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How does a water pump work?

Household 2 min read

Sump pumps sit in a sump crock, a basin below the basement floor. Footing drains made of perforated pipe in pea stone collect groundwater outside and send it to the pump. When the water in the basin reaches a certain level, a float activates the sump pump. The pump pushes the water out of the basin through a vertical discharge pipe that exits through a house wall.

The discharge pipe should have a check valve to prevent water from flowing back into the basin and minimize pump cycling. It should also have a disconnect fitting, making it easy to remove the pump for cleaning, repair, or replacement. Water from a sump pump is released into the environment without treatment. So, it’s best if you do not discharge anything that could contain human waste, such as toilets or laundry wastewater, into a sump basin.

What are the different types of water pumps for your home?

Sump pumps help prevent water backups in your home by keeping moisture away from the foundation, which is especially critical if you have finished living space in your basement. There are two types of water pumps — submersible and pedestal. We spoke with Mike Stephens, wastewater product manager at Valley Farms Supply, about how they work, their differences, and what to consider when selecting one. The two main types of domestic water pumps you can use to help protect your home from water damage differ as follows:


The motor is integrated with the pump’s intake and submerged in the water, which reduces the noise level. You need a larger, deeper basin for this type of pump. A submersible pump is more powerful than a pedestal pump and can pump out solids and debris that may find their way into the sump pump, which can be especially helpful in heavy flooding areas.


The motor is outside the water, and only the suction line sits in the water. Pedestal pumps can fit in smaller, narrower basins and generally cost less than submersible pumps. They are easier to install, making them a good choice for crawl spaces and low flood areas.

What should you consider when choosing a water pump for your home?

No matter what water pump type you choose for your home, here are some features to consider before buying one.

  • Basin: It’s essential to have the right size basin. It must be deep enough for the pump to fit, be gas-tight, and adequately vented.
  • Material: Most sump pumps are cast iron or plastic. Cast iron pumps are more durable and typically last longer than plastic pumps.
  • Switch: There are two kinds of sump pump switches — vertical float and tethered float. Both types rise and fall with the water to turn the pump on and off.
  • Battery backup: You can add a battery backup to some sump pumps so they keep working when you lose power. If your sump pump stops working during a storm, it could cause a backup.
  •  Alarm systems: You can add an alarm to the pump crock to alert you when a pump fails and to your basement floor to sound when it’s wet.

The flooding that can occur with a hurricane or other natural disaster can be devastating. Find out how to restore your home after flooding. Knowing how the two types of water pumps work to keep water out of your home can be helpful when you are buying or replacing a sump pump. Learn more about homeowners insurance and water backup coverage.

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