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Sump Pumps Basics

August 2nd, 2012 | seowerkz

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If you live in a very flat area of the country, a place of low elevation, or a region with a high water table, then you’re probably at risk for flooding—there’s a reason these places are called floodplains. In fact, after heavy rains, you’ve probably already undergone or heard of people’s experiences with flooded basements. It doesn’t take much for water to cause some serious harm; in fact, just a couple inches of standing water can create thousands of dollars in damage. So in order to avoid a swamped sublevel, the best way to prevent the deluge is an investment in a quality sump pump and have installed by a professional plumber such as Plumber Salt Lake City.

Just One Job

A sump pump has one sole duty in this world: to take excess water away from your home. It may seem silly to pay money for a machine that only performs a simple, single task. But water can be a very dangerous threat to the home. Here’s what happens: You have tile drains wrapping all the way around your house which captures surplus water from rainfall or heavy snow melts. When this tile gets overwhelmed, it directs the overflow to a central location in your basement called a sump. A sump is simply a well that looks like a small pit in your sub-floor where water collects.

But if this pit becomes full, you have two problems: the well may overflow into your basement, but more likely the problem is the tile around your house is just sitting full of water. And with this tile being located right next to your foundation, water may eventually seep into your basement through cracks and fissures. This is where the sump pump comes in. When water in your sump reaches a critical level, this machine will force the liquid out through a pipe that leads away from your foundation and into the city storm drain.

How Sump Pumps Work? Sump Pump - Plumber Salt Lake City

These devices come equipped with a “float”, which works like a backwards toilet. Unlike a toilet float, which stops the commode once water reaches a certain level in the tank, this particular float turns on the machine and activates the pumping once water rises high enough. There are several different types of models to choose from, so make sure you select one that works best for your particular needs & consult with Plumber Salt Lake City.

  • Pedestal: This model sits upright above the well, bringing with it lots of pros and cons. Its motor is out of the water and can’t get wet, which makes it louder but also longer lasting since it’s not sitting in water all the time. It’s also quite a bit cheaper.
  • Submersible: It actually rests inside the pit and becomes submerged by the incoming water. It is tightly sealed against debris and infiltration, which makes it durable and very reliable. It’s more expensive (around $300), but due to its consistency, this model is often recommended for finished basements.
  • Battery Backup Sump Pump: A huge problem with many models is that hey only activate when it rains, but yet they still run on electricity. You can probably foresee the problem: heavy thunderstorms bring on the rainfall and often create power outages at the same time. A disabled sump pump during a power surge is one of the main causes for flooded basements, especially if the homeowners happen to be out of town during the storm.
  • So, this is why battery backup sump pumps were created: they detect when the product is not receiving electricity and due to their independent batteries, these support systems can take over the job. They’re expensive (up to $700), due to their gel-pack technology, but they cycle up to 9,000 gallons without recharging, which means if you’re out of town for five days, you shouldn’t have to worry about coming home to a swamped basement.

Sump Pump Repair

They aren’t invincible. They’re machines and will need some maintenance. Here are some common problems and various sump pump repairs to be aware of:

  • Float Triggers: Floats are the most common problem. If it gets caught on something and can’t detect the rising water level, the whole apparatus becomes useless. Plus, over time, these float triggers may burn out and will need to be replaced. So check it out: clean out any debris you see floating in the water (it may help to set the machine up on bricks to avoid direct contact with the dirt collecting on the bottom of the pit), and every few months pour water into your sump to see if the float responds properly.
  • Check Valves: These one-way valves make sure that once pumping stops, water will not back flow back into the sump, creating additional risks and shortening the lifespan of the appliance. If air gets into this valve, it could become locked up. So make sure to get it fixed right away: there’s no point in having a machine that hums but doesn’t pump.
  • Primary Failure: Every 8-10 years, you may need to replace your primary pump. And if it’s been sitting in water all that time, it may rust up or simply burn out. Plus, it’s important to keep any machine running occasionally to avoid lock-up; so even during dry seasons, try to pour water into the well to occasionally activate it.
  • Improper Installation: Incorrect setup is the initial problem many homeowners encounter. Make sure to get professional advice when shopping around so you get the right size and horsepower for your home’s needs. Plus, if it isn’t properly installed, it loses all purpose. These experts ensure quality products, guaranteed installation, and thorough sump pump repairs, often offering a 1-year warranty on all their work.

