-free to use.
  2. Does the sump pump have 1/3rd or 1/4th of horsepower? The more powerful the sump pump motor is, the faster it will work. If your moisture problem isn’t too much, you don’t need to spend extra money to buy more powerful sump pumps.
  3. What is the head pressure of the sump pump? This is the height that a sump pump can raise the water level to. Whatever the pump you choose, it should be able to lift the water to the height of the pit. You should measure the height and know the pit measurements.
  4. How long is its cord length? The cord will allow you to directly connect the sump pump to a GFCI outlet, which you should get for safety. This length should be long enough, though it might depend on your house measurements as well as the electrical system.
  5. What is the voltage? In most houses in the US, sump pumps work on the standard 110V circuits. If your home is bigger, you might need a more powerful one. Pumps operating on 220 V or more are usually used in different industries.
  6. Does the sump pump have a backup system and alarm facilities? In the event of a disaster or serious moisture-related issues, your sump pump should be able to alert you so that you can stay prepared. Having a backup system is a plus since electricity may get disconnected during these times or any other time.

When purchasing a sump pump, read the directions on how this machine works and how it should be installed. You can also get help from a professional. Usually, a good quality sump pump can last more than 10 years with proper maintenance. You can safely assume that it’s a one-time investment, so think carefully before purchasing one. Your sump pump will allow you to protect your house from hazards and unnecessary expenses and emergencies that come along with it. Also, the value of your property would remain unchanged and your home, healthy and safe.


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