If you have already lived through the dreaded experience of a flooded basement, then you know how much damage it can cause. Even one inch of water can take many hours to clean up and causes thousands of dollars in damaged furniture and carpets. Installing a sump pump in your basement is your best defense to prevent flooding.
Basement flooding is most often caused by water build up in the soil that makes its way into your basement. There are many ways for water to enter and many ways to prevent it from entering. A sump pump on the other hand is a last defense against flooding because it pumps out water from the lowest section of the basement before the water level reaches the basement floor level. As groundwater level rises it is diverted into the sump hole. When the water reaches what is called ‘the critical level’, the sump pump begins to pump it out through a pipe that leads outside and away from your foundation.
Apart from the obvious damages to your belongings, flooding can also cause plumbing problems, a damaged foundation or rotted wood; all of which are troubles that bring down the value of your home. A sump pump can save you thousands of dollars in the long run by maintaining the value of your home and by protecting your belongings from water damage.
The sump pump has recently become more important especially in newer homes since the Federal Clean Water Act no longer allows builders in many municipalities to drain rainwater collected by gutters into sewerage systems. Water collected on the roof of your home and drained by your gutters can cause flooding if it is not carried far enough away from your foundation.
Checking your sump pump
It is important to check your sump pump regularly to make sure that it is in proper working condition.
- Remove the cover and slowly pour water into the sump tank.
- Watch for the “float” to rise and trigger the pump.
- Once the pump is engaged, the water level will quickly lower and the float will shut off the pump.
This is what is called “a normal sump cycle”.
Most problems with the sump pump are float related. If the pump does not start, the float may be hanging on something in the tank. A simple repositioning of the pump should solve the problem.
- If this fails, the float may need replacement.
- If the pump fails to shut off when the water level drops to the bottom of the sump tank, this indicates a new float is needed.
- Float switch.
Learn about the importance of backup sump pumps and having a reliable sump pump backup system.
Sump Pump Maintenance
People who have a sump pump in their home will tell you they could not do without one. Like many other home appliances, a sump pump requires maintenance. If you want to know how to clean and maintain your sump pump to ensure its long life, then you’ve come to the right place!
I t is often recommended that you do not clean the sump pump yourself but leave that task to someone who is qualified. However, you can pour white vinegar through the unit which will help eliminate any build-up in the system. Sump pumps have screens or openings where the water enters the pump. These sometimes get clogged and require cleaning by a professional.
Some manufacturers recommend the sump pump be run and tested every two to three months and others recommend that a yearly cleaning program be completed before the rainy season hits. If you follow the maintenance guide given by the manufacturer, your sump pump should last a very long time.
Below are some tips regarding sump pump maintenance:
- fill the sump pit with water to make sure the pump is working properly.
- go outside to check that the pump is actually discharging water (sometimes the pump will run but it won’t pump any water out).
- check that the operation of the float is not restricted.
- clean the air hole in the discharge line.
- listen for any strange noises coming from the motor.
- replace the battery on the back-up sump pump every second or third year.
If you clean and maintain your sump pump properly and regularly, you’ll extend its lifespan.
Advanced Sump Pump Maintenance
Sump Pump Maintenance Tasks
The main benefit of having a sump pump in your home is that it alleviates the worry of accidental water damage. As long as a sump pump is in good working order, you should feel well protected. That being said, there are several sump pump maintenance tasks that should be performed to ensure that the pump is able to effectively do its job.
After Heavy Rainfall
A build up of debris in your sump pump is one of the major causes of sump pump failure. It is important that you check your inlet suction screen to make sure that there is no blockage. This sump pump maintenance routine should be performed every few months and especially after heavy or persistent rainfall.
Check the Motor
Once annually, it is necessary to check on the effective operation of the sump pump’s motor by pouring water into the drain area of the pump. If the pump is working well, the motor will turn on just as the float rises with the water level. You should repeat this procedure for a few cycles. Keep track of when you last performed this task as it is a very important part of your sump pump maintenance program.
Ensure that the float of your sump pump is able to freely move. If the float is obstructed, your pump may fail to start. This task does not have to be performed regularly, but you should get in the habit of doing it every few months.
Verify Oil Seal
If you spot an oily film on the surface of the water in your sump pump, verify the condition of the oil seal. The appearance of oil probably indicates a faulty oil seal which may cause the motor to burn out.
In general, a sump pump does not require extensive maintenance. Most homeowners find it beneficial to do a visual check on the pump every few months. Once annually, it is important that a more thorough sump pump maintenance routine be performed. On the rare occasion of persistent rainfall, your sump pump should be monitored more often to ensure its smooth operation.
