Years ago people did what they did because of hand labor and it was easier to install a root cellar in the basement of their home where it was convenient to access their foods and most people used electrical sump pumps when electricity was fairly inexpensive.
Today, there is an increasing movement back to the good old days. People today are more energy conscious and with more and more people turning to solar and wind power, one has to give careful thought to how much electrical appliances and pumps we want to install.
In our desire to be modern homesteaders we want to avoid water pumps that drain away water. In fact, we want to do it better than our pioneers. We want to learn from them but improve it. We want it be eye appealing and resaleable to potential buyers.
Root Cellar Damage
In the picture below you will note three feet of water in a newly dug root cellar. This root cellar was dug in clay loam soil. One rainfall was all it took to fill it in with water. The homeowner wanted to dig a cellar close to a pre-exisiting home and then try go under the house a few feet.
Digging under the house proved to be impossible due to the flooding and because they would need a sump pump to keep everything dry on limited solar-power supply. The owner had already placed 1000 pounds of potatoes in the root cellar and had to rescue them and lay them all out to dry.
All his efforts in building the root cellar were in vain. This was a hard lesson to learn. Packing one hundred pound sacks of potatoes down the ladder was easy compared to bringing them back up soaked with water.
The owner had to go back to plan B and may end up being the best choice for modern homesteaders today due to increased pressure to reduce the use of fossil fuels and our huge demand for electricity.
Building an above ground root cellar will prevent most flooding and is fairly simple to build. The intial cost may be the same and no electrical pumps will be needed to keep it dry.