Let’s take a psychology quiz.  When you hear the word ‘basement’, what descriptive words come to mind?  Dark?  Damp?  Cellar?  Storage?  Old coal bin?  Grandma’s house?  These are just a few that might come to mind.  Today, basements are not just, well – basements.  Frequently they are now being turned into usable living space – fully finished and furnished.   Keeping that basement dry is a high priority because the repairs to the basement and replacement of those furnishings could be both extensive and expensive.

The job of the sump pump is to keep water from backing up into the basement.  There are times, however, when the electric primary pump could fail – the power goes out, the float stops working – any number of things could happen.  The result will be rising water in that finished and furnished basement.  Having a back up pump will give the homeowner peace of mind, knowing that the basement will stay dry.  There are various types of back up pumps and they are powered by different means – gas generators, deep cycle marine batteries, or water.

WATER?  Yes, the water powered back up pump is powered by -WATER!  Water from your city is used to create a suction that pulls the sump water up a discharge pipe.  The dirty and clean water then discharge into your yard or street.   No worry about batteries being depleted or the generator running out of gas.  There is wide range of prices, depending on the brand.

On the surface, these pumps seem ideal!  No generator, no gas or batteries to buy!  WOW!  But – what about the water?  The water used is clean, drinkable water that you, as the homeowner, will be billed for.  The water is NOT free.  Depending on the manufacturer, these pumps will use one gallon of clean water for approximately every three gallons of sump water pumped out at 60 PSI and between an 8/10 ten foot head.  (These ratios are examples from one of the better manufacturer’s; however, the ratios could get worse with cheaper pumps.)  For example, a Zoeller M53 electric primary pump will pump 2,040 gallons per hour at a ten foot head.   For the average home, this pump would keep up during a rainstorm.  Should the homeowner wish to install a water powered back up pump, and if a Zoeller is chosen (which is one of the better brands, in our opinion) this pump at 60 PSI and at an 8/10 head will pump approximately 1,140 gallons per hour.  Regardless of our opinion of water powered back up pumps, the 1,140 gallons per hour of the Zoeller 503 is less than the 2,040 gallons of the M53 and is not enough to keep the basement from flooding.

Should the water pressure drop during an emergency, the water powered pump could not keep up with the water coming into your home.  The result?  A flooded basement.  Not only will you have expensive repairs to make and furnishings to replace, but there will also be a HIGH water bill.  A drop in water pressure could also allow dirty water to siphon back into the clean water supply.  Some of these back up pumps do have a built in check valve that prevents this siphoning from happening;  however, in the state of Ohio, a backflow device must also be installed.  After the backflow has been installed, it then must be certified and then recertified each year after that.  Permits must also be taken out for the installation of the backflow.  This installation of the backflow can be done by a licensed plumber.

As a homeowner, you now have two main issues – 1.  You have a system that is not keeping up with the water coming into the pit; and 2.  If you are an environmentalist. Clean, drinkable water is being wasted to get rid of dirty, sump water.  Hum.  The choice is yours.  Other factors to consider are – what is the cost of the pump, how many gallons of clean, city water per hour will be used, how high could my water bill go, how easily can it be installed, and what is the cost of the backflow installation, certification and recertification.


Some manufacturers require a wye strainer on the water line to keep minerals and debris from clogging up the water powered sump pump; and, if there is a water softener, some manufacturers specify running the water line for the water powered sump pump from the hard water side of the water softener.   (Most manufacturers do not recommend using these particular pumps with a well system.)

Perhaps the best place to start when considering a back up sump pump, is with Aaron Kramer Plumping, your local plumbing professional.  We can give you sound advice and guide you in the best application for your home.  We are licensed, bonded and insured; state license #10901.  Give us a call today.  North – 937-898-0008 or South – 937-434-7074


Written by Bruce Kramer