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The existence of a grinder pump isn't necessarily a red flag when you're buying a home, but there are some things to consider before you commit.
|🔑 Key takeaways
You probably DO want a house with a grinder pump if…
You really like the house
If the grinder pump is operating properly, you shouldn’t even notice it most of the time. The maintenance and costs shouldn’t be significantly more frequent or expensive than your HVAC or other household systems.
The house is more than 750 feet from the city sewer line
When a property is that far away from the sewer, a grinder pump will have the pressure necessary to pump the sewage that distance.
The sewage needs to be pumped more than 75 feet vertically
Let’s say your potential house is downhill from the sewer line. If the vertical distance is more than 75 feet, you'll need a grinder pump to achieve the necessary pressure to pump the sewage that high. Consult an inspector or plumber when purchasing a home to ensure the grinder pump makes sense for that specific property.
You should AVOID buying a house with a grinder pump if…
The house has a septic tank
Grinder pumps shouldn't be combined with septic tank systems. Pumps create a slurry that causes the septic tank to work improperly.
You can't afford to risk pump-caused sewage backups
A broken-down grinder pump could lead to sewage backups — however, so can a traditional gravity-based sewer system. Avoiding houses with grinder pumps will eliminate the possibility of a pump-caused backup, but not the possibility of a backup in general.
Not all properties that have a grinder pump need one. Ejector pumps, for example, often operate at least as well and without a grinding mechanism.
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What's a grinder pump?
A grinder pump is a type of sewage pump. It collects wastewater in a basin, and then blades spin to liquify waste before it's pumped out of the house through the plumbing system. Think of them as garbage disposals for sewage.
Grinder pumps are approximately two feet in diameter and height, and they're usually installed underground or in a hole in your foundation. So you're most likely to see a pump when it's being installed or serviced. Grinder pumps are more common in commercial properties, though they can be used in either residential or commercial buildings.
What's an ejector pump?
An ejector pump is another type of sewage pump — but it doesn't use blades. Ejector pumps are cheaper and pump higher volumes than grinder pumps, so they're more common in residential homes. They're also less prone to clogs than grinder pumps because the blades on a grinder pump can dull over time or get caught on items like tampons or wipes.
Grinder pump vs. ejector pump: Which do you need?
|Maximum vertical distance
|Maximum pumping distance
|Does it have blades?
If the home you're buying has plumbing below the sewer line, you'll need a grinder pump or an ejector pump to move the wastewater out of the home. If you’re not sure whether the home's toilets or drains are below the sewer line, consult a plumber or home inspector.
Grinder pumps are more powerful than ejector pumps, which comes into play if the home you want to buy is farther than 750 feet from the city sewer line or more than 75 feet downhill.
Generally, grinder pumps should only be used when an ejector pump would be inadequate. They should NEVER be used with septic systems, however, as the slurry they create causes the septic system to work improperly.
Ejector pumps are more appropriate for most residential uses, as they're cheaper and less prone to clogging. They can still handle solids up to two inches in diameter, achieve a maximum head height of nearly 75 feet, and pump approximately 10,000 gallons per hour — most homes shouldn’t exceed any of those limits.
|🚨 Landlords, beware
If you're buying a building, you might want to avoid multi-unit properties that require pumps altogether.
Grinder pumps might seem useful for processing lots of waste, but you can't control what renters flush — and items like tampons or condoms could lead to costly repairs. Plus, multiple units means you can't determine who is responsible.
How much do grinder pumps cost?
- Installation: $2,000–5,000
- Operation: $30–50 per year
- Maintenance: $50–150 per hour
Grinder pumps typically cost about $30–50 a year to operate — they use about the same energy as a 40-watt light bulb. The more use a grinder pump gets, the higher the energy cost.
When a pump needs to be serviced, plumber labor costs usually range $50–150 per hour. The cost of parts will depend on what needs to be replaced or repaired.
Flushing inappropriate items such as tampons, condoms, or wipes will inevitably cause undue damage to your pump.
A properly treated pump is expected to last 7–10 years. But as time goes on, all pumps will wear down and the blades will dull.
Installing a new pump can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000. The cost varies greatly depending on the pump you select and the labor cost of your plumber.
Installation usually takes 6–10 hours, which could cost up to $1,500 in labor alone. Grinder pumps cost approximately four times as much as comparable ejector pumps, so you’ll want to carefully consider which option best suits your needs.
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What are the downsides to grinder pumps?
Grinder pumps are about four times more expensive than ejector pumps. Grinder pumps are also more prone to clogging and jamming than ejector pumps because of items being caught in the spinning blades. This could result in more frequent replacement than you might have had with an ejector pump.
|🛠 Many new sewage pumps come with a 24-month warranty. Flushing inappropriate materials, however, will probably invalidate your warranty as that's a user error, not an issue with the product. Be sure to only flush things meant for the toilet!
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Frequently asked questions about grinder pumps
Why do houses have grinder pumps?
Some houses have grinder pumps because they need to pump sewage to remove it from the home. Often people confuse grinder pumps and ejector pumps, but both remove sewage — grinders just chop it up with a spinning blade first.
How long does a grinder pump last?
The expected life span of a grinder pump is 7–10 years, as long as it's installed correctly and you don't flush inappropriate items.
Are grinder pumps loud?
If it's working properly, a grinder pump shouldn't be noisier than a washing machine. A grinder pump making loud noises may indicate clotting or a valve issue, in which case you should consult a plumber.