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What Are Sump Pumps?

One of the worst nightmares a homeowner can face is a flooded home or basement. Floods can cost you in damaged goods and repair costs. If water isn’t removed in a timely manner, mold can begin to grow, ruining possessions and materials and leading to potential respiratory illnesses.

If your home is in an area that is prone to flooding, having a sump pump is a good idea, and in some areas, it’s mandatory. Let’s look at what a sump pump is, how it works, and the different types that exist.

What Does a Sump Pump Do?

Image via Flickr by State Farm

A sump pump moves water from a flooded area, normally a basement, and distributes it elsewhere. The pump itself sits inside of a basin or pit called a “sump.” Inside of the sump pump are sensors that turn the pump on when it detects increased water levels.

Once the water reaches a certain level, the pump begins to remove the excess water and send it outside through a discharge line. The line, called an “effluent,” connects to the sump pump and gets placed at least 20 feet from the house’s foundation into a properly designated drainage site. Local laws determine what areas are considered designated sump pump drainage sites.

What Types of Sump Pumps Exist?

The most common type of sump pump is a submersible sump pump. The pump and the motor sit together in a waterproof housing submerged inside of the sump pit or basin. A grate covers the bottom of the pump to prevent dirt or debris from being sucked in when the pump turns on to discharge the water. Submersible sump pumps tend to run quiet, however, they also have a short lifespan because they constantly sit in water.

Another common and affordable type is the pedestal sump pump. The motor sits separately on a pedestal above the pit with the pump inside of the basin. Water is pulled up from the pump through a series of pipes and hoses and gets discharged to the outside. Because the motor isn’t submerged, the lifespan of a pedestal sump pump is longer. However, they tend to run noisier and take up more space in the basement.

Often, during storms that may cause flooding, the electricity goes out. Regular sump pumps run on electricity and will fail to operate when there is no power. The battery-operated backup pump turns on when the water in the basin reaches a float switch, signaling the pump to activate and to pump water out of the area to prevent flooding.

What Size and Kind of Sump Pump Do I Need?

It’s important that you have the properly sized sump pump for your home. You need to have the right amount of horsepower to effectively remove excess water without overloading the electrical circuit. If the horsepower is too low, it won’t remove the water, and you’ll run the risk of more flooding. If the horsepower is too much for your space, the pump may begin to short-cycle, turning on and off repeatedly, which can shorten the lifespan of your pump and raise your electrical bill.

Sump pumps run on electricity and use standard 110 household electricity with a grounded outlet using a GFCI. An average-sized home located in an area with minimal rainfall and seepage normally uses a submersible sump pump that runs on a 1/3 horsepower motor. For larger homes with more rainfall and seepage, a 1/2 horsepower sump pump should get the job done.

What Kind of Maintenance Does a Sump Pump Need?

There are many basic maintenance tasks that you can perform to keep your sump pump running efficiently. Always remember to unplug the pump from the electrical source before beginning maintenance, and know where the water shut-off valve is in case of internal flooding. Maintenance you can do includes:

  • Checking the float valve. The float valve is an integral and important part of the sump pump and needs to work properly to activate the pump. Go to the sump pit and pour water into it. The float is working properly if the float rises as the pit fills with water, the pump activates and removes water, and then the pump shuts down.
  • Cleaning out the sump pit. Dirt and debris can get sucked into the motor, causing damage to it, so it’s important to regularly clean out the sump pit or basin. Gently lift the pump out of the pit, remove any noticeable debris, and then carefully replace the pump back into the basin.
  • Making sure the sump pump is level. Over time, the sump pump may tilt due to vibrations from the motor. If this occurs, the float won’t work properly. If you see the pump is not level, carefully set it upright.
  • Checking the draining lines and area. Make sure the joints are well connected and tightened so the water gets drained to the correct designated area.
  • Keeping the battery on the backup sump pump charged. It’s easy to forget to keep the battery charged when the backup isn’t in use, so make sure to fully charge it should you need it.

Other, more complex tasks are best left to professionals who can safely repair and maintain your sump pump. If the motor on the sump pump begins to make noise or smoke or fails to run, call a professional to look at and repair it. If you see any wear and tear on the wires, or suspect any electrical problems, have a professional investigate to ensure a safe and effective repair.

Having a sump pump helps to protect your home from water damage and can give you peace of mind that your basement, crawlspace, or any flooded room is properly drained. Give our professional team at Dahme Mechanical Industries, Inc. a call today to have a sump pump installed in your home, to have your existing one repaired, or to have a battery backup pump installed. You can reach us at 847-780-9242, and we look forward to helping you.