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Sump Pump Troubleshooting

If you have already lived through the dreaded experience of a flooded basement, then you know how much damage it can cause.  Even one inch of water can take many hours to clean up and can cause thousands of dollars in damage.  Installing a sump pump in your basement is your best defense to prevent flooding, but like many other home appliances, a sump pump can stop working.  Here are a few common things to look for:

If the sump pump does not seem to be working at all, the first things to check are the electrical connections.  Make sure the pump is plugged in properly, and check the circuit breaker.  If your pump is plugged into a GFCI outlet, be sure the outlet has not tripped (check the reset button).

Most problems with sump pumps tend to be float related.  The float is a vital part of a sump pump, and it is also one of the most vulnerable.  The float rises with water in the sump pit, which in turn triggers the pump to start pulling water out of the pit.  To check the float, slowly pour some water into the pit. If the float rises with the water and the pump activates and then shuts off when the water has been removed, you’re in luck.

If the water that is ejected returns into the pit after the pump stops, you probably need to replace the check valve (or install one if none exists).

a check valve should be located on the discharge pipe – just above the floor level

There are different types of floats. Floats that are connected with a cord tend to be the most problematic because they can become tangled.  This can prevent the pump from turning on, or off.

float can become tangled / stuck

A build up of debris in your sump pump is a major cause of sump pump failure.  If your pump is not working, check your inlet suction screen to make sure that there is no blockage.  Ideally, this sump pump maintenance would be performed every few months and especially after heavy or persistent rainfall.

Sometimes debris can work itself past the screen and jam the impeller.  To see if this is your problem, first unplug the pump, then disconnect it from the piping and remove the pump from the pit.  Disassemble the pump to access the screen and impeller.  Remove any debris, reassemble and replace the pump.

Note: you can periodically pour white vinegar through the unit which will help eliminate any build-up in the system.

If you spot an oily film on the surface of the water in your sump pump, verify the condition of the oil seal.  The appearance of oil probably indicates a faulty oil seal which may cause the motor to burn out.

A Backup System Can Protect your Home in a Power Outage
When a storm passes through it can result in a power outage.  This leaves you with no light, or heat, but it also means that you have a disabled sump pump.  This can cause your sump pit to overflow, resulting in a flooded basement.

Installing a battery operated, backup pump will prevent this problem from occurring.  The backup power comes from a car battery — or even better, a deep cycle boat battery.  When the power is on in the house, the battery system will automatically charge itself.  The backup pump is activated by a sensor that is located slightly higher than the one for the main pump.  In the event of an emergency, when water rises above the level of the backup sensor, the backup system uses its DC power to turn itself on.  Depending on the particular model of battery-powered backup system, there is generally enough power to keep your sump pump working for several hours.

The batteries come in two different styles: sealed and unsealed.  A sealed battery is considered maintenance-free and usually supplies power for 3 to 3½ hours.  An unsealed battery has ports that you can open in order to check the level of the fluid and add distilled water as you see fit.  Typically, an unsealed battery will last for about 7 hours.

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Categories: Uncategorized
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