Seeking a Water Pump
October 18, 2011 9:47 AM   Subscribe

I regularly need to clear out 15-20 gallons of water from a basin. What would be an appropriate pump for this, and what other accessories would be required? I need the water to be as close to completely drained as possible. There is a sink nearby to drain the water into. Specific links to actual pumps and accessories would be very helpful!

The situation is that water will occasionally fill a basin, but I am not physically able to lift and dump the water out once it is filled. I'd like a set-up to totally clear the water out. I know I need a pump and a floating mechanism, but what I see in the stores doesn't seem appropriate for this amount of water, and I am not sufficiently DIY-savvy to understand what I am looking at online. Many thanks.
posted by thegreatfleecircus to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If he sink is lower than the basin, you can just siphon it out with gravity. Fill a plastic tube or hose with water (putting a finger over one end), stick one end in the water in the basin, and the other end at a lower level.
posted by goethean at 9:51 AM on October 18, 2011

A sump pump is a fairly standard piece of equipment. They usually come with an attached float that will activate the pump when water reaches a particular level. If the basin will fill and overflow, that would be your best bet. If, however, you want to be bothered with plugging something in from time to time because the basin will never overflow, you can get a small pond pump (I like Laguna pumps). But I think you're looking for a sump.
posted by rich at 9:52 AM on October 18, 2011

Yeah, this is what siphons are made for. They're also like $5 at your local pet store and basically can't break, as they're just a glorified rubber tube. You can get around 90% of the water out of any given container this way, more if you're attentive.
posted by valkyryn at 9:55 AM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

go to the outdoor/gardening section of your local Home Depot or equivalent and find the smallest pond pump you can find. That and some rubber tubing of the appropriate length and diameter will run you maybe $25 all told.
posted by xbonesgt at 10:01 AM on October 18, 2011

Do you have a good wet/dry shopvac? This is exactly the type of job I bought mine for and it's much faster than any pump. And, as an added bonus, it's great for all sorts of other cleanup.
posted by buggzzee23 at 10:07 AM on October 18, 2011

Sump pump is your best bet. Should be around $70.
posted by Odinhead at 10:11 AM on October 18, 2011

You don't necessarily need a float switch, so long as you're willing to stand there and unplug the pump when it's done working.

I think you may have problems with aquarium and pond pumps; they're designed to run while fully immersed, not to draw water out of a nearly empty container. I think you need something like this. Its intake is on the bottom of the unit, and it can remove all but the last 1/4" or so of water depth. Connect a garden hose, drop pump in basin, plug in.
posted by jon1270 at 10:11 AM on October 18, 2011

The pump you're looking for is called a "utility" pump, although with that volume of water really even a fountain pump would work. A sump pump won't get the last 2" or so of water, whereas a utility pump will get down below 1/4" assuming a flat bottom. A normal utility pump will be rated at at least 1600 or so gallons per hour, a small sump pump will be in the 2800 range. You don't need anything that big, but at least it will be fast. You can purchase an auxilliary float for any submersible pump, or you can buy a utility pump w/ integrated automatic switch. I believe the one Lowe's sells is ~$130.

For that tiny bit of water you could also use a drill-powered pump, which would use garden hose and be less than $20. Not automatic, and requires a drill.

As above, a fountain or pond pump will work, the tiny ones will only be able to push just the tiniest volume of head (how far they can vertically push water) and they won't do well if there is anything other than water or algae being pumped.
posted by TomMelee at 10:13 AM on October 18, 2011

I have this one, although there are smaller (and automatic) ones available.
posted by TomMelee at 10:15 AM on October 18, 2011

For an ad-hoc bathwater greywater system, we bought a Flotec FPOS1775A self-contained utility pump when Yardbirds was going out of business. Drop it in the tub, plug it in, leaves about ½" of water, switches off when it runs out of water. Has a standard garden hose fitting for its outflow and a self-contained float.

