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This Why To Get A Battery Back Up For Your Sump Pump

During the phone call I was thinking this is why to get a battery back up for your sump pump.

A client called with an issue they wanted me to investigate and suggest a remedy.  My remedy was a back-up battery!

It works simply - the sump pump is plugged into a battery which is plugged into the wall.  Theoretically it is always charged.  My understanding is that it will give up to 72 hours of protection.

When I see a battery back up during a home inspection, inevitably the client will ask why they have it.  My answer is, "Life experience."

When I arrived drywall and insulation had been removed throughout the basement by a restoration contractor.  I noticed between 2" and 3" of staining on all the walls in the basement.

Wednesday night we had a serious rainstorm with very high winds.  We received approximately 2"of rain during the night.

Also, during the night, the power went out at this house because in the morning they noticed all the clocks blinking.

These homeowners have been in their house for five years during which time the basement never had a leak.  Even during Sandy.  But during Sandy their power did not go out.

And they didn't have a leak now!  The power went out!

When there is no power there is no sump pump.

When there is no sump pump and hundreds of gallons of water are pouring all around the foundation from the downspouts, it will go into the drain tiles around the house.  The drain tiles are intended to divert that rain water into the sump pump, which dutifully pumps it away from the house.

Typically water in a sump pump pit is fairly clear.  It is moving water, continuously flowing during heavy rains, and does not get muddy.

Noticing the muddy tubing and mechanisms in the sump pump pit and the backed-up mud at the stairwell drain, it was obvious that water sat and accumulated and came in.  Water at the stairwell should not be muddy either as it would flow normally toward the sump pump.  But this stairwell had obviously backed up.

The restoration contractor who had pulled out the carpeting and pad said that it was muddiest near the door. 

Doors are fairly water resistant, but not waterproof should water rise high enough to overcome the lip at the door.  It will come in, and did in this house.  You can see the mud stain on the foundation wall beside the door, about 3" high.

The basement is about 1200 square feet.  Calculating 219 cubic inches per gallon, 2" of water in this basement would represent about 175 gallons and 3" about 263 gallons.  It was a mess!

They had me look at the walls with my thermal camera to make sure they had removed enough drywall and insulation to dry the place out.  And they had.  Driers and blowers were set in place, along with a good-looking HEPA filter for the air.

My recommendation:  the time to get a battery back up for your sump pump is long before any predicted storm.  There is usually a good supply at my local hardware stores.  BUT NOT JUST BEFORE BIG STORMS!  It might be prudent to have one anyway and not worry about if this or that storm might cause a problem.  It comes down to Robert Baden-Powell's famous Boy Scout Motto:  Be Prepared.

 

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 27 commentsJay Markanich • February 02 2013 02:31AM

Comments

Thanks for the information. How many hours do the batteries in these pumps  last ? 

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) almost 8 years ago

You're up early Gita!  It says so in the third paragraph, about 72 hours.  That's my understanding anyway.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

The battery back up for my sump pump was ordered on day 2 of my occupancy.

Wet basements are insidious and far more destructive than just the water.  The lingering damage can cause a reduction in property value. 

A battery back up is my #1 recommendation to new home buyers.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 8 years ago

Yes, getting a battery back up would save a lot of basements and would come in handy for many of my cusomers.  I'm going to start suggesting that. esp since we've had so many power outages lately.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) almost 8 years ago

The damage in this house is between $12 and $15K, Lenn.  I don't know what a battery costs, but it is cheap!

Buy yours right away Debbie!  You can't be high enough when those glaciers start coming (global cooling, you know...).

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

One caveat.. .they will go bad after a while. .I wonder how often one replaces them Jay? 

Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) almost 8 years ago

What a great idea!  I've never heard of this before. I have an apartment house that can use this! Thank goodness for our Active Rain contributing home inspectors!

Posted by Barbara Tattersall, GRI (Keller Williams Realty Metropolitan (Keene,NH)) almost 8 years ago

What doesn't go bad after a while Fernando!?  I guess they are replaced when they go bad, but as to when it would depend on how often they are used.

Barbara - they are a wise investment! 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

...or have a whole house generator....I love ours and when I wake to blinking clocks, I know I just have to re-set the dsl and change some clocks

Posted by Wallace S. Gibson, CPM, LandlordWhisperer (Gibson Management Group, Ltd.) almost 8 years ago

Jay I wonder in theory does the battery back up go bad after a certain amount of time?  For this post let us say I bought a battery back up 8 years ago and never looked at it would it still be good today? 

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) almost 8 years ago

I installed a battery back up when I moved in 8 YEARS AGO and it's still going.  The plumber who installed it charged $450 total.  It's not a simple system.

I suspect that the key is maintenance of the battery (water, etc.).

Not all sump pumps are equal.  Some homes have drainage systems that pour water into the sump pump pit all day and night.  I'm seen them.  Those pumps are going to run all day and night. 

If the drainage system is well designed, the water entering the pump well should be moderate. 

