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How to Choose the Right Sump Pump For Your Basement

Whether you finally decided to install a sump pump in a basement that previously had none or you are replacing your old equipment, sump pump shopping is ahead of you. (By the way, check out our post on how to know when your sump pump needs replacement.)

If you have no idea what kind of sump pump you need, keep reading. If you do have an idea, still keep reading, because things might have changed since the last time you were researching this subject.

At Budget Waterproofing, we‘ve put together some quick tips to help you buy the sump pump that meets your needs and gets the job done. But first, let’s talk about what exactly a sump pump does.

Why you need a sump pump

A sump pump is your first line of defense against water rising from underneath your foundation, often to the point when it floods your basement floor. There are a few reasons why water may be rising: your house is in a flat or low spot, the foundation is for the most part below the water table, it rains a lot in your area, etc.

If your basement is leaking in more places than just the floor level, you might need the help of our team specializing in basement waterproofing in Maryland, because a sump pump alone won’t solve your problems.

How it works

A sump pump is installed in a sump pit, which is a hole in your basement floor that is connected to foundation perimeter drains. When the water level in the sump pit rises, a switch activates the pump, which starts removing the excess water and directing it outside through a discharge pipe. This water is then carried away from the foundation.

Types of sump pumps

Pedestal pumps are mounted above the ground on a pole, which elevates them over a sump pit. This is the early configuration of a sump pump, which works great for smaller pits and will serve as long as 10 – 15 years, but it is noisy and cumbersome.

Submersible pumps are placed inside the pit below the water level, which makes them more quiet, stable and less noticeable. You can expect to get as much as 30 years of service out of your submersible model.

Power

Once you’ve selected the type, it’s time to think about how powerful you need your sump pump to be. This will largely depend on how much water you get, how fast your sump pit typically fills up and how far up the water needs to be pushed through a discharge pipe.

The power of a sump pump is measured in horsepower (hp): 1/2 hp, 1/3 hp and 1/4 hp are the most common varieties. A 1/3 hp sump pump is ideal for most homes with mild water issues. If your home is in a low area that tends to flood during heavy rain, go with a 1/2 hp sump pump. A 1/4 hp model is more of a backup plan for basements that don’t necessarily have water issues, but you don’t want to take chances with those vicious summer storms.

Capacity

The capacity is measured in gallons per hour and is closely related to “head height.” Head height or head pressure is the term used to describe the vertical length of the discharge pipe that takes the excess water out of your basement. Depending on how your particular sump pit is set up, you might have a discharge pipe extended vertically anywhere from 1 to 10 feet.

When selecting the capacity, make sure to find in the product description the comparison chart between the capacity and the head height. The capacity by itself (the way it’s often stated on a box) is meaningless without the head height indicator.

Switch

A sump pump is only as good as a switch that signals a motor to turn on or power down. No matter how powerful the motor and how large the capacity, the sump pump is no good if the switch goes out. There are three types of switches common in sump pumps.

- Float switches measure the water level, and when the preset level is reached, they signal for the pump to turn on. The floating part may be floating freely or going up and down a rod (vertical float), depending on the model.

- Diaphragm switches rely on water pressure to determine when to turn the pump on. This type of switch is typically not adjustable.

- Electronic switches have electronic sensors that measure the water level. This is, from our experience in Baltimore basement waterproofing, the most reliable type of switch, because it has fewer moving parts that can fail.

Backup Options

When you rely on a sump pump to keep your basement and everything in it dry, you might want to take extra caution. Sump pumps are fairly reliable, but electricity isn’t so much. If you know your area tends to lose power during storms, think about a backup plan. Here are your options:

- Purchase a separate battery backup for your sump pump

- Get a combination sump pump with a battery backup already included in it

- Use your portable power generator to keep the sump pump going

Each of these solutions will keep your sump pump working even during the power outage. However, if the sump pump malfunctions due to an overworked motor or other cause, your last resort is a secondary backup pump. It’s typically installed next to the primary pump and kicks in when the primary unit fails or can’t keep up with the water flow.

Other factors to consider:

- Opt for materials that won’t corrode

- Choose the cord that is long enough to reach the closest outlet. Remember, you can’t use extension cords with sump pumps.

- Some pumps have alarm options that will signal if something goes wrong

- Consider a water-powered pump for your primary or backup option

- Keep in mind pump’s size and dimensions to make sure it fits in the pit

- Place a lid over you sump pit if Radon is an issue.

By now, you should have a decent idea of what to look for in a sump pump. If you still have questions or need a second opinion on your intended purchase, feel free to call us. And, of course, we can help with sump pump installation in Baltimore – this is something we’ve been doing for years and have this procedure down to perfection.

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