A sump pump keeps the space beneath your Toronto basement, and your basement itself, from flooding during excessive storms. The sump is a small reservoir under your basement that is meant to fill when groundwater levels rise, instead of letting the water seep into the basement and cause damage. Using a sump pump to move that water forces it up to ground level far enough away from your house to properly drain.
Many Toronto houses in wet climates are built with a sump that drains the basement and the area under the footings of the foundation of excess water. The sump collects water flowing in, as during storm flooding, as well as water rising up from a saturated ground supply. Installing a sump pump ensures that whether water comes from above or below, your basement will remain dry and structurally sound. Standing water in a basement is not only inconvenient, but over time it can begin to affect the integrity of your foundation.
There are two main kinds of sump pump. The submersible variety combines the pump and the waterproof motor in one unit that completely fits inside the sump, so it can get wet. The pedestal, or upright, type puts the pump inside the sump with the motor perched on top of a column that extends above the floor of the basement. The motor on a pedestal sump pump is not meant to get wet. Both types connect to a long outlet pipe that carries the water to an area at least 20 ft (6 m) from your house, preferably somewhere it can drain. The capacity of a sump pump is related to the strength of the motor, specified in horsepower, as well as the size of the outlet pipe.
Most sump pumps are powered by electricity. Sometimes people prefer to have an emergency back-up sump pump that runs on batteries, in case a storm knocks out their power. A plastic or rubber floater, like the one found in the tank of your toilet, typically triggers sump pumps. When the water rises above the critical level, the floater rises and flips a switch that starts the motor pumping. Most problems with the performance of your sump pump can be corrected by unjamming or replacing the floater.
Tips for Sump Pump Installation
There are many factors to consider for sump pump installation, but following a few tips may help improve the outcome of this project. For example, purchasing a high-quality pump with sufficient horsepower may help to avoid future replacement costs. Make certain that the sump pit is large enough for the pump and located in the lowest point of the basement. Discharge pipes must be large enough to handle the maximum pump output, contain a check valve to prevent water backflow, and be pressure tested after installation. Sump pumps must be maintained and tested at regular intervals and a back-up system should also be installed.
A flooded basement can produce serious health hazards such as mold and bacteria. Any type of sump pump installation must effectively remove water from the basement area at all times. When purchasing a sump pump, it is best to choose a high quality product that will endure years of continuous operation. Inexpensive models typically need replacing after a relatively short period of time. It is also important to choose a pump with enough horsepower to move a high volume of water when necessary.
Sump pump installation usually requires a collection pit for the water to drain into. The pump is placed into the pit and forces water out of the basement through a discharge pipe. A sump pump installation pit must be large enough to accommodate any size pump and located at the lowest point of the basement. This pit should be at least 18 inches (45 cm) wide and 24 inches (60 cm) deep to accommodate the largest submersible-style sump pump. A smaller sump pit requires a pedestal-style pump which can be quite noisy when running.
A successful sump pump installation depends largely on the discharge pipe’s ability to handle the maximum water flow that the pump is capable of producing. Polyvinyl chloride piping is usually strong enough for this task and can be easily connected together. The diameter of this pipe should be at least 1 inch (2.5 cm), and rubber fittings often work best. A check valve must be installed at the pump end of the discharge pipe to prevent a backflow of water when the pump is off. It is also a good idea to pressure test the system after the piping is assembled.
Sump pumps require regular inspection and maintenance for proper operation. Check for obstructions in the discharge pipe every couple of months, and clean out the sump pit annually. It is usually a good idea to install a battery powered sump pump that will automatically run during a power failure. Such power outages often occur during periods of heavy rainfall, and a back-up pump could keep the basement from flooding during such an event. The battery for this pump should be checked, charged, or replaced at regular intervals.
Types of Basement Pumps
There are four basic types of basement pumps and each has its own particular advantages. Pedestal pumps generally last much longer than other types, but can often be noisy. Submersible pumps are quieter, but typically wear out much sooner. Water-powered pumps require no electricity while floor suction pumps are appropriate for basements without a sump area. All the different types of basement pumps can be constructed of metal or plastic, and a check valve is usually needed to prevent a reverse flow of water.