Sump Pump Problems Can Be Easily Avoided
Many of us take for granted that we have a sump pump and that it works effectively. Some of us don’t even know what a sump pump looks like, but when a water problem arises in our home, we soon realize their importance. Although sump pumps have a lifespan of 5 to 7 years, they may fail unexpectedly for various reasons.
Sump Pump Failure
One of the most common causes for sump pump failure is an electrical power outage. To safeguard yourself from this potential situation, it is wise to have a backup generator that can be manually activated. This measure alone, however, is not a guarantee against sump pump problems. It is also possible that your primary pump can mechanically fail and a generator cannot help in this situation.
If you have an incorrectly sized pump, or if the pump is not installed properly, you will most likely encounter a problem. Contrary to the common belief that bigger is better, a small sump pump can be just as effective as a big one. In fact, in some cases when a sump pump is too big, the pump is forced to work harder resulting in a shorter product life span. Alternatively, a pump that is too small may not be able to adequately pump out the water – again resulting in a shorter life span. Choosing the correct size for your home will ensure maximum life expectancy for your sump pump.
Installing a sump pump must be done right. It is of utmost importance that the manufacturer’s instructions be carefully followed for the installation in order to avoid severe water damage down the road. The sump pump pit should not be set in dirt or gravel as this can cause debris to enter your pump. Debris can result in interference with the pump’s on/off switch or the float arm
Perhaps the leading mechanical cause of sump pump problems is a switch problem. This occurs when the pump shifts from its position inside the basin, rendering the float ineffective. This is a serious problem because the float is responsible for the smooth operation of the on/off switch. Your sump pump relies on both the switch and the float arm mechanisms to operate effectively. Attentive care should be taken to ensure that they are in good working order.
Sump Pump Float Switches
The most common function of a sump pump is to protect a basement from flooding. The pump is activated when water reaches a certain level in the sump tank and pumps out the excess water.
The float switch is the part of the sump pump that activates the pump when water reaches a certain threshold. It is therefore an essential element to avoid flooding. The float switch is usually the first part of a sump pump to break, so it is recommended to choose a sump pump whose float switch is easily replaceable.
There are 3 types of float switches:
1. Diaphragm Switch.
The diaphragm switch is a popular type for professionals and is also the most expensive. The entire sump pump is immersed under water and on it is a membrane that is sensitive to water pressure. As the water level rises, the water pressure increases and the diaphragm becomes concave, thereby activating the switch to turn on the sump pump. When the water level drops, the switch turns off.
Since there is no float, there is nothing to get stuck, which is a common problem with other types of sump pumps. This type of switch is not susceptible to turbulence in the tank. So if you have water entering fast, the turbulence will not trigger the switch as it might do with the types listed below.
2. Vertical Action Float
This type of switch is recommended because it is not as expensive as the diaphragm switch and it is superior to the tethered float. The float is a ball that floats above the water. As the water level rises so does the float which, at some point, will trigger the switch to turn on the pump. This float has limited movement up and down a vertical rod thereby giving it less freedom of movement and less of a chance to get stuck as the tethered float does for example.
Vertical float switches are often of better quality than tethered floats and usually carry a longer warrantee.
3. Tethered Float
The tethered float is the most common and is used for pedestal sump pumps. The float hangs from the pump and floats on the water. As the water rises, so does the float and the switch is triggered.
Common problems related to the tethered float include the float accumulating grime and causing it to lose buoyancy and even sink. Another common problem is that the float gets stuck to the inner wall or pump and as a result, when the water rises in the sump tank, the float may stay submerged and fail to activate the pump.
Pedestal sump pumps have the added advantage of having the electrical unit above the water level. Other types are submerged and involve more risk of electrical accidents.
To avoid electrical shock
- Unplug the pump before putting your hands in the water.
- Use a broom stick rather than your hand to check whether or not the float is stuck.
- Use a ELCI extension cord which will turn off much like the more sensitive bathroom plugs (CFI ) to avoid electric shock. The bathroom type of plugs are too sensitive for sump pumps and are triggered too easily. A common sump pump error is to assume that a sump pump is not working when in reality it is the safety plug that has shut off. The US standard for CFI plugs is to shut off when currents reach only 5 milliamps, whereas ELCI extension cords have a higher threshold.
If you use a sump pump in a tank containing water that you may use for drinking, make sure that your float switch is not made of mercury. There are two types of tethered float switches, some are made of mercury (which is cheaper) and others of steel. It is hard to tell the ball of mercury apart from the ball of steel.
