Is Your Sump Pump Ready for Stormy Weather?

Water can cause significant damage, so a sump pump can be critical to protecting your home. This is especially true for homes in flood-prone areas. If you have a sump pump, you probably rarely think about it.  It’s one of those home purchases that isn’t terribly exciting. It sits in that dark corner of your basement, unnoticed.  It doesn’t get much attention until it isn’t working properly. A sump pump’s ability to keep your basement dry depends first on your pump selection.  How well you maintain your sump pump predicts how effective it will be when weather strikes. As the rainy or hurricane season approaches, many homeowners remember to clean out their gutters and drains.  They buy batteries and water. However, it’s also important to ask, is your sump pump ready for stormy weather?

Do I have the correct type of sump pump installed?

There are two types of sump pumps:  pedestal and submersible. Pedestal sump pumps are appropriate where there is a low water table and only minor flooding.  A pedestal pump has a motor that sits outside the water collection area on top of a pedestal. This makes them cheaper to install initially, but takes up more area in a small space.  Submersible sump pumps are best where there is a higher water table and heavier flooding. Submersible pumps are submerged in the water collection area. The motors are stronger and quieter, and pumps are out of the way.  When considering the type, also consider size. Sump pumps are measured by horsepower (HP). A 1/3 HP sump pump is usually sufficient for an average-sized home in an area with an average water table. However, if you have a larger home, a higher water table, a higher vertical lift or long pipe run to discharge water, you may need to up-size to a 1/2 HP unit.  For long-term efficiency and performance, selecting the correct type and size is critical. Call in a professional to help with your selection. Regardless of your choice, the pump will only continue to work its magic if it’s properly maintained.

How to maintain your sump pump

At a minimum, sump pumps should be inspected annually.  Late winter or early spring is a good time to check your pump.  However, several factors affect groundwater, so checking throughout the year is best. Here are a few ways to check to see how well your sump pump is maintained:

  • Is the pump getting power?  No power and your pump is useless.  Sounds silly, but make sure it’s plugged in.  Make sure no circuits are tripped. Also, all pumps require a GFCI connection. Unfortunately, GFCIs turn off mistakenly at times. Ensure the GFCI is powering the pump.

  • Inspect the pump, float and switch each year.

  • Clean hoses to prevent clogging.

  • Clear water collection pit of debris that might clog hoses.

  • Vibrations during pumping can cause it to slant.  Make sure your pump is sitting straight so the float moves easily.

  • Add a gallon of water to the pit to test that the pump functions and hoses are clear.

Even well-maintained sump pumps need repair or replacement at times.  They are mechanical systems after all. Be sure you know what signs you should be looking for to know it’s time to call in a plumbing professional.

Signs it’s time to repair or replace your sump pump

  • The pump is noisier than usual:  This can signal internal parts are damaged or worn. This damage can occur when debris is sucked in by the pump.  Repairing these internal components is difficult at best, so replacement is recommended.

  • Frequent on and off:  If the pump starts and stops too often, it could be backflow from an obstruction in a discharge pipe.  This could also happen if you’re sump pump is not large enough to handle the demand of your home. In that case, replacing your pump with the appropriate size would be smart.

  • It’s getting power, but not working:  An electrical problem is likely if the unit is receiving power, but not operating.  Electrical problems typically mean it’s time to replace the pump. If the float switch is getting power, but the pump is not working, your motor needs replacement.

  • How often should I expect to replace my sump pump?  You’ll hear a variety of recommendations. Some suggest every five years.  Others say 5-10 years. Still others say a pedestal pump can last 25-30 years.  How often your sump pump runs determines wear and tear. Wear and tear determine how often it needs replacement.  Having your unit inspected and maintained professionally will ensure your unit is replaced at the right time, before an unwelcome water disaster. Average replacement cost ranges from $650-$1780 nationwide.  While that’s not an insignificant cost, it could be far less costly than water damage in your basement.  That’s especially true if you have a finished basement with drywall, carpeting, furniture, and electronics to protect.  Investing in maintaining and replacing your sump pump at the appropriate time can save you thousands in clean-up, repairs and replacements after a flooded basement.

Do you have battery backup?

Will your sump pump work when the power is out?  If it doesn’t have built-in battery back-up, consider adding an emergency battery back-up sump pump.  A battery back-up is a lifesaver when the power is out. Equally important, if heavy rains overwhelm the primary pump, the back-up is there to continue the job.

To make sure your sump pump is weather ready, contact your plumbing professionals at Linthicum Plumbing & Drain Cleaning to schedule sump pump maintenance, repair or replacement.