You may think that your brand new fridge with adjustable shelves or other things with a Bluetooth connection might be a cool appliance in your house. Or maybe the stack-able washer and dryer set that cleans your clothes using half the water as your old one seems like your best appliance.
If you’ve ever experienced a flooded basement, another appliance that should win your affection is the sump pump. While there’s nothing fancy about it, from a practical standpoint; no home should be without one. Today’s sealed units are submersible and run more efficiently and quietly than old outdated pedestal styles.
They sit underneath the water line in a sump pit in your basement. As water from your weeping tile system drains into the pit area, the sump pump activates to move water safely out of your basement to an area outside your home and keeping the water table low under your floor. These units are an excellent means of basement waterproofing but can experience these common problems:
- Activation (Float) Switch Malfunctions
When the water in your sump pit reaches a certain height, a float switch turns the pump on. This part receives heavy use and will probably break first. Make sure your unit’s float switch can be easily replaced. They come in vertical, diaphragm, electronic and tethered styles. The vertical float switch is the most popular for its efficiency and reliability.
- Power Outages
Loss of power to the sump pump is also extremely common. The cord may be accidentally unplugged, the electrical circuit tripped or severe weather may knock the power out. Regular inspection of the connection and a dedicated outlet will alleviate some problems. Purchasing a battery back-up is also a good investment. This can offer continuous protection even when you’re away from home.
- Improper Installation
The pump should be professionally installed. Professional installers will follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions which are essential for trouble-free operation. The pump must sit flat on the pit bottom. Dirt and gravel should be removed to prevent float switch obstruction. It’s also recommended that a check valve is installed to stop water back-flow into the impeller. A small hole in the discharge line will relieve pressure and extend the life of the sump pump on some pumps. Some pumps do not require this step.
4. Wrong Sump Pump Size
It’s important to have the correct horsepower and pumping capacity for your application. A professional can help determine this. Too large a pump will create too much pressure that may blow the seals. Too small a pump will force it to work too hard and burn it out quicker. Typical residential sump pumps come in 1/3 and 1/2 horsepower with a pumping capacity of 35 or 60 gallons per minute. Replacements should be of similar size unless your current pump runs too often or you experience a loss of water flow due to a high vertical lift.
- Poor Maintenance
Maintaining your sump pump is easy and doesn’t require much work. During dry periods when the pump doesn’t operate often, pour some water into the pit occasionally to run a full cycle. Running vinegar through it will clean away any build-up. Keep the pit as clean as you can, within reason. Keep the float obstruction-free and any back-up battery should be replaced after three years.
- Life Expectancy
Like all mechanical appliances, your sump pump will eventually break down. With an average lifespan of three to seven years, you’ll likely need to replace the pump at least once while you’re living there. Prices range from $150 to $400 for a new one. Don’t underestimate how much damage can be caused by a malfunctioning sump pump. Being proactive and replacing it before it breaks down is the best thing you can do.