|Homeowners rarely give much thought to their sump pumps except when things go wrong. Often hidden away in a basement sump basin, these devices activate to pump water outside when water reaches a certain level in the pit. But when they fail, homeowners face the prospect of a flooded basement and an expensive cleanup.
Highly rated plumbers recommend a few simple steps to maintain your sump pump and keep it in optimal condition.
Tyler Diciolla, owner of highly rated Lifeline Plumbing in Elgin, Ill., says installers should include materials that help protect the system. “You want a good, solid lid on the pit, and if there’s a battery backup system, make sure it’s protected from dust buildup,” he says. “If there’s debris in the pit or the electronics, it can damage the system.”
Another important point is the sump pump’s power supply. The fact that sump pumps rely on electricity to operate does make them vulnerable in the event of a power outage. Fortunately, there are backup options available. For some people, at least those on municipal water systems — and assuming the city water system is still functional — water-powered sump pumps that don’t need any electricity are an option. These pumps literally use the pressure of flowing water to pump water out of the sump. The downside to this design is that the pumping process uses virtually the same amount of city water as the quantity of water it pumps out. So, while water-powered pumps aren’t necessarily a good choice for a main pump, they offer a viable option for a short duration backup pump.
Check for Yourself
Diciolla suggests keeping an eye on the outdoor discharge line during cold periods, when frozen pipes can send water back into the pit and potentially overflow. “I’ve seen the pump turn on while the discharge line was still frozen with a block of ice sitting in the pipe,” he says.
Listen and Learn
Counts also notes that unusual sounds, such as grinding or crunching, can indicate an obstruction, which can damage a pump or slow it down. He suggests hiring a professional to check for damage and perform maintenance in that case.
Call in the Pros
Counts points out this can be part of standard home maintenance. “You should have someone check out your plumbing once a year in any event,” he says.
Bet on a Backup