The Basics of Sump Pumps

As temperatures begin to rise, it’s time to protect your home from future flooding and overflow of water damage, and to properly gear up for threats posed by the next, often unpredictable storm. Here’s one proven technology that will help safeguard your home or business property from winter and seasonal storms: The Sump Pump.

A sump pump is most commonly used when basements regularly flood or have issues associated with dampness. It is helpful in months with a large amount of rain or heavy snowfall that melts and causes a mess.

When the mess begins to escalate quickly beyond your control, that’s where a sump pump comes in.

What is a Sump Pump?

Essentially, sump pumps are cylindrical pumps that are placed in the lowest point of your basement.

A sump pump moves water from your basement, out of your home. A sump is a naturally constructed pit, typically a hole carved below the main surface of your basement floor. This pit, called a basin, holds the sump pump. The pump has valves that sense increasing water levels or pressure.

A sump pump automatically pumps excess water out of the house and away from your property through a discharge line when it senses water getting too high. This line, which is called an effluent, connects the pump to a designated drainage location, and helps prevent prone flooding areas like basements from experiencing water damage.

Sump Pump Benefits

A sump pump is a mechanism to remove water from the lowest point in your home (like a basement or a crawlspace), along with the soil below, and forces it out into a draining space to avoid flooding, water damage, and mold growth.

Most have a float that rises with the water level and triggers the motor to start pumping water out before there’s a problem.

Sump pumps continue to be among the best ways to prevent water damage as a means of preventative maintenance.

One of the most common places to get water damage in your home is your basement, causing thousands of dollars in damage. However, there is a way to prevent basement flooding and water damage in your basement altogether. Sump pumps benefits include helping eliminate water from your basement before it becomes a problem and can even move water away from your house.

How Do They Work?

Sump pumps can be placed in your basement to pump water from your house into a drain and somewhere that it won’t cause damage to your home. They’re placed at the lowest point of your basement so the water drains into it, and they only turn on when they come in contact with water which saves electricity. Most of them use a float switch, which is a sensor floating on the water, to tell the pump when the water level is getting too high.

Sump Pump Benefits

  • Preventing basement flooding
  • Helps protect from sewage backups
  • Helps protect your home from mold and mildew
  • Increased property value
  • Reduces humidity level in home
  • Can help minimize heating costs with continuous drainage system.
  • Prevention of termite or insect infestation

Types of Sump Pumps

There are a few different types of sump pumps that are used in homes. These options include pedestal pumps, submersible, battery-operated backup, and water-powered backup.

Pedestal Sump Pumps

A pedestal sump pump has their motor next to this sump basin. If your sump pit is narrow or deep, or you don’t spend much time in your basement, a pedestal pump will be most effective. However, the sound of a pedestal pump running is fairly loud, and these pumps aren’t very powerful.

Submersible Sump Pumps

A submersible sump pump has the motor and its housing located inside the hole.  Submersible pumps are quieter and more powerful so if you spend time in your basement or need to pump out a lot of water, those are preferable. Most pumps run between 1/3 hp and 3/4 hp.

Water-Powered Backup

The advantage of a water-powered system is that it has no need to monitor or replace batteries. This type of sump clears the water in your basin through increased water pressure. Since it uses extra water, it can significantly raise your water bill, and some cities don’t allow these to be installed.

Battery-Operated Backup

A battery backup sump pump will provide you with an extra layer of security in case your power goes out during a flood. It has a float switch that operates when the main source, like electricity or gas lines are cut off from their supplier due to storms.

What if Your Pump Fails?

During storms or other natural disasters, your electricity may go out, causing your pump to fail. It’s important to also have a battery backup sump pump to make sure your house doesn’t get flooded when the electricity is out. A combined system like this is the best way to prevent failures in your pump and flooding in your basement. If your pump has failed and your basement is flooded, make sure to follow these steps to stay safe while cleaning up the flood water. Or call Jenkins Restorations to come help you restore your basement!

sump pump

How Are Sump Pumps Preventative?

Not only can sump pumps remove water from your basement, but they can also pump ground water away from the basement. Some pumps can activate when they sense water in the soil, preventing the problem before it ever arises. They will then drain the water out of the soil and away from your home.

Mold Prevention

Because they prevent flooding and water damage, sump pumps also can help keep mold from growing in your basement. Mold normally grows in moist conditions and it can be extremely detrimental to your health. In some cases, it’s even deadly. Sump pumps will eliminate that moisture from your basement and prevent standing water. Without the standing water or moisture, the mold won’t grow or cause damage in the first place.

