July 13, 2009

Sump Pump Backup Options

At tonight's groundwater meeting, and as a side note, I described a municipal/city water-powered backup sump pump system that does not rely on electricity or battery power.  Unfortunately, a well functioning electric-powered sump pump means the difference between a wet or a dry basement for many of our homes in the Single Family Village.  If your home loses electrical power or if your primary pump mechanically fails does your home have a backup system to remove the groundwater from your sump basket and prevent flooding?  Many residents have thought carefully about that scenario and purchased a separate battery-powered backup sump pump system.  Problem is, I've seen statistics that estimates the effective service time of a battery-powered backup sump pump to last between 2-10 hours.  My question is: What happens if an electrical power outage lasts longer than that?  What happens if the power is disrupted by a storm that brings additional rainfall?
My intent is not to scare residents into buying something they don't need.  Rather, I think that there are a few good options that deserve a closer look including more sophisticated battery systems, alarms, etc.  In the spirit of preparedness I'm sharing what I've found through a few conversations and some internet research.  
I know of one resident who installed a city water-powered sump pump system, (I haven't yet) and I have spoken to a licensed plumber about similar systems.  One plumber's estimate I received was $800 (installed) for a fully separate and redundant (a good thing in this case) water-powered backup system, including separate pipes, separate holes through the wall, and separate discharge point from my home.  The plumber offered a group discount if more residents were interested.  I suspect any plumber might offer a similar discount.  For mechanically inclined residents, it may be a do-it-yourself project.  In any case, a City of Hugo permit may be required... be sure to check first.
I found a particularly helpful video on This Old House's website (link here) that showed the installation of water-powered sump pump.  It described the concepts as well as the materials needed.  Please keep in mind that I'm not endorsing any brand, contractor, or design.  I do think it's important information though, as residents consider future groundwater drainage systems.  I've included a few links that might provide a starting point for those interested:
Explanation of the water-powered backup sump pump:
Water-powered and Battery-powered backup systems compared:
Water-powered backup sump pump:
Sophisticated battery-powered backups:  
I hope you'll find this information helpful,