How much thought do you give your sump pump? Probably not very much, because most of the time, sump pumps work as they’re supposed to, humming along in the background, working hard to prevent floods that can damage your home. It’s a small machine, but a big part of keeping your basement dry, so it’s important to keep your sump pump in good working order. How often do you need to perform maintenance on your sump pump, in order to keep it functioning properly?
To understand sump pump maintenance, it’s important to know how a sump pump works. A small, electrically operated water pump, the sump pump sits in a lined hole called a sump pit. The pump is designed to be submerged in water, and once the water reaches a certain level, the pump automatically turns on and expels it. Once the water recedes below the established level, the pump turns off.
You may not even know you have a sump pump, but if you have a basement you probably do. Sump pumps work in two ways: by ridding homes of groundwater on a regular basis, and by evacuating large quantities of water in a crisis. Groundwater coming towards your house flows into rock-filled drains, from which water is diverted to the sump pit, and pumped back outside. During an unexpected water event like a flood, a high-quality sump pump may discharge 4,000 to 5,000 gallons of water per hour. The groundwater issue, however, is far more common than flooding.
Sump pumps require annual maintenance at the very least. Depending on how it’s used, though, it may need more attention than that. Be careful: before doing anything with the sump pump, you’ll need to disconnect its power supply.
- Some sump pumps need monthly cleaning. If the sump pump is responsible for disposing of washing machine water, the screen or inlet opening probably need to be cleaned every month. To do this, you’ll need to physically take a submersible pump out of its pit in order to clean the grate on the bottom. The pump can suck small stones into the grate, so cleaning it will make sure that the inlet isn’t blocked, because blockage can eventually damage the pump.
- Even if it doesn’t dispose of water from a washing machine, your sump pump would probably benefit from quarterly attention. Again, the pump screen or inlet opening need cleaning more frequently than once a year. Also, it’s smart to check in on it every few months, to make sure it’s working well. Check to see that it’s plugged into a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outle and that the cord to the pump is in good condition. Make sure the GFCI breaker hasn’t tripped and shut off your sump pump. Your pump should be standing upright, and you should pour a bucket of water into the pit to make sure it starts automatically and drains the water quickly. Check the outlet pipes, too, to ensure that they’re joined together tightly and draining at least 20 feet from your home and that the vent hole in the discharge pipe is clear.
- Once a year, the sump pump and pit need maintenance. Removing the pump from the pit, you’ll clean both of them. After checking the power source to make sure its cord is in good shape and the connection is correct, disconnect it. Clean the grate, check the drainage pipes, clean the screen or inlet opening, put the pump back into the pit, and fill it with water to keep it from running dry.
- You’ll need to maintain the sump pump battery backup as well. When sump pumps run on electricity, they can be vulnerable to power outages. It’s smart to have battery backup so that you don’t find yourself flooded in a storm that’s knocked out the power. The owner’s manual should have information about the average life span for the battery and whether the main power supply charges it. Check to make sure the battery is charged, and replace it if necessary. Of course, some sump pumps are water-powered, so they don’t need an electrical power source. These pumps are better suited for use as backup pumps, however, than as your primary sump pump.
While you can do much of this maintenance on your own, having a professional inspection once a year will help to prolong the pump’s lifespan. When you hire someone to come inspect it, you should expect the professional to look at six things.
- First, he or she will inspect the pit. The pit must be large enough for the sump pump to function effectively.
- The check valve also needs an inspection. The discharge pipe must have a functioning check valve, to keep water from flowing back into the pit once the pump turns off.
- The backup power source should be inspected. It should be determined that you have a backup power source and that it’s working properly.
- The professional inspector will check the alarm. Not every sump pump has an alarm that goes off when it’s activated, but many do so that the homeowner will be alerted to water buildup in the pit.
- The removable cover will be inspected. The cover helps prevent water from evaporating into the basement, so it’s important that it fits properly.
- The final thing to check is the discharge location. An experienced professional will be able to tell you if the sump pump is discharging in the wrong location. The discharge location needs to be at least 20 feet away from your house, and should not drain into the public sewer system, your septic system, or neighboring properties.
Of course, in between annual visits from a professional, you may find that your sump pump runs into trouble. Some of these problems are easy to fix, while others require outside assistance. If your pump is not turning on, for instance, you can check for a blown fuse or a circuit breaker, and if neither of those things is the problem, make sure the inlet valve isn’t clogged. If it’s not shutting off, the switch may need to be replaced, or there may be an obstruction in the discharge pipe. You also might consider a higher-level pump, if you think that perhaps your pump is running continually because it’s too small for the job. If it starts and stops frequently, your sump pump may be too small, or the discharge pipe may be obstructed. Bear in mind, too, that most sump pumps should be replaced about every ten years.
Whether it’s maintaining your sump pump, installing an egress window, improving your air quality, or waterproofing your basement, you can trust Budget Waterproofing to be there for all your basement related needs. We’ve got more than 55 years of experience servicing both commercial and residential customers throughout Maryland. We’re proud of our craftsmanship and confident in our skills, and all of our technicians are fully licensed, insured, and bonded. Whether your problem is moisture, humidity, or mold in your basement, we have the experience and know-how to provide the solution. For more information, call 410.690.4970 or contact us through our website.