The Complete Guide To: Sewage Pump Systems

  • By: Monica Shulz

What You Will Learn In This Article

  • All about sewage pump systems!
  • Information on how to install your own sewage pump system
  • The difference between a residential sewage pump and commercial system
  • If you are considering a sewage pump system… Will you need a grinder pump and/or ejector pump?!


Read along and you shall learn!

Introduction to Sewage Pumps

If you know little to nothing about sewage pumps, you have come to the right place to start!


If you already have an idea of what they do and why you might need one, you can continue on down to the next text block, ‘Basement Sewage Pump System.’


Let us start off easy, what exactly is a Sewage Pump?


Well. Let’s begin with what sewage treatment is.

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Essentially, it is the removing of particles and contaminants from the wastewater that leaves your house or business.


There are several ways of doing this, but most people use sewage pumps.


Sewage pumps are generally submersible and they draw the wastewater through the pump, thereby removing the ‘bad’ stuff from the water so that it can be deposited or used elsewhere as a cleaner version.


In addition to a fully submersible sewage pump, there are also vertical pumps that allow the motor to be above ground so that anytime the pump needs maintenance, you do not have to enter the pit.


This type of sewage pump is usually used in a commercial setting, as most homes only use a shallow basin rather than a  deep pit.


According to Wikipedia, there are 3 main types of sewage pumps.

  1. A smaller, fully submersible pump that can be used by those in the commercial industry (for light jobs) or for domestic purposes. This type of pump will range between 1.01 to 2.95 horsepower.
  2. A larger, yet still fully submersible pump will handle a larger amount of solids, up to 2.6 inches. A sewage pump of this size would be used by larger entities like municipal groups and industries that need to move not only sewage but industrial wastewater perhaps.
  3. Finally, the largest pump is a chopper pump which, you guessed it, chops up larger particles and solids so that they can be passed through the system. These large solids and particles are usually found within the commercial industry, so they often choose to use this type of pump to prevent any potential clogging issues.


Keeping the above information in mind, you can even get more granular.


The generic sewage pump system will be installed in your house upon the initial building. However, you may come to find that you want more space in your house, so you build another bedroom with bathroom and find that you now need another sewage pump!


Having figured that out, will you need a basement sewage pump? Ejector pump? Grinder pump?


That’s what we are here to figure out!!

sewage plumbing systems

Sewage Ejector Pump System

Sewage ejector pump systems can be used for a home with smaller wastewater output, like with a modestly used toilet or simply for a laundry room.


This system is relatively simple to install if you are thinking of doing so by yourself!


By using an ejector pump, you will be able to take dirty wastewater and send it right on out through your sewer line.


Wouldn’t wastewater be sent through the sewer line when the house was built?


Yes! But….


An ejector pump system is preferred due to the plumbing being at a lower grade than the septic line or main sewer. (i.e. basement area)


The ejector pump will work against gravity to propel sewage water up and into the mainline if the main line is higher than the laundry room or bathroom you are looking to do.


You can even buy a system all put together, or if you know more about what you want, you can buy it piece by piece and build it on your own!


Cost wise, it is probably more expensive to buy the sewage ejector pump system already put together, but it just comes down to this:

More money, less work OR less money, more work!


Ejector pump systems are created to sit within a basin that is placed into a dug out hole in the ground.


Once in place, the basin will fill with water… holding around 30 gallons on average, but of course, this would just depend on your needs.

Similar to many other sewage pumps, as the basin’s water amount reaches a certain level it will trigger the float switch which will turn on the pump!

Here is a basic video to show how a Float Switch works

Here is the Float Switch TechnowledgeVlog used in the video

As the water level decreases, the pump will cease to run.

Here is a short video on how to Install RCWorst Float Switch

Here is the piggyback float switch they used in this video

In addition to considering where to dig the hole for the basin, you will also need to consider a vent. The vent is needed as a release of sewage gasses and to reduce the pressure within the pump while it is working.


It can be connected to an existing vent stack or you can run it up through the roof on its own.


Also, note the very important need for a check valve.


Guess what it does?!


Checks that the wastewater is only pumped out and that nothing comes back in!!


Finally, the sewage basin needs to be sealed airtight, including around the vent. This is not only for sanitary reasons, but to keep out any foul smells!


Anytime you are working with sewage, you should remember to always check with your local sewage authorities and building department.


As you would imagine, different areas have different codes that need to be abided by so you don’t have to do it all over again! If you have never done any plumbing before, it may be a good idea to find the number of a local plumber and keep it on hand, just in case!


You should consider a few factors before you begin planning, whether you do it yourself or hire someone to do the installation for you.

