Sump Pump Annual Maintenance
When it rains it pours. And when it pours you can count on leaks, seeps and maybe even some flooding. After that you can figure on a bit of mildew, possibly some rot and a distinct aroma that is slightly funky to the sniff. Have we painted a familiar picture? If so, read on!
Watershed is one of the single most crucial home maintenance issues that we must face each winter. Runoff from the roof, water from downspouts and surface water all become a potential danger to our foundation, subarea and basement. This is an especially significant problem if you live on a hillside where rushing water can literally sweep your home away like a “spider off the wall”.
The trick is to manage the water BEFORE it becomes a problem. Clean gutters and downspouts, add downspout extensions, check French drainage systems, check storm water outlets, and don’t forget that trusty sump pump, check if you need to replace sump pump.
By the way, of all the systems we just mentioned, the sump system is the only one that contains moving parts. Whether you have one that operates on 110 volts, low voltage or battery, the problems associated with each are universal. From a clogged intake to a bad control switch, this is one devise that you want working when winter comes. For such a small machine there are sure a lot of things that can go wrong. Count ‘em:
- Clogged intake screen.
- Broken control switch.
- Jammed control switch.
- Perforated float.
- Clogged or dirty sump or sump base.
- Burned out motor.
- Tripped reset switch.
- Tripped breaker or blown circuit.
And you thought we were kidding about what can go wrong.
The most common problem with sumps of all kinds is clogging. Dirt, debris and other messy stuff clogging the gravel or rock collection area or plugging up the inlet screen. Although a sump pump doesn’t have an inlet filter, it does have an inlet screen with small holes that are easily clogged. The reason there isn’t a fine mesh filter is that most sump pumps are designed to remove small particles of debris along with the water. Think about it for a second. The basement floor is slightly dirty. Water leaks into the basement and across the dirty floor. The sump collects both the water and the debris. A good, solid brass sump pump will also macerate. Didn’t know that you had two garbage disposals did you?
Anyway, debris that is too large to make it through the holes of the inlet screen usually ends up clogging the system. And it only takes one or two large leaves to do the trick – and shut the system down. So, step one is clean, clean, clean. With the system clean use a garden hose to accomplish step two. Fill the sump with water to be sure that it is fully operational. As the water fills the sump it will raise the float which, at some point, will activate the pump.
If the float moves and the system doesn’t eventually start up then it’s time for step three – check the electrical system. If the unit is plugged into an outlet unplug it and plug in a lamp that you know is working. A lighted lamp means that the electricity is on and that the problem isn’t power. If the lamp doesn’t light then it is time for step three A – check the breaker. It isn’t unlikely that a fuse or breaker went haywire during the dry months.
If the power is on and the pump doesn’t start you are left with three possibilities: 1) the reset switch on the motor needs to be reset, 2) the switch activated by the float is not working, or 3) motor is burned out from operating too long while clogged. Not an uncommon occurrence.
If there is no reset switch or if that isn’t the problem then the next step is to check the float switch. Often moving the float up and down will clean dirty switch contacts and cause operation to begin. As frequently the switch must be replaced. If the switch is removable you may want to try the repair yourself.
CAUTION: When working on an electrical devise be sure that it is unplugged.
If the switch is built-in you may want to bring the contraption to a local small appliance repair company. Folks that repair tools also are qualified.
If your sump system doesn’t have a battery backup system you may want to look into one. They are inexpensive and effective. The whether conditions that cause the sump to be most badly needed are the same conditions that cause power outages. How frustrating would it be if it were pouring down rain and the sump pump was pushing water out at 15 gallons per minute and all of a sudden the power went out? Would a battery back up be a good idea then? If the answer is yes than spend $100 bucks now to save thousands in inconvenience later. And, good luck!