A pedestal or upright pump is powered by electricity and is situated both in and out of the water. This type of pump consists of an inlet base and pedestal-mounted motor. The base lies beneath the water while the motor is kept dry. These pumps can be automatic or manually activated and tend to last much longer because the motor is not exposed to moisture. Pedestal basement pumps are usually less expensive, but can also make a lot of noise.
Submersible basement pumps are located entirely beneath the water and are also electrically powered. This pump variant features a specially designed, oil-cooled motor for durable underwater operation. The specialized cooling system permits the motor to run for extended periods of time without overheating. This type of pump can be ideal for basements that suffer from frequent flooding. Submersible basement pumps are typically much quieter than pedestal types, but generally have a shorter lifespan.
Water-powered basement pumps do not require electricity for their operation and typically serve as a backup measure during a power failure. This type of pump operates off of the water pressure supplied by a home’s plumbing system. Water-powered pumps are automatically activated and typically used along with a conventional electric pump. Floor suction pumps, another variant, are intended for basements without a sump area. This pump is automatically activated and commonly utilized in basements that are subject to seasonal flooding.
Each type of basement pump is manufactured in both metal and plastic. Metal pumps are generally constructed from corrosion-resistant, cast iron material. Plastic basement pumps are not subject to corrosion, but can sometimes crack and split from frequent, heavy use. Plastic construction is generally less expensive, but metal is usually better suited for long-term applications.
Most basement pumps also require the installation of a check valve to prevent water from flowing back into the structure. This valve automatically closes when the pump is not in operation. Some pump models are equipped with a built-in check valve. Certain pumps also come with a battery backup mechanism to keep the system in operation during power outages.
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Sump Pump – All About
A sump pump is a pump used to remove water that has accumulated in a water collecting sump basin, commonly found in the basement of homes. The water may enter via the perimeter drains of a basement waterproofing system, funneling into the basin or because of rain or natural ground water, if the basement is below the water table level.
Sump pumps are used where basement flooding happens regularly and to remedy dampness where the water table is above the foundation of a home. Sump pumps send water away from a house to any place where it is no longer problematic, such as a municipal storm drain or a dry well.
Pumps may discharge to the sanitary sewer in older installations. Once considered acceptable, this practice may now violate the plumbing code or municipal bylaws, because it can overwhelm the municipal sewage treatment system. Municipalities urge homeowners to disconnect and reroute sump pump discharge away from sanitary sewers. Fines may be imposed for noncompliance. Many homeowners have inherited their sump pump configurations and do not realize that the pump discharges to the sewer. If the discharge is fed to a laundry sink in the basement, it’s likely going to the sewer.
Usually hardwired into a home’s electrical system, sump pumps may have a battery backup. The home’s pressurized water supply powers some pumps, eliminating the need for electricity at the expense of using potable water, potentially making them more expensive to operate than electrical pumps and creating an additional water disposal problem. Since a sump basin may overflow if not constantly pumped, a backup system is important for cases when the main power is out for prolonged periods of time, as during a severe storm.
There are generally two types of sump pumps — pedestal and submersible. The pedestal pump’s motor is mounted above the sump, where it is more easily serviced, but is also more conspicuous. The pump impeller is driven by a long, vertical extension shaft and the impeller is in a scroll housing in the base of the pump. The submersible pump is entirely mounted inside the sump, and is specially sealed to prevent electrical short circuits.
Sump pump systems are also utilized in industrial and commercial applications to control water table-related problems in surface soil. An artesian aquifer or periodic high water table situation can cause the ground to become unstable due to water saturation. As long as the pump functions, the surface soil will remain stable. These sumps are typically ten feet in depth or more; lined with corrugated metal pipe that contains perforations or drain holes throughout. They may include electronic control systems with visual and audible alarms and are usually covered to prevent debris and animals from falling in.
Modern sump pump components in the United States are standardized. They consist of::
- A plastic, metal or concrete container forming a sump basin, approximately 2 feet (0.6 m) across and 2 to 3 feet (0.6 to 1 m) deep, 15 to 25 U.S. gallons (60 to 100 litre) capacity;
- A sump pump, either 1/3 or 1/2 horsepower (200 or 400 W), either battery or mains powered (or both).