THIS IS ABOVE MY PAY GRADE.  I just know that it's comforting to have a battery back up when you live in the sticks with electrical outages.

 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 8 years ago

I would think having that system backed up would be a must! 72 hours is a long time, just going by the back up I have on my computer which only lasts maybe an hour, I'm gonna say it must be a hell of a system and can't be very cheap! I know, it's nothing compared to what this guy is going through.

There are no basements here, we are too close to sea level. it would be a pool before the hole was dug!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) almost 8 years ago

Jay- love your informative post. We had a battery backup installed on our sump seven years ago when we purchased our home. We actually made a decision to replace that pump last year, after the DC Derecho since some of our storms have been far more lengthy. I sleep better when the power goes out now!

 

Posted by Peggy James, Woodbridge Virginia Area Real Estate Specialist (EXIT Realty Associates) almost 8 years ago

Hi Jay,

Never did like these sump pumps. I did a lot of inspections in Michigan that had these. Most were not operating properly. You tell the tale on why it's so important to have a battery back up. Good post.

Have a great day and weekend in Bristow.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) almost 8 years ago

We had one installed 1 day before Hurricane Sandy !!!!! Cost over $550, but it's worth it to protect our finished basement !

Posted by Michael J. Perry, Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist (KW Elite ) almost 8 years ago

Hi Jay;

I own a Basement Waterproofing Company in New Jersey. I agree with the idea that you need a sump pump with an alternative power source like a battery for when the power goes out.

However your understanding that battery backups last for 72 hours is WRONG. The systems sold in Home Depot and Lowes is called the Basement Watchdog and are good for 7.5 hours, it says so right on the box.

We wrote a blog this week on that exact subject: http://www.a-1basements.com/blog-1/bid/142270/Basement-Watchdog-vs-A-1-s-7-Day-Battery-Backup-Sump-Pump

We offer a 7 Day Battery BAckup Sump Pump System here in NJ and also install long lasting Water Powered Sump Pumps where municipal water pressure is high enough.

 

Posted by Doug Lynch (A-1 Basement Solutions) almost 8 years ago

Jay, this is good information because you never know when the power will go off during a storm. Lately we've been getting some pretty bad storms. Thanks.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA almost 8 years ago

Been through this myself, Jay ... and so agree with you that a battery back-up is a necessity for peace of mind.  Especially in some areas.  Nothing is worse than water damage.  And those taking this step should make sure they check their battery often ... and make sure they are getting a battery with long life.  Some back-ups are as short as 8 hours.  You get what you pay for.  This is important info you provide ... an absolute must for homeowners to consider ...

Gene

Posted by Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi, 708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience (NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656) almost 8 years ago

Jay, I am no math whiz but I am pretty sure that 3 inches of water over 1200 squre feet is about 2250 gallons :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 8 years ago

That works Wallace!  I saw a generator the other day that would power a small city.

I would think anything charged and electric will go bad after a while James, but as to how long I don't know.

Lenn - the one we have it seems to me cost way over $500 and is supposed to be a real good one.  But still, it's cheaper than the damage here!  I know there are some real cheap batteries out there, which I would never spring for.

Fred - that is what they told me when I bought it.  But that comment assumes intermittent operation, not continuous, and in that light I was told three days.

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Thanks Peggy.  You would sleep better!  I was in Woodbridge just this morning and going back on Tuesday!

Clint - this place was a disaster.  When I arrived there was a mountain of plastic bags out front, full of carpeting and pad.

Michael - very smart!  The time to buy is BEFORE the storm!

Thanks Doug.  I didn't see your post!  But still, I had this experience just yesterday.  We have the Basement Watchdog BWD12 - 120C.  Continuously operating it lasts 7.5 hours - it says so on the box.  Running intermittently without power in the house it says 72 hours - right on the box!  Now, how to define "intermittent" is unknown!  I never go to Home Depot.  When I order stuff like this I get it from specialty stores.  It was almost $600 with tax.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Michael - the gods are angry with the credit-card gubment and striking back!  Or something like that.

Gene - I think the operation time depends on how often it turns on and off.  My unit uses the word "intermittent," and I am not sure how to define that!

Charlie - now you got me thinking!  We no be math whiz neithers.  I did the calculation on the "Convert Units" app on my phone!  Could be I am very wrong!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

That's exactly the scenario here Erica.  A battery is the only way to aid that.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

I always recommend the battery back up for a sump pump. Unless it already has one :)

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 8 years ago

My "life experience" comment is absolutely true Jim.  I say it often!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Your post is a good reminder that we have to look out for ourselves.  We have become so accustomed to reliable electrical service that we forget what all is counting on that power being there when we need it.  Back up batteries for things like a sump pump and generators for areas that experience more wide spread problems such as hurricanes are a good investment.

Posted by Robert Sole (REM Inspections LLC) almost 8 years ago

We do Robert.  The good ones aren't cheap, but they are the GOOD ones!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

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