Backup Sump Pump Review – What is Right For You?

What is a Backup Sump Pump?

A backup sump pump is another pump that is installed to operate should the primary sump pump fail. Surprisingly enough there are many reasons a primary pump may fail including: electrical power outage, float or switch failure, broken impeller or drive shaft, clogged intake screen.

What Factors Should Be Reviewed?

There are eleven major factors to consider when comparing backup sump pumps: power source, charger strength, trigger, dependability, material used in construction, operational capability, dimensions, size of discharge, protection against solids or sludge, alarm notification, and manufacturer warranty.

1. Power Source

The backup system installed should be sourced by something other than electricity.

What are the different types of power sources used?

  • A Battery provides the power to enable a backup sump pump plugged into it through the use of a wired housing case to perform the pumping cycle for the removal of the water from the pit. Twelve or twenty four volt battery power is used. The voltage and type of battery required varies by manufacturer.
  • Water Pressure provides the power to keep a backup sump pump running. The water used must come from a municipal source and have a pressure between 40 and 100 PSI (pounds per square inch).
  • A portable generator provides power through the conversion of gas or propane into energy. The pump must be plugged into the generator.
  • Automatic start standby generator provides the power when the sump pump is plugged into it.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different power sources?

  • Batteries require monitoring to make sure they are operational in the time of need. Most backup systems have an alarm that lets the owner know when a battery requires maintenance or replacement and is being used by the backup pump. Batteries are rechargeable.
  • Water power requires no batteries and has no moving parts. Operation of watered power systems requires a PSI water pressure between 40 and 100 PSI (pounds per square inch). Private well water cannot be used and the municipal provided water must have reliable water pressure. It takes 1 gallon of municipal water to remove 2 gallons of sump pit water so can be costly to operate.
  • Portable generator: The generator must be placed outside. It must be started manually. Most operate from propane tank.
  • Automatic start standby generator: They are expensive to purchase and install (four to ten times more expensive than battery power) but are very reliable. This type of generator runs off of natural gas or propane tanks and can provide power to multiple household appliances during power failure.

2. Charger Strength

This term applies when batteries are used as the source of power.

  • The higher the charger strength the faster the battery will be recharged after usage.
  • Charger strength varies from.4 to 20.

3. Trigger

Each backup system has a trigger that activates the non electrical power source to begin operation.

What are the different triggers?

  • For battery powered backup sump pumps, when the water level raises the float, the battery is activated into operation.
  • For water powered backup sump pumps, when the float raises, a valve allows pressured water to flow down to the pump. The flowing of the pressured water activates the backup system into operation.
  • An automatic start standby generator is activated when the transfer switch senses a utility power interruption.
  • A portable generator becomes operational when a human starts it.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of each trigger?

  • The transfer switch for the standby generator is the most reliable and quickest way to activate the operation of a backup system. The backup pump is operational as soon as the power goes out.
  • Battery and water powered systems are not activated until the water rises to the height of the float. That means water has already collected in the pit.

4. Dependability

  • Batteries deplete and loose charge.
  • Municipal water pressure is not constant. A drop below 40 PSI means the backup system is not operational.
  • The float-switch mechanism, impeller or clogging of the backup sump pump plugged into a battery or standby generator source of power could fail.
  • The tether switch is not as dependable as the vertical switch.
  • Dual vertical switches offer twice the reliability.

5. Materials Used in the Construction of Backup Sump Pumps

What are the different materials used?

  • Thermoplastic: Outer casing is made of a hard, durable plastic.
  • Cast Iron and Stainless Steel: The outer casing and bolts are made of metal.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different materials?

  • Plastic weighs less and is cheaper.
  • Cast iron and stainless steel lasts a lifetime, weighs more and is constructed to handle heavy duty usage. This material is more expensive.

6. Operational Capacity

What are the volumes at which backup pumps can discharge water?

  • Pumping capacity is measured by number of gallons per minute or hour at a specific rise.
  • Capacity is determined by size of motor and source of power.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of operational capacity?

  • Larger motors using battery or generator power move more water during operation.
  • Smaller motors move less water during operation and require less battery or generator power.
  • The amount of water moved during operation of a water powered backup sump pump is determined by the municipal water pressure. The greater the pressure the greater volume of water that is discharged. Generally water powered pumps have a lower operational capacity.

