Most Reliable Sump Pump - Submersible vs Pedestal

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by Jimbo12, Mar 27, 2011.

  1. Jimbo12

    Jimbo12 DIY'er

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    I am a noob here but I thought I'd share a brain fart I had in researching a replacement for my sump pump and see what others think.

    Imagine you're designing a sump pump from scratch. If reliability is ones primary requirement, I would *not* choose a design that has the electrical motor and switch to turn it on submersed in the corrosive and short-circuiting environment of the sump pit unless I had no other choice. Even if they are well sealed, this design assumes the risk of the seals failing over time.

    Instead I'd choose a design that avoids this risk and has these critical and water adverse components in an environment that is more friendly to metal and electronics, like outside the covered sump pit as a pedestal pump allows.

    If engineered correctly, the switch and motor in this less challenging environment should be reliable and not suffer premature burnouts or anything like that.

    This thinking appears to be supported by comparing actual lifespans, at least according to some:

    "The pedestal pump has a longer life span. Water does take its toll on a submersible pump. Pedestals are known to last 2 to 5 times longer and are cheaper than submersible pumps." http://EzineArticles.com/3924023

    "Because [submersible pumps] are frequently under water, though, they do not last as long; the average life span is between 5 and 15 years. Pedestal sump pumps are less expensive, and can last much longer than a submersible pump; in some cases, a pedestal pump will run for up to 30 years." http://www.ehow.com/how_5755593_select-sump-pump.html

    "Corrosion-resistant materials, such as cast iron and stainless steel, will keep your pedestal sump pump in good working order for years. Its expected lifespan is between 25 and 30 years, depending on the manufacturer’s quality of material and craftsmanship, and on frequency of operation. Submersible pumps usually last between 5 to 15 years." http://www.sump-pump-info.com/pedestal-sump-pump.html

    Despite this, submersible sump pumps seem to be more popular and have a reputation with many people as being the most reliable.

    If you were shopping for a fridge or car and knew a brand that lasted 40% longer that would be something significant to think about and influence ones decision. But we're talking 200% - 500% longer here if those numbers above are correct. That's extremely significant.

    I am wondering what other people's thoughts and experiences are here. Paying much more money for a submersible that on average has a significantly shorter lifespan than a pedestal seems like an odd choice for such a critical device unless noise and other factors are more important to one than reliability.

    Even if the basement or crawl space was extremely dusty or damp, making it unsuitable for the unsealed pedestal pump motor, I would just want to find a sealed version (with appropriate air cooling) and stick with the pedestal design, not seal it and then submerge it and the electrical switch to turn it on under water.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2011
  2. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,916
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    Thanks for the information. I have gone through several subs and have been contemplating switching to a ped.

    I was having a problem with a sub constantly moving around from the toque, jamming the float-on-a-wire so it would stay submerged. I thought I solved the problem by strategically plaicing a couple of large stones in the pit. The motor housing chafed against the stone and eventually leaked. When I replaced the pump I tried one with a vertical encased float but it did not provide the adjustment I needed for kick-in/kick-out level and it cycled itself to death so I went back to the adjustable float-on-a-wire style. Since I seem to average 3 or 4 years on a pump, I have a ticking time bomb that is about to expire. Good sump pumps are not to be found locally, only cheap ones. There is an old saying I like to use... "You can have good, fast, cheap - pick any two".

    If the really good subs came with 10 year warranties I probably wouldn't have a problem shelling out for one even if I have to drive 8 - 10 hours to get one or pay to ship one in. My next pump will be a ped and I will be sure to clamp it solidly to a wall bracket so it doesn't move. With a ped, I will have room in the sump pit to put in my backup sub with the guarded float, set to only come on should the ped fail.
  3. Jimbo12

    Jimbo12 DIY'er

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    Sounds like you have had some bad luck. I have a 1/3 hp pedestal connected to a 1 1/2" ABS pipe that seems to hold it in place but a wall bracket sounds like a great idea.

    I imagine the ~12" adjustable cycle of a pedestal would help configure the pump correctly for your situation to avoid the lifespan reducing short-cycling you describe that seems to be a common problem. The ~4"-6" non-adjustable cycle of many popular automatic submersibles is another feature of them that has failed to motivate me to buy one but I have to admit I'm not a plumber who has installed dozens of these pumps are anything.

    The Zoeller "Old Faithful" appears to be a well built pedestal but I have no experience with it - http://www.zoellerpumps.com/ProductOtherPartInfo.aspx?ProductID=100#90982
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2011
  4. vinman

    vinman New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    I believe the best most reliable sump pump is to have no pump at all.
    When my parents moved to southwestern Ontario in a house with a sump pump system , I was baffled by the stupidity of the whole system which I've never dealt with before in other houses we lived were sump pumps were not common.
    Nightmare dreams of flooded basement kept recurring , so even before we put any valuables in the basement I took a sledge hammer , busted all the floor concrete creating a trench from the sump pump to the closest floor drain.
    I tied a 1-1/2 abs drain from the side of the sump pump plastic pit to an existing drain used to collect the water from the air conditioning unit in the furnace about 10 feet away.
    If the pump ever fails the water will rise in the pit and drain away by itself.
    During estended winter vacation I'll never have to worry if the pump fails .
    Strange enough the submersible pump that came with the house has benn chugging away for over 10 years , and it might have been installed years before we moved in.
    And sure enough both of the neighbours have had their basement flooded since we moved in from pump failure.
    They don't make them like they use to, even the Ridgid pumps from the Depot which have a lifetime warranty that used to get an over the counter exchange are no longer being exchanged . Customers are sent to a third party service location where the pumps are being refurbished.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2011
  5. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,916
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    I don't have a basement, I have a 4 foot insulated conditioned crawlspace with concrete floor. If it flooded, it would soak the insulation and drywall along with everything I have stored down there.

