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Sump Pump Question
Old 07-05-2008, 07:58 PM   #1
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Sump Pump Question

One of the joys of living in the midwest is that I get to have a nice basement which I can spend time and energy to keep it from flooding.

Now that it's thunderstorm season here and I've taken care of some other projects I figure it's time to tackle the sump pump backup issue.

I already have a generator to power the pumps in case of a power outage while I'm home. What I'm worred about are the 4-5 hour outages we get freqently, often while I'm at work or away on business. I want to get some sort of battery based system.

I have found one system that is basically a power inverter which two big marine batteries that powers a normal 1/2 hp pump instead of a smaller 12v pump. This system from a company called Sumpro costa $1800

SUMPRO: The Leader In Flood Control Technology

I've also found another company (local too) that makes battery systems with a backup pump powered by a battery. They are less at about $1K but they can't pump as much as a normal pump. Backup Sump Pumps & Accessories Shipped Nationwide - Complete Basement Waterproofing Services for Chicagoland!


Anybody have experience with this? I have a finished basement that I really want to protect.
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Old 07-05-2008, 09:31 PM   #2
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I used to live in a wet area of the midwest and wore out two pumps in a couple of years.

I installed a WatchDog pump with a lead acid cell (marine) battery. It would run the pump for quite a while before it ran down. It was a great investment in my piece of mind.
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Old 07-05-2008, 09:33 PM   #3
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I (shamefully) have not set up a back-up pump despite my frequent dewatering needs. However, as I understand it, there are backup pumps on the market that use water pressure to run the back-up pump. So as long as you have water pressure, it will empty the sump. If you are on city water, this may be a lot more relianble than a back-up battery powered pump.
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Old 07-05-2008, 09:40 PM   #4
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It seems to me that at home depot they sold sump pumps that had a back up battery incorporated into it in case of power outage. I always keep a spare sump pump in the basement just in case I need it.
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Old 07-05-2008, 09:49 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by saluki9 View Post
One of the joys of living in the midwest is that I get to have a nice basement which I can spend time and energy to keep it from flooding.

Now that it's thunderstorm season here and I've taken care of some other projects I figure it's time to tackle the sump pump backup issue.

I already have a generator to power the pumps in case of a power outage while I'm home. What I'm worred about are the 4-5 hour outages we get freqently, often while I'm at work or away on business. I want to get some sort of battery based system.

I have found one system that is basically a power inverter which two big marine batteries that powers a normal 1/2 hp pump instead of a smaller 12v pump. This system from a company called Sumpro costa $1800

SUMPRO: The Leader In Flood Control Technology

I've also found another company (local too) that makes battery systems with a backup pump powered by a battery. They are less at about $1K but they can't pump as much as a normal pump. Backup Sump Pumps & Accessories Shipped Nationwide - Complete Basement Waterproofing Services for Chicagoland!


Anybody have experience with this? I have a finished basement that I really want to protect.
If you are on city water, I'd also suggest a water-powered back-up system. Here's one Home Guard back up sump pump system by Zoeller Pump Company

I had a sump pump switch fail many years ago and had about 3-4 inches of crystal clear water in my basement. I lost a lot of photographs, etc. that were stored in boxes in the basement. After that, I swore "never again" and got the water-powered back-up system intalled. It cost me about $800 for a professional installation, IIRC.

It's very nice, as I don't have to worry about a battery that might go dead or an alarm that might sound when I am 1000 miles away on vacation. As long as the city water system is working, my basement should be dry.
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Old 07-05-2008, 10:54 PM   #6
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+3 on the water powered pump.

If you don't have city water, and are a bit of a DIY type, you can put your own system together much cheaper. This is what I did:

Cobra CPI2550 Power Inverter ~ $200 (looks like it has been replaced w/ CPI2575 now)

A large Marine battery from WalMart ~ $50; some battery cables to hook it up.

A 'smart' charger that shuts off at X volts to avoid overcharge (I had one on hand, probably $50?).

Put a second 1/3HP pump in the sump, routed the outputs to a 'Y' with a check valve in each line, set the float on the 'backup' higher than the 'main' pump, and plugged it into the inverter.

The 'watchdog' type units I saw had tiny pumps. I wanted something I could rely on. That 2500W (5000pk) inverter is barely working with that pump running - I had to plug in a 500 W work light at the same time, just to get the indictor LED to register above idle. It should handle a 1/2HP just fine - might want to add a second battery though.

Time for me to check the water in the battery....

