Tuesday, April 4th
Why do sump pumps fail and what you can do to make sure yours doesn't.
A high-quality well-installed sump pump with a lid is a basement's best friend.
A good sump pump is a homeowner’s first line of defense against a basement flood, whether caused by a storm or plumbing leak. But when a sump pump fails on you, it can make a problem worse or cause flooding itself.
They are mechanical devices and therefore prone to malfunction, especially over time. They need a power source and when that fails, the pump fails. And among the many types, brands and models of sump pump on the market, some are poorly designed and cheaply built. Finally, an improper installation can cause a sump pump to under-perform or function ineffectively.
These are the six most common ways a sump pump will fail on you.
Sometimes a single sump pump just isn’t enough to handle a wet basement "event". The pump might not be reliable enough or powerful enough to handle the volume of water pouring in, especially during heavy rains. The quality of your sump pump matters, too: a cheap, plastic model is more likely to burn out or fail to keep up when it matters most.
Quality and capacity matter. Basement Systems has developed a line of sump pumps built around the high-capacity, cast iron Zoeller brand pump. We’ve tested many other pumps over decades and Zoeller consistently proves itself to be both reliable and powerful.
What to Do: Upgrade your sump pump and add a battery backup sump pump. In rare cases, you might need more than one sump pump, installed in different corners of the basement.
No water in the sump pump is a classic sign of an improperly installed pump or a pump that is not linked to a drainage system.
Sumps and Drainage Go Hand-in-Hand. A sump pump works best if there is a drain tile installed internally, along the internal perimeter of the basement, or externally. A basement drainage system should be designed to collect water and channel it via gravity toward the sump pump and discharge it into the pit. If the drain tile is clogged, collapsed, not installed with the proper pitch or non-existent, it will not be able to divert the water correctly. The best sump pump in the world will not keep your basement dry in these circumstances.
What to Do: Get your drainage system inspected and fixed. If there is no drainage system, have one installed.
An open sump pump is more likely to clog up.
If your sump doesn't have a lid - something we see very day in basements across the nation - it will get clogged and dirty over time and either slow down or stop entirely.
A dirty sump is not just a sad sight, it can be ineffective in many ways.
What to Do: Have your sump inspected to see if it's time to repair or replace. And make sure your next one is covered with an air tight sealed lid that prevents debris, is child and pet-safe AND keeps water from evaporating right back into the basement. Needless to say, this describes our sump pump systems. Our pumps also include a pedestal that keeps the sump from coming in contact with the bottom of the container.
Sump pumps typically expel the water collected via discharge lines. When discharge lines become frozen or clogged, the system fails.
Discharge lines should be clear and covered. Your goal is to make sure your discharge lines can transport water out of the basement and far away from your foundation even during the winter.
What to Do: Ensure your sump's discharge line can't freeze up and stays clear. Basement Systems offers an attachment called IceGuard, installed at the beginning of the line to keep water flowing out of the basement even when the line is frozen. And at the end of the line, we recommend our LawnScape Outlet, which prevents debris, mice and other small critters from getting in and clogging up the system.
Three pumps in one for ultimate security: our TripleSafe incorporates a conventional and a battery-operated backup pump.
There are many reasons for a sump pump to lose power, including being accidentally unplugged and the possibility the circuit breaker has tripped and needs to be reset. In addition, the same storm or torrential downpour that causes your basement to flood can also knock down power lines and cause your sump pump to fail.
Any sump in a storm will do... or will it? Power outages happen. You don't want your sump pump to fail when you need it the most.
What to Do: Back up! We recommend a high-capacity, battery-operated backup sump pump. And of course, we offer a solution that incorporates a battery backup and an alarm. In fact, our TripleSafe system comes with two backup sump pumps, one of which is battery operated.
When a sump pump runs continuously or too often, regardless of the weather conditions or season, it's a sign of a problem that needs to be addressed immediately, before the overworked pump burns out. Here are the most common causes of a sump pump on overdrive:
Stuck sump pump switches - See #3 above. Especially in cheaper models, the float switch can become clogged or tangled. In some cases, the vibrations of a running sump pump can cause it to lean on the edge of the pit or liner, disabling the sump pump switch.
Sump pump and/or liner is too small or too big - See #1 above. The sump pump may just not be big enough to handle the job, so it runs continuously to keep up. Or the pump is powerful enough but the sump pit may be too small, causing it to fill up too fast and triggering the sump pump to work overtime. In the industry, we call this a short-cycling sump pump.
The check valve is missing or broken. - Because the sump pump is installed below grade, the discharge line goes upwards until it can exit the basement at some point above grade (and at that point, the pipe is then pitched downwards, relying on gravity to discharge the water). The check valve is installed in the discharge line to prevent water from coming back into the pit before it reaches the apex. A broken or missing check valve will cause 1/3 to 2/3 of that water to flow right back into the pit! And that will overwork the pump.
Continually flooding sump pit. - In rare cases, there is a continuous flow of water into the sump pit due to a high water table or an underground spring. If the water table is too high, raising the sump pit a bit may help. Upgrading the system or installing an extra sump pump in another corner of the basement can also help. Individual inspection of the basement is usually needed to diagnose and develop an effective drainage solution.
What to Do: A sump pump that is running non-stop under normal conditions may fail when you need it most. Get a technician to look at it before bad weather strikes.
If your sump pump is not running properly or needs an upgrade, contact us for a free Sump Pump evaluation from your local Basement Systems contractor.