Most sump pumps rely upon mains electricity to keep the basement of a house dry and flood free. However, one of the most common times that you can experience a power outage is during or shortly after a heavy storm – a period when your sump pump should be working its hardest. This is where a sump pump battery pack can come in handy, potentially saving your basement from a very expensive and stressful cleanup operation.
If you already have an existing sump pump, most likely it is an Alternating Current (AC) powered pump. You will need either a supplementary Direct Current (DC) powered pump for battery power, or a pump that has the capability of being powered by AC or DC. This type will switch automatically from AC power to the battery backup power when there is a power failure.
By adding a backup battery powered sump pump to your house you will have peace of mind knowing that a flood will not catch you unawares and with a basement filled with water. If you are building a new house or basement and installing a sump pump system from scratch, you can opt for a combination type pump, which contains both a primary pump and a backup powered pump.
Backup sump pumps can also function as an auxiliary unit to provide addition pumping flow volume during large water volume events, like a severe rain storm or rapid snow melts. In this case, installation of a float switch in the circuit will allow the second pump to kick in when water reaches a certain level, usually above the level set for the mains sump pump to turn on.
Sump Pump Basics
Sump pumps are a type of impeller pump usually preinstalled in any basement. They are connected to the sump basin of your basement (hence the name). They can be either a pedestal mounted type or a submersible type. A submersible sump pump is mounted completely inside the sump itself, while the pedestal pump has the motor portion mounted above the sump.
Sump pumps can also be manual or automatic operation types. Newer smart automatic pumps are being introduced which will send a text or email to your smartphone when the pump has an emergency event, such as power failure.
The purpose of a sump pump is to stop dampness occurring within the basement or actively pumping water away to avoid the risk of flooding after a heavy storm or due to the presence of natural ground water (if your basement is below the water table). They will remove the water from this sump basin and pump it to an area where it will no longer cause a problem.
Backup Battery Types
Sump pump battery backup comes from either traditional acid type batteries, or Deep Cycle marine batteries. They marine batteries are maintenance free and do not require topping up with water periodically, as do the acid batteries. If you can afford it, the deep cycle marine battery is preferable. Both types used in backup systems for sump pumps are 12 Volt.
Rather than trying to buy, match and assemble all the components of a backup system yourself, it is easier to buy a complete readymade system kit. The kit will usually include the sump pump, battery, and controller, if it is a separate unit from the pump. You can also buy an alarm to hook up to the pump to alert you when it is going to battery backup mode.
Sump Pump Battery Backup vs. Backup Generator
There are two main backup systems to power sump pumps in the event that your primary pump fails during a power outage – a sump pump battery pack and a backup generator for your sump pump. The most common method that tends to be used is a battery pack backup sump pump that will get to work if your primary pump fails or is disconnected from an electrical supply. These pumps usually run off a 12V battery and can be recharged after use.
On top of this sump pump battery backup packs are a relatively cheap option when considering what backup option to use for your sump pump. However, you must also take into account that if the battery pack is in use then you will have to keep an eye on it – batteries only have finite power! As a battery powered sump pump only has a limited use time itself, if a particularly long storm grips your hometown then you could still be in trouble.
Your other backup power option is to have a generator installed in your house to keep your power going. Of course a generator will keep more than just a sump pump going and you will be able to use it to power any electrical products you want to keep powered in case of a black out.
While you may be thinking that straight away a generator is therefore a better option because of this, there is one final piece of information to take into account: generators are very expensive. A typical generator will likely set you back around $3,000 – $7,500 depending on your individual needs.
Other Flood Prevention Methods
The main thing you need to consider when looking at preventing floods in your basement is to make sure your property is fully waterproofed. Several methods fall under this waterproofing category and these can be divided into two sub-categories: exterior and interior water proofing.
Interior waterproofing can be achieved by introducing something called a ‘french drain‘ below the floor of your basement. When this system is used in conjunction with a water vapour barrier within your walls, water can be directed to the french drain and help to keep mould and damp away from basement.
In order to carry out exterior waterproofing on your basement, you will be required to excavate the foundations of your property to reveal the exterior walls of your basement. Upon achieving this, the process of waterproofing your basement begins with a spray on polymer layer to the outer walls.
An outside drain tile system is implemented outside as well that water is directed to from the membrane applied to the outside walls. The process ends with a compacted layer of soil applied to the side of the house, which slopes away from your property.
How to Use and Install
Before the installation of your sump pump goes ahead, you will need to clear everything out of your basement and be prepared to put in some hard, time consuming work. You will need to allocate and area in your basement that you will pull up and install your sump pump under, usually around 4 x 4 ft.
The next step is to start digging your hole that your sump pump will sit in, depth of which will depend upon the size of your sump pump, however a 35 inch hole should be deep enough. Before you sit your sump pump in this pit you will need to line it with thick plastic sheeting and add gravel that the pump will be placed on. Remember to check what type of device you are using as there are two types of sump pumps: pedestal and submersible sump pumps.
Submersible sump pumps are fairly self explanatory – their motors are designed to be submersed in water, however pedestal pumps are slightly different. These pedestal sump pumps will need their motor to sit outside of this sump pit that you have dug, while the pump itself stays in the pit.
This is a fairly time consuming task and you may wish to rent out some more expensive, quality tools in order to get the job done in a cleaner and more professional manner. This is of course entirely up to you and simply my own personal recommendation. If you would prefer to do the job by hand then that is your choice.
The actual use of the sump pump depends upon the unit that you have purchased, however the majority nowadays are automatic, depth activated pumps – known as float activated submersible devices. This means that the sump pump will begin working when the water level in the pit that you have dug has reached a certain point.
Photo by Sustainable sanitation, Creative Commons Attribution