Sump Pump Maintenance

What is a Sump Pump?
Sump pumps are self-activating electrical pumps that protect homes from moisture intrusion. They are usually installed in a corner of the  basement or in a crawlspace.  They are designed to  to remove rising groundwater and surface runoff before it has a chance to seep into the home. Water can cause interior damage and encourage the Mold growth.  Sump Pumps should be maintained and equipped with all necessary components in order to ensure their reliability and be tested to ensure proper operation. Sump Pumps are one component I check during my Home Inspection.

Types of Sump Pumps

  • Submersible sump pumps are designed for  underwater use and sit at the bottom of the sump pit, and are much quieter than pedestal pumps. Their oil-cooled motors and tight seals protect against water and dust and afford them a long lifespan.   Sump Pumps can be purchassubersable pumped from your local home improvement stores from about $150.00 to $400.00 which is a small price to pay considering  the possibility of moisture in your basement or crawl space leading to Mold Growth.

 

  • Pedestal sump pumps sit above the water line beside the sump trench and are not designed to get wet. Since they are not contained within the sump pit, they can be accessed easily but are also very noisy.


Maintenance of Sump Pumps

  • Sump pumps must be kept clean and free of debris. The inlet screen prevents the passage of dirt and other solid material from entering the pump.   Cleaning the screen should be a part of regular maintenance.

 

  • You should make sure that the float is not tangled or jammed in one position.  The float should be free to move up and down.  Raise the float and the pump motor should start, lower float and it should stop.  A sump pump with a jammed float is useless because it will not sense when it should turn on and shut off.

 

  • The pump can be tested by pouring water into the pit to make sure it becomes activated and expels the water.  Depending on the size and design of the pit and how fast the water peculates into the ground this procedure can take quite a few gallons of water.


Components of a sump pump

  • For most homes, the sump pit should not be less than 24 inches deep and 18 inches wide.  The sump pit must be large enough to allow thesump pit pump room to work properly.  The sump pit does not need to be constructed from any particular material, as long as it is solid and provides permanent support for the pump. It must, however,. Some homeowners use a 5-gallon bucket as a sump pit, but this is insufficient.

 

  • The check valve must be the same diameter as the discharge pipe into which it fits and is usually a different color. A check valve should be installed in order to check valveprevent pumped water in the discharge line from re-entering the sump pit when the device is turned off. Without this valve, the pump will have to work twice as hard to remove the same column of water, which causes unnecessary strain to the pump components. A check valve can also prevent the rare yet disturbing possibility that a discharge line connected to a stream or pond will back-siphon into the sump pit.  These Items will be checked by a Certified Home Inspector if you are purchasing a home with a sump pump installed.

 

  • An alarm can be installed because sump pumps can burn out, lose power, become clogged or misaligned, or malfunction in a variety of other ways. It is valuable to have a warning device installed that will signal water build-up. These alarms can alert homeowners or neighbors of flooding so that it can be resolved before water damage occurs. Alarms are especially important in residences that are not occupied for long periods of time.

 

  • Backup Power sources can be installed to maintain operation during power outages which are most likely to happen during heavy rains and floods, which are situations when the sump pump is most needed. For this reason, sump pumps should have a backup power source to rely on. A pump powered by a battery or the home’s water pressure can also be installed as a backup.

 

  • A GFCI receptacle can be used but may trip during safe conditions and deactivate the sump pump when it is needed. A sump pump is among the most critical of all household appliances, and its deactivation, especially if the tenants are not home, could allow catastrophic building damage. Codes recommend that appliances in basements and crawlspaces be connected to GFCIs to reduce the chance of electrical shock, but this advice is often ignored due to these concerns over nuisance tripping.


Sump Pump Discharge

  • Point of discharge should be 20 feet from your foundation and should have positive drainage from your wall or foundation line.
  • Water should not drain onto your neighbors property and in most areas is not permitted to drain into the sewer system or septic system.

Inspections Done Right