Avoiding Sump Pump Failure

Plumbing is not sexy. We get that. It’s not exactly a desired topic, especially considering that conversations around it often occur when things have gone wrong. But the reality is that thousands of people each year have plumbing problems and resulting flood damage due to sump pump failure. At leakSMART®, we love plumbing, so we would like to share some sump pump tips to help prevent a flooded basement and offer some insight on how leakSMART can help detect a sump pump issue.

Why do sump pumps fail?

Power Failure

Oftentimes in bad weather, some unlucky homeowners all over the world get stuck with a flooded basement. Extreme weather can cause an electrical power outage, which can completely incapacitate the sump pump’s ability to drain the excess water. One solution is to install a battery-powered backup sump pump. The backup pump can be attached to the discharge pipe and positioned next to your main pump. The float arm is positioned so it will only engage the backup pump if the main pump fails to turn on. Installing a backup sump pump can end up saving you headaches and money.

A Stuck Switch

Among the most frustrating sump pump fails is a stuck switch. If the pump’s position inside the basin is disturbed, it can impede the float’s normal range of motion, preventing it from engaging the switch. Your sump pump relies on both the switch and the float arm mechanisms to operate effectively. You can overcome these issues with some cleaning and sump pump repositioning. You’ll want to call a plumber if this doesn’t work.

Overwhelmed Pump

If your sump pump is the wrong size, it can break earlier than expected and perform poorly.

To be exact, you need a 1/3 horsepower sump pump, capable of pumping 35 gallons of water per minute, to adequately tackle potential flooding. If your home rests on a high water table, it is advised that you purchase an even more powerful 1/2 horsepower sump pump that can pump 60 gallons of water per minute.

Frozen or Clogged Discharge Pipe

If your sump pump’s discharge pipe is frozen or clogged with debris, water will flow back down the pipe and subsequently, all over your basement. We recommend installing a specialty discharge line. This will free the water to exit the basement area despite a frozen discharge pipe. Additionally, for frozen pipes it is important to heat the area safely to thaw and ensure that the faucet is on during the thawing process.

To prevent your discharge pipe from clogging, make sure the opening of your pipe is protected with a grate. Installing a protective cover will prevent debris and small animals from entering your discharge pipe and causing a clog.

Lack of Maintenance

Recommended maintenance scheduling is advised for two to three months on average. At leakSMART, we recommend a yearly program before rainy season hits, depending on your geography.

Did Not Install a Check Valve on the Discharge Line

One sign of this is if the sump pump makes sounds as if it’s running but really, it isn’t pumping out of the discharge line. This is a sign that the check valve was not installed onto your sump pump’s discharge line, which is causing water to gradually unhinge the motor shaft.

No Air Relief Hole in Discharge Line

Without any air relief hole, pressure will build up over time within the discharge line. This can overwork your pump and shorten its service life.

Setting Your Sump Pump in Gravel or Dirt

Setting up your sump pump in gravel or dirt may hamper the sump pump’s on and off switch and float arm, which also risks a shorter life span.

Old Age

We recommend replacing your sump pump after 10 years to ensure maximum safety and efficiency.

Improper Installation

If all other options fail, even though it is quite rare, we recommend checking if the sump pump was improperly installed.

Product Defect

Another unlikely but entirely possible scenario is that the sump pump in your possession is inherently defective and needs immediate replacement.

Knowing the reasons why sump pumps typically fail can help you understand the functionality and how to prevent problems like these in the future.

A leakSMART leak detection system can alert you to any sump pump issues as they happen. Our wireless, waterproof and reusable sensors are battery powered, and will emit an audible alert when a leak is detected, even during a power outage. The faster the problem is identified, the faster it can be repaired either by yourself (if it’s a simple fix) or by a professional. In short – installing leakSMART sensors near your sump pump can alert you if it fails to work, no matter what the cause, which can help you avoid costly basement flood cleanup.