-ERD50
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Old 07-06-2008, 06:57 AM   #7
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For $1,800 you're getting close to the cost of a backup generator with an automatic transfer switch that will start the generator when the power goes out. The generators can run on gasoline, diesel, propane or natural gas. Propane or natural gas is the best choice for fuel (I think) because you don't have to think about fuel deterioration issues over time.

In addition to the sump pump it can run the refrigerator, freezer, TV, a gas furnace and a few light bulbs.

A generator system capable of powering a whole-house heat pump or central A/C is going to get closer to five figures though.
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Old 07-06-2008, 07:54 AM   #8
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Using an inverter to convert battery power to ac introduces extra complexity and expense, with minimal benefit. Not to mention inefficient, plus added points of failure.

Consider battery, a boat bilge pump and float switch. Most any boating supply will have them. West Marine for example. Jabsco pumps, pretty reliable.

Set float switch slightly higher then the float normally controlling the existing pump. Use a small 1 or 2 Amp smart float charger on the battery. Wally Mart sells these
"intelligent" chargers.
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Old 07-06-2008, 07:56 AM   #9
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We get quite a bit of water flowing into our sumps. I bought and installed a somewhat cheap battery operated sump. After losing power during one overnight storm and waking up to a basement with 3 inches of water in it I knew I needed something better. I priced some high end back up sumps. Hubby convinced me that spending a few more $$ we could get an automatic natural gas generator. Best money we ever spent. It runs critical circuits (frig and sumps) and not so critical circuits (tv, computers lights in most used areas of the house). It turns on whether we're home or not. Beats messing with gas or diesel fueled generators since it required no effort on our part to start it.
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Old 07-06-2008, 08:17 AM   #10
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If you have an old basement that doesn't have a sump pit installed, I wonder if it makes more sense to break through the concrete and dig a pit or just get a floor sucker pump and locate it on the floor where the water begins to pool up?

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Old 07-06-2008, 08:24 AM   #11
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I live in Central Ohio and about 10 days ago we had a really big storm that lasted about 6 hours and dumped about 10 inches of rain AND we lost power from about midnight until about 7am the next morning. I have two pumps (in the same hole) that run off of 120v power on a separate 20 AMP electric circuits. Additionally, I have a large battery backup which is rated to run for 7.5 hours on the battery. Water in the hole did get about 4 inches from the top of the pit but never went over. I was concerned because the battery was pretty run down (registered 25% of power) and considered that maybe I needed a new battery. The control unit said either the battery needed replacement or the terminals needed cleaning. Terminals looked clean so off to Lowe's to purchase a new battery and the acid to fill the batter with. When I removed the terminals from the old battery there was a bit of a corrosive layer between the clamp and the positive terminal that I could not see before. I cleaned it up with some baking soda and water and reattached it and then the control unit said it was fine. Within about an hour the battery was back to 100% charged. Testing the system with the built in testing key also showed all was fine. (New battery and acid was not used and remains there; as we were leaving on vacation that day). DD has checked the basement a few time in the past week (more heavy rains) and she said all was well - SP control unit shows all green, battery at 100% charge and water level in the pit is at or below the floats on the pumps. Battery is, at most,4 years old and is large and heavy duty ($135 cost of replacement at Lowe's).

While I was a Lowe's picking up a replacement battery I saw some pretty large battery backed up systems in the $250-300 range. Based on my experience with these things, the maintenance of the battery backup portion is important and I will pay more attention to them in the future. I also will invest in a short garden hose, a drill attached pump and a good battery operated drill just for an emergency of no power for an extended period of time. If the water level got too close to the top and you did not have power and the battery went beyond its rated time (7.5 hours) you could pump in to the regular sanitary drain.
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Old 07-06-2008, 09:07 AM   #12
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I'm in central Ohio too and had the same rain, but we only measured about 5.2 inches of rain. During the night the sump pump was running about every five minutes and was still going strong the next morning.

About three the next afternoon the pump was still doing it's thing about every 15 minutes when the power went off. I checked the sump and the water level was slowly creeping up, I kept an eye on it and it got to about 6 inches of the floor and then slowed down. Power came back on after about an hour and saved the day.

I'm going to look into one of the water powered thingies. Found them on Amazon for $150. I've got a waterline just a few feet above the sump pit and it wouldn't take much to hook one up.

Amazon.com: ZOELLER 502-0005 HOMEGUARD BACK-UP SUMP PUMP SYSTEM WATER POWERED: Home Improvement
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Old 07-06-2008, 09:17 AM   #13
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Just brainstorming here...

