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Recognize and Resolve Sump Pump Problems

Sump pumps can be life savers. They collect water from low spots, such as home basements and move it away from your house and into a storm drain or well. When sump pumps work properly, they’re great. However, pump failure can mean thousands of dollars in water, mold and mildew damage to your home.

There are two types of sump pumps – the pedestal and the submersible – and if you’re in the market for a new sump pump, check out the pedestal first.

“The pedestal’s motor sits above the pump, so in case of problems, the motor is more accessible and easier to service,” said Steven Sweeney, CEO of Rain Harvesting Supplies, Inc., a leading online retailer of rain harvesting tanks and equipment. “Plus, pedestal sump pumps are less expensive and usually last longer if you maintain them properly.”

Like any other household appliance, a sump pump runs on electricity. No electricity means no sump pump action. If a pump stops working, a breaker is the first thing to check.

Each pump has a float switch that automatically turns on the pump when water rises to a preset level. “Bad switches cause big problems,” said Sweeney. “There are several types of float switches on the market, but I prefer the vertical version. It is less likely to fail.”

The pump’s power is important. “Buy a one-third horsepower pump and you’ll pump about 35 gallons of water per minute,” he said. “Anything smaller and your pump may not be able to keep up. If your pump must work hard and often, get a one-half horsepower pump, which can move about 60 gallons a minute. To avoid all problems, keep a battery operated backup pump on hand.”

As pumps age, the chance for failure increases. Most should be replaced every 6 or 7 years, although some have been known to function well for up to two decades. “Good maintenance helps avoid problems,” Sweeney said. “Just keeping it clean increases the life of your pump.”

Sweeney’s tips for proper maintenance include:

  •        Regularly test your sump pump. Be sure that it’s discharging water. If the pump runs without pumping water, it may be installed improperly or the impeller may be detached from the pump shaft.
  •        Run the pump every few months, even if you don’t need it to work for you.
  •       Clean the air hole in the discharge line regularly.
  •       Check the float to ensure it moves freely.
  •       Test the backup pump’s battery annually. Expect to replace it every couple of years.

“Sump pumps are one of those ‘out of sight; out of mind’ things that you forget all about till you have an issue,” Sweeney said. “It’s best to keep yours in good shape and avoid any unpleasant problems.”

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