While a comprehensive waterproofing and drainage systems have many layers, sump pumps are considered the most essential. Most homeowners in the D.C area have a sump pump in their basement to protect the house from flooding.
Unlike the membranes, drainage sheets, and perforated pipe, which usually last for the life of the structure, sump pumps need replacing every few years. The US Department of Housing and Development estimates the average life expectancy of a pump at ten years. Just like all mechanical equipment, by performing regular maintenance, you’ll give a longer lifespan to the equipment.
How a Sump Pump Works
Sump pumps will turn on automatically; this is due to a pressure sensor or float activator in the system. The pressure sensor activates as water builds up in the pit, or around the pedestal and creates more pressure than air, prompting the pump to start working. Similar to the one in your toilet tank, the float activator has a ball that floats on top of the water, moving the arm as the water level rises.
After the sensor or arm tells the pump to start working, a centrifugal pump begins to move the water. When the pump is on, a screw or fanlike device called an impeller turns. The spinning impeller, using centrifugal force, drives water toward the sides of the pipe, creating a low-pressure area at its center. Water from the pit rushes to fill the void, and the impeller’s spinning action pushes it out through the pipe. Technical speak aside, the process is similar to water draining down a sink or bathtub, but with an electric helper.
What To Do if Your Sump Pump Fails
Hopefully, you have a backup system in place in case the worst happens. Pump failure leaves your basement with no recourse for eliminating water that is entering your basement, leading to flooding.
Remember, you don’t have to be waist-deep in water for it to wreak havoc. As little as two inches can cause thousands of dollars in damage to your structure, carpeting, belongings, drywall, wood support beams, and interior air quality.
Remember too, to call your insurance agent for flood policy information. Most homeowner’s insurance coverage does not include flood damage, and often you’ll have to take out a separate plan to qualify for reimbursement. Like most of our insurance, we pay premiums in the hopes that we never have to use them.
These days, some insurance companies offer sump pump failure coverage. This plan takes the form of a rider or endorsement attached to a standard homeowner’s insurance policy. Premiums are usually affordable, and you can receive up to $10,000 to replace or repair anything resulting from a flood or backup and pump failure, including pipes, drains, sewer fittings, and appliances.
As long as water threatens a property, then the sump pump fails to respond when the floods breach the barriers, you have cause for an insurance claim. The key to approval by the underwriters is proper pump maintenance, including debris removal and functioning mechanical parts.
The minute you notice or receive an alert that your pump fails, call us. We can help excavate the water and begin the remediation process with a team of professionals and commercial-grade equipment. Our first order of business is to drain the water from the space to initiate the drying process.
Waiting For Failure Isn’t An Option
This main pump is usually hard-wired to the home’s electrical system for power. Inevitably, during a storm, the power will go out, and the water removal system won’t be able to perform its task. Every home with a sump pump should have a reliable backup sump pump system for peace of mind.
But, power outages aren’t the only cause for pump failure, just the most obvious. You could be in a situation where the level control on the primary pump is obstructed or fails. Debris in the sump pit could prevent the level control from properly operating.
The pump fails due to some other mechanical problem because some components of the sump pump may be vulnerable to damage from power surges. The leading mechanical cause of sump pump problems is a switch problem.
Switch issues occur when the pump shifts from its position inside the basin, rendering the float ineffective. 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.
Your water discharge pipe is clogged. If water cannot exit your home through the discharge line, your system will not work. It is important to keep the discharge tube protected from freezing and free of sticks, dirt, rocks and other debris. Protecting the water’s exit point of the discharge pipe will keep debris and animals out of the system, making it optimal for your sump pump.
Debris clogging the primary pump will also cause pump failure. Leaves, paper, dirt, garbage all flow with storm water and can find a new home in your sump pit. An interruption in the flow of water due to an obstruction will shut down the mechanics.
Types of Sump Pump BackUp Systems
A Battery Backup Sump Pump is a separate system that is installed adjacent to your primary electric pump in the sump basin. These typically run on 12-volt or 24-volt D/C battery power and can either be plumbed into the central discharge pipe (the pipe hooked up to the sump pump to carry the water outside of the house) or can be installed with an independent discharge pipe.
Similar to your main sump, the battery backup sump pump has a float switch so that when the water rises in the sump, it raises the float and the backup pump is activated. This device helps keep water out of your basement if the primary pump cannot keep up with the inflow due to excessive amounts of water entering the sump pit. During an abnormally heavy rainstorm or snowmelt, the backup pump will assist the primary pump in evacuating the water.
In the case of a power outage or if the main pump/level control fails, it will take over the role as the primary pump allowing time for the power to be restored or the A/C electric pump system to be serviced. When operating intermittently with a fully charged battery, most backup sump pump systems can provide pumping relief for days.
Some of the most advanced backup sump pump models incorporate unique monitoring systems that signal the homeowner with a message and audio alarm when the following conditions exist:
- Pump failure detection
- High water alarms
- Battery charging level
- Low battery fluid
- Corroded battery terminals or the battery is defective
- Unit is not receiving A/C power
- Pump was activated
Water-Powered Backup Sump Pump is appropriate in areas where a pressurized municipal water supply is available (city water). A water-powered backup sump pump can be a reliable backup sump system without the need for a battery power supply.
This type of system uses the energy of flowing water through a venturi (a smaller section of tubing to detect water flow rates) to create a low-pressure region. As the pressurized water moves through the device, gravity and flow pressure push water out of the sump pit and empty it.
As with your leading sump pump system, the water-powered pump is installed in a sump pit, where a float will activate a valve to control the flow of pressurized city water. When the water level rises to a certain level, the valve will open, and when the water lowers the valve closes, and the flow of water stops.
These water-powered backup sump pumps are not intended to for use as a primary sump pump. They will require the use of municipal water for optimal operation and are not as efficient as an electric or battery operated sump pump.
Another drawback of water-powered pumps is that a water-powered backup pump must use a separate discharge than your primary pump.
Because, if the two pumps were to be linked together, a failure of the primary pump check valve would allow the municipal water to enter into the sump pit through the central pump. Plus, a failure in the incoming water pressure from city water supplies could allow sump water to infiltrate into the municipal water and produce a contamination risk.
Battery Backup Power Inverter systems offer a few advantages of the regular battery backup systems, but the difference is that the standard battery backup pumps pull directly from the 12- or 24-volt D/C battery power. The inverter models convert the low-voltage D/C current into 120-volt A/C current that powers the pump.
Getting Sump Pump Help
Our mission is to keep water out of your basement. Please reach out to us today with questions or to schedule an appointment with one of our professionals.