You're all set when you're home. The only problem is getting things started when you're at work and the power goes out in the morning, or when you're on a trip.

Could you set things up so that a neighbor or neighbor's kid could go over and turn on the generator and plug in the pump when the power goes out?
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Old 07-06-2008, 09:18 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by brewer12345 View Post
I (shamefully) have not set up a back-up pump despite my frequent dewatering needs. However, as I understand it, there are backup pumps on the market that use water pressure to run the back-up pump. So as long as you have water pressure, it will empty the sump. If you are on city water, this may be a lot more relianble than a back-up battery powered pump.
Yes, this is the device we in the power plant industry refer to as a siphon. It's what we use for emergency water removal. If you have water pressure, you're good to go. The water flows through a venturi creating a vacuum that pulls the sump water out of the sump and discharges it to a drain.
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Old 07-06-2008, 10:48 AM   #15
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What a lot of great information on this thread!

I have never lived in a house with a basement, but plan to ER in southern Missouri and might end up with a basement.

So, do most/all older houses with full basements get water in the basements? How much of a pain in the rear ARE sump pumps, anyway? Do you have to be mechanically inclined and knowledgable to keep one running and keep a basement dry?

I doubt I would have a finished basement like the OP, but I have developed an aversion to flooding and mold in recent years so I would want to keep it dry. If I had a basement it might be really nice for storing things and I could put a bed and TV on a cable outlet down there, and use it as a tornado shelter. If I garden and can, I could store what I can down there, too.

Or, I could make a point of buying a house without a basement
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Old 07-06-2008, 10:51 AM   #16
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Using an inverter to convert battery power to ac introduces extra complexity and expense, with minimal benefit. Not to mention inefficient, plus added points of failure.

Consider battery, a boat bilge pump and float switch. Most any boating supply will have them. West Marine for example. Jabsco pumps, pretty reliable.
Yes, but there are some added benefits to the battery/inverter:

1) If the power goes out and we don't have a major water problem, that inverter can be used to power a number of other things - lights, the furnace, a freezer, battery charger for flashlights, cellphones, etc.

2) I end up with some cheap redundancy with my sump pumps. I have two identical 1/3HP pedestal pumps ( ~ $70 each @ HD). One is plugged into the AC, one into the inverter AC. If *either* pump goes out, I can just swap the cords and be up and running until I get a replacement pump at the local HD. To get that kind of redundancy with a 12V bilge pump, you would need two complete setups, and you would be drawing down the battery of one for normal use.

3) (dependent on your layout) With Battery-to-sump, you need to have the battery right near the pump (heavy gauge wires for low voltage, high current). For me, it was better to put the battery on the other side of the basement, and run 120V in conduit to the pump - I could run jumper cables through the wall to a car outside the garage to charge that battery if we had an extended power outage. I couldn't get to the battery near where the pump is.

? Do those bilge pumps have the same GPH and lift as a 1/3HP sump pump? Mine is rated 2460 GPH with a 10' lift. The bilge pumps seemed to be much more $ and/or much lower GPH (no lift spec'd), unless I didn't look at the right ones.

West Marine: Jabsco Diaphragm Pumps Product Display


The 12V bilge pump might still be a good solution, but there are good points to the inverter method to consider.

-ERD50
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Old 07-06-2008, 12:03 PM   #17
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What a lot of great information on this thread!

I have never lived in a house with a basement, but plan to ER in southern Missouri and might end up with a basement.

So, do most/all older houses with full basements get water in the basements? How much of a pain in the rear ARE sump pumps, anyway? Do you have to be mechanically inclined and knowledgable to keep one running and keep a basement dry?
Not necessarily. I'm on the third sump pump (been here 30 years). Had it replaced last January as it was 20 years old and was a very wet month.

Quote:
I doubt I would have a finished basement like the OP, but I have developed an aversion to flooding and mold in recent years so I would want to keep it dry. If I had a basement it might be really nice for storing things and I could put a bed and TV on a cable outlet down there, and use it as a tornado shelter. If I garden and can, I could store what I can down there, too.
My basement has a floor drain and I sit on high ground (relative to the local sewer system) so basement would not actually flood as long as the sewer was not clogged.

Quote:
Or, I could make a point of buying a house without a basement
That works too.
Another way to keep a dry basement is have a house on top of a hill and have a good gutter system. (My abode is part way down a hill.)
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Old 07-06-2008, 12:22 PM   #18
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Not necessarily. I'm on the third sump pump (been here 30 years). Had it replaced last January as it was 20 years old and was a very wet month.

