The arrival of spring is marked by warmer weather, longer days, and the anticipation of blooming plants and flowering trees. But spring is also the season of rapid snowmelt, swollen rivers, and frequent rainstorms. As a result, many homeowners experience the dark—and soggy—side of the season: flooded basements and crawl spaces.
This isn’t the type of super-storm flooding that washes homes off their foundations, but it can be destructive just the same. It only takes a couple of inches of standing water to cripple mechanical systems, rust metal fixtures, ruin household items, and breed mold and mildew. Fortunately there’s a relatively simple and affordable way to protect your home and belongings from occasional flooding, and that’s installing a sump pump.
Here, we’ve highlighted five of the best electric sump pumps, representing a wide range of capacities, features, and prices. If you’ve had to deal with flooding, we’re sure one of these will meet your needs and budget.
Take a look at quick info on the sump pumps here, then scroll down for buying advice and more in-depth reviews of these models.
Things to Know
Any home that regularly experiences even the slightest water penetration into the basement or crawl space should be equipped with a sump pump. For the uninitiated, a sump pump is simply a submersible electric pump that sits in a hole, called the sump pit. The pit is located at the lowest corner of the basement or crawlspace, so that when flooding occurs, water drains directly into the pit.
When water in the pit reaches a pre-determined level, the pump automatically kicks on and pumps the water to an indoor drain or outdoors through a PVC pipe. When pumping the water outdoors, it’s important that the water is released onto a downhill slope and well away from the house so that it can’t drain back into the basement or crawlspace. Another option is to pump the water into a buried drainpipe that leads to a dry well or daylight located far from the house.
For homes with oversized basements or crawl spaces, or regions that receive an inordinate amount of rain, it’s best to install two sump pumps to handle large volumes of water.
Also, if there’s not an electrical outlet close to where you plan to install the pump, have a licensed electrician put one in. And plug the pump directly into the outlet; never use an extension cord, which can cause a voltage drop that might damage the pump motor.
Battery-Backup Sump Pumps
When properly installed and maintained, traditional electric sump pumps do a great job of keeping basements and crawl spaces dry. However, they do have one slight design flaw: The pumps don’t work during a blackout. And all too often, severe rainstorms knock out the electricity, so many sump pumps fail when they’re most needed.
Fortunately you can avoid this relatively easily by installing a battery-backup sump pump. This two-stage system includes both a 120-volt electric pump and a 12-volt backup pump that runs off a deep-cycle marine battery. The pumps are connected and both placed in the sump pit.
During normal operation, the electric sump pump will push water from the pit. But if the electricity goes out, the battery-powered backup pump automatically kicks on as the pit fills up. An electric charger keeps the battery-backup fully juiced, so it’ll be ready to work at all times. Battery-backup sump pumps range in price from about $150 to over $600, depending on the capacity of the pump.
How We Selected
To find the best residential sump pumps, I evaluated a wide range of models based on price, capacity, durability, and my own personal experience over decades as a contractor and writer. And I must say that sump pumps are remarkably reliable, low-maintenance devices that can easily last ten or more years, even in the most-demanding situations. (I had one that lasted over 20 years, but it only kicked on a few times per year and never had to deal with heavy flooding.)
Here are four key features I considered when choosing these five sump pumps:
- Motor size, based on horsepower rating
- Maximum flow rate, how many gallons of water per hour (gph) it can pump out
- Material, what the pump is made out of
- Solids capacity, how large a solid particulate it can handle
Superior Pump 91250
This ¼-horsepower sump pump measures just 7 inches in diameter by 12 inches tall, but don’t be fooled by its compact size. It can pump out 1,800 gallons of water per hour, and it can push water vertically up to ten feet high. And weighing in at just under seven pounds, this is the lightest sump pump I’ve ever used.
The Superior 91250 is made of resilient thermoplastic and has double O-ring seals for extra protection against leaking. And its removable suction screen handles solids up to 1⁄8 inch across. Now, this sump pump isn’t as powerful as the other models here, but it’s well built, very affordable, and ideally suited to handle occasional flooding.
The Zoeller Pump Company, based in Louisville, Kentucky, is a family-run business that has been manufacturing high-quality, reliable pumps since 1939. And the Model 57-0001 fits right within that standard. It features a heavy cast-iron housing, base, and impeller and has a corrosion-resistant, powder-coated epoxy finish. The oil-filled, high-capacity 1⁄3-hp motor has a maximum flow rating of 2,580 gallons per hour, and the 1.5-inch-diameter discharge port handles solids up to ½ inch across.
Little Giant 506160
Motor size: 1/3 hp | Maximum flow rate: 2,760 gph | Material: Cast-iron housing, polycarbonate cover, polypropylene base | Solids capacity: Up to 3/16 in.
Engineered for residential and light commercial use, this 1⁄3-hp sump pump features a ruggedly built, oil-filled, cast-iron motor housing that offers a lifetime of sealed lubrication for excellent heat dissipation and cooler running. And I really like the use of resilient plastics for the pump cover and base—there’s no worry that these parts will ever rust. The Little Giant 506160 weighs 15 pounds and has a maximum flow rate of 2,760 gallons per hour. It handles solids up to 3⁄16 inch in diameter and pumps water vertically up to 18 feet high through its 1.5-inch-diameter discharge port. This is a good all-round pump at a very fair price.
Liberty Pump 257
Motor size: 1/3 hp | Maximum flow rate: 3,000 gph | Material: Cast-iron housing | Solids capacity: Up to 1/2 in.
The Liberty 257 features a thermally protected, permanently lubricated 1⁄3-hp motor that can pump up to 3,000 gallons of water per hour, with an impressive maximum vertical discharge of 21 feet. And the pump features a one-piece, powder-coated cast-iron housing and 1.5-inch-diameter discharge that can accommodate solids up to ½ inch. Though what may be its calling card is that, according to Liberty, the super-efficient motor reduces electrical consumption by up to 40 percent over similar models.
Motor size: 3/4 hp | Maximum flow rate: 4,620 gph | Material: Stainless steel and cast iron | Solids capacity: N/A, for clear water only
For pure pumping power, it’s hard to beat the Wayne CDU980E. Driven by a massive ¾-hp motor, it can pump out a remarkable 4,620 gallons of water per hour. If your home experiences frequent and heavy flooding, this is the pump for you. It has a corrosion-resistant stainless-steel housing matched with a heavy cast-iron base. Its top-suction pump design greatly minimizes air locks and clogging from debris in the bottom of the pit. Despite its quality construction, this pump is quiet and relatively light, at just 12 pounds.