What Are The Cons Of A Water Powered Sump Pump?

High Upfront Cost

Water powered sump pumps have a much higher initial purchase and installation cost compared to traditional electric sump pumps. The pump itself can cost $300-$1000 depending on the model, flow rate, and lifting height (https://drainingpumps.com/how-much-is-a-water-powered-sump-pump/). Installing a water powered system also requires running water lines, setting up a storage tank, and excavating to route water flows. This complex setup means total installation costs often reach $2000-$4000.

In contrast, basic electric sump pumps only cost $100-$300 and have simpler installations. While energy costs accumulate over time with electric models, the high initial price of water powered systems makes them difficult to justify economically.

Requires Flowing Water

One downside of water powered sump pumps is that they require a minimum flow of water to operate properly. Unlike electric pumps that run off household current, water powered pumps are driven by flowing water from an external source like a stream or creek on the property. Most models require at least 2-3 gallons per minute of water flow to generate enough hydraulic power to pump water. Without an incoming water source providing this minimum flow, a water powered backup pump will not be able to turn on or lift water as needed. Properties without streams, ponds, or other flowing water nearby would not be suitable for installing this type of pump.

water powered sump pump relying on flowing water source

While some water powered sump pump models like the Basepump can work with lower flows, they still need a consistent, reliable source of moving water. Intermittent streams or sources that periodically run dry would not allow the pump to operate continuously. And if the water flow stops completely for an extended time, the pump would cease functioning, eliminating its backup protection. Overall, the dependence on flowing water is a limiting factor on where and how water powered pumps can be utilized.

Low Lifting Capacity

One of the downsides of water powered sump pumps is that they generally have a lower lifting capacity compared to electric models. According to experts at Water Commander, water powered sump pumps typically max out at around 10-15 feet of lift, while electric pumps are capable of lifts upwards of 25 feet or more (1).

The lower lifting capacity of water powered pumps is due to the fact that they rely solely on the pressure and flow from the municipal water supply to operate. Unlike electric models that use motors, water powered pumps have less power available to push water vertically. This makes them unsuitable for installations where the sump pit is located deep underground or far below the discharge point.

If you have a setup that requires lifting water more than 10-15 feet, a water powered backup pump may not be able to fully meet your needs. In such cases, an electric or battery backup sump pump would be a better option despite their higher upfront costs.

(1) https://www.watercommander.com/articles/water-powered-sump-pump-pros-and-cons

Frequent Maintenance

Water-powered sump pumps rely on moving water to generate power, which means they have more moving parts than standard electric pumps. The turbine and drive shaft that harness the water’s energy have to spin constantly whenever water is flowing, which leads to more wear and tear over time.1 The pump should be inspected twice per year and cleaned frequently to remove any debris that could jam the impeller or cause damage. Buildup of sediment, minerals, and other deposits will reduce performance and efficiency. So water-powered pumps generally require more frequent maintenance and cleaning than traditional electric sump pumps to keep all the moving parts in good working order.

May Freeze in Winter

One of the main cons of water powered sump pumps is that they are susceptible to freezing in cold temperatures during the winter if not properly winterized (How To Winterize Your Sump Pump – YouTube). Water-powered pumps rely on a constant flow of water to operate. However, in freezing temperatures, the water flowing through the pump can freeze inside the pump mechanism, discharge pipe, or hose (How To Winterize Sump Pump Discharge). This can stop the pump from being able to expel water, rendering it unable to perform its duty of keeping a basement or crawlspace dry.

To prevent freezing, the pump must be winterized by disconnecting hoses, installing pipe insulation, heat tape, or a freeze guard device on the discharge pipe (6 Steps to Winterize Your Sump Pump). This requires an added investment in materials and labor. It also means routinely checking and maintaining the winterization measures throughout the winter. If winterization is not done properly, the pump could still freeze, leading to water backups and flooding.

Limited Installation Locations

One of the major drawbacks of water powered sump pumps is that they require installation near a constantly flowing water source in order to operate properly. This limits where these pumps can be utilized, as many homes do not have access to flowing municipal water lines in their basements where sump pumps are typically installed.

