Sump Pump FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q. Which sump pump type is better: Submersible or Column (Pedestal)?
A. Both types of pumps are good. In many cases, the motors on pedestal pumps operate with less amp draw. This can make them more economical to run. Pedestal pump motors are cooled by air flow around them while submersible pumps are cooled by the cool ground water they sit in. Your particular installation may impact the cooling of the pump if you need to install the pump in a very tight area, for example, there may not be sufficient air flow or volume to cool a pedestal pump.
Q. What kind of switch should be on the pump I buy?
A. There are basically three types of float switches: Tethered, vertical, electronic. The tethered style float switch is great for larger diameter, deeper sump pits. They allow the pump to be off longer between pump cycles so the motor can cool off more completely. At startup, the motor builds a lot of heat so having it be off longer between pump cycles allows it to cool more thoroughly. This can help the pump live longer and lower your overall power usage & costs.
The vertical style switch is great if you have a sump pit that is too narrow and/or too shallow for a tethered style float switch. It is going to operate the pump more often but will not allow the water to get too deep. An electronic float switch has no moving parts and will take up a lot less space. It is perfect for a small sump pit and often includes options like a built-in water depth alarm, etc. Do not use an electronic float switch if the sump pit receives water from a laundry or wash sink as the soap can coat the electrodes causing it to malfunction. Likewise, soap scum can accumulate on the rod of a vertical style switch and cause sticking of the float.
Q. How much horsepower do I need?
A. Horsepower basically does two things when choosing a pump: It moves the water out faster, and it (usually) uses more electricity. So there is a trade-off to be considered. If your sump pit fills up rapidly and you have a definite water problem, a higher horsepower pump is needed. In order to keep ahead of the incoming water and keep your basement dry, the higher horsepower pump can pump out the water before it can back up and overflow your sump pit. If you have such a water problem and you need a higher horsepower pump, it is best to increase the size of your sump pit (whenever possible) so that the pump does not have to run as often.
Q. How big should my sump pit be?
A. When it comes to sump pits, “bigger is better” is somewhat true. You want to have a sump pit large enough to use a pump with a tethered float switch. That allows a reasonable amount of water to accumulate before the pump has to run. The longer “off” time between pump cycles allows the pump to cool off more completely between pumping cycles. Keeping the pump cooler usually results in longer pump life.
Q. Should I get a cast iron or thermoplastic pump?
A. Both types of pump are designed for long life and high performance. Which type you choose is largely personal preference. The cast iron pumps are, naturally, a bit physically stronger if that is something that might be needed for your particular installation.
Q. Is it OK for my pump to pump out my water softener discharge?
A. In most cases the pump is NOT designed for that. The high salt content of water softener discharge is very corrosive and will attack the seals, the screws, and even the motor shaft. Salt can even damage many types of stainless steel. It is recommended that you find an alternate place for the water softener discharge.
Q. Is it OK to dump the laundry water discharge into the sump pit?
A. Most sump pumps are designed for clear, clean ground water. The chemicals in laundry discharge can attack the seals on a sump pump. It’s possible for lint and other things discharged to get stuck in the impeller area and jam up the pump. Additionally, the soap scum that can be left behind from laundry water can foul the switch – this is particularly true of vertical switches. We recommend you purchase an effluent pump if you need to pump out laundry water.
Q. What is the most common cause of sump pump failure?
A. Probably the most common cause of sump pump failure is electrical in nature. Plugging the pump into an extension cord, or an outlet that shares a circuit breaker with other electrical items, can cause the pump to receive low voltage. In order to run it then has to draw higher amps. That causes the pump to run hotter. Heat is the enemy of electric motors and can shorten the life of a pump dramatically. We recommend the pump be plugged directly into an outlet (no extension cords) and that the outlet be the only thing powered by the circuit breaker (or fuse) that feeds it.
Q. How do I check my pump to see if it’s working?
A. if your pump is equipped with a piggyback-style plug (where the pump plugs into the back or side of the switch plug) then you can unplug the pump’s plug and put it directly into the power outlet. The pump should immediately run. It will continue to run as long as you leave it plugged in this way. Do not leave it plugged in for more than a few minutes so that the pump does not overheat. To test to make sure the float switch is also working, or if your sump pump has a switch that plugs directly into the body of the pump, you will need to lift the float switch to its ‘on’ position. This will vary depending upon pump model so consult your owners’ manual for that information. To avoid possible electric shock, use a broom handle or similar non-conducting item to lift the float switch. The pump will run when the switch reaches its ‘on’ level.
Q. What will happen if my outside discharge pipe freezes or is otherwise blocked?
A. If your discharge pipe freezes, or in any way becomes plugged, there is no place for the water to go when the pump runs. The pump is still going to run when the float switch is raised. If it cannot discharge the water through the regular discharge hose or pipe, it’s going to continue to run and run. This will eventually cause the pump to overheat and shut off due to its internal thermal overload protection. If the problem is not caught soon enough, it would be possible for your basement to flood. If the overload is stressed too often it’s also possible for the pump’s motor to be damaged or ruined by overheating.
Q. What’s a check valve? Do I need one?
A. The short answer here is “Usually- yes.” A check valve is a one-way valve. It gets installed in the discharge pipe of your sump pump. When the pump runs, the water is forced out through the valve. When the pump shuts off, gravity wants the water in the discharge pipe to fall back into the sump pit. The check valve prevents that from happening. This prevents the pump from having to re-pump water that it has already pumped out. In the long run, this should extend the life of the pump and save you electricity.
