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At least once while living in your home, the electricity or sump pump float switch will fail during a heavy rain storm. Flooded basements are so stressful, pose a health risk and cause personal property damage and loss. Rather than deal with such a disaster, it is best to implement a backup power source so your sump basin will not overflow even though the primary pump fails.
So what are your options to protect your basement from flooding when the electricity fails. There are four basic options.
Quick Info on Backup Sump Pump Power Source
♦ Expect the electric power to go out at least once during a heavy rainstorm while you live in your house.
♦ There are four power supply types available: battery, water, gas, and solar.
♦ Battery power is most popular.
♦ Water power is so automatic.
♦ Gas power usage is not automatic with a portable generator.
♦ Solar power is free and environmentally friendly.
Four Backup Power Source Options For Sump Pumps
The Four Backup Sump Pump Power Options to consider are:
Which power source is best?? That depends upon your pumping needs, your flexibility and what's available to you.
Battery Power - A Very Flexible Option
Batteries provide flexibility in that they can be used to power two types of sump pumps: the battery backup sump pump and an electric sump pump.
Naturally batteries provide direct current (DC) power used to power battery backup sump pumps; however battery power can also be converted by an inverter (or converter) to alternating current which runs an electric sump pump. This means you can use your existing electric sump pump.
Battery power is easy to understand. The deep cycle marine type battery used for this purpose is very familiar because that is what boaters use too.
Battery power can run a 1300 to 3000 gallon per hour pumping backup sump pump continuously for six to nine hours or for days if the pump runs intermittently. The length of time a battery backup sump pump will run is dependent upon the amount of charge the battery is holding, the size of pump and battery, and its maintained condition. Batteries come in many sizes: group 24, group 27 and group 31. They require varying degrees of maintenance: flooded (wet) cells require adding water throughout the life of the battery. Gel and AGM batteries are maintenance free.
PROS: Good Choice!
♦ A battery powered sump pump starts even when you are not home and stops when the electricity comes on.
♦ They will run the equivalent of a one-third to one-half horse power primary sump pump.
♦ Betteries can be installed in a power inverter and convert the DC to AC and run any primary pump with an amp usage less than 14 amps.
♦ Batteries are so easy to purchase and always available. Batteries come in many sizes: group 24, group 27 and group 31. They require varying degrees of maintenance: flooded (wet) cells require adding water throughout the life of the battery. Gel and AGM batteries are maintenance free.
♦ Installation is possible by the home owner. A dedicated electrical outlet is need however so a fuse is not blown.
♦ The batteries need to be replaced every five to seven years.
♦ The most it can run is five to eight hours continuously or one to three days intermittently depending upon the size of the pump and frequency of pumping. Usually the electricity comes back on before a battery is fully depleted and the battery recharges itself automatically and is ready for the next power outage.
Water Power - Most Dependable No Maintenance Option
Water provides a very convenient, hassle free source of energy for water powered sump pumps designed to run only on water. The source for the water must be municipal rather than a private house well. Some water powered sump pumps force two gallons of sump water out of the pit using only one gallon of city water. Others require one gallon of city water to force one gallon of sump water from the pit.
Water powered sump pumps have fewer moving parts and thus a lower pump failure rate. This type of power works well for those home owners who require a one-third or less horse powered electrical pump. The highest pumping rate is 2,000 gallons per hour at 80 PSI.
♦ A sump pump sourced by water power can run for days and even months as long as your city has water and its pressure is at least 40 PSI. Cities use generators when large scale power outages occur.
♦ A water powered backup sump pump starts even when you are not home and stops when no longer needed. This is a favorite for those who experience hurricanes.
♦ The only maintenance required is to clean the screen at the end of the suction pipe that extends into the basin. In a debris clean pit there is not that collects on the screen.
♦ Only city water can be used. Well water does not have the same PSI and the well pump will not pump water when the electricity is out.
♦ Not all city water pressure is 80 SPI. 40 - 60 PSI is most common which means the maximum pumping performance is around 900 to 1,200 GPH. This is the equivalent to a one-fourth to one-third horse power electric pump.
♦ The cost of installation will be higher because a professional should install it.
Fuel (Propone, gasoline, diesel and natural gas) provides sufficient power to run any sized horse power electric pump.
Generator power is measured by watts so they power electrical sump pumps. A typical three-fourths horse power primary pump requires a 2000 watt generator.
