Battery Backup Sump Pumps – A Money Saver for Homeowners

Yes, we all know water leaks have the potential to do thousands of dollars of damage. But many homeowners underestimate the cost of property damage and it’s safe to assume there is a vast majority who aren’t aware of the risk involved.

According to a Chubb* Homeowners’ Risk Survey, half of all homeowners (51%) think a plumbing or appliance water leak costs less than $5,000 in damages. However, according to the Insurance Information Institute, the average water leak costs more than $10,000 in damages. According to Chubb’s internal claims data from 2014-2018, the average water leak cost is more than $55,000 for financially successful homeowners, and the average water back-up loss for homeowners was almost $45,000.

Of course, it all depends on what you have in the basement. A finished basement with carpeting, furniture, electronics, etc., will skew to the higher end. But even a basic basement that houses a furnace, water heater, washer and dryer, replacement costs can be in the thousands.

A common cause of basement water issues is sump pump failure. Because the sump pump is in the basement, it’s not uncommon for homeowners to even know if it has failed until the basement is filling with water. Common causes of sump pump failure include:

  • Power outages
  • The level control is obstructed or fails
  • Buildup on the float or debris in the sump pit
  • Mechanical failure

Any of those malfunctions lead to water infiltration damage, which is why a battery back-up sump pump is essential for any homeowner or landlord.

A battery backup is a separate pump installed adjacent to the primary electric pump in the sump basin. It typically runs on 12- or 24-volt DC battery power and can either be plumbed into the primary discharge pipe or installed with its own independent discharge pipe.

The battery backup sump pump has its own float switch so that when the water rises in the sump, it raises the float and the backup pump is activated. This is important for two reasons:

  1. If the primary pump cannot keep up with the inflow due to excessive amounts of water entering the sump pit during an abnormal event, the backup pump will assist the primary pump in evacuating the water.
  2. In the event of a power disruption or primary pump/level control failure, it will assume the role as the primary pump allowing time for the power to be restored or the AC electric pump system to be serviced.

Run times of battery backup pumps vary, depending on how often they are pumping water (say every five minutes vs. every minute). It also depends on how large the battery is (40 amps vs. 120 amps).

Maintenance also comes into play. After a few years, a 12-volt battery will lose some of its ability to hold a charge, resulting in less run time. It’s recommended to replace a battery every three or five years.

Battery backup sump pumps are a great protective measure for homeowners. But the homeowner may also want to know when a problem exits with or without the backup pump. This is where alarm systems come in.

The basic, most inexpensive water alarm only does one thing. A loud beeping when water is present. Some of these beeping alarms can be as strong as 100 decibels, but that doesn’t help if the homeowner is not in the house.

Another alarm option is a dialer, which calls a stored phone number or numbers and sends a recorded message when there is an alarm condition.

Much more popular, the Wi-Fi-enabled alarms also can be installed in the sump pit and in the event of high water, will text or email notifications.

Another alternative are sump pumps that have built-in alarm systems. Many of these smart systems allow you to check the diagnostics of the pump as well as receiving real-time updates.

Having a portable generator can keep the sump pump running, but there are many safety precautions to consider. For example, a portable generator cannot be used inside the house or adjacent garage because of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Also, generators pose a risk of shock and electrocution when operated in wet conditions. If power must be generated during a storm, protect the generator from moisture by running it under an overhang or a portable shelter. Any extension cord used to plug in needs to be heavy duty, outdoor rated and have a wire gauge that can handle the electric load of any connected device.

A whole home generator, which turns on automatically when the power is off, will keep the entire home powered up. But whole home generators are expensive and need to be professionally installed.

Our next blog will include a product round-up of alarms available from JMI Pump Systems. In the meantime, the JMI professional staff can help you with selecting a backup sump pump system for your location. Your Partners in Pumping are available at 262-253-1353 or sales@jmipumps.com to assist you.

*(Chubb is the marketing name used to refer to subsidiaries of Chubb Limited providing insurance and related services.)