Water-powered sump pumps are an incredibly useful invention for any home or industrial space which needs a sump pit and pump. While the vast majority of these types of pump are electric, there is still a great demand for water based models.
The reason for these products’ popularity is that as well as a primary sump pump, (normally electric and often a submersible model) people require a secondary sump pump for the occasions when the electric fails. Electricity and water don’t mix, and in a scenario where flooding is likely and water needs to be shifted quickly, there is always the chance of either the electric sump pump not working, or the electricity failing altogether.
In this scenario then water-powered sump pumps become vitally important. They can kick in as a secondary pump when the electric pump fails.
How Does a Water-Powered Sump Pump Work?
You may think that the water which collects in the sump pit is what is powering the pump, but this is not the case. Water-powered sump pumps are using the water supply to your house instead. The chances of this supply failing are very slim, even in flooding conditions.
The mains water supply is sent through pipes to your home, and the pipes get smaller as they go from the main reservoirs to your home. As they get smaller, there is higher pressure built up, and this pressure is what is used to pull the water from your sump pit. Think of it like drinking from a straw. The water collected in the sump pit is then sent out via a discharge pipe. The process involves precisely zero electricity, so can be used at all times.
Draining the Water
The water you are pumping out needs to go to a discharge pipe. Your home should already have a discharge pipe, so you can feed the water through the existing pipe. This does mean it is a little easier to install.
Some people opt for a designated pipe just for their sump pump, which avoids any complications if your discharge pipe has an issue, and means all the unwanted water should still be able to flow out in this scenario
Water Vs Electric Powered Pumps
Having talked about how robust water-powered sump pumps are, it can leave you wondering why electric pumps even exist. The truth is that while the system is very good at removing the unwanted water from your basement, it could be more efficient. In many cases you may have to use two gallons of water from your supplier for every one gallon you are able to pump out. This can quickly add up, and cause an increase in your water bills.
The main reason electric pumps are more popular is the efficiency of the pump. The electricity used will likely cost far less than the water used in the water-based method.
People want the best of both worlds, though. If you’ve had a power outage then you want to still be able to pump, there’s no reason you should still experience flooding just because your pump is electric. This is why people tend to settle on having a backup sump pump, usually the water-powered option.
Unfortunately, if you are using well water as your water supply, there simply isn’t enough pressure for you to utilize water-power in your sump pump. There is no workaround, unfortunately, and you are left looking at battery power if you want a backup pump.
What to Look For in a Water-Powered Sump Pump
Water-powered sumps need pressure from the pipes in order to operate. They will have the pressure required listed on their product descriptions. This is usually 20-40 PSI. To work out what level of pressure you have in your home, you can use a pressure gauge. These aren’t expensive and are easy to use, giving a reading of the pressure in your pipes.
GPH (Gallons Per Hour)
A key rating for any sump pump, this is mentioned in detail in our ultimate sump pump buying guide. GPH basically means how many gallons of water the pump is capable of shifting over a one hour period. The higher the better, especially if you’re in an area at risk of flash floods, for instance.
Efficiency and Water Usage
As we’ve already mentioned, these aren’t inherently the most efficient products out there, so it is a big part of the buying criteria to make sure you choose a product that gets you the best return possible for the water you are going to have to use. Choosing an efficient model of pump can make a difference in the long run if you find yourself pumping a lot of water out.
Installation of Water-Powered Pumps
Installing your pump is another area to consider. Like most products related to plumbing and home improvements, some installation process is always inevitable. Some products are easier than others to get set up.
If you are confident with DIY then some of the easier-to-install pumps may be suitable to install yourself. However, if you have any doubt, you can always order the product and then ask a plumber to install it for you. This way, you can be sure that you have everything working correctly and are unlikely to spring a leak.
If you are to get a system installed by a plumber, this will probably cost between $1,000 and $1,500. This can sometimes be slightly cheaper if you source and purchase the pump itself first before getting your plumber to install it. If it is simply a replacement pump then this figure may be drastically cheaper.
Water-Powered Sump Pumps: An Overview
A full and detailed look at the different types of sump pumps and their backups can be found in our ultimate sump pump buying guide.
It is easy to see why these products aren’t usually preferred as the main sump pump, especially in a home environment. They aren’t the easiest to fit, and they aren’t the most efficient in terms of cost to run and resources used. However, these products have one huge advantage in that they don’t need electricity to be working to pump.
If extreme weather is accompanied by power outages and you only have an electric sump pump then you may be out of luck. Unless, of course, you have a water-powered pump set to kick in once the electric pump has stopped functioning. Most of us only use these pumps as a backup, but in the event of power stopping or your electric pump malfunctioning, water-powered sump pumps can be a lifesaver.