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If power goes out and some basement flooding?
Old 12-01-2012, 11:06 AM   #1
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If power goes out and some basement flooding?

We have a small basement area that the previous owner set up as a wine cellar. There is a sump pump down there that takes out ground rain water. I've wondered what I can do if the pump goes out due to a power failure. We have had flooding before when the pump went out, I just called a service then.

Could I use a hose to drain it? In the past I've used a hose to drain a spa. Our basement floor level is above the street level (we have a slightly uphill lot) by maybe a foot.

If I put a long hose in the basement area and ran it down to the street, would this drain it?
Or do I have to "charge" the hose with water? That might be something I could do since there is a water spigot close by and probably enough water pressure to charge the hose even if the power is out.

Thoughts? Anyone ever done this?
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Old 12-01-2012, 11:08 AM   #2
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It might flood when you are asleep or traveling. Have you considered a battery powered back-up sump pump? Here's an example Aquanot® 580, 585 | Zoeller Pump Company
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Old 12-01-2012, 11:16 AM   #3
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I installed one of these a couple of years ago.

Basement Watchdog Battery Operated Backup Sump Pumps

It gives me a lot of peace of mind. Easy to install as long as your sump pit is big enough to hold it next to your existing sump pump. The battery will run it for several days on a normal intermittent basis.

If you're nervous about installing it yourself, it should take a plumber only about an hour to do it for you.
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Old 12-01-2012, 11:39 AM   #4
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This won't help with a lot of water, but it's what we used to take care of seepage in the sump... $6.95...

google "mighty might pump"

It operates on the venturi effect, and uses garden hose water pressure. We used it for many years, for emptying aquariums, bailing out the boat etc...
As I recall, it could pump to a height of about 7 or 8 feet. Also... back then... I think it was made of brass, and cost about $2.

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Old 12-01-2012, 12:07 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Lsbcal View Post

If I put a long hose in the basement area and ran it down to the street, would this drain it?
Or do I have to "charge" the hose with water? That might be something I could do since there is a water spigot close by and probably enough water pressure to charge the hose even if the power is out.
Yes, you have to fill the hose with water, then it will siphon (pull) the water out of your basement and out to the street (again, provided the "exit" end of the hose is lower than the "entry" end of the hose. Two limitations:
-- If you use a standard garden hose, you might be disappointed by the flow rate if the length is long (friction inside the hose) and the drop is relatively small.
-- Once air enters the hose the game is over. So, if you've got a good low spot to put the "entry" side of the hose (e.g. the sump pit), and if all the water will flow to that point then it might work okay until the level gets down there, then you'd need to start again (fill the hose, etc).
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This won't help with a lot of water, but it's what we used to take care of seepage in the sump... $6.95...
google "mighty might pump"
It operates on the venturi effect, and uses garden hose water pressure. We used it for many years, for emptying aquariums, bailing out the boat etc...
As I recall, it could pump to a height of about 7 or 8 feet. Also... back then... I think it was made of brass, and cost about $2.

These work well and can sometimes move water a bit faster than a simple siphon. The obvious issue: You need water pressure to make this work. If your house loses power and you are on your own well, then this wont work for you. If your community shuts off the water, this won't work for you in that instance.
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I installed one of these a couple of years ago:
Basement Watchdog Battery Operated Backup Sump Pumps

It gives me a lot of peace of mind. Easy to install as long as your sump pit is big enough to hold it next to your existing sump pump. The battery will run it for several days on a normal intermittent basis.

If you're nervous about installing it yourself, it should take a plumber only about an hour to do it for you.
This is a very good approach, and will handle most problems even if you are away from the house for a few days. It does require you to check on the battery occassionally, and the battery will eventually need replacement, but that's a pretty small price to pay to avoid flooding. The system also has an alarm to let you know what's going on, so you can take other steps to address the flooding before the battery poops out.

At a minimum, buy a $20 water alarm and set the sensor prongs so they alert you once the water has topped the sump pump switch (then you'll know the pump is either not working or isn't keeping up with the incoming water). Finding out early is a lot better than detecting the problem after a flood. A cheap utility pump ($50) can be handy for other things around the house, and if you have AC power you can just drop it into the sump pit and let it clear the water (they'll move about 3000 gal/hour). There are also small, cheap pumps ($10) that hook to a garden hose and use a drill for power. Even if the power is out, if you've got a cordless drill they can be useful for moving a couple hundred gallons if you've got a charged-up battery handy.
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Old 12-01-2012, 12:29 PM   #6
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I installed a water-powered backup sump pump. It has no battery and uses the municipal water supply to provide the power.

