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Utility Pumps

Types, design and application of utility pumps
Utility pumps are a broad classification of pumps that are available in a variety of configurations and used for a broad range of purposes. They can be submersible or non-submersible and powered by gasoline, electricity or manual operation. Some are portable, and some are meant for permanent installation.  Most are ideal for short-term or emergency use to move liquids, often water, from one place to another. This guide will explain the different types of pumps, how they work and what they're used for.

How to Choose

Consider these factors when choosing a utility pump:
        • Does the pump need to be submersible or non-submersible?
        • Does it need to pump continuously or intermittently?
        • Do you want the pump to turn on manually or automatically?
        • Does the pump need to move a small or large volume of water or material?
        • Is a power source available where the pump is being used?
Refer to the table below to learn about some commonly used pumps.

Pump Type


Points to Consider

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
• Manual or semi-automatic
• 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
• For temporary dewatering use only
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
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
• 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

Note:  Never use a pump to transfer flammable or corrosive materials, such as oil, gas, acid or other chemicals, unless it is specifically designed to handle such material.

Factors to Consider

Capacity and power − Capacity is measured in gallons per minute or gallons per hour; power is measured in 
  horsepower, which can range from 1/12 to 1/2 hp or more. Pumps with higher capacities and horsepower are 
  suited to larger tasks.

Materials − Plastic, thermoplastic, stainless steel and various other materials.

Head − The limit to which liquid can be moved both vertically and horizontally.

Features to Consider


Most self-priming pumps need to be primed initially and then can be self-priming from then on.  

Adjustable Speed

Increases efficiency by allowing you to customize the speed for the difficulty of the job at hand.  

Run-Dry Pumps

Operate without the aid of fluid or external lubrication for long periods of time, enhancing ease of use.  

Battery Backup

Provide emergency power in the event of a power outage.  

Bilge Alarm

The alarm alerts you when water becomes a problem. For extra protection, install with an automatic switch on your bilge pump. 

Corrosion Resistance

If a pump is going to be placed in or around water, look for one that's made from corrosion-resistant materials to ensure longer life.