Best Cistern Pumps in 2021

Rainwater harvesting systems are increasingly becoming popular. With rising water costs and a lot of uncertainties in digging wells, it’s easy to see why people would rather get it straight from the sky. 

In this article, I’ll share with you the best cistern pumps you can get for your system. Chosen for their performance, quality, and ease of installation, these pumps have been personally handpicked from dozens of other pumps in their category. Whether you need a submersible, an above ground pump, a garden pump, or even a good ol’ hand pump, it’s all here for you.

Franklin Electric C1 Grundfos MQ3-35 Flojet Quiet Quad

Best overall

Best external pump

Best for garden hose

20 GPM at 100'

22 GPM/51 psi

3.3 GPM/36 psi

Editor Rating: 4.8

Editor Rating: 4.7

Editor Rating: 4.5

The Best Cistern Pumps in 2020

The best for overall value

Franklin Electric is one of the strongest brands in the pumping industry and for good reason. This pump , for example, easily has the best combination of performance and price for a cistern pump. Moving up to 20 GPM of water at 100′ of head, it’s a very strong pump suited best for underground cisterns.

The whole assembly sits inside a single shell housing made of stainless steel that helps cool and resists corrosion throughout the years. I also really like the bottom suction design that allows the pump to have as much drawdown as possible to give you as much water as you can get.

Best above ground pump

If you’re looking to send water to the upper and outer reaches of your house, a booster pump like the Grundfos MQ can help you. It has a maximum flow of 22 GPM and head of 51 psi which should answer most household needs. Completely automatic, super quiet, and very reliable — it’s the perfect addition to your cistern system. 

The MQ pumps work well whether you have an aboveground or underground cistern since the pump can pull from up to 26 feet below. If your cistern is out of water, the pump can also be used to boost city water into your home. It costs quite a bit but the versatility it gives you is one of a kind and the quality is the best you can get.

Best featured cistern pump

The SBA 3-45 is a fully-featured submersible pump specially made for cisterns and break tanks. Best for cisterns up to 30 feet, the pump has a 100′ head and 12.5 GPM capacity. It’s built with integrated control saving you time and money installing an external one. That’s an impressive feature you won’t find in most other pumps. The body is made with the exceptional quality you can expect of a Grundfos pump.

My favorite part about it though is that it comes with a floating extractor to keep as much scum and dirt from getting into your water.  It’s not cheap, but for the benefits it gives and the headaches it’ll save you, it’s totally worth considering.

A more affordable above ground alternative

If you want a more affordable alternative to the Grundfos, this Red Lion jet pump is a great choice. A subsidiary of Franklin Electric, Red Lion is an industry leader for pumps that offer excellent performance at a great price. 

This pump itself is made with a durable cast iron casing with a high-quality coating to give you clean water for years to come. An awesome workhorse perfect for shallow wells and cisterns in your cabin or farmhouse.

For when the power goes out

When the lights go out, you need to have a good ol’ hand pump to keep that water going. Nothing beats Simmons when it comes to that kind of work. This pitcher pump will suck water up to 25 feet below. It has a very durable, non-corrosive build that’s easy to replace when the time comes. 

Best for above ground drums

If you just need a pump for spraying your garden from a rain barrel harvesting system, this Flojet Quiet Quad pump is for you. It can boost your water up to 35 psi and deliver up to 3.3 GPM which is perfect for small gardens.

The pump uses a pressure switch to detect if it needs to start and stop automatically. When you squeeze the lever of your sprayer, the pressure in the hose drops signaling the pump to run. Once you let the lever go, the pump stops. Pretty convenient, isn’t it? 

For water transfer

When you have a rainwater harvesting system, you may find yourself having to move water from one container to another. A utility pump will give you the flexibility you need to do all of it faster. No longer do you need to fill the bucket over and over with the Superior Pump 91570.

It’s a powerful ½ HP utility pump that can move as much as 3300 GPH or up to 25′ of head. You can also use it to clear floodwater and your pool or for any other water transfer application.

Buyer's Guide

1. Capacity

Perhaps the most important thing to consider is the pump’s ability to do the job. When choosing the pump, you have to consider how far and how high you’re pumping. You want to make sure that the pump you choose has enough power to push the water into your home. 

The ‘head’ or pressure mentioned here basically means the maximum height that the pump can lift. However, it isn’t that straightforward, you have to take into consideration that your pipes will have bends and fittings that would take up some of that energy. Always make sure you have some extra pressure at the point of use and that you have enough water flow at that point based on the pump’s capacity.

2. Build Quality

Now that you know your pump can do the job, you have to make sure it can do so for a long time. High quality pumps are rare and may be priced higher but they’re totally worth it. You can save yourself from all the cost of repairs and replacement that can easily add up when choosing a cheap pump. You’ll save yourself from headaches too. 

If you’re using the cistern pump for potable water supply, choose one with a stainless steel or a plastic casing. Other materials may corrode after a few years even with a good amount of coating. Best to be safe.

3. Ease of Installation

Installation is an important factor specially if you want to do the job yourself. You have to consider the weight, dimensions, cord length, switch, port sizes, and panel connections. 

An external booster pump like the Grundfos MQ3-35 would be easier to install. A submersible pump like the Franklin Electric C1 pump, however, has it’s own perks such as a better head capacity that’s hard to ignore.

4. Price

A lot of us catch rainwater to save on our water bills. Even if it was purely out of necessity, price would still be a factor we have to consider. Although all the units here have the best price to performance ratio, what matters most is if it makes sense to you. Just remember to prioritize quality over it and you’ll reap the rewards many times over.

What is a cistern pump?

A cistern pump is a water transfer device used in moving collected rainwater in a cistern to the point of consumption. Different types are used for different rainwater system setups but they all have the same purpose: moving the rain water you collected.

How does a cistern pump work?

A cistern pump, like most pumps, use an electric motor to spin an impeller. Water from the cistern is pushed by the impeller inside a casing until it reaches an outlet port. The water exits the port and reaches a series of pipes that lead to where the water is needed. 

The first type of cistern pump is the submersible, this pump is submerged into the cistern where it draws surrounding water and pushes it into your home. The second one is the above ground pump which essentially acts like a vacuum and sucks the water from below before pushing it up to where you need it.

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