Everything You Need to Know About Sump Pumps

14 Jun

Every homeowner needs a sump pump to prevent flooding. Even if you live in a part of Canada that doesn’t normally flood, having a sump pump is vital to your plumbing system. Yet many people don’t understand the importance of having one or what they do.

What is a sump pump?

Sump pumps are part of your home’s plumbing system that is placed at the lowest space in your home. This is usually the basement or crawl space. It may appear that there is a hole or pit that allows the water to pool. The pump is inserted into the hole.

There are a few different types of pipes:

  1. Submersible – these pipes are fully submerged in your basin
  2. Pedestal – a mounted type that is fastened onto columns from the basin
  3. Floor sucker – these pumps don’t need a hole and can remove water right off the floor. They can also be used in places other than a basement, such as a roof.
  4. Water-powered pumps – some pumps don’t need electricity to run. Instead, they are powered by the water pressure from your plumbing system.
  5. Ejector pumps – for spaces that have some gravel or debris that cannot be easily removed, an ejector pump is ideal. They are capable of handling some debris without trouble. These pumps are more expensive and are made of cast iron.

While their main job is to prevent too much groundwater from accumulating in your home, they can also help prevent flooding if a pipe bursts or you have a washing machine malfunction. Most pumps can last up to 10 years and some may even work longer than that. However, if you are unsure about the age of your pump or if it has been more than 10 years, contact your plumber to have it checked and changed.

How does a sump pump work?

Luckily for homeowners, a sump pump has been designed to pump water away from your home once the pooling water gets to a certain level.

Pumps are activated in two ways:

  1. Float activator – this machine has an arm attached with a buoyant ball on the end. This ball floats on top of the water and measures how deep it is. If the water reaches a certain height where it presents a danger to your basement, the sump pump will activate.
  2. Pressure sensor – it sends a signal to the pump to activate once the water pressure gets to a certain level.

In both cases, the pump sucks up the water and moves it along a pipe away from your foundations. It protects you from costly flood damage. Once the water level falls below a certain level the pump will stop. The pumps have a check valve that prevents that water from flowing back into the pipe and into your home. Sump pumps use the electrical current in your home which simplifies the wiring needs of your property.

Benefits of a Sump Pump

There are a number of ways that a sump pump protects your home, such as:

  • preventing rainwater from flooding your home
  • activating in the case of a sewage backup
  • keeping humidity levels low
  • reducing the chance of mould or mildew growing inside your home

Picking the Right Pump

There are some things to keep in mind when choosing the right sump pump for your home, including:

  • Size – You want to be sure that it has the right amount of horsepower and gallons per minute for your space. Consider the size of the drainage basin, depth to groundwater and the depth of your basement. The most common sizes for pumps are .25 hp, .33 hp, and .5 hp. Most homes will accommodate a .33 hp model. If you’re not sure which one is right for you, ask your plumber.
  • Activator – while a mechanical floater is easier to inspect, it is more likely to get stuck. An electric switch can be sleeker but more difficult to replace/repair.

Your sump pump is an important feature of your home. For extra protection, you should consider having a backup pump.

Caring for Your Pump

Regular care and maintenance are key to keeping your sump pump running efficiently. There are some other things you can do to keep your pump in top shape, including:

  • Change the batteries on the backup pump every couple of years
  • Listen for unusual noises when the pump is running
  • Run your backup pump occasionally to ensure it is working
  • During pipe testing, check that the water is being piped out of your home and away from your foundations
  • Air holes in the discharge line need to be checked and cleaned
  • Run a water-vinegar solution through your pump every three months to keep it clean

If you notice anything unusual when your sump pump is running, call a professional plumber to check it and ensure it is still working well.

Troubleshooting for Your Sump Pump

Sometimes you’ll notice that your pump is not working correctly. Here are a couple of examples of common problems:

The sump pump is constantly running – investigate your home for the possibility of burst pipes, washing machine malfunctions or other water-related issues in your plumbing system. If none of these appear to be the issue, look inside the pump basin and check the water level. If it is low, the pump’s activator may be broken.

Your pump doesn’t run at all – even if you live in a dry climate, groundwater can still accumulate and activate your pump. However, if there is no action at all, you’ll want to find the source of the problem before your home floods.

Some things you can do to identify the issue are:

  • Check the pump’s circuit breaker
  • Look at the floater activator
  • Remove debris or build up from the basin

For more information about sump pumps, call Brothers Plumbing at 1-800-742-8471 or contact us here.

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