Q. My power outlet is too far away from the sump pit. Can I use an extension cord?
A. We very strongly recommend that you NOT use an extension cord. It is MUCH better to plug the pump into a dedicated outlet that is fed by a circuit breaker or fuse that feeds power ONLY to that outlet. This ensures that the pump will receive proper voltage. If there is no outlet near the sump pit, we recommend you have one installed there by a professional electrician.
Q. Do I need a backup pump? Or a second pump?
A. Having a backup or secondary pump is like having insurance on your car or home. It’s only needed when it’s NEEDED. A backup pump can be standing by and operate when your main pump cannot. This may be because of a power outage, an extreme amount of incoming water, or even main pump failure. Having a second AC-powered sump pump in the pit can protect you in case the main pump simply can’t keep up, or if the main pump fails, but it cannot help you if the power goes out.
Q. What kind of backup pumps are available?
A. here are two main kinds of backup pump systems: Battery powered and city water powered. The battery backup systems use a 12 volt marine type battery. The system keeps the battery charged and monitors a separate float switch in the pit. If that second float switch is raised high enough, the control system turns on the 12 volt pump that is mounted in the sump pit. This 12 volt backup pump then pumps the water out. These systems are usually equipped with an alarm that warns you when the backup pump has had to operate. This tells you there may have been a power outage or that you may have a problem with your main sump pump. City water powered systems use water power to move the water out. The city water comes in through a pipe to the backup pump. It spins an impeller much the same way a motor would. The impeller moves the sump water out and both the sump water and city water are discharged outside.
Q. How long should my sump pump last?
A. This is almost impossible to answer. It’s much like asking how long your sofa, your sink, or your car will last. It simply depends too much on how often the pump has to run. If you have a small sump pit, and you have a lot of ground water in your area, the pump may have to run several times per hour. Naturally, that pump is not going to last as long as the same pump in the home of someone with a large sump pit and very little ground water where the pump only has to run a few times a year. Choosing a pump that is properly sized to your ground water conditions, has the appropriate float switch for your sump pit, and has good electrical supply connected to it will ensure the longest possible life for your pump.
Q. Can I use a sump pump for my waterfall, koi pond, or garden pond aeration?
A. No. Sump pumps are designed for short periods of operation. Running a sump pump for too long can cause the pump to overheat. It is also oil-filled. If fish waste attacks the pump seals, or it overheats, that oil can be discharged into your water feature. That will kill the fish and plants. When it cools, it will draw water up inside the pump motor which will kill the pump. Using a sump pump any place where water recirculates is not recommended and will void the warranty.
Q. Do you have, or can you recommend, service people that can come to my house and work on the pump?
A. We sell all of our products through “do-it-yourself” types of stores. We do not have any people that can come work on your system. Likewise, it is impossible for us to maintain lists of “qualified” people that we could recommend. You would need to check your local “Yellow Pages” etc. for qualified people.
Q. Where can I get repair parts for my pump, or accessories I might need?
A. Parts listed in the manual can be ordered directly through the store where you bought your pump; or can be ordered directly through us. In most cases, the store is able to special-order the parts (they won’t stock them) and sell you the parts for less than you would pay by ordering through the factory. Also, they usually do not charge shipping charges (we do). It is best to talk to someone at the store’s “Special Orders” desk. Have our toll-free number and the part numbers you need with you. If the person at the store does not know how to order parts, please have them call us while you are there. If ordering directly from us, you would normally receive your order in 7-10 business days. Expedited processing and shipping is available at additional cost. We accept MasterCard, Visa, and American Express (not Discover).
Q. I think I have a warranty issue with my pump. How do I proceed?
A. We generally proceed with warranty through the point-of-purchase. Any authorized retailer of our pumps can handle warranty replacement. The other way to process warranty is directly through us. If you wish to pursue this method, call us first. Keep in mind that a warranty states the item will be “free from
defects in material and workmanship”. Warranty does NOT cover normal wear, damage caused after the item leaves the factory, rust or corrosion, etc.
Q. What size generator do I need to run this pump?
A. You need to know the amp draw of the pump and multiply that by the voltage to get the watt usage of the pump. Example: Pump draws 5 amps on 115 volts. 5amps x 115volts = 575 watts. We also need to consider the fact that an AC motor can draw three to five times its regular amp draw for about ½ second when it starts up. So to run our example pump, we need a generator that can supply a startup surge of at least 2875 watts (575 x 5) and can continue to supply the 575 watts as the pump runs. Keep in mind this is accurate if the pump is the ONLY thing the generator is going to supply power for. If you also want to run lights, etc. then that needs to be added to the generator size.
Q. How do I register the warranty on my new pump?
A. We do not ask you to register the warranty. Your receipt is your proof-of-purchase. Keep the receipt safe. If anything happens and the warranty comes into play, your receipt is the proof of warranty eligibility.
Q. Where can I find the model number and date of manufacture on my pump?
A. For all sump, sewage, and utility pumps we attach a tag near the end of the power cord that shows the pump’s model number and date code. The date code will be marked as “date code”, “code”, or “MOD”. On pumps that do not come with a power cord, the pump’s info label on the pump will have the model number and date code on it. The date code is usually a combination of letters and numbers.
Q. Is installing a sump pump difficult?
A. Installing a sump pump is typically easily done in a matter of minutes. The only tools you’ll need are channel locks, screwdriver, and, in rigid installations, a hacksaw. Complete easy-to-read installation instructions are included with each pump, and often times has step-by-step illustrations on the carton that guide the installation process. We always recommend a new check valve when replacing your sump pump.