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What is a Sump Pump & How Does it Work?

As a homeowner, you may have experienced the inconvenience and damage caused by a flooded basement. One of the most effective ways to prevent basement flooding is by installing a sump pump. But like any other mechanical system, sump pumps can develop problems that may hinder their performance

What is a Sump Pump?

A sump pump is a mechanical device that safeguards against water damage by eliminating excess water from basements or crawl spaces. It is commonly placed in a designated sump pit or basin. Sump pumps are widely employed in flood-prone areas or places with water accumulation concerns. They offer a dependable solution to safeguard against water damage, basement flooding, and the growth of mold or mildew. Regular maintenance and periodic testing are vital to ensure the sump pump operates effectively when required.

How Does a Sump Pump Work

Here's an overview of its functionality:

  1. Collection: Water, such as groundwater or rainwater, naturally enters the sump pit through drains or perimeter drains, accumulating in the designated area.
  2. Activation: Once the water in the sump pit reaches a specific level, a float or pressure sensor is triggered, causing the sump pump to activate and start its operation.
  3. Pumping: Powered by an electric motor, the sump pump utilizes an impeller or propeller-like mechanism. As the impeller rotates, it generates a centrifugal force, expelling the water from the pit through a discharge pipe or hose.
  4. Discharge: The water is guided away from the building's foundation, usually through a pipe that connects to a drainage system, a storm drain, or a designated area where it can be safely drained.
  5. Shut-off: When the water level in the sump pit decreases to a specific point, the float or pressure sensor sends a signal to the sump pump to turn off.

Common Sump Pump Problems

Sump Pump Failure Due to Power Outage

One of the most common reasons for sump pump failure is a power outage. Since sump pumps rely on electricity to function, they become useless during power outages. To prevent this problem, consider installing a battery backup system for your sump pump. This will ensure that your pump continues to work even when the power goes out. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that homeowners install a secondary sump pump powered by batteries or a generator to avoid basement flooding during power outages.

Clogged or Frozen Discharge Line

A clogged or frozen discharge line can prevent your sump pump from draining water effectively. To prevent clogs, make sure to clean the discharge line regularly and install a grate or screen to keep debris from entering the line. To prevent freezing, you can insulate the discharge pipe or install a special discharge line that is resistant to freezing. The American Red Cross also recommends keeping the area around the discharge line clear of snow and ice to reduce the risk of freezing.

Sump Pump Overwhelmed by Heavy Rainfall

During heavy rainfall, your sump pump may overflow due to being unable to keep up with the amount of water entering your basement. To prevent this problem, ensure that your sump pump is the appropriate size for your home. A sump pump that is too small may not be able to handle the volume of water entering your basement. The Purdue University Extension recommends consulting with a professional plumber to determine the right size sump pump for your home.

Sump Pump Switch Problems

The switch is a crucial component of your sump pump, as it activates the pump when the water level in the sump pit rises. If the switch is faulty or becomes stuck, your sump pump may not turn on when needed. To prevent switch problems, regularly inspect and clean the sump pit to ensure that the switch is functioning properly. You should also consider installing a backup switch to provide an additional layer of protection.

Lack of Regular Maintenance

Like any mechanical system, your sump pump requires regular maintenance to function efficiently. Failing to maintain your sump pump can result in a variety of problems, including reduced performance and a shorter lifespan. To keep your sump pump in good working condition, perform regular maintenance tasks such as cleaning the sump pit, checking the discharge line, and testing the pump's operation.

Contact Our Sump Pump Experts

At Pine State Services, we understand the importance of a properly functioning sump pump in preventing basement flooding and protecting your home. Our team of skilled plumbers can help you with sump pump installation, maintenance, and repairs.

If you have any questions about sump pumps or need assistance with your existing system, contact us today at 207-747-1210 to schedule a service appointment.

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