  1. The size and power of the ejector you need. Things to consider would be….
    1. How far does the sewage need to go to reach the mainline?
    2. How many drains/appliances will be going into the pump, potentially at the same time?
    3. How much space do you have for the basin?
  2. The price of an ejector sewage pump varies on a few factors….
    1. Horsepower, which will largely be figured out when you answer the questions above. The most popular Hp motors are ½ and ¾ which will generally do the job for the average residential home.
    2. Brand. There is a lot of them out there!! Keep an eye on where you buy your sewage pump system and make sure the manufacturer will honor the warranty!
    3. For an entire system that is already put together, you will spend anywhere from $400 to $1,000. Keep in mind that this type of system will be difficult to fix, if for no other reason than logistics, so you will want to buy a quality product for your home.

Sewage Grinder Pump System

Just like the basement sewage pump system, the sewage grinder pump system generally uses a float switch to indicate when the system starts to pump.


However, with a grinder pump, the float switch also turns on the grinder so that it can grind down the waste before pumping it through to the main drain.


Keep in mind that if you are planning on installing this yourself, you should have some background in sewage installations as this can be pretty difficult!


The main components of this type of pump are as follows:

  • Grinder tank
  • Wiring leads – these bring electricity to both the grinder pump and the sewage pump
  • Disconnect box – specifically for the grinder pump
  • Drain inlet – approximately 4 inches of PVC piping that will connect to drains that are serviced by the pump
  • Tank vent – since friction produces heat, the grinder will need to be vented. This can be done out the inlet pipe or directly as long as there are no more than 4 feet between the tank and the vent stack.
  • Drain gravity line – where the wastewater is brought into the tank thanks to good ole natural gravity!
  • The ground outlet for sewage – a very important part as this is the discharge outlet that goes to the outside by passing through the foundation.
  • Highly Recommended, depending on the type of sewage grinder pump, a Concrete Tank Anchor – preferably about 900 pounds which will prevent the pump from floating.
  • Finally, A tank bed made of gravel – approximately 6 inches of pea gravel.


Once the waste is ground up, it will either be carried out by pump pressure or gravity (as mentioned above) to its resting place of a septic tank, if at a house or perhaps a municipal sewer.


Due to the fact that these pumping systems move the waste using pressure, it is possible for a grinder pump system to send the wastewater all the way to a street sewer even if it is uphill!


It is also worth noting that these pumping systems will use between a ⅓ to a 2 horsepower electric motor to accomplish all this work.

Basement Sewage Pump System

Once you have decided that your home or business is in need of a sewage pump, it is time to start considering what kind of pump would best suit your needs!


For a house with a bathroom in the basement, you will probably want a basement sewage pump system.




As described in the name, this will be a pump system that is run out of your basement semi or fully buried underground.


Many of these sewage pump systems operate on a float switch.


What is that exactly??


It’s where you place the pump in a basin and as the basin gradually fills with water, the float switch floats up as the water level increases and triggers the system to turn on and start pumping water.


Generally speaking, the water will need to reach about mid-level of the pump prior to turning on the pump.


There are ways around this of course and you may decide to change the float switch system to one that will trigger the pump at a lower water level.


One thing to consider when choosing a basement sewage pump system is the noise level it will produce.


Keep in mind that you will be running this pump in your basement near a bathroom, so you will want a pump system that isn’t too loud!


A popular brand among many do-it-yourselfer’s is Zoeller, as they are generally known for being easy to install and quiet for your house!

Sewage Pump Problems

Sewage pumps are great when they work, but when they don’t…. You better look out!!


Arguably the most common problem that I hear is the float switch not working properly. Sometimes, they don’t float!! More often, they do not fully shut off the pump and it just continuously runs.


Often, this seems to be easily fixed by purchasing a new float switch or asking the manufacturer to honor their warranty and they usually will send you a replacement.


Heavy rains can sometimes overpower a sewage pump and hamper the float switch from working properly due to the influx of excessive water in such a short time period.


If you are from the north, perhaps it might occur when the snow starts to melt.


As long as the sewage pump is attempting to work, it will give you a sign that it is not functioning properly. For example, an alarm might go off, you might begin to smell a bad odor, or the water backup alarm will sound.


Always remember, that if you are investigating the issue yourself, please be careful doing so as there can be a lot going on under the surface!