The selection of a sump pump will rest heavily on the application in which it will be used. To select the appropriate sump pump, consider the following:
- Automatic vs. manual operation – Selection of a manual sump pump means that one will turn the pump on and off when appropriate. Selecting an automatic sump pump means that a switch is wired to the sump pump to turn it on or off at appropriate water levels. Automatic switches include pressure switches, low level pressure switches and float switches.
- Power – Sump pump motive power will vary from 1/4 horsepower to multiple horsepower.
- Head pressure – The head pressure of a sump pump describes the maximum height that the pump will move water. For instance, a sump pump with a 15 ft maximum head (also called a shutoff head) will raise water up 15 ft before it completely loses flow. Technically, head pressure is defined as an expression of a pressure in terms of the height of fluid; P = yρg, where y is the fluid column height, ρ is fluid density and g is the acceleration of gravity. Other considerations may be added to overall head pressure, including loss from elbows/bends and friction loss from long horizontal runs.
- Power cord length – It is important to consider the length of the cord of any special switches that may be connected to the pump. Running a more powerful electrical motor a long distance from the main service panel will require heavier gauge wires to assure sufficient voltage at the motor for proper pump performance.
- Phase and voltage – Sump pumps powered from the AC mains are available with single-phase three-phase motors. rated for 110-120, 220-240, or 460 volts. Three-phase power is typically not available in residential locations.
- Water level sensing switch type – Pressure switches are fully enclosed, usually inside the pump body, making them immune to obstructions or floating debris in the sump basin. Float switches, particularly the types attached to the end of a short length of flexible electrical cable, can get tangled or obstructed, especially if the pump is prone to movement in the basin due to torque effects when starting and stopping. Pressure switches are typically factory set and not adjustable, while float switches can be adjusted in place to set the high and low water levels in the sump basin.
- Backup system and alarm – If redundancy and an alert system are vital for operation of your sump pump, consider a backup system and/or alarm.
A secondary, typically battery-powered sump pump can operate if the first pump fails. A battery-powered secondary pump requires the following components in parallel with the above others:
- A battery-driven 12 volt sump pump with its own water-level sensor, piping, and check valve (the pipes usually join after the check valves to prevent reverse flow through the primary when the secondary unit is pumping);
- It must be a marine deep cycle battery, or special long-life standby battery. Standard automobile batteries are not suitable for this application. Auto batteries are designed to deliver a high current for a short period. Sump pumps need a smaller current for a long time.
- A trickle-charge battery charger. May alternately have a specialized controller to manage, monitor and test that the battery holding a charge.
Alternative sump pump systems can be driven by municipal water pressure. Water-powered sump pumps are similar to backup-battery-driven systems with a separate pump, float and check valves. One can also use an ejector pump that uses an ordinary garden hose to supply high-pressure water and another garden hose to carry the water away. Although such ejector pumps waste water and are relatively inefficient, they have the advantage of having no moving parts and offer the utmost in reliability.
If the backup sump system is rarely used, a component failure may not be noticed, and the system may fail when needed. Some battery control units test the system periodically and alert on failed electrical components.
A simple, battery-powered water alarm can be hung a short distance below the top of the sump to sound an alarm should the water level rise too high.
Sump basins and sump pumps must be maintained. Typical recommendations suggest examining equipment every year. Pumps running frequently due to higher water table, water drainage, or weather conditions should be examined more frequently. Sump pumps, being mechanical devices, will fail eventually, which could lead to a flooded basement and costly repairs. Redundancy in the system (multiple/secondary pumps) can help to avoid problems when maintenance and repairs are needed on the primary system.
When examining a sump pump and cleaning it, dirt, gravel, sand, and other debris should be removed to increase efficiency and extend the life of the pump. These obstructions can also decrease the pump’s ability to drain the sump, and can allow the sump to overflow. The check valve can also jam from the debris. Examine the discharge line opening, when applicable, to ensure there are no obstructions in the line. Even a partially obstructed discharge line can force a sump pump to work harder and increase its chance of overheating and failure.
Float switches are used to automatically turn the sump pump on when filled to a preset level. Float switches must be clear of any obstructions within the tank. A float guard can be used to prevent the float switch from accidentally resting on the pump housing, and remaining on.