Portable generators require ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and one must be home to start and stop them. Portable generators run as long as their source of fuel is present.
Standby generators are in a class by themselves because they run any size electric sump pump, and automatically start and stop any appliance hooked up to them because of their transfer switch. They run on natural gas so do not require fuel monitoring. Those they are convenient, they must be installed by a licensed profession and therefore installation costs are high. Their full value is realized when other home devices are plugged in. They are equipped to run furnaces, air conditioners, refrigerators, stoves and many other devices.
♦ No installation is required.
♦ No special pump needs to be purchased. A regular electric sump pump can be used.
♦ No maintenance is required.
♦ Someone must be home to start and stop a portable generator.
♦ Ventilation is required to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning so they cannot be run indoors.
♦ The fuel levels must be monitored because without fuel the generator will not run.
Solar Power - Most Environmentally and Economically Friendly Option
Solar Power is a very environmentally friendly and economical source of energy. Solar power is converted to amps which is what an electric powered sump pump requires. A 10 amp electrical sump pump can run continuously on solar power for fifteen to twenty hours.
♦ Sunlight is a free source of energy.
♦ No special pump is required. It runs an electric sump pump.
♦ No dangerous fumes are generated.
♦ An attached generator with a transfer switch automatically starts and stops the pump based on the availabilty of electric power.
♦ The amount of energy available is probably only enough to run a one-fourth horse power electric pump.
♦ An abundance of sunlight is required consistently because a power outage cannot be predicted.
Which Alternative Power Supply Source Is Best?
Here are some real life scenarios to help you make your decision.
If you need a power supply that starts automatically and stops automatically, here are your choices:
1) Battery backup sump pump which runs on batteries or a power inverter which converts DC to AC and supplies your primary pump with power.
2) Water power
3) Solar Backup Generators if they are permanently installed and wired to your home's electrical panel.
4) Standby generators connected to your homes natural gas supply.
If need a power supply that lasts longer than 3 days and your home is connected to city water with a 40 PSI and your pumping performance demand is around 1000 GPH, the best choice is:
1) Water powered backup sump pump
If you live in a sunny climate and want to be environmentally responsible, the best choice is:
1) Solar backup generators
If you have plenty of space outside around your home and there are no restrictions on outside fixtures and cost is not a factor and you wish to keep all of your electrical appliances running when the electricity fails, the best choice is:
1) A Natural Gas Standby Generator
If the pumping performance required during heavy rainstorms is over 2,200 GPH, you wish for the power system to start and stop automatically and anticipate the electricity to be off for less than a day, the best choice is:
1) A Power Inverter sourced by battery power which converts DC to AC and runs your existing heavy duty primary sump pump.
Questions About Backup Sump Pump Power Source
How do you power a sump pump when the power goes out?
To use your existing electric primary sump pump, purchase a battery power inverter unit, a portable gas generator or a solar powered generator. Each of these converts energy to amps, wattage which is what a common, electric primary sump pump uses. Each of these devices requires no human intervention because they start and stop automatically based on electricity availability except for the portable gas generator. To use them, just plug the sump pump into the unit. The sump pump will run on electrical power until it fails. Then a transfer switch will cause the generator to run until the electricity comes back on. This action is automatic except for a portable generator which must be started and stopped manually.
Can a sump pump be plugged into a regular outlet?
Yes, a sump pump can be plugged into a regular house electrical outlet if it is not GCFI protected. A GCFI outlet may trip and fail because water may splash on it during sump pump operation. So plug it into a regular electrical outlet. Make sure a sump pump has its own fuse so the fuse does not trip because of draw overload.
How long will a 12v battery run a sump pump?
If the battery is fully charged, generally a sump pump can run 5 - 7 hours continuously or up to 3 days intermittently. A battery bank can be used to connect two or more batteries together to extend the run time.
Can you run a sump pump on solar power?
Yes you can run a sump pump on solar power. Solar power is converted to watts which is how electricity usage is defined for electric sump pump.
How many watt generator do I need to run a sump pump?
At least an 1800 watts generator is best to use for running your sump pump. The wattage needed depends on the horse power and amperage required to start and run the pump.
Can I run my sump pump off an inverter?
Yes, using an inverter is a great way to run a sump pump. The inverter must product at least 1800 watts of AC power. A power inverter uses batteries which is DC power and converts it to AC power which is what an electrical sump pump uses.