    In order to have a gravity drain, I would have to trench about 700 feet to where the ground slopes down. Then I'd have to worry about it freezing. My iron filter and my softener both backwash to the sump pit to keep it out of the septic field.
  6. vinman

    vinman New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    I was lucky enough to be able to tie my sump pit to a drain , most people don't have a drain nearby.
    Must be tough to sleep at night with all the snow melting at this time of the year.
    The "sump pump buddy" or a backup pump that runs on a 12 volt battery (if you have the room to install) might give you a false sense of security and you'll get some sleep at night. At the Depot they also have a $10 water alarm that you put on the floor just outside the pit and it makes a hell of a racket.
    Having a spare new pump and all the fittings handy would also be a good idea .
    But when you're off at work or shopping an extra prayer before leaving the house is a consideration.
    At least you've recognized the "accident waiting to happen" , most people deal with the issue when the water in the basement is knee deep.
    New drywall , carpet, furniture ecc. on an insurance claim and one hell of a mess to deal with. One of the neighbours even had to replace his furnace and water heater from water damagae as the water sat in the basement for weeks while they were in Florida.
    Might want to change your filter/softener backwash to a different location before it's too late.
    Good luck........................Vin.

    Wow 364 posts since Feb 2011 ? I signed up in 2009 and this is my 4th .....
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2011
  7. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,916
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    I have a sump alarm that gives me at least 4 hours before the pit overflows and I have a spare pump ready to drop into the hole. Having a spare pump already in the hole would be better and I tried it with two subs but it was too crowded. One ped and one sub would fit nicely and is what I plan when the current sub dies.
  8. Furd

    Furd Engineer

    Messages:
    446
    Location:
    Wet side of Washington State
    Vinman, are you SURE the floor drain doesn't just run back to the sump? That would be common for a basement that has a sump pump. If it is an older house it might lead to the sanitary (no longer allowed in many jurisdictions) or it might just run to a dry well which would do little good during a big rainstorm.
  9. vinman

    vinman New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    I never mentioned "floor drain" .
    Behind the furnace up against a wall there's a 1-1/2 Abs pipe sticking out of the floor 3 feet up in the air uncapped.
    Into this pipe , purposely put there when they built the house in 1995, they ran a rigid 3/4 inch pipe that collects the water from the air conditioning unit (coil) . This 1-1/ 2 abs pipe sticking out of the ground is 10 feet away from the sump pit.
    It then veers off under the cement and ties into the " floor drain" for the whole basement which is 20 feet further away still.
    I took a hell of a chance when I busted up the concrete hoping that pipe would actually drain back with the rest of all drains in the house.
    Everyone freaked out when I started busting concrete . Sure enough I discovered that this furnace coil drain ties into the drain system with it's own P-trap under the concrete . I put a garden hose into it and i could hear the water flowing when I put my ear close to the floor drain 20 feet away.
    That's when I decided to break the remaining cement and made a trench toward the sump pump pit.
    Occasionally now in the summer when the pit is dry , my father will unplug the sump pump , take a garden hose and rinse out the sump pit and pump letting the water rise (while the pump is obviously off) and drain out on it's own.
    Once all the slime that builds up in there is hosed off , he uses a wet /dry vac to suck up the remaining water and all the dirt and little pebbles at the bottom of the pit.
    He then fills the pit again and adds a cup of bleach to the water . the bleached water in a few days cleans out any remanining sludge.
    Might just be a lot of overkill work , but the original pump I'm guessing 15 years old still works fine and all is well.
    An ounce of prevention makes sleeping much better.
    I see that " LLigetfa" has all the precautions taken care of with a water alarm and a spare pump ready , good thinking.
    I also keep a brand new Ridgid pump on the shelf near the sump pit , ready to exchange any day now , as i know the original won't last forever.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2011
  10. Jimbo12

    Jimbo12 DIY'er

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    Thanks for the tips guys - I'm going to get a spare pump as suggested. But I can't help but think that there is something seriously wrong here. None of us should have to be spending so much time and money to avoid a flood and property damage. Isn't this precisely what plumbing/building codes are for?

    If you get a submersible sump pump at your local hardware store it sounds like it is common for those to fail in just a few years. If you know enough to avoid that trap, you might find a high quality submersible pump elsewhere or perhaps a plumber installs one for you.

    But according to one of the leading manufacturers of submersibles, their average switch life is a mere 4-7 years and the pump itself is designed only for a 7-10 year service life.

    If you re-roofed your house with a premium product and only got 4 or 7 years out of it, or less, before it failed to do its job to keep water out I think most people (and insurance companies) would find this completely unacceptable.

    IMHO pumps shouldn't be sold or installed as "sump pumps" responsible for protecting your home from flood and property damage unless the have a 15 year or greater average lifespan/mean time between failure.
  11. Jimbo12

    Jimbo12 DIY'er

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    I've got my iron filter and softener backwashes connected to my sump discharge line (after the head so gravity does all the work from there) via check valves. This keeps the salty brine rinse and rust sediment being discharged from going into the pit with the pump.

  12. Jimbo12

    Jimbo12 DIY'er

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    I've got my iron filter and softener backwashes connected to my sump discharge line (after the head so gravity does all the work from there) via check valves. This keeps the salty brine rinse and rust sediment being discharged from going into the pit with the pump.

  13. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,916
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    My sump line has no checkvalve so it will drain back so as not to have standing water freeze in the pipe. It goes a short distance to the surface where there is an air gap and gravity takes over going back underground.
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