Sump Pump Maintenance
If your sump pump doesn’t work, your basement is going to flood. It’s as simple as that. The good news is that with regular maintenance, your sump pump can work brilliantly to reroute unwanted water towards a safe outlet.
Heavy rain, melting snow, unplanned home drainage system, or cracks on your foundation can all bring unwanted water in your basement. But, as long as your sump pump works correctly, it’s the first line of defense to protect the structural integrity of your home. That’s why it’s important to do regular maintenance on it, and today, we will talk about the best sump pump maintenance practices.
Taking care of your sump pump
A sump pump is your silent ally. It works quietly in the background, and many homeowners might even forget they have a sump pump in the first place.
But, in order to do proper maintenance, you need to understand how a sump pump works and what to expect from it so you can take care of your house. Here are the best practices to properly maintain your sump pump.
How a Sump Pump Works
In order to do the proper maintenance of a device, you need to know how it operates. A sump pump is a pump powered by electricity that sits on a basin or pit called a sump pit, which collects the incoming water.
When the water reaches a certain height, the float switch triggers and activates the pump. The water is then pushed through a discharged pipe to somewhere safe, e.g., municipal storm pipe, dry well, emergency sewer, etc. When the water level recedes, the float switch disengages, and the pump shuts down. If your sump pump is constantly running it could mean that there is an issue and it needs to be inspected further.
Sump pump mainly has two major responsibilities:
- First, it gets rid of groundwater, which seeps through the permeable rocks around the house then is diverted towards the sump pit. This is the most common application.
- Secondly and most importantly, it evacuates a large amount of water in case of a flood. This doesn’t happen frequently; however, it is a big reason why people install sump pumps. A high-quality sump pump can evict up to 5000 gallons of water per hour.
Sump Pump Maintenance Schedule
A sump pump is a gentle yet critical device. Overall, it is very durable, but some of its parts are pretty delicate. Some of its components need more frequent maintenance than others. Here is a maintenance schedule you can follow.
If your sump pump disposes of washing machine water, then the inlet opening or screen needs to be checked every month. Take the pump out of the pit and clean the grates to avoid blockage that could harm the pump.
If your pump doesn’t dispose of water from a washing machine, you can check the screen every quarter. Also, examine if the GFCI outlet is tripping the pump and whether the cords are damaged or not. You could add a bucket of water to see if it can efficiently drain it out. The condition of the outlet pipes also needs some attention.
Remove the pump and clean the sump pit every year. Review the drainage system. If everything is fine, place it back together.
For the sake of the well-being of the pump, it needs maintenance annually. Understandably, there are cases where an owner can’t be in a position to check the pump thoroughly at a regular interval but don’t postpone maintenance for more than a year. Otherwise, you are asking for trouble.
Sump Pump Maintenance Checklist
Having an expert perform maintenance is a great way to prolong your pump’s lifespan. But, in case you want to do it yourself, here’s what a professional would do.
Inspect the pit.
Vigorously search for any debris that could be stored in the hole. Debris could hinder the float trigger system, and your pump might not start at all. You don’t want that to happen.
If there is any debris, empty all the water, take out the pump, and clean it up immediately. Use a shop vac in case of a big chunk of debris.
Review the float system.
Sometimes it can get burned out and doesn’t trigger when it should. Fill the basin with water and see if it works.
Examine the check valve.
If it is not installed correctly, then the water will flow back to the sump pit from the discharge pipes when the pump is turned off.
Clear the weep holes if there are any.
Something thin like a toothpick or a needle would do just fine.
The same goes for the impeller.
It gets easily clogged. If the clogging is severe, it will make loud noises, but our goal is not to reach that point. After cleaning, it will be just like a new impeller.
Explore for odors.
An unpleasing odor is very irritating and, not to mention, a huge discomfort. They usually come from a sump pump trap. Sump pumps have a trap that acts as a drain.
Even though it only contains water, since there is no water flow during the dry season generally, the trapped water gets evaporated, and gas is allowed to escape, creating a foul odor.
There is no need to call someone if this happens. You can tackle it yourself. Mix water and bleach with a 5:1 ratio to clean it, and that should solve the bad odor. Scrubbing the surface afterward also helps.
To prevent this in the future, try to have some water in the pipes. Just a little bit would do.
See if your alarm works precisely or not.
If you are worried about flood damage, a simple add-on like this could work wonders. You can manually raise the float switch and see if it rings or not.
Check your electrical supply.
Your top-class sump pump won’t matter if your electric supply isn’t working. Investigate whether the cords are connected to the power supply properly. That way, you could sleep peacefully knowing that at least your power outlet is fine.
Pumps are dependent on GFCI and circuit breakers.
Sometimes they are erroneously flipped, interfering with the pump. Make sure they are working as intended.
While newer models come with auto-shutdown features, the older ones do not. So, it is necessary to keep an eye out for it.
Replace any old or broken cables.
Even a small tear could end up hurting your overall system. Be vigilant about exposed wires. Water coming in contact with an exposed electrical wire is not the kind of combo package you want to be around.
Troubleshooting Your Sump Pump
Sometimes your pump will have trouble operating, but there is no cause for panic as most solutions are simple. Most of them revolve around discharge pipes, electrical connections, inlet, and discharge pipes, float systems, etc.
Here are some common problems, along with solutions.
- The pump is not turning on. Check whether the water level is too low. The circuit breaker could be another reason. Make sure there is no clogging.
- The pump does not shut off. Examine the float switch is working correctly or not. Cleaning the discharge pipes might also help.
- The pump frequently turns on and off. Investigate for backflow due to faulty discharge pipes. An undersized pump could be another reason.
Assuming the worst happens and there is a severe weather condition, you could be out of power for a few days. And your electrically powered pump will serve no purpose in that crisis.
To keep your pump functioning, installing an auxiliary power source is not a bad idea. This would tap into the water supply and help your pump flush out the intruding water.
For a few extra dollars, you can save your home from some extreme damage. A sump pump has a lifespan of 10 years, more if you are smart about it. Investing in an auxiliary power source would give you significant returns in the long term.
Modern sump pump models also come with a battery backup. Those also might be worth looking into, but we’re unsure whether it would help during a severe blackout.
Some people even plan to have a backup sump pump that works on water. When the main sump pump fails, it jumps in and pushes out the water outside. Most pumps like this follow the venturi effect principles.
Households with two sump pumps are not uncommon. You could consider it if extreme flooding is a concern for you; it’s a bargain compared to the damage repair by floods.
Ultimately, if you don’t experience extreme weather issues, you should be protected for a long time. An average sump pump has a lifespan of a decade. Combining it with our expert advice and regular maintenance, you could likely squeeze in an additional year or two of use.