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Buying Guide

Types of Pumps

How Pumps Work
Two people working on a blue water pump.

Choosing the right pump means understanding capacity, pumping power and pressure. You should also think about durability, energy efficiency and fuel source.

  • Capacity is how much fluid the pump can move. It’s measured in gallons per minute or gallons per hour. 
  • Power is measured in horsepower. The higher the horsepower, the quicker the pump will work. The quicker the pump, the better its performance for moving water longer distances.
  • Quality pumps are made of a variety of sturdy materials. These include sheet metal, cast iron, stainless steel and other materials.
  • Power sources such as gasoline create a higher-speed machine. Other fuel sources include electricity, natural gas, diesel, hydraulics, compressed air or a hand crank.
  • Head pressure describes how powerful a pump is. Vertical discharge head pressure describes the vertical lift in height. This indicates the point at which the pump can no longer exert enough pressure.
Pump Types
A submersible sump pump being placed in a basement drain.

There are four primary types of pumps. There are sump pumps, sewage pumps, utility pumps and well pumps.

  • Sump pumps remove water that collects in basins from around a home’s foundation. Many are submersible sump pumps. They have a manual or semi-automatic motor housed in a water-tight compartment. This allows the pump to be fully immersed in liquid.
  • Trash pumps are designed for dewatering applications. They help remove water that contains things like leaves, twigs and sludge.
  • Transfer pumps and boosting pumps are utility pumps that move water from one location to another through hoses. They can handle everything from light aquarium applications to heavy dewatering. 
  • Boosting pumps add water pressure for car washing or lawn sprinkling. They can also increase pressure where low or inadequate water pressure is an issue. Water garden pumps can be used to keep plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables healthy.
  • Sewage effluent pumps pump liquids and semi-solids. They are usually located in a basement or a below-grade area. They are powerful enough to pump from a sewage basin up to the main sewer line for removal. 
Pump Designs and Features
Man installing a utility pump.

How a pump is designed determines the way in which it moves fluids. There are also several convenient features to consider when choosing the best utility pumps for the job.

  • Centrifugal pumps can be surface-mounted or submersible. They accelerate liquids with a revolving device called a rotor impeller. A rotor impeller pushes liquids out through a valve opening. 
  • A diaphragm pump is a type of positive displacement pump. It expands and contracts a membrane in a regular rhythm. This provides a steady, consistent flow, making it ideal for heavy-duty tasks.
  • A self-priming pump doesn’t need to be primed. Priming is supplying fluid manually to the pumping chamber. This makes a self-priming pump easier and more convenient to operate.
  • Adjustable-speed pumps increase efficiency by allowing you to customize the speed.
  • Pumps with a battery backup feature will have emergency power in case of a power outage.
  • Pumps with alarms will alert you when water leaks or there are other problems.
  • Corrosion-resistant pumps are a more durable choice for placement in or around water.
  • Magnetic pumps do not have seals. They are less likely to leak. They also use a magnetic coupling to power their impeller. 
Common Pump Features & Benefits
Description Recommended For
Pedestal Sump Pumps Pedestal pumps are positioned with the pump motor out of the water and above the sump basin. Easy to install and maintain. Budget-friendly and long-lasting.
Submersible Sump Pumps Submersible sump pumps are put underwater in your sump pump basin. Can be used inside or outside. Quiet yet powerful enough to remove water and light debris.
Battery Back-up Sump Systems Battery-backed sump systems keep working after grid or storm power outages. Extra backup and protection for a primary pump.
Pool Pumps Water pumps send water through the filter, heater and chlorinator. Circulate sanitizing chemicals evenly and help remove debris.
Condensate Pumps Condensate pumps automatically remove condensation in high moisture areas. Used for refrigeration, air conditioning and dehumidification equipment.
Well Pumps
Someone using a hand pump at a well.

Well pumps provide water from under the ground to your home. There are several kinds of well pumps:

Shallow well pumps sit above ground. They draw water out through one inlet pipe.

  • Used for depths of water 25 feet deep or less. 
  • One-way check valve keeps pump primed.

Deep well jet pumps sit above ground. They draw water from one pipe and push water through to another pipe. 

  • Used for depths of water 25 feet to 110 feet deep.
  • May include a tailpipe so well is never pumped out.
  • Requires a foot valve to prime the pump.

Submersible well pump designs have a single pipe. It comes from inside of the well and connects to a home's pressure tank.

  • Operates in depths of water 25 feet to 400 feet deep.
  • Must be pulled from well casing for repairs.
Other Types of Pumps
Pump inside a wood outdoor shed.
  • Lawn sprinkler pumps are used to draw water from various sources to lawn sprinkler systems.
  • Evaporative cooler pumps remove collected condensation from furnaces or air conditioning units.
  • Pond and water garden pumps power water flow and circulation for decorative water features.
  • Pool pumps are a type of submersible pump that removes water from your pool cover.
  • Swimming pool pumps circulate water through a pool. They filter debris and clean water to keep it clear of contaminants.
  • Hot water recirculating pumps provide hot water at every faucet or shower when you need it.

Water or utility pumps are used for a variety of jobs. They can empty clogged sinks and drain rain from window wells. A utility pump can remove standing water from your yard or flooded basement. Sump pumps remove water that collects around a home’s foundation. Pumps can siphon standing water off basement floors or out of window wells. 

You can use a pump to drain an aquarium or get water garden pumps for landscape installations. There are even evaporative cooler pumps that cool and moisturize the air. The right pump for you depends on the different purposes and power options available. However, knowing the benefits and features of different types of utility pumps makes it easier to choose.

Ready to get the right pump? Find products fast with image search in The Home Depot App. Snap a picture of an item you like and we'll show you similar products. Consider tool rental to get your project done. Use a rented pump once and then bring it back. There's no maintenance required and no storage needed.