The ones with batteries and alarms simply would not work for my situation, as I am often away from home, traveling for extended periods of time.

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Old 12-01-2012, 12:50 PM   #7
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If you are above street level, I wonder if you could install a drain straight out there to avoid the whole problem.

That probably means some deep digging after the fact (would have been cheap at installation), but it would permanently solve the problem, with zero maintenance (other than a possible clog). Gravity is very reliable.

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Old 12-01-2012, 01:12 PM   #8
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I installed a water-powered backup sump pump. It has no battery and uses the municipal water supply to provide the power.
Do you have more info (link) on this device?
How is the pump triggered during a power outage?
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Old 12-01-2012, 01:46 PM   #9
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Do you have more info (link) on this device?
How is the pump triggered during a power outage?
The water-powered pump is triggered by its float which is set higher than the float on your existing sump pump. When the sump pit starts to fill and, for whatever reason the sump pump doesn't pump (power outage, sump pump failure or disconnect, etc.), the rising water level in the sump pit then triggers the water-powered pump to begin pumping.

As mine was installed over a decade ago, I do not recall the manufacturer's name. If you google "water-powered back-up sump pump" it will bring up some links. I know that Zoeller was a well-regarded brand.

It's good to test it occasionally just to make sure that it is ready for action. So when I'm in the basement and happen to think about it, I'll lift the "arm" which is attached to the float on the back-up pump and it will immediately begin pumping (utilizing the municipal water supply) indicating that it is 'at the ready'.

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Old 12-01-2012, 02:20 PM   #10
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The water-powered pump is triggered by its float which is set higher than the float on your existing sump pump. When the sump pit starts to fill and, for whatever reason the sump pump doesn't pump (power outage, sump pump failure or disconnect, etc.), the rising water level in the sump pit then triggers the water-powered pump to begin pumping.

As mine was installed over a decade ago, I do not recall the manufacturer's name. If you google "water-powered back-up sump pump" it will bring up some links. I know that Zoeller was a well-regarded brand.

It's good to test it occasionally just to make sure that it is ready for action. So when I'm in the basement and happen to think about it, I'll lift the "arm" which is attached to the float on the back-up pump and it will immediately begin pumping (utilizing the municipal water supply) indicating that it is 'at the ready'.

omni
It seems to be a mechanical linkage that opens the valve from the water supply. This may be a good alternative to a battery back-up.
Thanks.
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Old 12-01-2012, 03:28 PM   #11
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It seems to be a mechanical linkage that opens the valve from the water supply. This may be a good alternative to a battery back-up.
Thanks.
One possible drawback is that when power goes off in my area, it often affects the local water supply as well. Pressure in the lines drops to a very low level and that would probably put the kibosh on such a system. I feel safer with my own battery backup.
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Old 12-01-2012, 03:28 PM   #12
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Thanks very much for all the responses so far. You guys are great! I never knew there were battery backup sump pumps. The "mighty might pump" looks interesting too. Our house is on a hill and we have a pump to improve water pressure. The small basement (maybe 8 ft x 8 ft) has no access to city water and no way to install a drain system economically. The situations I'm thinking about now are:
1) Sump pump dies - this has happened before
2) Power goes out for a few hours or maybe a day at most during storms
3) Power is out for extended period. Perhaps due to severe earthquake (we are in California and in a red zone, though we have good bedrock).

For #3 a passive approach could be useful but might be difficult in our case, particularly due to the hose lengths involved.

The battery backup sump pump sounds good for #1 and #2 and maybe even #3. Does it make sense to install the backup so that it is normally in the dry state i.e. towards the top of the sump pump pit? That would seem to insure a longer life for the pump. Reading a bit of reviews it seems the battery maintenance and lifetime are issues. The Basement Watchdog is at Home Depot and the reviews there could be interesting reading: Search Results for*basement watch dog sump pump*at The Home Depot
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Old 12-01-2012, 03:54 PM   #13
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No idea about what others' experience might be, but mine is great. I test it every few months just to be sure. As long as the float is higher than the float on your regular sump pump, it won't get used so there's no shortening of pump life that I can see. Bought and installed mine about 2.5 years ago, and just recently had my first maintenance task -- add some distilled water to top up the battery. Otherwise, it has been flawless. Alarms work as they should for various conditions, and resetting them just takes the press of a button.
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Old 12-01-2012, 04:00 PM   #14
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The battery backup sump pump sounds good for #1 and #2 and maybe even #3. Does it make sense to install the backup so that it is normally in the dry state i.e. towards the top of the sump pump pit? That would seem to insure a longer life for the pump. Reading a bit of reviews it seems the battery maintenance and lifetime are issues. The Basement Watchdog is at Home Depot and the reviews there could be interesting reading: Search Results for*basement watch dog sump pump*at The Home Depot
Battery life is not so much an issue as a fact of life. They only last so long and need to be replaced. Fully charged, a backup system should get you through a few hours of almost continuous pumping or at least a day of occasional pumping. If you live on a hill that should be more than enough.

