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It’s springtime again and we all know the saying “April Showers bring May flowers”.  The rainwater finds the easiest path to flow usually along your home’s foundation, down to the basement and into your sump pump basin. If your sump pump fails, you’ll have a major water damage problem on your hands.  Estimates indicate that 98% of basements in the US will eventually experience water damage.  It is important for you to understand how a sump pump works and a few key components about your pump.  This will keep your home from being the target of flooding or water damage!

Purpose and Location of Sump Pump

When water enters your basement, the pump pulls it away from your foundation into your wastewater system and keeps your basement from flooding.  A sump pump is installed in the lowest part of the basement or crawlspace.  It is installed inside a specially designed sump pit.

Two types of sump pumps:

Submersible

Submersible pumps which are put underwater in your sump pump basin. Submersible pumps are usually more expensive but have a longer lifespan than pedestal sump pumps. It does provide a cleaner appearance because it is hidden inside the sump basin.

Pedestal

Pedestal pumps are positioned with the pump motor out of the water above the sump basin. These pumps are typically less expensive than submersible pumps, but they tend to be noisier.

Sump Pump Key Components 

Switches

Understanding switches are important because if they fail this will cause flooding.  It’s what turns your sump pump on and off in response to the amount of water in your pit.  The device relies on a round float ball to measure the liquid level.  When the float is raised high enough by the water the switch is triggered and the sump pump turns on.  The switch will turn off when the water in the pit lowers. The leading mechanical cause of sump pump problems is a switch problem. Here are several common reasons for sump pump float switch failure. Therefore, it is an important component and needs to periodically be checked.

Check Relief Valve

A check valve on the discharge line keeps water in the pipe from flowing back into the sump pit when the pump switches off.  It is often referred to as a “one-way” valve because it allows water to move in ONLY one direction.  If no check valve was in place your sump pump will turn off automatically after a certain amount of water is pumped out of your pit.  The water that remains in the discharge pipe will fall back into the pump pit and raise the water level again.

Back Up Sump Pump

Backup pumps help eliminate the risk of basement flooding.  It should be used only as a backup and never as your primary sump pump.  They are designed for emergencies ONLY before the primary sump pump is back up and running.  Most sump pumps have an audible alarm that warns you the main pump has failed.  These backup sump pumps are installed right next to the primary pump and they are battery-powered to ensure operation.  It should be set slightly higher than the main pump. The maintenance on back up pumps is relatively easy.  You will have to add fluid to the batteries that need it and replace the sump pump batteries every 4-5 years.  Putting one of these batteries in does not take much work.  You will need to elevate the battery to keep it off the floor.  A pretty small task when compared to the damage that could incur from a flooded basement.

Audible Noises

When water is discharged through the system’s piping you may hear a clanging noise.  This noise is caused by the pipe hitting the pumps basin or the well’s wall.   It is possible to stop the clanging by wrapping insulation around the pipe.  A plumber can inspect and apply rubber stoppers underneath the lid of the sump pump.  The stoppers may also quiet noise that incurs from a motor if it rattles.  Now, there is always the chance that the sump pump was not installed properly.  In this case, the plumber can reroute piping to create straighter lines and eliminate angles and joints that create noise. 

If you hear gurgling noises it might be a check valve problem.  It is common when water is moving through the pipe during the discharge process to hear these sounds.  Switching to a spring-loaded replacement valve will manage the flow of water and eliminate the noises.

A noisy motor can be frustrating and it may be time to replace the system.  Older sump pump models are constructed from PVC and typically generate more noise that the newer cast-iron systems.  Also, newer systems have self-lubrication motors and run more smoothly.  If you have tried the rubber stoppers to control the noise and this has been unsuccessful, it may just be time for a replacement system. 

Lifespan of a sump pump

Unfortunately, they do not last forever but the good news is that they typically last 7-10 years.  This is dependent on many factors.  How often your sump pump is running, debris in the water, and the quality of the pump itself.  At Carter’s My Plumber, we have the tools to physically stress your system and measure its working capability.

Sump Pump Maintenance/Inspection

Monthly:

If your sump pump disposes of water from washing machine a monthly cleaning of the pump screen may be needed. Just make sure your pump is unplugged before cleaning and plugged back in after you are finished.

Quarterly:

The pump screen or inlet can be cleaned once every 3-4 months if it doesn’t dispose of washing machine water.

Annually:

Remove the sump pump and clean both the pump and pit. International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) says a professional inspection of your sump pump each year may help make sure it is working properly and prolong the pump’s lifespan.

CALL A LICENSED PLUMBER

Here at Carter’s My Plumberwe will evaluate the situation with courtesy, respect, and a smile!! We hope to have your plumbing back to working efficiently in no time! We know how inconvenient it is to be dealing with sump pump issues when you have daily tasks that need to be done.  Don’t hesitate to give us a call at 317-859-9999 or make an appointment online! We are here for you and hope you entrust us with your plumbing needs.

Kelson Carter

Article reviewed by:

Kelson Carter, aka, The Prince of Plumbing

Kelson is a 3rd generation Plumbing Contractor. His family business is located in Greenwood, Indiana, and provides Residential Plumbing Service to the Indianapolis Metro market.

Kelson grew up watching his grandfather and father do plumbing. After graduating high school, Kelson went to Trade School and became a Licensed Master Plumber and Licensed Plumbing Contractor. He is also Certified in Backflow Prevention. He currently owns and operates Carter's My Plumber with his parents.


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