As others have mentioned, I'd go by a nursery that sells fountain pumps and see what they've got that'll draw in very little water. The pump will be smaller and easier to manage.
posted by straw at 10:18 AM on October 18, 2011

You could also use a marine grade bilge pump, you'll just need to get a 12 volt transformer to run it.
posted by samsara at 10:22 AM on October 18, 2011

Oops that link was AC, 12 volt DC transformer rather.
posted by samsara at 10:26 AM on October 18, 2011

Another vote for siphon, you can spend a little more and get ones with shut off switches to reduce mess. Those are still going to be cheaper than a pump and will get as much water as many of the pumps recommended above.

If the basin is higher than the sink though, why don't you just install a piece of tubing into the side or bottom of the basin and put a valve on it? That way all you have to do is turn the tap and the basin will drain itself.
posted by fshgrl at 10:43 AM on October 18, 2011

What's your capacity for failure and is this reasonably clean water?

Harbor Freight is the go-to place to get cheap stuff that may well just crap out. I got a pump from them that would work for this purpose (assuming clean water) for around $50. It's not self-priming but if you can be sure it'll be below the basin you don't need to care. However it's probably more appropriate for a more experienced DIYer - mine required me to wire power into it.

Is this some sort of condensation application? An A/C or a dehumidifier? There's ready-to-go solutions for that sort of thing. Your statement about 20-30 gallons seems high for that but maybe that's just how it's been done so far?

My A/C is across the basement from the drain so one of those little pumps pushes it up to ceiling level in some clear rubber 3/4" hose and across to dump in the utility sink. If you want something for larger capacity you're probably looking for something along the lines of these laundry tray pump solutions. We're considering something like that so we can move our washer & dryer across the room w/o major drain surgery.
posted by phearlez at 11:16 AM on October 18, 2011

Response by poster: -The basin is not higher than the sink, and can't be, unfortunately. That is a requirement for a siphon, right?
-What about something like this?
-The water is clean, just with a little soap in it.
-Also, the place is tiny, so a shop vac would create a storage problem.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 11:31 AM on October 18, 2011

Response by poster: Also, I am willing to spend a little more in order to make the system as small and simple as possible, with the fewest components. I'll be using it very regularly, so decent quality would be helpful. These are some good ideas though, thanks all!
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 11:42 AM on October 18, 2011

That is basically exactly the same thing that jon1270 and I linked to. Please note that the one you linked to is NOT automatic. (And in my experience, Northern Tool is only slightly above Harbor Freight quality wise, and I spent about $12,000 there total when I was running a warehouse.)
posted by TomMelee at 12:33 PM on October 18, 2011

Is the basin used as an accomodation of a physical limitation? Could the sink be lowered to suit? Perhaps a drain added to the basin that ties into the plumbing?

I suppose I'm saying that perhaps there is another solution aside from pumping out the basin, depending on what the purpose of the setup is.
posted by jsturgill at 12:52 PM on October 18, 2011

Response by poster: TomMelee, both of those options look good. I only linked to the other one because I was wondering what was different about it compared to anything else, since I hadn't been able to distinguish among all the options. So thanks for pointing out the automatic aspect and the quality aspect. Okay, I think I can see what I need here. Thanks for all this information, it has been very helpful.

(And yes, I would love a more permanent plumbed-in solution, but that is definitely beyond my capability and finances!)

Thanks again everyone for taking the time!
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 1:04 PM on October 18, 2011

Differences between these utility pumps can be subtle, but one thing to look at is the height of those intake openings around the bottom edge of the pump, because when the water level drops to the top of those openings the pump will suck air instead of water and thus stop working, even if it keeps running. In other words, a pump with vertically smaller openings will make your basin emptier.
posted by jon1270 at 2:15 PM on October 18, 2011

I'd start with the siphon route, but you could get a nice 3-5 gallon household wet-dry vacuum.

That way, when you're done with the job, you've still got a nice household wet-dry vacuum. Even the friendliest of these beggers tend to be a semi-industrial monster sucker, and they'll vacuum up the things you wouldn't risk on your regular vacuum cleaner-- coins, tacks, screws, etc and you can always fish whatever out of the belly of the beast. Plus, someday something will back up, and disgorge a few gallons of septic water or toilet water or gray-water all over your room or basement, and you will thank the gods that you have a wet-dry vac.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:46 PM on October 18, 2011

It is *not* a requirement for a siphon that the sink be below the basin. The fun feature of a siphon is that the drain can be higher than the source.

