A sump pump is much like a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, or your home’s security system; there is rarely a time when you actually need to use it, but it can be an essential tool if a dire situation occurs. Sump pumps help mitigate and prevent such situations by quickly draining flood water from the basement of a home through an external discharge pipe. And like most emergency equipment, it is important to make sure that your sump pump is well maintained and free of mechanical problems. Otherwise, you may one day find yourself with a flooded basement and thousands of dollars in damages. We hope to make sure you avoid these potential problems by identifying the 8 reasons that result in sump pump failure when it is most needed.
Bad weather storms and power failure often coincide to make one deadly combination that often results in flooded basements across the nation. This is due to the fact that the heavy rain storms result in excess water and a power outage completely immobilizes your sump pumps ability to drain water.
Thankfully, this problem can be avoided by simply purchasing and installing a backup generator for your sump pump. If you ever lose power during a bad storm, you can manually turn this generator on to ensure your basement does not flood.
The most common mechanical problem that causes a sump pump failure is a stuck switch. This primarily occurs when the pump shifts inside the basin, causing the float that operates the switch to become ineffective by lodging itself against the side of the pump. It is also possible for debris to jam the float and render it useless. Both these problems can typically be fixed with a little cleaning and adjusting of your sump pumps position within the basin.
Your sump pump can easily become overwhelmed by an influx of water if it is not the right size or capable of a required horsepower. Too big of a sump pump results in overwork and a shortened lifespan and too small of a sump pump results in underwork and a shortened lifespan.
Determining how much horsepower your sump pump needs can help you address the issue of size as well. Minimally, you need a 1/3 horsepower sump pump capable of pumping 35 gallons of water per minute to adequately tackle potential flooding. If your home rests on a high water table, it is advised that you purchase a 1/2 horsepower sump pump which can pump 60 gallons of water per minute.
If your sump pump’s discharge pipe is frozen or clogged with debris, flood water will flow back down the pipe and all over your basement.
While you cannot realistically prevent your discharge pipe from freezing, you can have a specialty discharge line installed that allows water to exit your basement even if your main discharge pipe is frozen solid.
To prevent your discharge pipe from clogging, make sure the opening of your pipe is protected with a grate. Installing a protective cover will prevent debris and small animals from entering your discharge pipe and causing a clog.
In many cases your sump pump just needs a good cleaning and some quarterly maintenance. You can accomplish this in just a few short minutes by running a vinegar solution through your sump pump, making sure your float is unrestricted, and cleaning all the vents on your sump pump and the air holes on your discharge line.
Years of wear and tear eventually result in the inevitable failure your sump pump after 7 to 10 years of use. While some sump pumps can exceed well after this time period, it is recommended that you consider replacing your sump pump after 10 years to ensure maximum safety and efficiency.
While the two remaining possible failures are typically rare, you may want to investigate them if none of the above help you fix the problems your sump pump is currently experiencing.
It is possible that your sump pump was initially installed incorrectly and has resulted in its current state of ineffectiveness. Several things could have been done incorrectly during your sump pump’s initial installation:
When a check valve is not installed on your sump pump’s discharge line, a back flow of water can cause the pump impeller to rotate backwards and unscrew off the motor shaft. If this occurs, the motor in your sump pump will sound like it is running but it will not be pumping any water out the discharge line.
An air relief hole should always be drilled between the pump and the check valve to prevent air pressure from building up within the discharge pipe. Without an air relief hole air pressure will build up with in the discharge line and force your sump pump for work harder to overcome this pressure. Forcing your sump pump to work extra hard will result in a shorter life span and possibly sudden failure.
Many individuals will attempt to pack their sump pumps in gravel or dirt to achieve a snug fit within the hole dug for the sump pump. However, the gravel and dirt will cause your sump pump to fail by interfering with your pump’s on/off switch and float arm.
If you ever feel uncomfortable installing a sump pump on your own, always play it safe and call in a professional to help you finish the job.
While unlikely, it is possible that your sump pump is defective. It is always important to immediately test your sump pump after installation to make sure it is in proper working condition.
We hope that by identifying the reasons that result in sump pump failure you will be able to keep your basement dry and some extra cash in your wallet.