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How To Select a Sump Pump


A sump pump removes groundwater that accumulates around your house.  They are ideal for parts of the country that experience heavy rain and are necessary for houses built on flat or low-lying areas. Sump pumps can save you thousands of dollars in damage when flooding occurs, and provide everyday protection from groundwater and accumulated moisture. This guide will help you understand the different types of sump pumps, explain how to choose the one with the features you need, and help you decide if you can install the pump yourself. If your sump pump goes out, you'll find a variety of models immediately available at your local The Home Depot

Sump Pump Basics

Sump Pump − Removes water from the sump basin and discharges it away from the foundation. May be above ground (pedestal) or submersible and typically available from ¼ HP to 1 HP.
A sump system consists of six main components:
        • Groundwater Collection System - Routes excessive groundwater to a sump basin.
        • Sump Basin - Basin that collects liquid for removal.
        • Primary Sump Pump - ¼ HP to 1 HP, submersible or pedestal.
        • Discharge Pipe/Hose - An open valve or pipe run that carries discharge water away from the home.
        • Check Valve - Prevents backflow through discharge outlet so that water pumped out of the basin does 
          not flow back into it when the sump pump turns off.
        • Backup Sump Pump System (Optional) - Can provide added protection in the event of a power failure 
          or if your primary pump fails.

Types of Pumps

There are two types of primary sump pumps – pedestal pumps and submersible pumps.
Consult the table below to find the pump that meets your needs.

Pump Type


Points to Consider

Pedestal Motor is mounted on shaft and is outside of the sump basin. The vertical float design is adjustable for specified on/off points. Ideal for smaller sump pits (10" or less). • Economical
• Should be positioned where motor cannot
  be submerged
• Exposed motor can make repairs easier  
Submersible Motor is sealed within the sump basin and unit is installed below water level. • Quiet and less obtrusive
• Safer if children are in the house as motor
  is not above basin
• Ideal for finished basement
• Provides a cleaner and less obtrusive look

Types of Backup Sump Pumps

There are two types of backup sump pump systems, battery powered and municipal water pressure powered. Backup sump pump systems are combined with a primary sump pump for additional protection and peace of mind. Your backup system will turn on in the event of a power failure of if your primary pump fails.  Look for units that alert you via a light or sound when problems occur.


Switches control turning the pump on and off. There are many types of switches to choose from: 
        • Capacitive switches use a microprocessor to measure water level and engage the pump when the water 
          level reaches a preset point in the sump basin. A benefit of capacitive or "water-sensing" switches is that 
          there are no mechanical parts to wear out as with other switches.  

        • Vertical switches are mechanical devices designed to automatically turn a pump on and off when water 
          reaches a preset level. These switches are not adjustable. Because these switches travel vertically they 
          can be installed in relatively compact applications but must be free from instructions. The switch needs to 
          be installed 90 degrees from the incoming liquid.

        • Diaphragm switches are mechanical devices that use water pressure levels to turn a pump on and off. 
          As water rises in the unit air is released from a vent tube, activating the switch. As the water level drops, 
          the air is pulled back into the switch to turn off the pump.   

Other Factors to Consider

• Choose corrosion-free housing materials such as bronze, stainless steel and epoxy-coated cast iron.

• Consider capacity when selecting your pump. Capacity is often measured in gallons per minute or 
  gallons per hour.

• Know the height to which water has to be lifted vertically for removal. This is called "head pressure". 
  The pump you choose should have a head pressure rating sufficient to  lift water high enough to get 
  it out of your basement or crawl space. Most pumps are designed for a lift of at least 10 feet.

• Refer to packaging for both flow rates and head limitations.

Installation Considerations

In most cases, installing a pump yourself is an easy project that can be completed in a matter of minutes, depending on configuration and other factors.
        • Always read your owner's manual before installing your sump pump.
        • If rewiring is required, consider consulting with an electrician
        • Research local code requirements for water discharge
        • Always disconnect power prior to working on your sump pump
        • Install your sump pump on a dedicated GFCI protected outlet
        • Never use extension cords with a sump pump

Features to Consider

SSPMA Standards

Look for a pump that conforms to the standards of the The Sump and Sewage Pump Manufacturers Association (SSPMA).

Water-Powered Pumps

In lieu of choosing an electric or battery-powered backup pump, you may want to consider a water-powered pump. These units use city water pressure to pump water. Because they can only operate if pressure is at a certain level and are not designed to handle large quantities of water, only install one if you tend not to receive consistently heavy rainfall.

Corrosion-Resistant Construction

Particularly important for submersible pumps, corrosion-resistant construction enables pumps to withstand the rigors of use year in and year out.