AVOIDING WET BASEMENTS – Part 2 -Sump pumps

Sump pumps

Sump Pumps have become quite technical in the past few years. Homes with high water tables are very dependent upon the proper operation of the sump pump. There are several combinations of sumps available on the market, some that will even notify you in the event of a pump failure. Of course these systems can be expensive. In this blog I will attempt to discuss various options available depending upon your needs and some maintenance tips to help keep your pump in a dependable condition.

A sump pump has two main types of on switches that turn the pump on, both controlled by the water level. One style is built into the pump or attached directly to the pump down in the pit and wired to a receptacle on the basement wall. The built in style of pump switch is often more difficult to test and therefore often gets neglected. The second style of float as they are referred to, is the type that allows the homeowner to bypass the float and manually test the pump without getting into the sump pit. To do this you would simply unplug the two wires and plug in the pump directly to the outlet receptacle. Once this is done you should hear the motor turning. It is important at this point that you know the difference between a turning motor sound and a seized motor hum. One way I determine the difference when the sump is dry is to listen for the motor to slowly wind down when it is unplugged. If the motor suddenly stops when it is unplugged it may be seized and will not pump the water when it is needed. Also check to make sure the check valve in the line if present is not stuck in the closed position. if either of these components fails the water will rise.

This leads me to the next topic, backup systems. There are a few ways you can reduce your flood risk. One is to install a flood sensor in the top half of the sump pit. If water hits the sensor due to a pump failure, the sensor will sound an alarm. Of course you need to be home to hear it. The next approach is a second sump pump that only starts if the first fails and the water level climbs high enough to activate that pumps float. A third way to protect your home is to add a battery backup in the event of a power failure. Power outages often accompany huge rain events and thus the need for the sump to run. A forth type of protection is to add a “smart” alarm system. These systems are pricey but offer the most protection. If the main sump fails to start and the water level rises above a certain level you will receive a notification of a possible pump failure on your smart phone. You can purchase even more sophisticated systems that will include a second pump and a battery backup and all the notifications that go with those component operations.  These high end systems are great but for most of us they may be out of reach and ultimately overkill. I liken it to owning a Cadillac or a Civic. If you can afford the Cadillac great but if you own and maintain the civic you will get where you are going none-the-less. Bottom line is, sump pumps require maintenance and will eventually fail so be proactive and in tune with your sump requirements. If you don’t you may be calling a plumber or worse yet your insurance company.

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