Electronic “Flood Free” switch
There is a fourth type of switch that can be used. It is electric and has no actual float. Instead, a probe wire is placed to sense the presence of water and is activated when it becomes submerged by rising water. A second probe wire can also be placed at a higher level to set off an alarm switch or another backup pump. This particular switch can be used in many types of applications.
Backup Sump Pump
How do you know if you need a backup sump pump? Well, if your basement floods during the winter months and you live in an area where floods and thunderstorms usually knock out the power, then you may want to look into buying a backup sump pump that can work on its own power. A sump pump that runs on its power is considered to be a support pump. That is to say, it is used together with your primary pump. Should your primary pump fail, this back up sump pump will start.
There are two types of backup sump pumps, one that runs on a rechargeable 12 Volt battery and one that is hooked up to your house’s water system and operates with water pressure.
Below are a number of other reasons why your electric sump pump may fail:
- power failure
- the pump may be burned out, unplugged, or jammed with mud or a stone
- a broken impeller or drive shaft
- the float switch is stuck or broken
- a tripped circuit breaker, a blown fuse, or damaged power feed line
- too much water or a clogged intake screen
- a clogged or frozen discharge pipe
Sump pump failure can lead to a lot of damage. Often, insurance companies don’t include this type of coverage in their policies. And if they do, they may charge extra premiums, or impose higher deductibles, or strictly limit the coverage. Once you’ve claimed this type of damage, the insurance company may exclude you from future coverage or even raise the price and deductibles to a very high rate. Remember, you are the one who will be responsible for the aftermath of sump pump failure which often includes cleanup, repairs, an insurance claim, and frustrating paperwork.
Battery Backup Sump Pump System
Backup System Can Protect your Home in a Power Outage
When a powerful storm passes through cities and towns, very often it takes with it the entire neighborhood’s power supply. In the event of a power outage, people are left with no light, no heat and no running water; but a home is also left with a disabled sump pump. A sump pump is your home’s first line of defense against groundwater that could potentially enter your home and cause destruction. To ensure that your home is not left vulnerable after a loss of power, install a reliable backup system for your sump pump that will allow it to continue working. Read on for more information about the benefits of generators and battery-powered backup systems.
A Battery Backup Sump Pump System
A battery-operated backup sump pump system looks a lot like an oversized car battery. When the power is on in the house, a battery system will automatically charge itself. The backup pump is activated by a sensor that is located slightly higher than the one for the main pump. In the event of an emergency, when water rises above the level of the backup sensor, the backup system uses its DC power to turn itself on. Depending on the particular model of battery-powered backup system, there is generally enough power to keep your sump pump working for several hours. The batteries come in two different styles: sealed and unsealed. A sealed battery is considered maintenance-free and usually supplies power for 3 to 3½ hours. An unsealed battery has ports that you can open in order to check the level of the fluid and add distilled water as you see fit. Typically, an unsealed battery will last for about 7 hours.
A Generator Backup System
When buying a generator, it is crucial that you choose one that has enough power to actually run a sump pump in the case of an emergency. For example, a small sump pump requires 800 – 1000 watts with a surge to 1200 – 1800 watts. All generators have a maximum and rated output. The maximum output should never be sustained for more than 25 to 30 minutes at a time. Most generators are gasoline-powered, a few run on diesel, and some models have multi-fuel capabilities – running on gasoline, propane or natural gas. These are generally full-featured machines with engine idle control, GFCI receptacles and 120 Volt full power switch.
Protect your Home from Damage with a Reliable Sump Pump Backup System
During a severe storm, a power outage is common. Not only is a power outage an inconvenience to you, but it can also cause major damage to your home. In the event of a loss of power, the sump pump that usually protects your home from water damage may stop working. Another common reason is mechanical failure. Whatever the case, it is necessary that you have a reliable sump pump backup system in place. The following gives you a better idea of what may prevent a sump pump from working properly.
Why does a sump pump stop working?
Power Failure: In most cases, a sump pump fails to work properly due to a loss of power. A powerful storm may cause a power outage in the neighborhood and without its power source, a sump pump cannot do its job. When a sump pump fails to function, a home may be damaged with incoming groundwater. For this reason, many home owners opt to buy a generator or battery-powered sump pump backup system.
Mechanical Failure: Another common reason for sump pump failure is a mechanical problem, such as a faulty part or an aging pump. Whatever the reason, many home owners with a sump pump in their home use a battery-powered backup system that is added to an electric motor-driven pump. However, this backup method offers no protection against mechanical failure. To protect your pump from failure, it is wise to purchase a battery backup pump as well as a separate alarm that will alert you to a system failure.
