Sump Pumps 101 - Resource for Homeowners and Contractors

Sump pumps are a very specific mechanical device used to move water out of sump wells (also called: pits, or crocks). They are usually located at the end of drainage systems (also called french drains, or subfloor / footer drains). In these types of drainage systems water in collected via large pipes located either in the interior or exterior of the home. Many people know of the basic use of a sump pump in a basement to prevent flooding, or manage utility or water line failures, but sumps do serve a much broader purpose. Their larger scope of service is to actually keep the water pressure under the basement floor relatively even with the pressure above the floor. This can slow and or prevent certain types of foundation failure. Granted this pressure reliving effect is more effective if there is a large purpose built drainage system in place. None the less, as water goes, one pump is better than

In the marine world sumps are used to expel water from the lower portions of a bilge, and also to raise a sunken boat. The term for this well, whether it has a pump in it or not is a ‘sump’ (from the German word sumpf, which means swamp). Sumps are otherwise commonly known as a sump wells. A ‘sump pump’ is simply the type of pump designed to be installed in these types of wells.

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Types of Sump Pumps

Submersible Pump as seen here are pumps that are designed to rest in the bottom of sump well cavities in buildings. They are designed to operate under water and are triggered by a float switch assembly that is is actuated by the raising water in the well. As the water is pumped out, and lowers, the float also lowers and turns the pump off. It’s a pretty fool proof design, but there are certain manufacturers that have pump designs that are far less likely to fail. Zoeller is one of them with the M53 model by Zoeller  picture here being a very popular model.

Many cheaper pumps have multiple problems due to inferior design. If the float is damaged and takes on water it will cease to raise and prevent the pump from actuating. If random obstructions get in the path of the float it can block the float from raising and stop the pump from turning on. While the most common cause is actually being unplugged (true) these other problems are also not uncommon. It is a good idea to check your sump to make sure it is clear of any obstructions at least annually or bi-annually.

Pedestal Pumps are partly immersed in water having the motor section above the water, this makes them cheaper to manufcture, and also making them many time louder. When people talk about sump pumps being loud, they are normally referencing a pedestal pump. They also use a float mechanism to trigger the pumping action and due to design the arm and plunge section of the pump is much longer (heavier). This often causes this section to fail. These are truly the cheapest and most failure prone of all pumps.

Floor Sucker Pumps d are designed to suck water from a flat surface such as a concrete floor, or roof. These types of pumps can actually remove water from a surface down to and 1/8 inch. While these pumps are used most often as a site prep to remove water from a water soaked worked site they are also used to pump water from the floor from a flooded basement. A very nifty device for such an affair as floor sucker pumps will often have a hose attachment to expel the collected water outside.  These types of pumps cannot practically be used in a foundation drainage system due to their design being so close to the floor. In no time at all they will collect so much debris into the pump assembly they will either clog or seize up. Of course this does not stop many folks from trying.

Water Powered Pumps are powered by the water pressure from the building’s existing fresh water supply. These devices have an internal valve system that is overall quite simple and has fewer other moving parts to fail. The problem is they are attached to full pressure lines. If they do fail, and many do, the results are usually catastrophic as the leak from a full pressure water line can fill a basement with many feet of water in no time. These types of systems are normally used in commercial or industrial applications and are not intended to be used in interior residential waterproofing systems for the simple reason that the flow rate of drainage water to fresh drinking water is 1-3 which is very wasteful. These systems are also under full water pressure. Fitting failures, and improper installs are not uncommon.

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