Is Your Sump Pump Ready For Spring?


As we prepare for the big spring meltdown, it's important to make sure that the sump pump in your home is functioning properly. When the temperatures rise and the snowbanks get smaller, all of that water has to go somewhere - and your basement is a prime candidate.

A defective sump pump could mean a basement full of water, which not only threatens to destroy your belongings, but poses health hazards like mold and mildew. Take some time this week to check on this important equipment in your home before any flooding occurs.


What is a sump pump?

Chances are, if you live in the Northeast, your basement already has a sump pump. These automatic pumps are designed to pump clean water, as opposed to effluent pumps which are designed to pump partially solid waste. The most common application is for basement drainage to prevent residential flooding. Usually, sump pumps are installed in specially constructed sump pits. We love a good DIY project as much as the next person, but if you do not already have a sump pump in your home, we recommend consulting a professional before installing.


How does a sump pump work?

Sump pumps move water out of the basin through pipes that run away from your home and out to a spot where the water can drain away from your foundation. The pipe usually has a one-way valve called a check valve at the pump end to keep the water from flowing back into the basin. Automatic sump pumps turn on through a float activator arm or a pressure sensor. Water exerts more pressure on the sensor than air does, which causes the pump to activate. The float activator, a buoyant ball floats on top of the water, manually moves the arm as the water level rises.

What type of sump pump do I need?

There are several types of common household sump pumps. The needs of your home will determine which type is best for you:

  • Pedestal Sump Pump – If you can see your pump protruding from the top of the sump basin lid, you have a pedestal pump These pumps feature an impeller at the base with a motor on the top which is not designed to be submerged in water.
  • Submersible Sump Pump – Hidden inside the sump basin, these pumps are designed to be completely submerged in water. They operate more efficiently and are quieter than pedestal pumps.
  • Sump/Effluent Pump - These pumps are specially designed to remove waste water that collects in an effluent basis or tank from laundry, showers, and bathroom sinks.
  • Manual and automatic - pumps are both available, and while manual pumps are marginally less expensive, we strongly suggest an automatic pump in case you are not home or asleep when your basement begins to flood. Spending a little more up front could save you a LOT down the road!

Other factors to consider are:

  • What size is your current pump? Look on the identification plate to determine the horsepower (HP)
  • What is the diameter of your sump basin?
  • What is the diameter of the discharge pipe? It will typically be either 1 – ¼ or 1 – 1/2 “ for sump pumps and 1 – 1/2 “ or 2” for sump/effluent pumps.

How do I verify that my sump pump is working?

Most sump pumps have built-in flood alarms, usually battery powered, that alert you if the pump isn't working properly and water is backing up. Some systems can even notify your alarm company or call your cell phone if the water starts to rise. Fortunately, this shouldn't happen often. Sump pumps on the whole are quite reliable. But as with any other important piece of equipment, regular maintenance is always a good idea. Keeping your pump in good working order year-round will help protect your home during major weather events, like mass snow melting or heavy rains.

Simple sump pump maintenance typically includes:

  • Make sure the pump is plugged in to a working ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet and the cord is in good shape. In damp areas, GFCI ­breakers may trip, effectively shutting off the sump pump. Check in on your sump pump periodically so you can reset the GFCI if necessary.
  • Pedestal or submerged, make sure the pump itself is standing upright! Vibrations during operation can cause it to fall or tilt onto one side and jam the float arm so it can't activate the pump.
  • Periodically pour a bucket of water into the pit to make sure the pump starts automatically and the water drains quickly once the pump is on. If the pump doesn't start, have it serviced right away.
  • Physically remove a submersible pump from the pit and clean the grate on the bottom. The sucking action of the pump can pull small stones into the grate, blocking the inlet or damaging the pump over time.
  • Ensure the outlet pipes are tightly joined together and draining out at least 20 feet away from the foundation of your home.
  • Make sure the vent hole in the discharge pipe is clear of any debris.

Do I need a battery backup system?

If you have a sump pump, definitely consider adding an emergency backup sump pump systems. A backup system provides added peace of mind, protecting your home against power outage, sump pump failure and heavy rains that can overwhelm your existing sump pump system. The backup power can come from a car battery, or even better, a deep cycle boat battery. Most of the systems charge the batteries while the power is on, ensuring the battery is fully charged in the event of a power outage. Alternatively, a trickle charger used for car batteries is also an option.

It is also recommended, especially if you live in an area prone to flooding, that you install a water powered backup pump. No electricity or batteries are required and the system takes over when primary sump system fails. This is ideal for flood prevention during extended power outages that may exceed the life of a backup battery system.

Help! I still have questions.

Don't worry, we can help you get the job done! Stop in to your local Valu and speak to one of our knowledgeable Sales Associates about pump maintenance, replacement, parts, or upgrades.