Pump Overload: Pump overload usually occurs when an excess of water flows into the sump pump. When this happens the pump is unable to handle all of the incoming water which causes a malfunction. Furthermore, a pump will overload if foreign matter becomes trapped, partially clogging the pump. This will cause the motor to start to run slower and eventually the sump pump will cease to work.
The Necessity for a Sump Pump Backup
Unfortunately, problems do arise with sump pumps and when your sump pump stops working, your home becomes vulnerable to water damage. Once your sump pump has been installed, do not assume that it will always effectively do its job. You would be wise to install a reliable sump pump backup, as well as routinely check on your pump during bad weather and every few months.
Electric Level Controls for Sump Pumps
Floods can surprise any homeowner at any time. This unexpected act of nature can cause severe damage to property along with huge headaches for the ill-prepared. Your first line of defense should be a sump pump. And if just installing a sump pump is not quite enough protection, equip them with modern technology that can handle any type of flood problem. Let’s explore how a handful of sump pump accessories can help protect you in ways that were inconceivable a few decades ago.
Flood Free Electronic Level Control Pumps
Flood Free Electronic Level Control Pumps monitor and control the water level, thanks to an electronic float switch. A Floodfree pump switch can be adapted to any manual sump pump for automatic operation. There are no floats;only probe wires are in use. A Floodfree Switch eliminates pump damage caused by defective float or diaphragm controls, and will not be affected by floating debris. The most common cause of basement flooding is attributable to float control failure. Floats can get stuck, float switches can fail, and rubber can get stiff and dry rotted, all of which can prevent proper functioning of a sump pump. A Floodfree switch lets you determine the amount of water to let into the sump (high water level) as well as the amount of water to let out (low level).
The SumpWatcher is made from polyester. It is an “Electronic Float” that replaces the traditional float switch on a sump pump. Since it has no moving parts, it cannot get stuck, corrode, wear out, or fail like a regular mechanical float switch. The SumpWatcher will turn the pump on and off, monitor the motor current to the pump and alert you if it is drawing too much current. If the SumpWatcher should become overwhelmed with incoming water, not function properly, or detect a particular problem, it will alert you. The SumpWatcher will test the pump motor on a daily basis to ensure proper operation.
Dual Float Level Switch Deluxe
Dual float means dual protection from float switch failure. Industrial strength electronics means an extended life span compared to ordinary float switches. The controller monitors pump and power conditions, and will sound an alarm should a problem arise. It begins the pumping cycle when either of the floats rises by 1⁄4″, and runs the pump an additional 10 seconds after the float returns to its original position. When a warning signal sounds, a light will appear on the front panel of the controller indicating the nature of the problem detected. A light will blink continuously to assure you that the controller is functioning properly. A light will also remind you when the battery is low or when to turn the slide switch back to the ON position. The Dual Float Level Switch deluxe will also sound an alarm when the float has been raised for 10 consecutive minutes. This would indicate a potential pump or plumbing problem. A remote terminal provides a connection to a home security system or remote dialer.
The PumpGuard eliminates the threat of flooding caused by a faulty pump switch. This innovative pump protection system features an alarm override circuit and switch that will sound an alarm as well as override your primary pump switch and run your pump in the event of switch failure. The PumpGuard is designed to be used with a fully automatic 115V sump or sewage pump using a two-cord piggyback switch system. The PumpGuard can be combined with an optional dialer for remote alert and an optional battery back-up system for a more secure flood protection.
Sump Pump Installation
What a Sump Pump does: A sump pump is used to dewater basements and crawl spaces. There are six different types of sump pumps, each with advantages and disadvantages. Determine what you require from a sump pump and then decide on a specific type.
Sump Pump Installation Directions:
- Before performing a sump pump installation, ALWAYS disconnect the pump from the power source before handling.
- Clear any debris from pit and place the pump inside. A solid bottom is required to prevent dirt from clogging the pump.
- Make sure the pump is centered so that it will not come into contact with the sides of the pit which might cause operational problems.
- Pipe the sump pump discharge into the house drainage system, a dry well or a storm drain.
- Install a swing type check valve on the discharge piping to prevent backflow of water into the sump pump.
- Drill a relief hole in the discharge pipe to ensure that the pump will not “air lock”, which would allow the pump to run but not pump water.
- Secure the pump cord to the discharge pipe.
- Connect the pump to an electrical outlet. Run water into the sump to test it. Do not attempt to operate the pump without water.
- Fill sump pump with water to the normal turn on level
- After the sump pump installation is completed, you may wish to install a sump pump cover. This will help eliminate odors and keep debris from falling on top of the pump.
Sump Pump Installation – Should you do it yourself?
To avoid problems and dangerous situations related to sump pump installation, it is highly recommended that only technically qualified personnel install and/or repair sump pumps.