A Working System

So, what does a functioning sump pump system look like? There are usually three key pieces:

  • A Primary Pump
  • An Emergency Backup Pump (Battery- or Water-Powered)
  • An Emergency Backup Pump Alarm

Because homes sometimes lose power during thunderstorms – just when an operational sump pump is critical – many pumping systems employ a backup pump. Emergency battery backup pumps work when the power goes out, when the primary pump does not remove the water fast enough, or if the primary pump fails.

In this setup, primary pumps are powered with electricity, and backup pumps are battery- or water-powered. Using two pumps instead of one makes it unlikely that both pumps will malfunction at the same time. And with the alarm system, you’ll be able to tell when the primary pump has failed and the backup pump has to be used.

Tips for Sump Pump Maintenance

  1. Keep a cover over the sump basin.
    • This will keep out animals and children as well as ensuring you do not have any debris falling into the basin
    • A cover will also reduce the smells and evaporation
  2. Inspect for Debris – Inspect the basin/sump for any debris and remove any you might find before operating the pump. We do not want this to get into the sump pump intakes or even block the pump. So, always ensure you remove the debris first before you test the pump.

  3. Check Pump Screens/ Inlet Screens – Check the inlet screens on your pump are free from debris and residue build up, as if they are blocked up this will reduce the operational efficiency of your sump pump. Therefore this will reduce the volume of water the pump removes which will be a lot less than it is designed to pump. If needed bring a hose and wash down the external of the sump pump as well as the basin to remove all debris that may affect the operation of the pump.

  4. Electricity and Safety – As there is electricity and water within the same installation you should ensure you are electrically protected using a ground fault indicator (GFI). This should keep you safe as it should trip the electricity if there is a fault. Check the operation of this if there is a test facility to do so.

  5. Cable Routing – Check for correct cable routing as well as the cable being in good condition. Make sure the cable is away from the water as much as possible. Also check the cable is secured and not loose and in a situation where it might fall into the sump. This could prove lethal and have happened in some rare circumstances. So check the cable is fixed and secure.
  6. Check Your Discharge Pipes – Always have a check valve fitted, this is to stop the pumped water within the discharge pumped line from returning into the sump and refilling the sump once pumped away. It only allows the water to move in one direction, which of course is out of your sump states Plumber Salt Lake City. If this is faulty you will see your sump re-filling and your pump will run more frequently.

    Check the discharge line for leaks or damage. Make sure all is intact including the end of your pumping line. If you are able to visually see the pumped line ensure the end is free to allow the pumped water to properly run clear.

  7. Water Test Your Pump – Fill the sump with water very slowly and observe the operation of the sump pump. This way you can watch the operation of the float switch, ensure it rises with the water level and moves easily and freely.

  8. Check the Operation of the Float Switch – Once the float rises to the switch on point you want to observe the sump pump running. You should of course listen to the pump as well. What you are listening for in this case is the connection of the float switch and that the switch makes without any hesitation or resistance and runs the pump properly. As the float switch is considered one of the weak points of a sump pump you can observe this in this test and ensure your switch operates normally. If the switch is intermittent or not operating normally you may be able to replace the switch and not need to buy a replacement sump pump.

  9. Listen to the Pump – Now the pump is running you want to listen to the pump itself running. Make sure there are no squealing or grinding noises or even metal on metal. With the sump pump running there should be some minor vibrations, if there are excessive vibrations then you must investigate this. Excessive vibration or noises may indicate the bearings or internal workings of the pump may be wearing out. In cases like this it might be best to have a replacement sump pump near hand in case you have to replace a pump in a hurry.

Operate the Pump Several Times

Operate the pump like this several times just to get the pump operating efficiently and also check that the sump pump also stops pumping whenever the water level is pumped down to a suitable level and the switch has returned to a resting position. In general what you are doing is checking complete cycles of the sump pump to check it is working as it should do when it might be needed.

Check Valve Operation

Listen for the check valve click as well within this operation sequence; you want to hear the check valve operating as the pump stops pumping. The check valve should close with a click and stop the water from returning into the sump.

Once you are happy with the operation of your sump pump and you have checked everything over you needs to ensure you replace all parts and covers into their correct location for the operation of the pump. You should also periodically check in on your sump pump just to ensure it will be there for you whenever needed.

Is a Sump Pump Right for You?

Installing a new sump pump system – especially if your basement doesn’t already have a built-in sump pit – is an extensive, complex job. Make sure you consult with a Plumber Salt Lake City expert.