Any water that flows into your basement will make its way to this lowest point, which is why submersible sump pumps are in sump pits at the lowest point of your basement. When water enters your basement, the pump pulls it away from your foundation into your wastewater system and keeps your basement from flooding.
Sump pumps need replacing every few years. The US Department of Housing and Development estimates the average life expectancy of a sump pump at ten years.
Sump Pump Classifications
Like their name suggests, submersible pumps sit down inside a reservoir or sump pit. They are submerged during operation and have protective barriers that make them waterproof. The motors are stronger than the pedestal-type, making them suitable for areas of greater flooding.
Because they sit down in a reservoir, submersible sump pumps are, as a rule, quiet. The water muffles the sound of the motor. They are also out of the way when it comes to moving things around in the basement. They are not as prone to clogging as a pedestal pump but typically have a shorter lifespan.
A pedestal sump pump consists of a motor that sits atop a pedestal (hence the name) with a hose that goes down into the sump reservoir. The pump draws the water up through the hose and out to where it drains away from the house.
The motors have less power than the submersible models and work best where flooding is possible but usually minor. They start working when their float rises with the water in the reservoir and trips the switch.
Because the motor sits on a pedestal above the floor, the components are easier to reach for servicing. The other side of the coin is that the pump can get in the way of your moving things around in the basement. Pedestal pumps are also louder because there is no water to muffle the sound of the motor.
Factoring in Insurance
Sump pumps do the most work during spring and summer with heavy rains after snow melts. Homeowners’ policies ordinarily exclude water which enters into or overflows sump pumps. An insurance rider for sump pump failure often must be bought separately. You may have to buy it on its own from the National Flood Insurance Program.
The endorsement typically covers loss due to sump pump failure, power interruption and a pump overwhelmed by rising water. The same endorsement also usually includes sewerage backup.
Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Sump Pump
D.C residents spend an average of $460 to repair a sump pump and replacing a pump averages around $1,000. Both options will potentially save you thousands of dollars in repairs of a water-damaged basement.
The first warning sign is often a basement floor that goes splash. Beyond that, warning signs include:
1. Makes strange noises
Sounds coming from your pump can indicate worn or damaged parts. If the motor noise from your sump pump is excessive, the motor could have a failed bearing. Rattling or grinding noises may mean a jammed or damaged impeller, the fan on the bottom that pulls water into the pump.
2. Vibrates Excessively when Running
Pumps that have sucked up hard debris can have their impellers bent or damaged. An impeller is like a propeller except that it draws things in instead of propelling something along. Impellers are balanced to minimize wear on the shaft that they spin on. One that is bent or damaged will cause the whole thing to wobble and create stress on the shaft. The wobbling creates noise and is an indicator of future pump problems. Re-bending an impeller is nearly impossible to do right, so your best bet is to replace the unit.
3. Infrequent Pump Usage
Similar to car batteries, limited use of a sump pump will reduce its shelf life. Regularly testing your sump pump in between heaving rains will give you an early indication of any problems and support the mechanisms inside the appliance.
Do yourself a favor and keep a notebook of when you test the pump. If this is the first time you’ve considered activating it, or you’re new to the home, call us for maintenance and testing.
4. Runs All the Time
The leading cause of sump pumps running all the time is a switch problem. The float is responsible for the smooth operation of the on/off switch. Your sump pump relies on both the switch and the float arm mechanisms to operate. Switch issues can occur when the pump shifts inside the basin, rendering the float ineffective, or the switch loses connection with its power source.
Tethered switches that drift to the side of the pump are prone to hanging up on your sump basin. Vertical floats with plastic brackets frequently break, and the vibrations from an improperly installed pump may push any float switch against the side of the container.
If your sump pump runs continuously for no reason, it may not be able to handle the water load it’s supposed to, and you may want to consider replacing it.
5. Irregular Cycling
If your sump pump is cycling on and off frequently, even in heavy rains, there’s probably something wrong. It might be as simple as an incorrectly adjusted float switch that is causing the pump to come on when only a few inches of water accumulates in the basin.
Wiring malfunctions could also contribute to the pump turning on and off at odd intervals. A short in the electrical system, either in the house or the machine will prompt the pump to start or stop sporadically.
6. It Runs for a Long Time
This symptom probably means that your pump does not have sufficient horsepower, either for the volume of water it is required to handle or for the distance it must pump it. Calculating what size pump you need is a pretty involved matter involving pipe diameters, plumbing elbows or pathways, and reservoir dimensions.
Determining pump size not only includes the volume of water that it will be moving, but also the drain pipes and layout. If the pump has to push water up tall, vertical plumbing fixtures, it will need more power to combat gravity. Also, if there are a lot of turns and elbows in the layout, more power will be required to force water through the bends. Sump pumps that have to eliminate water through long drain pipes also need a lot of horsepower to move water to the opening.
7. Visible Rust
The brown stuff could be from corroded battery terminals, but sometimes the discoloration is due to bacteria. Commonly referred to as Iron Bacteria because of its color, the blight feeds off iron in water causing discoloration and in extreme cases, a gel-like substance that can clog plumbing, including your sump pump.
Iron bacteria is not a human health hazard, but it will cause problems with water flow in your drainage system.
8. Seven Years Old or Older
Regardless of maintenance and cleaning, these devices do not last forever. If yours is older than seven years, go ahead and replace it.
9. The Motor Gets Stuck Sometimes
The life of a pump motor can run out prematurely if it’s endlessly sucking up sediment and other material. A filter can be used to help keep such things out of your pump and extend its life. They do have to be cleaned and replaced periodically.
10. Motor Failure
Your sump pump could stop working because of an internal wiring failure. If the pump is getting electrical power to the unit but is still not working, there could be an electrical problem inside. Make sure it’s plugged in, and that it didn’t throw a fuse or breaker before searching for other causes.
If water cannot exit your home through the discharge line, your system will not work. Your pump system may have an extension hose that drains water away from the pit. When the temperature drops below freezing, this hose can ice up, resulting in a clog. When the pump tries to send water through the frozen hose, the water back flows or stops moving entirely, causing the motor to run at a higher output level, leading to burnout.
11. Installed by the Builder
Not all contractors are plumbing or waterproofing experts. New construction homes are not exempt from basement flooding, so if your sump pump came with the house, call us for an inspection.
12. Frequent Power Outages
Most sump pumps are directly wired into your home’s electrical system. Some components of the sump pump may be vulnerable to damage from power surges, causing pump failure.
We always recommend an auxiliary sump pump that runs on a marine battery. If you only back up the power system, not the pump; you protect yourself only from power failures.
Unsure of Your Sump Pump’s Status?
We can help determine the age and working condition of your sump pump long before you need it. Contact us today for an appointment.