Sump Pump Backup Options

Why do you need an emergency backup power supply for your sump pump?

Everyone who has a Sump Pump in their home for pumping out water needs to be prepared for an extended power outage, especially in stormy situation where loss of power is common and your Sump pump seriously needs to keep working. For that, you will need a source for emergency backup power for your sump pump. There are different conditions that need to be considered that will dictate what kind of emergency backup system that is needed for your home. 

The following is a detailed guide for why you need backup power for your sump pump. The options available to provide backup power for your existing sump pump and how you can choose the best solution to fit your situation.

Throughout the year there are going to be problems regarding your sump pumps failing, especially in winters and springs. A backup Solution For your  existing sump pump is crucial because thawing snow and rain can put a serious strain on your sump pump and winter and spring power outages are becoming more and more common every year.

Without a doubt as long as your sump pump is working Correctly you need only  provide routine maintenance and inspection But even the best maintain sump pump will not work without electricity. Therefore you will need emergency backup power for your sump pump so that it can provide protection during the freezing, thawing, raining and most importantly in case of power outages in stormy weather.

If you are lucky enough to live in an area where you’re sump pump runs very little during the year then you may get by with just a High Water Alarm (Shop Sump Alarm on Amazon) but that’s the least amount of protection I suggest. For others, their Sump pump may run every few days during dry periods, and several times a day during periods of wet.  For this latter group it is crucial to have a backup system for your sump pump in case of power failure or malfunction.

UPS for Sump Pump

Do you know it’s possible to add a backup power reserve to your existing sump pump without hiring an electrician or plumber?  Once mounted the connected backup system uses a sensor to switch between the household electrical supply to provide an Uninterruptible Power Supply Creating a zero downtime backup power supply. If it senses a loss of Household power to your sump pump the units automatic switch turns on the back up system.  Once it is installed you simply need to plug your existing sump pump into the backup system and the backup system into your household electricity.

The system uses a battery for power storage with a special inverter and relay switch to swap between your household power and the backup power supply whenever your home loses electricity. Once everything’s located you simply just plug it in.

You do need to keep in mind that a battery backup supply to the existing sump pump is a wall-mounted system and you need to keep it close enough to the sump pump so that the original cord from the pump reaches it. Otherwise, I recommend having it installed by an electrician and hardwiring it directly to the sump pump and your household power. Extension cords are fine for an emergency but you do not want to use them long-term. Keep in mind if you choose to have a battery backup for your sump pump you need to replace your battery every three to five years. As batteries age, recharging is not as efficient and discharging becomes faster this will be a periodic ongoing expense.

This type of system is best for homeowners with older homes that may have a small sump pit that cannot accommodate an additional battery pump backup or homeowners who do not want to go to the extra expense of hiring a plumber to install a more traditional backup system.

1/4 HP pump, 600 Watts battery backup, 

        1/2 HP pump, 1200 Watts battery backup, 

        3/4 HP pump, 1800 Watts battery backup,

Battery Backup Sump Pump System

Basically a battery backup sump pump is a separate pump that you put inside of the sump pit with the main pump, but this one runs on DC battery power. How it works is, it is installed in the pit and connected to your existing discharge plumbing, then when there is a power outage and the water level in the pit rises above the point where the primary sump pump should have turned on the battery powered pump takeovers and pumps the water out of the pit instead of the primary one.

It is recommended that a professional install this type of backup system but it’s not impossible for the homeowner to do it modest amount of skill. Some kits do come with the extra fittings you will need to splice the backup pump’s discharge line Into the Primary pump’s existing discharge line.  You can also run a second drain line if you have access to the outside without drilling a new hole in your wall. 

One drawback to both the Battery to AC Inverter and the Battery to DC Pump back-up systems is just that, the battery.  Even the best deep cycle AGM class marine battery will only perform at top capacity 4 to 7 years before needing to be replaced.

Sump Pump Flow Rate and Battery Usage

For battery systems you will need to know the minimum power requirements for your Pump. Depending on the size and horsepower of your pump’s motor you could expect anywhere from 4 to 6 hours of runtime from a fully charged battery. But what does that mean during a power outage. 

Even during the wettest parts of the year most sump pumps do not run continuously, as your sump pit fills with water a float switch on the pump will activate quickly emptying the pit, to allow it to fill again and again without fear of overflowing. 

To help you decide what size battery system that’s needed you will need to know the minimum power requirements for your backup pump. Let’s say it takes 9 minutes for your sump pit to fill with enough water to activate the pump which runs for 1 minute and shuts off when the pit is empty. So for every 60 minutes of power outage your backup pump will use 6 minutes of battery reserve.  

In order to measure your pumps maximum run time, this should be done during a period of heavy flow when your primary pump will be working the hardest. This can be easily done using a timer and stopwatch.

You will set a countdown timer for 15 minutes and hit start on the timer and the stopwatch as soon as the pump turns on. Now time how long pump runs during that 15 minutes By starting and stopping the stopwatch every time the pump turns on and off again.  At the end of the 15 minutes multiply the pumps run time by 4 to get a run time per hour.  You should repeat the process a few times make sure you’re getting an accurate reading for your conditions.

Generator backup power for Sump Pump

A gasoline or propane powered portable generator can be ineffective backup power source for your sump pump depending your situation and the typical frequency you need backup power. If your sump pump runs very infrequently even during the wettest of times then dragging out the generator for the occasional power outage it’s not too big of a deal. 

Some obvious downsides to this approach are you need be there when the power goes out in order to hook it up.  You also have to make sure to keep enough fresh fuel on hand to last until you can get more. Also there’s the requirement to run the generators away from your house to keep the exhaust fumes at a safe distance. Given the need to power a sump pump usually occurs during storm related power outages chances are pretty good the area you’re going to be running the generator in will be wet increasing the possibility of an electrical accident.

On the upside, a generator can also provide Power for lights and other appliances like your refrigerator or a fan the summer and a heater for winter.  For these purposes you will need to have the appropriately sized generator to meet your needs.

What size generator do you need to run a sump pump?

For any piece of equipment you want to power with a generator you need the right size generator to do the job, your sump pump is no exception. To ensure you have the correct size generator you will need to know the operating voltage and wattage for your sump pump.

For electrical pump motors this data is located on a sticker somewhere on the device. Pumps are rated in horsepower and the larger the horsepower the more power or wattage it takes to operate it. To determine the wattage of your pump locate the data sticker, or if the pump is no easily accessible and you can determine the manufacturer and model you should be able to access the information from their website. 

If the data sticker only provides the voltage and amps for your pump a quick bit of math will tell you the wattage. This is known as Watt’s Law, the total number of watts is equal to the amps multiplied by volts. That is, in other words, watt=amp x volt or in this example 120 volts x 15 amps = 1800 watts.

Modern generators have the capacity to provide Peak power over and above their normal operating  Power. For a 1800 watt pump you want the generator To be able to provide Peak power 20% to 30% greater  than the device it is operating as most electric motors draw more power during the start up phase than during the operation phase. 

As an additional word of caution if your sump pump is extremely active during wet weather you should consider both a battery backup system and having a generator on standby in case both the primary and the backup fail. Even the best battery backup system will not last forever if your power is out for several days.