With volatile weather systems and high water tables, a backup sump pump system is more of a necessity than a luxury. All it takes is one storm that knocks out power to put you at risk of a flood. However, the possibility of losing power isn’t the only reason to install a backup sump system. They can also backup your main sump pump when it fails due to an obstructed or defective float, debris caught in the pump or some sort of mechanical failure.
Here at Power Plumbing and Heating we install two different types of backup sump pump systems, battery operated and a water backup systems. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Below we will examine both these systems so that you can decide which would be best suited for your home.
Battery Backup Sump Pump
A battery powered backup is a separate sump pump system that is installed adjacent to your primary electric pump in the sump basin. It is not a battery hook-up for your main pump. It typically runs on 12v or 24v DC battery power.
One of the advantages of using a battery backup system is that it runs without the use of a municipal water supply making it perfect for anyone on well water. The disadvantage to the battery system is that it has a finite capacity because the battery has a finite capacity. You can use a bigger battery or multiple batteries but there’s still a finite limit. There is also an ongoing maintenance cost because the battery needs to be replaced at regular intervals. Another disadvantage is the cost of the batteries which can make this type of unit more expensive than a water-powered unit to install.
Water-Powered Backup Sump Pump
In areas where a pressurized municipal water supply is available (city water), a water-powered backup sump pump can be a reliable backup sump system without the need for a battery power supply. A good pump will typically pump out 2 gallons of water for every 1 gallon of municipal water used.
The advantage of this system is that it is extremely reliable even if the power goes out for an extended period of time. There is effectively no maintenance required and no battery to worry about. The only thing needed is a reliable municipal water system that consistently provides a minimum of 60 psi pressure. The drawback is there is an operating cost in terms of water required to operate the pump, which is difficult to calculate because you don’t know how long the power will be be out or how much water the pump will be required to remove. If a major catastrophe occurs and you loose city water pressure (or experience a significant decrease in city water pressure) you could be in trouble. Another potential disadvantage for those with a finished basement is the cost and disruption of running a waterline to the sump pit if the main water meter is too far from the pump.
Both of these systems operate with their own float switch. This is important for two reasons. One, if the primary pump cannot keep up with the inflow due to excessive amounts of water entering the sump pit during an abnormal event, the backup pump will assist the primary pump in evacuating the water. Two, in the event of a power disruption or primary pump/level control failure, it will assume the role as the primary pump allowing time for the power to be restored or the AC electric pump system to be serviced. Neither of these pumps are recommended to be used as a primary pump system.
The choice is a matter of personal preference, comfort level, and a bit of speculation as to what your worst case scenario might be. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us and we will be happy to help.