Everything You Need To Know About Grinder Pumps and Whether Your Home Needs One

Becca Stokes
Written by Becca Stokes
Updated April 21, 2022
marble bathroom with gold hardware
Photo: Dariusz Jarzabek / Adobe Stock

Because ridding your own wastewater is just plain icky

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There’s really no subtle way to start a discussion about sewage. It’s not glamorous and, on the scale of “fun conversations,” sewer system parts fall at about a one. Still, grinder pumps are vital to the inner workings of your sewer system and without them, you’d be knee-deep in a wastewater backup dilemma that’s about as bad as it sounds. 

Not every home needs a grinder pump, but if you do need one, it’s best to know now. Keep reading to learn what grinder pumps do, why they’re important, and whether your home needs one.  

What Is a Grinder Pump?

Put simply, grinder pumps help remove wastewater from your home, and they are an alternative to a sewage pump (more on this below). Just like your garbage disposal, the grinder pump pulverizes the wastewater your home produces in places like the bathroom and kitchen.

Grinder pumps have a large underground tank that holds the wastewater your family produces. When the wastewater tank is full, the pump cycles and moves the water out of the tank and into the public sewer main. Grinder pumps are installed by expert plumbers

How To Know If Your Home Needs a Grinder Pump

In most houses, gravity helps move the wastewater through your pipes and into the sewer main (like when you flush the toilet). But gravity alone isn’t enough to get the job done if you live someplace where the elevation forces your waste to travel up to meet the sewer. In these cases, you’ll need a grinder pump to guide the water along. 

There are a few signs that can help you determine if your home needs a grinder pump: 

  1. Your toilets and drains clog a lot

  2. Your home has an unpleasant aroma (unrelated to cooking or stinky trash, of course) 

  3. You’ve added a new room to your home, like a kitchen or bathroom, which requires pumping the wastewater vertically. 

Nothing about what a grinder pump does is especially, well, attractive or pleasant. Luckily, grinder pumps are not an eyesore you must live with. These systems are buried underground and out of sight, just like septic systems.

What’s the Difference Between a Grinder Pump and a Sewage Lift Pump?

home septic tank in yard
Photo: Anne / Adobe Stock

Sewage lift pumps work the same way as grinder pumps (moving wastewater uphill via pump to meet the public sewer main), but they cannot process solids the same way a grinder pump can. 

Sewage lift pumps lack the cutting mechanism that enables them to process harder materials. They are less expensive (between $300 and $800), but they aren’t as powerful as grinder pumps. This also means that sewage lift pumps cannot move sewage to as high a point as a grinder pump.

Larger Households Require More Horsepower

If your home already has a grinder pump and you’re still noticing tell-tale signs (like frequently clogged toilets and sinks) it could be time to upgrade your grinder pump. Start by checking your existing horsepower. If there are four or fewer people living in your home, using a one-half horsepower grinder pump should be sufficient. Larger households should consider investing in a one-horsepower grinder pump to maximize your wastewater removal efforts.

How Much Does a Grinder Pump Cost? 

Grinder pumps cost $300 on average. The average cost to install a new grinder pump is between $2,000 and $4,000, including the pump and labor.

They also need to be replaced every 25 years. Daily use adds stress and strain to the system, leading to premature repairs or replacement. Some homeowners find that opting for a larger tank (1,500-gallon capacity) that cycles less is a better option. Before you buy one, do a little bit of math. The average household in the United States produces between 80-100 gallons of wastewater per day. In theory, a tank with a 150-gallon capacity would cycle the wastewater once a day. 

Consult a plumber in your area to help decide what size pump is right for your home, as well as tips for maintaining your system.

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