My basement has a floor drain and I sit on high ground (relative to the local sewer system) so basement would not actually flood as long as the sewer was not clogged.

That works too.
Another way to keep a dry basement is have a house on top of a hill and have a good gutter system. (My abode is part way down a hill.)
Ah!! I think I will look for something like that. A floor drain in a house near the top of a hill with a good gutter system sounds like it would be more my speed. Southwest Missouri is a very hilly area. I am a little leery about trying to hook up battery operated backup pumps in the dark by flashlight after a power failure while standing in six inches of water. Sounds dangerous for an older woman to attempt unless she knows what she is doing, and I really don't. Thanks.
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Old 07-06-2008, 12:37 PM   #19
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Yes, but there are some added benefits to the battery/inverter:

1) If the power goes out and we don't have a major water problem, that inverter can be used to power a number of other things - lights, the furnace, a freezer, battery charger for flashlights, cellphones, etc.

2) I end up with some cheap redundancy with my sump pumps. I have two identical 1/3HP pedestal pumps ( ~ $70 each @ HD). One is plugged into the AC, one into the inverter AC. If *either* pump goes out, I can just swap the cords and be up and running until I get a replacement pump at the local HD. To get that kind of redundancy with a 12V bilge pump, you would need two complete setups, and you would be drawing down the battery of one for normal use.

3) (dependent on your layout) With Battery-to-sump, you need to have the battery right near the pump (heavy gauge wires for low voltage, high current). For me, it was better to put the battery on the other side of the basement, and run 120V in conduit to the pump - I could run jumper cables through the wall to a car outside the garage to charge that battery if we had an extended power outage. I couldn't get to the battery near where the pump is.

? Do those bilge pumps have the same GPH and lift as a 1/3HP sump pump? Mine is rated 2460 GPH with a 10' lift. The bilge pumps seemed to be much more $ and/or much lower GPH (no lift spec'd), unless I didn't look at the right ones.

West Marine: Jabsco Diaphragm Pumps Product Display


The 12V bilge pump might still be a good solution, but there are good points to the inverter method to consider.

-ERD50
- If you want AC then inverter is fine. I assumed OP wanted just pump backup.

-I was quoting Jabsco from memory, If you back up one page on the catalog you show, look at RULE, 500 Gph.
In my old 27' Clinker planked Jersey skiff had one, the pump lifted about 5'. Was 20' from the battery. Sucker leaked like a sieve for 3 days after putting in water.
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Old 07-06-2008, 01:29 PM   #20
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Ah!! I think I will look for something like that. A floor drain in a house near the top of a hill with a good gutter system sounds like it would be more my speed. Southwest Missouri is a very hilly area.
On a hill is good, but no guarantee. I'm fairly high, but the ground is all clay. Any water coming around the house in a downpour is going to find it's way down there, and it is going to stay until it gets pumped out.

Picture your basement as a rectangular tupperware container with a hole in the bottom (the drains). Now, set that in a big basin (the clay around the house). Rain enters the basin, and it is going to rise up the drain. You have to pump the basin out. You can't keep the water out, or the pressure would cave the walls in.

I think maybe one of the gutter downspouts is running close enough to the house to fill that 'basin' on my house. I need to dig it up, and see if I can re-route it, if that even is the issue.

OTOH, I know people who have finished basements, have NO sump pump, and never had a problem. If the water flows away from the house, and does not get trapped by clay, you can be fine.

Quote:
I am a little leery about trying to hook up battery operated backup pumps in the dark by flashlight after a power failure while standing in six inches of water.
No, not an issue at all. You have it all hooked up when it is installed. And the float on the battery powered pump is set a little higher than the 'main' AC pump. So it will automatically come on if the main pump cannot keep up, or is not running because power is out. This way, it will also protect you automatically, even if you are away from home during the storm.



Quote:
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- If you want AC then inverter is fine. I assumed OP wanted just pump backup.

-I was quoting Jabsco from memory, If you back up one page on the catalog you show, look at RULE, 500 Gph.
Well, 500 GPH is apples-to-oranges. My 1/3HP pump is ~ 2500 @ 10' lift - 5X that bilge pump. So that is more like a 1/16th HP pump. I would not want to count on that, in a bad storm that knocks out power, that would probably leave me flooded anyhow. Way too marginal.

I'm not saying that straight 12V is not a good way to go. There are the advantages you mention of fewer components, and better eff with one less conversion. But for me, the flexibility and redundancy of two identical pumps made the inverter solution attractive.

-ERD50
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