Water powered backup pumps need to be connected to a pressurized water line, which must supply at least 8 gallons per minute at 30 PSI to generate enough power. This flowing water spins an impeller which then powers the pump. Without adequate water flow, a water powered sump will not turn on or effectively pump water.

Most models require a 1/2″ supply line at minimum, and some require 3/4″ or larger. The line must supply high-volume continuous flow, more than a standard household line. This makes installations without access to municipal water supplies impractical for water powered units.

Overall, the location restrictions mean water powered sump pumps are not an option for many homeowners. They can only be installed in basements or pits with access to sufficiently large and pressurized water lines. This drawback severely limits their applications compared to standard electric pumps. Careful planning is required to ensure adequate water supply.

Lower Efficiency

Water powered sump pumps are generally not as efficient at pumping water as their electric counterparts. This is due to several factors:

– The energy from flowing water is more variable and difficult to harness than electricity. Even with an optimal setup, some energy from the water flow ends up getting wasted.

– Electric pumps utilize motors and impellers that are engineered for maximum efficiency. The simple mechanical nature of water powered pumps can’t match that level of efficiency.

– Flow rates and heads tend to be lower with water powered pumps. They lack the raw power of an electric sump pump motor.

– There are more frictional losses as the water flows through the piping system to turn the pump. Some pressure gets lost before reaching the pump mechanism.

– In freezing conditions, efficiency can drop way down. The water flow can slow to a trickle which provides little power to the pump.

While the simplicity and eco-friendliness of water powered pumps is appealing, their pumping efficiency lags well behind electric pumps. This can lead to longer run times and a reduced ability to keep up with high volumes of water.

Can’t Handle Large Volumes

One of the main downsides of water powered sump pumps is that they lack the power to pump large volumes of water compared to electric pumps. According to Water Damage Defense, water powered pumps generally have capacities between 500-1500 gallons per hour (GPH). In contrast, electric sump pumps often range from 2000-5000 GPH for residential applications.

The limited pumping capacity is due to water powered pumps relying on city water pressure to drive them. Standard residential water pressure is 40-60 PSI, which restricts the pumping force. Electric pumps use powerful motors that can generate significantly higher pressure for moving water.

This means that during major flooding events or high water table conditions, a water powered backup pump may get overwhelmed and fail to keep up. The basement or crawl space could end up flooding since the pump can’t handle the large incoming volumes fast enough.

Prone to Clogging

One of the biggest cons of water powered sump pumps is that they are susceptible to clogging from debris in the water source. As water flows through rivers, streams or springs before entering the sump pit, it picks up dirt, leaves, twigs and other organic material. Over time, this debris can build up inside the pump impeller, pipes or intake screen, gradually reducing water flow and pumping efficiency.

Compared to electric sump pumps that sit in a sealed sump pit, water powered models are constantly exposed to incoming debris that can cause clogs. The small internal waterways are especially prone to getting blocked. Clogged pumps may sputter, cycle excessively, or stop working altogether until they are cleared of obstructions.

Frequent maintenance is required to detach intake screens and use tools to clear out debris from inside water powered sump pumps. If clogs recur, installing pre-filtering on the intake line can help trap debris before it enters the pump. But overall, the open design and dependence on natural flowing water makes reliable debris-free operation a challenge compared to closed-system electric pumps.

Noisy Operation

One of the drawbacks of water powered sump pumps is that they can generate a significant amount of noise in operation.[1] The sound of rushing water running through the pump to drive the impeller can be loud, especially in a quiet basement. Some homeowners report the pump sounding like a flushing toilet that runs continuously when operating. The noise tends to increase as water flow increases. This can make it difficult to have conversations or sleep if the pump is located close to living spaces.

The noise levels may exceed those of conventional electric sump pumps, which only generate noise from the motor and mechanical operation. The noise from the water flow in a water powered pump is an inherent part of the operation. While some noise damping modifications can be made, such as installing foam around the pump body, the noise cannot be entirely eliminated.

Homeowners will need to weigh the benefits of having a backup pump that works during power outages against the potential noise nuisance of water powered operation. Installing the pump far from bedrooms or living areas can help reduce disturbances.

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