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How Does A Sump Pump Work?

A wet basement is the last thing any Chicagoland homeowner wants, which is why your home should have a sump pump. But you may be wondering “What exactly is a sump pump?”, “How do sump pumps work?”, and “Are sump pumps really necessary?” To find out the answers to all of these questions and more, keep reading!

What Does a Sump Pump Do?

Image via Flickr by Sustainable sanitation

Sump pumps are small devices designed to keep water from flooding your basement or crawl space. Sump pumps detect rising water levels – usually caused by heavy rains, flooding events, or an increase in groundwater. When the water gets to a certain level, the pumps will kick on to drain the water from your basement and prevent flooding, saving you a huge headache and thousands of dollars in repairs.

Sump pumps are often located in what’s called a sump pit, which is a nook dug out of your basement floor. Pipes connect with the sump pit, which is covered so that debris doesn’t get inside. These pipes ensure the water flows into the sump pit and not other places in your basement. The sump pump then drains outside, far enough away from your foundation so that the water won’t end up back in your basement.

Depending on how much water your land receives, your sump pump may run frequently during the rainy season or when the snow starts to melt. You’re certain to hear it start when a heavy storm blows through.

How Does a Sump Pump Work?

Now that you understand the basics of what the sump pump does, you probably want more details on how these helpful little machines work. Each machine contains a motor that allows it to pump the accumulated water out of the sump pit and through the drainage pipe that moves that water away from your home. 

Sump pumps are activated one of several ways: via a pressure sensor, a floating arm, a diaphragm, or an electrical switch. Once the pump activates, an internal device (called an impeller) starts to turn and uses centripetal force to (a) push the water into the drainage pipe and (b) continue to draw more water into the pump. The water flows through the drainage pipe and away from your home. 

Sump pumps are connected to your household’s electricity grid, but it’s always a good idea to get a backup battery system. We’ve all experienced a heavy storm that knocked the power out, and that’s certainly not the moment you want your sump pump to shut off.

How to Perform Sump Pump Maintenance

You can do a few simple things at home to ensure your sump pump is up and running and to alert you to a problem if there is one. The first thing to do is remove the sump pit cover and take a look at the pump and its surroundings. See if any of the parts look old or broken. Check for debris like gravel or leaves inside it, and if you like you can remove small debris by yourself. Familiarize yourself with how the sump pump should look so you know when something is amiss.

Always test your sump pump before the rainy season. You can do this by slowly pouring water into your sump pump. The pump should turn itself on once enough water has accumulated. Call a plumber immediately if it doesn’t turn on, as this could indicate a clog or mechanical issue.

If your pump has a backup battery, you can test it by unplugging the sump pump and trying the same trick as above. Finally, if you have a float switch, keep an eye on it. This part wears out relatively fast and is essential to your pump turning on at the right time.

FAQs About Sump Pumps

What Are the Types of Sump Pumps?

There are two types of sump pumps: a submersible sump pump and a pedestal sump pump. Submersible sump pumps are a single unit, pump and motor together, that can be submerged in the sump pit. While they’re more expensive than pedestal sump pumps, they’re quieter and smaller, making them ideal for homes with space issues or frequent flooding.

Pedestal sump pumps keep the pump and motor separated; the pump sits in the water while the motor sits outside of it. Because the motor is separate, these pumps are noisier. Due to the cost, however, they’re ideal for basements that experience the occasional flooding but don’t require a lot of sump pump action throughout the year. If you aren’t sure which type of pump your Chicagoland home needs, a qualified plumber is the best person to ask.

What Are the Signs of an Aging Sump Pump?

A sump pump lasts anywhere from 5-10 years, depending on the type you have and how frequently it needs to run. You can look out for several signs that your pump needs replacement. Make sure you call a plumber as soon as you notice one of these signs so you don’t end up with a broken sump pump in the middle of a storm.

Listen to your pump. You shouldn’t be able to hear it running when you’re upstairs. If you can, it might be a sign that the motor is wearing out or the impeller is damaged and the pump is reaching the end of its lifespan. Additionally, the pump should only run when the water in the pit reaches a certain level. If it’s running every time you’re down in the basement, even if it hasn’t rained, the pump might be getting old. There are other reasons that could explain why it’s constantly running, like a pump that’s too small, a frozen drain line, or a float arm or switch that’s malfunctioning.

If you smell mold or rot in your basement, that can indicate that the pump isn’t removing all the water fast enough and it’s pooling somewhere unseen. If you see water in your basement, the pump isn’t doing its job and needs to be replaced.

Are Sump Pumps Necessary?

While you home is not legally required by code to be equipped with a sump pump, they are highly recommended – especially if you live in an area that experiences excessive snow or rainfall.

However, even if you don’t live in an especially rainy climate, sump pumps are still a great tool for keeping your home free of excess moisture and safe from mold growth. Beyond flood prevention, some benefits of sump pumps include:

  • protects against sewage backup
  • helps to maintain low humidity levels in basement
  • reduces risk of mold and mildew growth
  • improves indoor air quality by reducing humidity levels

Contact Dahme Mechanical Today!

How long has it been since you had a professional check your sump pump? The plumbers at Dahme Mechanical Industries are here to assess your sump pump, repair any issues, and recommend new pumps when it’s time to replace yours. We even have sump pump specials available! Give us a call to get started. We service Arlington Heights and the surrounding communities including Palatine, Des Plaines, Hinsdale, Western Springs, and more!