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A sump pump can be a homeowner’s best friend. Designed to pull moisture from the basement and prevent flooding, sump pumps help homeowners avoid a world of basement water problems. Unfortunately, many of us do not give much thought to our sump pumps. We expect our sump pumps to just carry on doing their job, pumping water out of the basement and away from our homes, keeping rainwater seepage from causing flooding and damage. In fact, many homeowners do not even think about their sump pumps until something goes wrong, and that something often happens in the winter. Why? Because basements do not typically have as much insulation as the rest of the house, they can get very cold in the winter, and this can lead to a frozen sump pump. Do you know how to keep your sump pump line from freezing? Let’s look at how this problem can happen, as well as information on maintenance and some tips to avoid a frozen sump pump.

Of course, you know that when the temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, water freezes. If there is water in your sump pump discharge hose when the weather heads into freezing temperatures, that water will freeze. Once the discharge water becomes ice, this will cause the sump pump pipe to be clogged. The more ice builds up, the harder the pump must work to move water out of the basement and away from the home; when it is completely clogged, the basement will flood. What happens to the clogged pump then? Often, the sump pump will keep running and trying to pump out the water, and that can lead to overheating. In addition to the mess and hassle of a flooded basement, you will have a broken sump pump to replace.

It’s important to maintain your sump pump, to keep it in good working order. If you are not sure where your sump pump is located, go to the lowest point in your house. That is where it will be, in the basement or crawlspace, because these pumps are never installed above ground level. If you don’t have a sump pump and your basement has moisture issues, talk to a professional waterproofing company about installing one. If you do have a sump pump, inspect it at least once a year to make sure it is upright, with the float ball moving freely. Pour water into it until it turns on, then make sure the water is being discharged. If it is not working properly, make sure that its GFCI electrical connection hasn’t accidentally switched off and is working properly, providing power to your sump pump. If the pump is without power and the problem isn’t the switch, check the circuit breaker. Once you know the sump pump is working as it should, take these steps to keep it from freezing.

  • Set your sump pump up for success. Landscape to redirect water away from the foundation and basement. Clean your gutters regularly and direct the downspouts away from the house. By preventing water from pooling around the foundation, you will reduce the likelihood that it will seep into the basement and cause your sump pump to overwork itself.
  • Protect the lines to and from your sump pump. Take measures to prevent your intake and discharge lines from freezing. You can protect the discharge line by burying it below the frost line, because soil does not freeze as easily as water, and it can act as insulation. Any part of a line that is above ground will need additional insulation, and you can insulate these sections with electric cable or heating tape.
  • If you cannot bury the line, extend it. In some cases, you will not be able to bury the discharge line, but if you can extend the line away from your home at a downward slope, you can use gravity to your advantage. Because of the pull of gravity, the water will continuously flow, and flowing water freezes at a slower pace than standing water. If you use this method, make sure to extend the line at least 20 feet away from the foundation of your home. You can also provide insulation to an external line by covering it with hay or a tarp.
  • Use a hose that’s larger as well as longer. The bigger the hose, the less likely it is to freeze. A small hose is much more likely to be clogged by ice, leading to serious issues. With a larger hose, there is more room for the water to flow, preventing it from backing up and overworking the pump.
  • Keep the water flowing throughout your home during a freeze. As previously stated, flowing water freezes more slowly than standing water. When the temperatures take a dive, keep the interior plumbing from freezing and your sump pump will be less likely to freeze as well.
  • Don’t let the house get too cold. Your basement will always be colder than the rest of your house, so the house needs to be at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit to keep the temperature in the basement from dipping below freezing. Keeping your house warm can help keep your sump pump, as well as your pipes, from freezing.
  • Back up your sump pump. You never know when winter storms will bring a power outage. Sometimes, a home will lose power just when the sump pump is needed the most! Having a backup battery for your sump pump will make sure that, even if the power goes out, the pump will still function the way it should.

What if, despite your best efforts, your sump pump freezes? The best option at that point is to thaw the frozen discharge pipes using a portable heater. Turning up the heat in your basement can also help defrost the water in your sump pump lines. Check the discharge line outside of the house, removing anything that may be blocking it, like ice, snow, or debris. Clearing the line to allow water flow will help thaw your sump pump.

Whether you have questions or want help maintaining and protecting your sump pump, need a new sump pump installed, or are interested in learning about other measures you can employ to keep your basement in good shape, Budget Waterproofing can help. In addition to waterproofing and crawl space encapsulation, we provide foundation repair, going beyond patching cracks to find the source of the problem. We’re proud of our craftsmanship and confident in our skills, and all our technicians are fully licensed and insured. We also hold an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau of Maryland and serve as a member of the Maryland Multi-Housing Association. Whether you need foundation repair, basement waterproofing, a drainage system, crawl space waterproofing, or egress window installation, we’ve got you covered, with the experience and skills necessary to improve your basement and protect your family. Contact us today.