Maintenance to Prevent Sump Pump Failure
WHAT CAN I DO TO PREVENT A SUMP PUMP FAILURE?
The best way to prevent sump pump failure is with planning and maintenance. It’s true that your sump pump could be defective, but more often than not, problems arise due to a lack of maintenance or careless installation.
There are several reasons why your sump pump might be failing, and identifying these problems is key to preventing them. The most common cause of sump pump failure is a power outage. Sump pumps depend on your house for power, and blackouts can be problematic.
There are two ways to deal with this problem. First, it’s never a bad idea to have a backup generator in your home, specifically for instances like this. The other, less costly way to prevent sump pump failure during blackouts is to purchase a sump pump battery backup that operates when your power is out. Sump pump battery backups can cost anywhere between $275 and $500 plus labor to install. While the initial cost might not be attractive, they’re the best way to prevent basement flooding during a power outage.
Your sump pump might also be failing due to improper installation. Your unit could be too big or small for your house, which makes your pump more prone to failure. Make sure that your pump is the right for your home and the amount of ground water it will need to pump.
You may also have a sump pump switch problem, which is common because the float switch the moving part that gets the most use on a sump pump so it is often the part that wears out first.
Finally, maintenance is key to preventing sump pump failure. If you haven’t heard your pump run recently, test it by running a water hose into the sump pit or pouring in a five gallon bucket of water. When the water reaches a predetermined level, the pump should turn itself on, pump out most of the water then turn itself off again. If you have a backup pump, test it a few times each year to determine if it will work in the event of a blackout. And make a note of when the battery is due to be replaced. The backup pump won’t work if the battery dies. When testing your pump, make sure the discharge line’s airhole is clear. The float switch on the pump shouldn’t be restrained so make sure electrical cords aren’t tangled around the switch. Finally, remove any gravel in the sump pit and check that the screen that covers the sump pump’s water intake is clear of debris.
To make sure your sump pump is doing its job and keeping your basement dry, here are five simple tips you can follow for extra peace of mind:
- Test your sump pump regularly. How? Pour a bucket of water into the sump pit. The pump should turn on, remove the water from the pit and shut itself off in a matter of seconds. Ensure that the float and the check valve move freely.
- Give it a once over. Clean your sump pit, remove any dirt, sand, gravel and other debris to increase the pump’s efficiency and prolong its life. Ensure that the discharge line opening is free of obstructions so that water can be pumped through the line and out of your basement or crawlspace.
- Back it up. If your home experiences a power outage for an extended period, frequent power outages or if your primary sump pump fails, it’s good to have a battery backup. There are a couple of different kinds. One uses a marine-grade battery that can power it for up to 12 hours. Another uses water pressure from your home's water supply lines to force flood water out of your sump pit.
- Realize that nothing lasts forever. Like any equipment with moving parts, sump pumps will wear out over time and will need to be replaced. There is no general rule on how often a sump pump should be replaced, since it depends on how often the pump operates. Be sure to have it checked periodically.
- Research plumbers ahead of time. The last thing you want to do is spend time finding a trustworthy plumber when you’re in the middle of a flooded basement.