How to Maintain Your Sump Pump Installation

Most sump pump installations have either water level or flood alarms, usually battery powered, which alert you if the pump isn’t working correctly and the water is beginning to rise above the sump well. More sophisticated systems may even alert you through your cellular device or alarm company. Fortunately for many people in heavy rain areas, this shouldn’t happen often. Sump pumps as a whole are extraordinarily reliable (so long as regular maintenance is observed). Regular maintenance for sump pumps should take no longer than a few minutes every few months. Look at your local forcast, and during heavy rain seasons and in early spring, ensure reliable sump pump operation.

Maintenance Steps that You Should Know

Ensure that the pump is plugged into a working ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet and that the cord isn’t fraying or damaged. Sump pumps require electricity and since you are pumping water, GFCI is an important step in ensuring safety. Also, make sure that the pump is in the correct position. During operation, the vibration from the pump itself can cause the device to fall or tilt onto one side. Ultimately it can jam the float arm disabling the activation switch, which goes without saying that another step in maintenance should be ensuring that the float switch can move freely. To test the float switch, pour a bucket of water into the pit to make sure that the water drains quickly once the pump is on. This is important in itself since a malfunction of the pump prior to a rain could cause one soggy basement. Physically remove the pump from the pit and clean the grate on the bottom so that the water can flow freely through the pump to the discharge pipe. As long as the pump is disconnected from the discharge pipe, make sure that the discharge pipe is clear as well as making sure that the pipe drains at a minimum of 20 feet away from your foundation.

Power Supplies and Secondary Systems

Some sump pump installations have secondary pumps or backup generators for emergency pumping. Test the secondary pump installation by unplugging the primary pump and using buckets of water to float the secondary float switch. Sump pumps with battery backups such as car batteries or the even better option of deep cycle boat batteries should have the voltages and water levels checked frequently. Trickle chargers for these types of batteries may also ensure that the batteries are at a full level for just the time when the power fails. Maintenance of gasoline or diesel generators (when used as backup generators) should be fully observed as well. Small sump pumps need 800 to 1,000 watts to operate and can draw up to 1,800 watts when starting. If a backup generator is going to be used, make sure that it is large enough to handle the wattage necessary. Ensure that your generator has fresh enough fuel that the generator starts on the first go. If the fuel is too old it may not start the engine of the generator and as a result your basement may become a small pond. Finally, if all else fails, make sure that you have a hand-operated bilge pump or several buckets on hand just in case.

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