7. Dimensions of Backup Sump Pump and Pit

Each backup sump pump has unique measurements.

  • A sump pit with an 18″diameter basin or larger provides the greatest flexibility in being able to fit a primary and a backup sump pump into the pit.
  • A tether float requires a larger diameter-based pit than a vertical float.

8. Size of Discharge Port Diameter

What are the different sizes?

  • The size is either 1 ¼ or 1 ½ inches in diameter.
  • Most backup pumps have an adapter to accommodate either size of PVC piping.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different sizes?

  • The capability to adapt to either a 1 ¼ or 1 ½ inch size PVC pipe is extremely beneficial.
  • A size of 1 ½ inches is required to handle heavy volumes of water.

9. Protection against Debris, Sludge, or Spherical Solids

  • Backup pumps use screens to protect against particles.
  • Those with the additional protection of float cages are built so the cage bottom concaves causing particles to run off.

10. Alarm notification

Each of the battery backup sump pump systems have audible alarms that sound when the battery is activated when backup sump system is running. The alarm also sounds when the battery is discharged.

The Basement Watchdog Backup series also has an audible alarm when the battery fluid levels are low.

11. Manufacturer Warranty

What manufacturer warranties exist?

  • Some have no warranty
  • Others have one, two or three years

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a warranty?

  • No warranty may mean manufactures are very confident of product quality.
  • The purchase price of the pump may be higher because the cost of warranty is included.
  • Limited warranties will not pay the entire cost to fix or replace.
  • The length of warranty is usually based on the length of time most of the pumps like it are known to operate without failure.

How Can You Determine Which Backup Sump Pump System Is Best for You?

The following FAQ are provided to help you make your decision.

Are you concerned about other household circuits, experience electricity failure frequently and for long periods of time, and have no ordinance limitations regarding the placement of a 48″ (L) x 25″ (W) x 29″ (H) box outside your home?

  • The automatic start standby generator can provide the most reliable power for a backup sump pump system as well as other household items.

Is your water provided from municipal water source and it is reasonably priced?

  • Water powered backup systems only work with municipal water source not private well sources.
  • It takes 1 gallon of municipal water to pump out 2 gallons of sump pit water.

Are you concerned about backup sump pump float-switch failure during operation?

  • The Watchdog Big Boy, Watchdog Special and Watchdog Emergency Backup systems have a vertical dual float switch. If one float-switch fails the second one begins operation. The float-switch mechanism can also be replaced without removing the backup pump from the pit.
  • Wayne, Little Giant and Zoeller use vertical switches which are more reliable than the tether floats used by Simer Ace in the Hole and Flotec.

Are you concerned with time required to recharge the battery after usage?

  • The Watchdog Big Dog provides the quickest recharging. It has a 20 amp charger.
  • Little Giant and Simer Ace in the Hole have 2 to 3.5 amp charger.
  • Flotec and Zoeller have 8 to 10 amp charger.

Are you concerned about notification of battery depletion or failure?

  • All major brands include this feature.
  • Watchdog Backup systems provide the most detailed warnings regarding the battery backup system.

Is a warranty important?

  • Wayne offers the longest warranty of three years.
  • The other major brand warranties range from one to three years.

Are you concerned about how many hours the battery will run continuously?

  • The continuous run time for all the major brand battery backup sump pump systems is within the range of six to nine hours.
  • Simer Ace in the Hole runs continuously for six hours; Little Giant runs for nine hours; Wayne, Zoeller and Watchdog run for approximately seven hours.

Do you have a sump pit diameter under or over 12″?

  • The Watchdog pumps have the smallest width (9″) and require only ¼” additional for the vertical switch.
  • In most cases backup sump pumps are installed on top of the primary sump pump so size is not as much of an issue.

Do you want to exchange a faulty float/switch mechanism without having to remove the entire pump from the sump pit?

  • The Watchdog sump pump float/switch mechanism is external to the pump so the float-switch can be replaced without removing the pump from the sump pit.

Check Out These Backup Sump Pump Systems Today

Your home is an important asset. Make sure it is protected against water damage. It is cheaper to buy good backup sump pump systems than to clean up after a sump pump failure during a heavy rain storm. Be prepared before those heavy rains come.