Tips for Keeping Your Sump Pump Working Like New

Tom Hartelby Tom Hartel
Backup sump pump

Most homeowners would prefer to appreciate a good downpour; watch as it’s feeding the lawn and/or garden, keeping the trees nourished and the shrubbery vibrant. However, too many homeowners find themselves worried that a sudden rainstorm dumping inches of water in a short time will have troubling results in their basements. Is the sump pump going to kick on when it is needed? Will the basement remain as dry after the storm as it was before?

Unfortunately, a flooded basement is not a rare occurrence, and it’s most often due to your sump pump not being capable of pumping out the water or never kicking on in the first place. The following are some of the common plumbing problems that will lead to a flooded basement and what you can do to make sure they don’t happen.

Power outage

The sump pump relies on electricity to do its job. However, when a big storm rolls through, it can take down trees and branches that take power lines with them as they fall to the ground. This is probably the most common cause of a sump pump failing to activate on – lack of power.

All you need is a battery-drive backup. Your plumber can set you up with a system that will allow you to throw caution to the wind the next time a big storm comes pounding – your power can go out and you can rely on your battery backup to keep the water flowing in the right direction.

Float issues

A sump pump relies on either a vertical or tethered float (depending on the model) that will rise as the sump pit fills with water. At certain level, the float will flip the switch on the pump, allowing it to remove water. As the float goes down, the pump is turned off. It seems fairly straightforward and fail proof, but the float sometimes get stuck with debris in the pit or to the side of the pit (more common with tethered floats).

Check your sump pit for debris, especially before you’re expecting rain. Ensure that the float is free and clear and not resting against the wall of the pit. Also, cover your sump pit to prevent debris from getting in it.

Wrong pump size

You can have a pump work for years, and then a big influx of water comes and you find out you’ve got the wrong size pump. When the water flow rate into the sump pit increases faster than your little pump can remove it, flooding is inevitable.

Talk to your plumber about what size pump will fit perfectly to your situation. If you’re in a low-lying area, you might need a larger pump than a home where water drain off is less of an issue.

Old pump

Sump pumps are not built to last forever. By some accounts, if yours is 10 years old and still working, count yourself extremely lucky. The service life is actually only around 5 to 7 years. However, don’t wait until it fails, because you’re going to have a flooded basement on your hands. Replace it when it has reached its service life end and rest assured that you’re fully prepared.

Improper installation

Another common plumbing mistake where your sump pump is concerned involves a check valve problem. This occurs when it is improperly installed, which most often times means it was installed backwards. When installed this way, water is blocked from flowing from the pump’s discharge.

Make sure that when you sump pump is installed that it is also tested. If you’re in a home that’s new to you, test your sump pump to ensure that you won’t have a check valve issue.

Faulty switch

Like all moving parts, the float switch located inside the pump can go bad. This is going to happen with older pumps, for sure, but there could be a defective switch installed on a new pump. Most homeowners won’t be able to determine if the entire pump has failed or if it’s just the switch, which is why you’ll need a plumber to come in and inspect the entire pump.

It is possible to test it yourself if you’re familiar with your pump. Locate the cord from the float switch and unplug it. Plug your pump’s plug into the outlet and test it to see if it runs. If it does, you’ve got a bad switch that needs to be fixed/replaced. If it doesn’t, you’ll most likely need your entire unit replaced. Your plumber will be able to determine the best course of action.

Thermal overload

Most pumps aren’t built to handle prolonged running. All they’re designed to do is empty the sump pit. If you’ve got excessive water build up in your basement and the pump continues to run at length, there is a chance it will experience a thermal overload and shut down.

Make sure you’re not improperly using your sump pump. For example, if you’re relying on your pump to clear water from your washing machine, make sure you’re not doing marathon loads repeatedly – let the pump cool for a while.

Regular maintenance

To ensure your pump is always going to perform as expected, check the pump screen and inlet opening for debris on a monthly basis, particularly if the unit is disposing of water from the washing machine. If there is no appliance relying on the sump pump, make sure you’re checking the inlet opening and pump screen on a quarterly basis.

At Old World Plumbing, our certified professional plumbers have worked on sump pumps for many years. We inspect, repair and replace units of all sizes. We can also set you up with a battery backup system so you’re not stuck without your sump pump when you need it most. We’re the experts in residential plumbing in Chicago area since 2004, and we’re fast, affordable and courteous, so give us a call today.

Tom Hartel
President/Author
Tom Hartel

I acquired my expertise by directing day-to-day operations of the business for over 20 years. Continuous hard work helped me become a nationally recognized speaker and expert on plumbing and fire protection systems. In this blog, I share my knowledge that will hopefully help you make better decisions for your homes.

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