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Types of Sump Pumps and How They Work


Water damage is more than just inconvenient; it's costly to repair and clean. According to Fixr, the national average for cleaning, drying and decontaminating a 700-square-foot area is $2,700. The average cost increases to $7,500 if drywall and carpet have to be replaced.

By using sump pumps, facility managers can help prevent water damage in their facilities. Learn more about how sump pumps work and the different types available.

What Is a Sump Pump?

A sump pump is used in basements or crawlspaces to help keep the area dry and prevent it from flooding. Sump pumps are installed in specially constructed areas called sump pits. According to Zoeller Pumps, the typical sump pit measures between 15 and 18 inches across and around 2 feet deep.

How Does a Sump Pump Work?

When a sump pit fills with water, it reaches a set level on the pump, activating a switch and automatically turning on the sump pump. Most sump pumps use a centrifugal pump with an impeller to move water within the pit. As the impeller pushes the water out of the pit, more water flows in to fill the void, forcing water out through the pipe in the sump pit. A check valve in this pipe blocks the water from flowing back in so it flows into the outflow pipe and away from the building.

Types of Sump Pumps

Here are the main types of sump pump systems available:

Primary Sump Pumps: These are the main operating pump used to drain water from sump pits and prevent damage to businesses and homes. Two types of primary pumps are available:

Submersible: These electric-operated pumps combine the pump body and motor. They are completely submerged in the water of the sump pit which helps prevent the pump from overheating so it can run longer.

Pedestal: These sump pumps have their motors mounted on top of a long tube above the sump pit so they are less susceptible to water damage. They are ideal for smaller sump pits that cannot accommodate a submersible sump pump.

Backup Pumps: If you need additional flood protection in the event your primary pump stops operating, a backup pump can provide additional protection. They start automatically when the primary pump fails and don't use corded electric power. Backup sump pumps are either water powered or have a battery backup.

Combination Pumps: This type of sump pump combines a primary pump with a battery-operated backup pump in one system. Like backup pumps, if the primary pump malfunctions or there is a power failure, the backup pump will automatically activate.

Pumps for Sewage and Septic Systems

Sewage Pumps: Instead of ridding your basement of water, sewage pumps move solid waste into a septic or sewage system. Sewage ejector pumps are mounted into basins in septic systems and pumps any collected debris up to the main sewer line. Sewage grinder pumps grind solid waste into smaller particles so it can be pumped into a sewage system.

Effluent Pumps: By using a high head combined with high pressure, effluent pumps help lift treated water out of septic tanks.

Maintaining Your Sump Pump

Here are some sump pump maintenance tips to make sure it's ready in the event of a flood or water issue:

Three to four times per year:

  • Pour enough water in the sump pit to make sure that it turns on if it has not been run in a while.
  • Clean the filter screen of debris that can clog and damage the pump.

Every year:

  • Remove and clean any debris from the pump.
  • Make sure the sump pit itself is cleaned so that clogs don’t form.

Now that you know more about how sump pumps work and the different types available, you can pick the right one for your facility.


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The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.