Here are a couple of important issues to check:

  • The alarm goes off to let you know there is an issue with the float switch
    • No power!?
    • Start with the easy fix first, check the breaker. That didn’t work?
    • The pump might be jammed, be careful checking this yourself!
  • Float switch just isn’t working properly
    • To prevent flooding or causing more issues….
    • You should be able to bypass the switch and just plug the pump directly. NOTE: You will have to manually plug and unplug every time you need the pump to do its job!
  • Constant chirping?
    • `Prior to attempting all the above ideas, it might just be the TEST function going off! Double check your owner’s manual, but this generally means a battery needs to be replaced.
  • Bad smell?
    • Try pouring a couple gallons of water, it may just be your lines are dry and need to be flushed.

Sewage Pump Residential

Sewage pumping became popular in the 1960s, minimizing the dangerous task of sending people down into the ground to perform maintenance in a deep sewage pit.


The residential sewage pump is a, generally, fully submersible pump that takes the wastewater surrounding it and moves it to either a house’s sewage tank or to the main sewage line.


This type of pump is used as a unit that is either purchase a pre-made kit or can be purchased in parts and assembled.


For the most part, if you have some plumbing and installation experience, you may be able to do this installation on your own. However, always remember to check with your local codes to make sure everything is correct legally.


Additionally, the more specific types of sewage pump systems like an ejector pump (vertical in nature) or a grinder tend to be a bit of a tougher job, so reader beware!

Sewage Pump System Installation

So you are planning on installing a bathroom in the basement, great! How convenient!

Look at HouseImprovements from Youtube make a Sump pump Pit

Let’s see a little video guide from zimsjeep on how he installs sewage pumps

Here is the Sewage Check Valve he used in the video

Get the Ball Valve Here

You know you need a sink, toilet, perhaps a shower, but what else?


Well. What’re you going to do with all that wastewater?!


You will definitely need to install a sewage pump system.


But first…


Check with your local homeowner’s association or county’s water waste plant to make sure you are allowed to do this type of work on your own.


Also note, this is not necessarily easy for someone who has never done any type of home improvement on their own!


Now that you have been given fair warning…. Let us talk about what you will need to do the installation!


  • The most important piece…. A sewage pump!!
    • A very popular brand is Liberty sewage pumps. If you’d like to learn more about the different models, can read about some liberty sump pump 257 review.
  • Next, you will need piping material, generally PVC
  • Definitely will need a basin or tank
    • This will be where water will collect around the pump so it can suck it out! You can either purchase one to sit on a surface, or preferably stick one in a dug out area.
  • Float switch.
    • Check to see if your pump comes with one or maybe the manufacturer will have one you can purchase separately
  • Full-flow check valve


First, start by determining what size of a sewage pump system you need!!! There is a lot to choose from!


An easy guide is as follows:

1 to 3 Drains: .5 Horsepower

4 + Drains: ¾ Horsepower


Also keep in mind the distance the wastewater must travel from the pump to its destination (septic tank, wastewater plant…). This will also help you decide on the power of the pump.

Second, figure out where you are going to put the pump.

Since by this point you should know how close you will need the pump to the necessary drains and wastewater destination, find a nice place to create a pit that the tank will sit in.


Measure twice and dig once!! You don’t want the tank moving around it there!


You will also want to pick a location that is at a low level of elevation as you want the water to travel here down the drain lines somewhat naturally.


At this point, you should ensure the tank is level, then connect all the drain pipes and fill in the dirt around it. Make sure the dirt goes AROUND it and not IN it!

Third, install the new sewage pump!

Set the pump in its new home and connect all those drain pipes.


But wait!


Make sure the sewage pump fits flush inside the tank as you will need to put an airtight lid over the tank once installation is complete!


Next, you will want to put in a check valve that will ensure you do not have any backflow issues. You will need to double check with the plumbing codes in your area to ensure you do this part correctly up to code!


Let’s talk about ventilation for a second.


As the wastewater will be removed from the tank, it will create a vacuum you don’t want!


To prevent this, and the issues associated with it, you will need to create 2 pipe openings within the tank lid.


Just like the lid itself, make sure they are airtight!


Your vent piping will prevent this from occurring by allowing air flow and can be connected to any other vent you have that leaves the house, like the main.

Finally, confirm everything is as it should be and do a test run!

Now is the time to adjust your level sensors, i.e. your float switch.


The brand and model of pump you purchased will help determine the level of water needed to trigger the pump to turn on and start doing its job.


At this point, you can test the switch by pouring water into the tank and seeing when it begins to turn on and actively pump the water out.


Don’t forget to seal the tank and vent pipes properly!



I hope you learned everything you need to know about sewage pump systems!


Whether you need to replace one in your own house or are considering building an additional bathroom, sewage pumps will definitely be needed.


If nothing else, I hope you were able to answer a few of these questions which will put you on the right path to finding the right sewage pump system for you and your household!