You want to install the backup above the regular pump so it only kicks in after the regular pump fails and the water rises above a certain level. The alarm is a good idea, just to let you know when the main pump is not working. You should also do a quick check to make sure no stones or debris are coming in your sump pit. That happened to me and killed the sump and the backup.
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Old 12-01-2012, 04:04 PM   #15
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Our house is on a hill
If you are near the top of a hill, I'm surprised that you have water in the basement. Does it occur mostly after a heavy rain? If so, could be downspout location.
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Old 12-01-2012, 04:19 PM   #16
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Fully charged, a backup system should get you through a few hours of almost continuous pumping or at least a day of occasional pumping. If you live on a hill that should be more than enough.
Also, one of the HD posters mentioned that, in an extended power outage, you could recharge the battery using your car's charging system (just use jumper cables to hook the thing up in parallel to your car's battery, in a few hours you should be in business). And, in a super emergency you could even run the pump for awhile using your car's battery, but it probably wouldn't last very long and would probably reduce the car battery's life due to the deep discharge.
A small, cheap backup generator can be bought for $120. Run that every 4-6 hours to keep your freezer/fridge cold, run the main sump pump, charge up the battery in the Watchdog, charge up your lantern/radio/tool batteries, etc and you could keep everything going for a few days. Check the startup wattages on the appliances to determine the generator size needed.
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Old 12-01-2012, 04:29 PM   #17
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Battery life is not so much an issue as a fact of life. They only last so long and need to be replaced. Fully charged, a backup system should get you through a few hours of almost continuous pumping or at least a day of occasional pumping. If you live on a hill that should be more than enough.

You want to install the backup above the regular pump so it only kicks in after the regular pump fails and the water rises above a certain level. The alarm is a good idea, just to let you know when the main pump is not working. You should also do a quick check to make sure no stones or debris are coming in your sump pit. That happened to me and killed the sump and the backup.
Thanks for the comments. How long do you think the battery lasts before it needs replacing?

Also, how much debris is too much in the sump pump pit? I've seen a bit of dusty stuff and maybe some small pebbles at the bottom.
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Old 12-01-2012, 04:32 PM   #18
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If you are near the top of a hill, I'm surprised that you have water in the basement. Does it occur mostly after a heavy rain? If so, could be downspout location.
We are near the top of the hill but it does extend at a grade of maybe 10 degrees up another 50 feet as a guess. The original owner installed French drains but I'm not sure how well that was done. At any rate he had the problem with drainage and installed the sump pump. I think that is common in California hilly country.
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Old 12-01-2012, 04:51 PM   #19
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Thanks for the comments. How long do you think the battery lasts before it needs replacing?

Also, how much debris is too much in the sump pump pit? I've seen a bit of dusty stuff and maybe some small pebbles at the bottom.
Backup sump pumps use marine batteries, and a good one should last 5-7 years. A couple of pebbles isn't something to worry about, and if that's all there is it isn't a problem. If you can, you should scoop them out anyway, just to be ultra-safe, and when you hear the pump cycle, check to see if more come in. Dusty stuff isn't a problem, it's hard things like rocks and such that get stuck in the pumping mechanism and cause the motor to burn out. I lost 3 pumps before figuring that out (I'm a bit slow) and had the pit re-dug.
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Old 12-01-2012, 04:59 PM   #20
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....(snip)...
A small, cheap backup generator can be bought for $120. Run that every 4-6 hours to keep your freezer/fridge cold, run the main sump pump, charge up the battery in the Watchdog, charge up your lantern/radio/tool batteries, etc and you could keep everything going for a few days. Check the startup wattages on the appliances to determine the generator size needed.
I wasn't aware one could get a portable generator for that price. Whenever I've browsed I was turned off by the size/weight + price. Unfortunately Harbor Freight doesn't have a store in our area. Any other sources or generators to consider?
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