What Are the Differences Between a Battery-Powered and Water-Powered Backup Sump Pump?

We get this question a lot and the answer depends on a few things. In this post we’ll give an overview of each type, their pro’s and con’s, and talk a little about what drives the price. 

Before we get started, a back-up sump pump is just that – it is a back-up in case the primary sump pump fails to come on. Primary pumps may fail due to the power being out as a result of a storm or because the pump breaks due to normal wear and tear. Most houses around Wadsworth and in the greater Akron area have basements with groundwater that has to be dealt with. The typical way to deal with groundwater is to pump it up and out of the house – usually out to the storm drainage culvert at the road. 

If you have an “active” sump crock and/or items in your basement you wouldn’t want to get ruined by a flood. We think it’s a good idea to have a back-up sump pump. By “active” we mean you regularly have water coming into your sump crock or you get lots of water coming in during a heavy rain. Regardless of the power source, the float switch for the back-up pump is set slightly higher than the float for the primary pump so if the primary pump fails the back-up pump comes on.  

Battery Back-Up Sump Pumps

These systems use a heavy duty 12v battery to power the back up pump. The battery is continuously “trickle-charged” by a control that is plugged into an 115v outlet. There are maintenance-free batteries (which we prefer) and re-fillable batteries. 

PRO’s: 1.) Can be used in well water or municipal water applications. 2.) Have more options when it comes to pumping capacity (Gallons/Hour or GPH), 3.) Don’t require any modifications to the existing plumbing system. 4.) Multiple batteries can be linked together to increase pumping time. CON’s: 1.) During a power outage the battery would drain down if the pump is running a lot. 2.) Batteries should be replaced over time – typically every 2-3 years.

Prices for battery back-up sump pump systems vary widely. As of the writing of this post, the local big box store has a system starting at about $380. A brief glance at the details shows it pumps 1,000 gallons/hour (GPH), has a 2-year warranty, with a 1-year warranty on the battery. On the other end Zoeller makes a system with a 3-year warranty that will pump over 3,000 gallons/hour (GPH) with a much stronger battery. Their system costs upwards of $750. Final prices with installation can range anywhere from $500 for the most basic system with no labor warranty up to $3,500 for a deluxe system with a 5-year labor warranty. At Mackin & Sons Plumbing our average range for a battery back-up sump pump with installation is between $850 and $1,750. 

Water Powered Back-Up Sump Pumps

These systems use the flow of water in your water line to power the back up pump. The pump is connected to a water line in your house and when the float switch on the pump is activated a valve opens which uses the flow of water to turn an impeller that pumps the water out. 

PRO’s: 1.) Pump requires no electricity and can run indefinitely. 2.) There are no parts that need to be regularly replaced. CON’s: 1.) They only work where you have municipally provided water – not well water. 2.) The pump requires a 3/4″ water line and check valve which in some homes means additional costs if the nearest water line is far away. 3.) It takes double the gallons of water to pump out 1 gallon. 

Prices for water-powered backup sump pump systems do not vary as much, mostly because there are not as many brands to choose from nor options when it  comes to the power source (municipal water) and pump size (dependent on flow rate in water line). At Mackin & Sons Plumbing our average range for a water powered back-up sump pump with installation is between $1,200 and $1,800.  

So What Affects the Final Price

The main factors that may move the price up or down include some that are more performance based and some that are more options based. Gallons/hour (GPH) pumping capacity is important to consider. If your sump crock gets a lot of water during a heavy storm and you have a finished basement it may be worth considering investing an additional $500 to $1,000 to have a pump that can move lots of water quickly. And as mentioned before, if you prefer the ability of the water powered pump to pump indefinitely and your nearest 3/4″ water line is 40′ away it may move the price up $200 to $400 depending on the layout of your particular basement. But if you have an unfinished basement with not much stored in it then consider the basic, no-frills option. Finally, there are a variety of options for both battery and water powered backup sump pumps. Manufacturers for both types typically have wi-fi enabled monitoring with push notifications to your phone. Other options included dual float switches and, on battery systems, additional batteries that can be installed. These options can change the price by $500 to $800. 

Wi-Fi is Great But…

We’ve seen countless basement sump pump flooding disasters where people weren’t home when the primary pump went out. Had they taken advantage of the wi-fi monitoring (which you can get for primary pumps too!) a flooded basement couldn’t have been avoided. But…keep this in mind. No wi-fi alarm or notification is going to work if the power is out – no power – no wi-fi. 

So Which System Should I Get? 

As you hopefully now recognize there are a lot of factors to consider so a standard answer is just not possible. It depends on the level of protection you want, if you municipal or well water, what your budget is, and what bells and whistles make sense. Usually, when talking with a homeowner, we get down to this one question. If your basement flooded during a big storm how devastating would that be for you? We are here to educate and answer your questions so you can make the best decision possible. 

Some Systems We’ve Seen and Installed

This is by no means a complete list and we don’t intend to leave any particular system off the list. These are just a few that are common in the greater Akron area. 

Glentronics Pro-Series 

Liberty SumpJet

Meyers Classic 

Zoeller Aquanot

Zoller Flex