Sump Pumps: What You Need to Know
If you live in a low-lying area or have a basement with poor drainage, a sump pump is an excellent investment. It pumps groundwater away from the home through a pipe, routing it outside or into a municipal sewer system if permitted.
To test your sump pump, dump buckets of water into the pit until the float switch is triggered. This should take about a week. Checkout Tidal Plumbing & Heating for more information.
A typical residential sump pump uses a single electrical outlet to power its motor. This is one of the reasons that power outages are the most common cause of sump pump failure, especially during heavy rains.
Fortunately, a battery backup system is available to ensure that your basement stays dry even when the power fails. These systems use a larger battery and a more sophisticated charger to give your pump the extra run time it needs to keep your home dry. These backup systems cost more than a basic electric pump, but they can save you thousands of dollars in flood damage.
If you have an alternative source of power like a generator, you can also install a special power cord that runs from your pump to a power cord connected to the backup. This system uses the same method to keep your basement safe, but it requires you to have a generator nearby when you need it.
Other alternatives to electricity include pumps that run on municipal water pressure. These work by using the Venturi effect, which uses gravity to increase pressure and create a flow of water through the pump. However, this type of pump consumes potable water and raises your water bill.
In some cases, you can connect a garden hose to the pump and then use it to drain water outside your home. This type of system is usually the cheapest and easiest to install. However, you must follow local regulations to find a place to dispose of the wastewater and ensure that it does not pollute your neighborhood.
If you have a sewage ejection pump, the discharge line can connect to the sewer. If you live in an urban area, there may be a limit to how far you can discharge the waste water from your home, but this is still an effective way to keep your basement from flooding. Many city ordinances require that your home have a sewage ejection system, and failing to have one can result in fines. A sewage ejection system can also be used to protect public property by controlling the flow of waste water into the surface soil.
A sump pump helps control water flow and reduces the risk of flooding. It also lowers the chance of long-term structural damage and improves indoor air quality by reducing moisture in basements and crawl spaces. However, installing this type of drainage system can be a challenge for a do-it-yourselfer. It’s best to consult a plumber or take advantage of their expertise and experience to get the job done properly.
Choosing the right location is key to the successful operation of your pump. Locate it in the lowest part of your basement, ideally near the floor drains. This ensures that the pumped water is removed from your home and not redirected back toward the foundation. It’s also important to consider the velocity of water entering the suction pipe when deciding how deep to submerge the pump. The ideal entry velocity is 3–8 feet per second. A baffling arrangement, usually at the pump’s suction flange, can help smooth the entrance of water into the pump and avoid sudden acceleration that might cause clogs.
The next step is to dig a hole large enough for the basin. It is recommended that you lay a layer of coarse gravel inside the hole, which will promote good drainage and help prevent silt from clogging the pump.
Once the pit is dug and the liner is set, pour in a few inches of gravel to keep the sump pump from contacting the bottom of the basin when it’s activated. Then cover the pit with a lid to eliminate odors and protect the liner from dirt and debris.
Installing the piping that will send the water from the pump away from your house can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. J-hooks can be used to hang the PVC piping from rim joists in your basement or by punching a hole in the wall of your basement and drilling out the necessary hole. The piping can be connected to the pump by using threaded PVC fittings, and it’s helpful to add a few PVC pipe increasers for better distribution.
Whether you’re working with a simple pump or a more advanced model, it’s important to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Generally, the pump will need to be plugged into a GFCI outlet or one with special labeling that warns against unplugging the pump. If possible, the pump should be connected to a dedicated circuit. This will make it less likely to lose power due to a faulty electrical connection and reduce the chance of accidental unplugging.
Your sump pump should be fully inspected, cleaned, and maintained at least once each year. Ideally, you should perform these tasks before the rainy season hits to ensure your sump will work properly when it’s needed most. This will also help prevent expensive repair bills down the road.
During your inspection, you should check the power and ensure that the discharge pipe is not clogged. A clogged discharge pipe can lead to water spilling out of the pit and flooding your basement or yard. Additionally, the discharge pipe should be directed away from your home’s foundation to prevent the re-entry of water into the basement.
If your sump pump is running continuously, this may be a sign that it’s too small for the volume of water it’s designed to dispense. A pump that is too small will constantly struggle to keep up, resulting in excessive wear and tear on the motor, which will cause it to fail well before its expected lifespan.
A stuck float switch can also keep your pump from operating properly. Ensure that your float switch is able to move freely and that it’s positioned correctly within the basin so that it will activate once the water level reaches its sensor.
It is also important to ensure that the pump is sitting upright and is not tilting to one side. The vibrations caused by the motor while in operation can cause the float arm to shift positions, preventing it from activating when it is triggered.
You should also clean the basin and inlet screen of your sump pump. Using a toothbrush and warm water, you can scrub as much dirt from the screen as possible. Additionally, you can spray the screen with a nonabrasive disinfectant to help remove any buildup.
Lastly, you should also clean the discharge pipe from the pump. This can be done by removing the pump from the basin and disconnecting the pipe from the pump. If the pipe is difficult to disconnect, this may be a sign of corrosion or mold, which should be addressed immediately.
Many homes have a battery-backed sump pump installed for added protection against flood damage in case of an emergency. If the main sump pump experiences a mechanical breakdown or fails during a storm, the battery backup activates to prevent costly water damage to the basement.
Homeowners should consider a system that includes both the primary sump pump and a battery backup. This provides peace of mind knowing that they have several hours of protection from flood damage if the pump goes down or a power outage occurs.
The best battery backup sump pumps are AC or DC powered and utilize deep-cycle “maintenance-free” batteries designed for marine use. They switch from AC wall current to the battery’s DC power when the power goes out, ensuring the pump will run for at least a few hours. They also have an alarm that sounds locally and may trigger remote notification via a telephone data link or cellular network in the event of an emergency.
In addition to a battery backup, homeowners should also invest in a pump with an integrated pressure sensor and an alarm. This will alert them to a problem before it leads to an emergency situation. Ideally, the system will monitor the sump pump’s GPH (gallons per hour) rating and send an alert to homeowners when it is close to running out of capacity. This will help homeowners plan ahead to remove valuables from the area in the event of a failure.
While a battery backup is an excellent option for most homes, some people prefer to install a water-powered sump pump that operates without electricity. This system uses city water to move the sump water away from the home, so homeowners should check with local municipalities before installing one. They may be forbidden to operate in areas that experience frequent water shortages.
The most important factor when choosing a sump pump is the GPH, or gallons per hour, it can remove from the basin. A pump with a lower GPH rating will not be sufficient to protect the basement, so it is crucial that homeowners choose a model that can keep up with the incoming water volume in the event of a flood. In addition, homeowners should look for a pump that has a cast iron core, which dissipates heat better than plastic or stainless steel.