What to Look for When Buying a Sump Pump?

If you are looking to purchase a sump pump, you should first know the different features available because these come in many variations, and the one you select heavily depends on the application which is gonna be used so I’m gonna go with the features now. And if you’re looking to make a purchase you’ll know what to look for when buying a sump pump.

What to Look for When Buying a Sump Pump?

Types of Sump Pump

Manual Sump Pumps

manual sump pump, as the name suggests, needs to be turned on and off manually by simply connecting and disconnecting the power cord to an electrical outlet respectively. The usual application cases are to manually de-water your basement, pools, etc. in the event of excessive rainfall or flooding and similar cases. Typically the manual pump can’t be used in sump basins, however, with a few tweaks using a piggyback switch, should allow you to turn it into an automatic version of the sump pump.

Automatic Sump Pump

An automatic sump pump operates based on turning on and off the switch attached to the pump depending on the pre-set threshold water level. It activates when the water rises to a threshold height and de-activates the sump pump gets rid of all the water.

Sump Pump Switches

There are mainly two types of sump pump switches – the piggyback switch and the regular switch.

As the name suggests the sump pump plug is inserted into the piggyback connector and the piggyback plugs into the power outlet. This modified system allows running the sump pump in automatic mode. Simply choose not to use the piggyback plug and connect directly into the power outlet and this lets you run in manual mode for manually de-watering.

Types of Sump Pump Switches

Other than the piggyback switches other switch options are the regular switches that come in variations, sometimes called, integral, built-in, directly wired, tethered, electronic, or just vertical switches.

Vertical sump pump switches

vertical float switch is a mechanical system that allows automatic activation and deactivation of the pump based on the level of fluid (typically water). The built-in float (often plastic or foam made) moves vertically upward on a rod as the water enters to activate the pump. When the float reaches the bottom, it turns off the pump by pulling down on the rod.

One advantage of such a system is that this float only vertically up and down thus allowing it to operate in a very narrow sump pit and when you’re working with a very narrow sump pit, it’s gonna fill up with liquid more quickly. So, this is gonna be on and off all the time which kinda means it’s less “cool-off” time among cycles.

Unlike vertical switches, tethered and wide-angled switches float at an angle.

For a vertical switch pump, when the water enters the basin to activate the pump, it goes up vertically. When the pump turns on when the ball was nearly straight up and turns off when it’s straight down.

Electronic or diaphragm switches

Electronic or diaphragm switches work based on water pressure. As the water level rises, it puts pressure on the switch and when the pressure increases enough where it compresses the bladder in the switch, it activates and turns the pump on. As the water level depletes, it no longer exerts pressure on the switch, and then it de-actives and turns the pump off.

Sump Pump Backup Systems

Backup systems or components used to protect against flooding caused by power outages or sump pump failure. Your backup systems can be categorized into two areas which are water-powered or battery powered.

When there is a power outage and your home is flooded with water, either water-powered or a battery operated back up system is what you need to have, especially during storm surges and flooding situations, or if your sump pump has failed to work.


A standard battery-powered sump pump back system usually has an external 12-volt battery that provides power in case of a blackout or power outage.

For typical home uses, the general voltage is 115 volts with some exceptions of 230 volts. If you’re using one that’s over 115 volts it’s probably for industrial or commercial applications.

Horse Power

The Diameter of The Sump Basin

The diameter of the sump basin is important when choosing a sump pump because the switch you choose depends on the basin’s diameter. So, measure the inside diameter of the sump pit at its narrowest point down in the area where the pump will operate.

The basin must be large enough so that a wide-angle switch can operate freely without getting stuck because if it does get stuck on the wall then it’ll be caught up and it won’t turn off and if it gets stuck down then the water will just go above it and it won’t turn on. And that’s where you are gonna get a lot of problems.

If you’re installing a new sump pump where there was none before it’s recommended to cut out a large basin.

Length of Power Cords

Power cord length is an important factor since submersible sump pumps must be plugged directly to the receptacle without using an extension cord. This safety measure is designated to protect against short circuits and electrical shocks. The most popular chord-lengths that are purchased are 10 feet and 25 feet. But you can buy up to a 70-foot length cord for applications that need it.

Flow and Head Range

The head pressure of the pump describes the maximum height that the pump will move water. For instance, a sump pump with a 15-foot max head (also called a shut-off head) will pump water up to 15 feet before it completely loses flow.

what to look for when buying a sump pump

Different Types of Sump Pumps

Cast Iron Housing Sump Pumps

Cast Iron housing is by far the most used and available, mostly for cost reasons and they’re also very durable.

Aluminum Housing Sump Pumps

Aluminum housing pumps cost a little more and it’s because they’ve better heat dissipation qualities and it protects against the motor when the pump works very hard and creates a lot of heat.

Plastic Sump Pumps

Plastic pumps cost less but they don’t respond well when the pump generates a lot of heat. So I wouldn’t recommend using that but if it’s fine for your system then go ahead and purchase that.

Buying Guide for Different Features of Sump Pumps


So that’s pretty much it.

If you’re looking to purchase sump pumps, just make sure to consider some of the key features I’ve discussed here and choose the one that best fits your needs.

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