How to Choose a Pump

Whether for utility’s sake, or with a decorative water fountain, a water pump’s job is to move fluid from one place to another

Choose a Pump  - Buying Guide

Pumps are meant to move fluid from one place to another. They come in all shapes and sizes, and may be operated by electric motor, engine, or even by hand or solar power.

This guide will highlight the most common pumps, their uses, and how they are designed to work.

Tip: Never use a pump to transfer flammable or corrosive materials.

Pump Performance

The higher your pump’s gallons per minute and horsepower rating, the more speedy and powerful it will move fluid.

Performance factors to consider when selecting a pump:

  • Capacity and power: Capacity is how much fluid the pump can move and it’s measured in gallons per minute or gallons per hour. Power is measured in horsepower.
  • Materials: Pumps are made of a variety of sturdy materials, including sheet metal, cast iron, stainless steel and other materials.
  • Power sources: Include electricity, gasoline, diesel, hydraulics, natural gas, compressed air or manual.
  • Head: Head pressure describes how powerful a pump is. Vertical discharge head pressure describes the vertical lift in height at which the pump can no longer exert enough pressure.

Pump Types

There are four primary types: sump pumps, sewage pumps, well pumps and utility pumps. Each operate in a similar fashion, but serve different purposes.

Sump pumps: Remove water that collects in basins from around a home’s foundation. See the chart for more detailed information.  

Pump Type Description Points to Consider

Pedestal

Motor is open and installed above water level.

  • May be noisy
  • Economical
  • Open motor is exposed to dust and moisture
  • Should be positioned where motor cannot be submerged
  • Easier to repair
  • May operate 25 – 30 years

Submersible

Motor is sealed and unit is installed below water level

  • Quiet
  • May require a larger up-front investment
  • Placed down in the sump pit
  • Safer if children are in the house
  • Functions even when submerged
  • Sealed design prevents dust and moisture from affecting operation
  • Less obtrusive
  • Ideal for finished basements
  • May operate 5 – 15 years

Backup (Batteries)

Use either pedestal or submersible; operates using battery power

  • Runs on rechargeable batteries for up to 7 hours
  • Look for units that alert you via a light or sound when problems occur
  • Available in a range of capacities
  • Discharge pipes may be separate or shared with primary pump


Sewage pumps: Designed to pump liquids and semi-solids in a basement or below-grade area from a sewage basin up to the main sewer line for removal. The higher the lift or longer the distance the waste must be pumped, the more powerful the pump needs to be.

Well pumps: Provide water from underground to your home. See the chart information about different types of well pumps.

Well Type Operation Features

Shallow Well Jet Pump

Pump sits above ground and draws water out through one inlet pipe

  • For depths to water 25’ deep or less
  • Sits above the ground
  • One-way check valve keeps pump primed

Deep Well Jet Pump

Pump sits above ground and draws water out of one pipe and pushes water through another pipe

  • For depths to water 25 to 110’ deep
  • Sits above the ground
  • May include a tailpipe to ensure well is never pumped out
  • Requires a foot valve to prime the pump

Deep Well Submersible Pump

A single pipe comes up from the inside of the well into the home and connects to a pressure tank

  • Operate in depths to water 25’ to 400’ deep
  • Must be pulled from well casing for repairs
  • 2-wire pumps have built-in controls
  • 3-wire pumps require a separate control box


Utility pumps: Used for short-term purposes or emergencies to move liquids from one place to another. The chart provides information about different types of utility pumps.

Pump Type Description Features

Submersible

  • Motor is housed in a water tight compartment so the pump can be fully immersed in liquid
  • Power ranges from 1/6 – 1/4 horsepower
  • Can have manual or semi-automatic activation
  • Dewaters down to the bottom intake at 1/6” or 1/8” off the surface
  • Manual pumps turn on when plugged in
  • Semi-automatic units turn on when plugged in and detect water periodically for motor draw

Pool Cover

  • A specific model of the submersible pump that removes water from your pool cover
  • Activation may be manual or semi- automatic, depending on the model
  • Usually come with a long cord
  • Some models have leaf screens

Transfer/Boosting

  • Non-submersible
  • Transfer models move water from location to location via hoses
  • In addition to transferring water, boosting units increase pressure where low or inadequate water pressure is an issue
  • Available in a variety of sizes and power, from light aquarium applications to heavy dewatering
  • Boosting units add pressure for car washing or sprinkling

HVAC Condensate

  • Non-submersible
  • Remove collected condensation from gas or electric furnaces or air conditioning units
  • Available as manual or automatic units for convenient operation


Other Pump Types

  • Lawn sprinkler pumps: Used to draw water from various sources to lawn sprinkler systems.
  • Pond and waterfall pumps: Powers water flow and circulation for decorative water features.
  • Hand pumps. Inflate bike tires, sports balls and portable mattresses.
  • Swimming pool pump: Circulates water through a swimming pool, filters debris, and cleans water to keep it clear of contaminants.
  • Hot water recirculating pump: Provides hot water at every faucet or shower when you need it.

Pump Designs and Features

How a pump is designed determines the way in which it moves fluids. And there are several convenient features to consider, from the ability to adjust the pump speed, to backup power that will ensure operation in case of a power outage.

  • Centrifugal pumps: Accelerate liquids with a revolving device called an impeller, which pushes liquids out through a valve opening. May be surface-mounted or submersible.
  • Diaphragm pumps: Type of positive displacement pump that expands and contracts a membrane in a regular rhythm to provide a steady, consistent flow. Ideal for heavy-duty tasks.
  • Submersible pumps: Designed to work while immersed in the fluid they are moving.
  • Magnetic pumps: Do not have seals and use a magnetic coupling to power an impeller. Lack of seal eliminates leaks.


Features

  • Self-priming: Requires no manual supplying of fluid to the pumping chamber for easier and more convenient operation.
  • Adjustable speed: Increases efficiency by allowing you to customize the speed.
  • Battery backup: Provides emergency power in case of a power outage.
  • Alarms: Alert you when water leaks or overages become a problem.
  • Corrosion resistance: Ensures longer life of pumps placed in or around water.