There is a limit, and that limit is the height at which the unsupported weight of the water (understanding that tube that's not perfectly vertical will partially support the weight) is equal to that of the upward force generated by the perfect vacuum suction at the top. That height is about 10 meters, or about 32 feet (depends on air pressure and the power of the vacuum), which, therefore, is the height of a barometer if it's made with water instead of mercury. So, you can siphon as far as the second floor from the basement, if you like.

A plain plastic tube can be the entire siphon as long as you're willing to provide the vacuum force (your mouth), and use your thumb as the stopper (or kink the tube) while you move from the vacuum force to the sink. Since this can be unsanitary, gross, or both, you can buy siphons with a hand-pump-- either a small squeezy thing or else a long pump that runs laterally with a section of tube. If you want to get all the water and have better control, attach a stiff tube to the basin-end of the siphon, and use it as a wand to suck up water. Once the basin-end sucks air, though, gravity decides where the siphon's water goes. That's when you bring out your wet-dry vac!

Homebrew supply stores and catalogs sell some fantastically easy-start siphons that don't require a mouth or thumb (bacteria is the enemy of young beer), made for bottling homebrew, but they'll be priced up for the beer-hobbyist market. Start at the hardware/garden store and go the homebrew route as a last resort.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:19 PM on October 18, 2011

How about a water bed siphon?
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:43 PM on October 18, 2011

This is for your non-code non-draining shower, right? Please, please make sure whatever pump you get is plugged in to a GFCI outlet and, if at all possible, remove the pump when showering/bathing. If the pump is on a non-GFCI circuit you need to ALWAYS REMOVE the pump when showering. Always. And, this should go without saying, do not run the pump when showering.
posted by 6550 at 8:09 PM on October 18, 2011

The fun feature of a siphon is that the drain can be higher than the source.

What? I don't think that's true. The motive force is the height difference.
posted by ctmf at 9:38 PM on October 18, 2011

That's mostly true. Siphons are gravity driven. The homebrew siphons work like a pump to get the siphon going, but if the drain is higher than the basin you'll need to supply a constant pumping action to move the water. Without it, the water would find the least resistant path to a lower altitude via back to the basin. But...In order to do get a siphon working to a drain that is higher, you'd have to seal the hose to the sink drain and not let any air go back in from the top end of the hose. From there, the lowest possible water level will be the septic/sewer as the house's plumbing becomes part of the siphon. I would think that's a risky thing to do however...if the backwards pull of the water in the hose enough to draw pressure back from the septic risk backwashing into your hose whatever nasty things are in the traps. You'll also likely have to move the bottom end of the hose higher than the drain to get the remaining bits of water out of it. It'd be a fun science experiment, but as a practical application might be more work than it's worth..
posted by samsara at 6:24 AM on October 19, 2011

I see 6550's already mentioned the GFCI, which I came here to suggest. Any time you've got electricity around water, you should make sure the electricity's going through a GFCI. It works (roughly) by comparing the amount of electricity that flows out of a circuit with the amount that comes back in. If there's less electricity coming in than going out, then some of it is being conducted somewhere else, possibly through you. It'll shut off the current fast enough to keep it from killing you if you find you've accidentally become a ground line.

The best solution (if you're not comfortable installing one yourself) would be to have an electrician come and put one in for you. Not sure how much that would cost, but it's quick work.

The second best solution would be to get an extension cord with a GFCI built in. Keep in mind that the GFCI only protects downstream, so you could still be shocked if you have any contact with the wall current.
posted by echo target at 9:12 AM on October 19, 2011

Oh heck, I was indeed confusing siphoning with vacuum-drawn water (as opposed to pump-shoved water). I was thinking of the property that siphons can climb decent heights (10m, give or take) but indeed, the drain must be lower.

That said, is the close-by sink the only drain? You can buy quite a length of siphon-ready plastic tubing before you get to the cost of a basic pump. If any drain is lower than the basin's water-level, it might be the better drain.
posted by Sunburnt at 5:48 PM on October 20, 2011

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