Fire Prevention

These pumps can also prevent certain types of electrical fires and fire damage. Sometimes, when your basement begins to flood, water can get into electrical circuits or outlets, causing shorts in the circuits or electrical fires.

Common Mistakes Made

Not Testing Your Pump Regularly

Make sure you test your pump system at least once a year so you know whether or not you need to repair or replace it! To test the pump, simply get a five gallon bucket of water and slowly pour it into your sump basin until your pressure or float switch is triggered. If the water doesn’t drain out and your pump doesn’t turn on, you may need to purchase and install a new one.

Unplugging the Pump

Surprisingly, an extremely common issue that occurs with sump pumps, particularly ones in basements used for more than just storage, is that the pump can get unplugged. Most often, the outlet is needed, so the pump is disconnected from the power and not plugged back in. It’s best to make sure that your pump never gets unplugged if you can avoid it, so plan the use of your basement accordingly.

Draining into Municipal Water or Sewer Systems

In older homes, it was common for these systems to drain into your local water systems. However, more recently, laws and regulations have been put into place to prevent this because municipal water and sewer systems were being overwhelmed, particularly when it rains.

Failure to Get Preventative Maintenance Done

Preventative maintenance is absolutely vital when you have a sump pump system. There are lots of different issues that can arise from debris in the pump, faulty wiring, or even broken pipes. Catching these issues early can prevent larger, more expensive problems in the future.

Sump pumps are a vital component in keeping moisture out of your home and preventing lots of issues, including basement flooding and mold.  Make sure you maintain and care for your pump properly, and you’ll have a dry, comfortable home for years to come.

What Size Sump Pump Do I Need?

You can expect a water removal rate of 1,800 to 2,200 gallons/hour from your average household sump pump.

However, if you live in an area prone to flooding (i.e. areas – like Nashville – near rivers or towns on the coast near large bodies of water), it is more prudent to install a one half horsepower sump pump that can remove 3,000–5,000 gallons/hour.

How to Install Sump Pump in Basement

You may wonder, “Do I need a plumber to install a sump pump?” and the answer is: Yes. This is not the household project to put your DIY skills to the test. If it is improperly installed or wired, it can malfunction, not operate correctly as floodwaters rise and cause a lot more headaches and expensive repairs than the initial cost for installation. A sump pump for a flooded basement can save a lot of trouble.

A licensed and experienced plumbing contractor has the proper equipment and the expertise to get this job done efficiently and effectively, so you don’t run into a flooded basement, property damage and the potential threat to family safety.

To get a better idea of how plumbers install sump pumps, check out this short video from the home improvement show, This Old House.

How to Clean a Sump Pump

Do sump pumps require maintenance? Like most systems in our homes, annual maintenance is a must to ensure the proper function and longevity of the pump, which typically lasts about 10 years.

You’ll want to consider a maintenance visit once each year, and the pump should be cleaned once per quarter or more as needed. When a professional plumber and plumbing contractor performs sump pump maintenance, they will typically inspect and adjust parts like the discharge pipe, the check valve, the alarm, your backup power source and the fit of your cover.

They’ll also want to take a closer look at the discharge location and the housing pit where the sump pump lives and where water collects.

Sump Pump Maintenance Management Best Practices

To properly care for your sump pump system, most professionals recommend the following:

  • Remove the pump and clean the grate at the bottom of the sump pit
  • Make sure the air gap is clear between the internal and external discharge pipes to avoid backflow
  • Regularly check the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) that your sump pump should be plugged into, and reset it if it has tripped
  • Locate and remove debris as a first measure of cleaning the pump
  • To avoid malfunction, test the sump pump and make sure the float is not stuck.

“When testing the pump, no one should ever reach into the pit. The float can be reached and manipulated with a household item such as a golf club (with a rubber handle) or anything else non-conductive that happens to be lying around.” –  International Association of Certified Home Inspectors

What to do When Your Sump Pump Overflows

If your sump pump stops working, then you should take immediate action. First, you need to make sure the pump has power. Then, reset the unit and restart the motor on the pump. Inspect the float for signs of wear and inspect the check valve for debris. After you inspect those two areas, carefully clear out the weep hole on the pump, and clean the impeller and basin. Make sure it is unplugged before you reach into the basin! Lastly, check the discharge line to see if clogs have developed.

How to Reset a Sump Pump

Resetting your sump pump is easy and can be done within minutes. Sometimes it needs to be reset in situations such as after a power outage or surges. Here are a few steps to correctly reset your pump.

1. Disconnect the Power

First, you should check the electrical circuit breaker box and disconnect the power. If that is not an option, locate the on/off switch on your pump and turn it off, or unplug it from the outlet.

2. Remove Debris

Once your pump is removed from the basin, check inside of it and make sure it is clear of debris. One of the most common causes of sump pump failure is dirt or debris in the pit.

3. Reconnect

Lastly, properly put the pump back how you found it. Plug it back into the wall and turn hit the on button. If the pump does not turn back on, check the breaker or fuse box!

What is a sump pumpWhat to Do When It Floods

Sometimes despite your best efforts and careful preparations, your home can experience heavy rain and flash flooding. In this case, the best thing you can do is damage control.

  • Make sure the float isn’t stuck
  • Double check that the sump pump is still plugged in
  • Check your GFCI outlet and reset it, if necessary
  • Assess the damage and try to salvage what you can
  • Call for backup to help restore your home to its pre-flood state

How to Prevent Future Damage

After experiencing flooded areas and seeing firsthand just how much damage a high volume of water can cause, it’s clearly not an experience anyone would like to repeat. Preventing future property damage then becomes a top priority for homeowners.

That is where these preventative measures become essential:

  • Research your city’s online resources to see if they provide a flood zone map like Nashville does, so you know what to expect where you live  (especially if you are new or are building in the area).
  • Redirect downspouts to areas where the water can be absorbed into the ground and clear them (as well as any drains and pipes) of ice and debris.
  • Plant trees and/or a rain garden to absorb and slow runoff.
  • Install a rain barrel as a way to reuse water and prevent flooding.
  • Move snow away from your house and be sure to clear doors, stairwells, and window wells to prevent leaks and flooding.
  • Turn off the water as temperatures start to rise if your pipes froze, and call a professional to help thaw or repair them to prevent water damage.

How to get Water Out of Basement Without Sump Pump

Although a sump pump is a great way to remove water out of your basement, there are some other solutions to your problem. One is hiring a restoration company like Jenkins that has experts available 24/7 to remove water from your property! However, while you wait for water removal experts to arrive, there are a few things you can do to remove water from your basement quickly. A handpump, mop, and a wet/dry vac, are all good options to remove water quickly while help is on the way.

Additional Home Protection

Sump pumps work to prevent your basement from flooding as well as to protect against health and safety hazards such as mold and fire. Once installed, you can further protect your home by:

  • Testing your pump
  • Considering a battery-operated backup in the event of a power outage
  • Pumping the waste water further from the house (think: 20+ feet)

No matter the time of year, make sure your home is protected against flood and property damage by installing a sump pump before you need it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do all houses need a sump pump?

Most homes built after 1980 require a sump pump, but some older homes do not. If you live in a flood zone, you should consider installing one.

How much does it cost to replace a sump pump?

The average cost to replace a sump pump is $600 to $2000. However, the price depends on the size of the pump, the location of the pump, and whether the pump needs to be replaced due to damage.

Do all basements have a sump pump?

No, most, but not all houses have a sump pump. In areas with a lot of moisture, a sump pump can save a homeowner from flooding.

Should your sump pump be running after snow?

If you live in a cold climate, then yes, your sump pump should run after snowfall. The snow melt from your basement drains into the sump pit. When the water level gets too high, it kicks in and pumps out all the excess water. This prevents flooding in your home.

Do sump pumps use a lot of electricity?

Sump pumps use can use $30 a month in electricity and about 10 kWh of power per month during wet spring months. Make sure you are not overloading your circuits or you could trip the breaker.

Why is sump pump running without rain?

If you notice that your sump pump is running when there is no rain, it is most likely due to an increase in groundwater. Groundwater can be from nearby water sources such as rivers or lakes, or possibly even a broken pipe.

Is sump pump failure covered by insurance?

Most homeowner insurance policies usually don’t cover water damage resulting from sump pump failures.

How often should a sump pump run?

A sump pump should only run whenever its use is needed, when a certain water level is met. If you live in an area that rains a lot, or deals with flooding at a higher rate, your sump pump will be used more often.

Have You Recently Suffered From Flooding

After a flooding incident, make sure to call Jenkins Restorations to get your home – and your life – back to normal again.