Be Smart About Your Sump Pump: Five Easy Tips

August means long, lazy days, ice cream treats, swimming at the lake and grilling on the deck.  The summer season’s heat and humidity also bring dramatic storms that can dump more rain than your garden might need—and unwanted water in your basement.  Your sump pump is a humble but essential tool, and keeping it properly maintained will ensure that your basement stays dry.  Here are some easy tips for a tip-top sump pump:

 Maintenance is Mandatory

Take time for regular “checkups” for your sump pump to keep it working well.  Late summer is a perfect time to remove and clean the pump and the sump pit.  It may have collected debris like leaves, mud, small rocks or lawn toys that can clog the pump and cause overflows.  Clean dirt from the floor and grate of the pit, and check to make sure the seals are intact.  Then inspect the valves for any dirt or leaks.  Finally, be sure to fill the basin with water so the pump runs correctly when it starts up again.

Try to clean the pump screen (or inlet opening) every three to four months, or more frequently if your sump collects water from the wash machine.  Always remember to disconnect the pump from the power source before you clean it and reconnect it once you are done.  Keep in mind you can ask your plumbing contractor to check your sump pump during your next scheduled maintenance.

Pump Up The Power

It’s possible that your sump pump may have been idle for few months, and the power could be disconnected or disrupted.  Check your sump pump’s power source.  To operate safely, it should connect to a ground fault circuit interruptor (GFCI).  Locate the cord, look for any damage, then turn it off and reset it.

Take a Test Run

Assess your sump pump’s position:  Is it level and upright?  Does it appear to be resting on solid and level ground?  Sometimes the vibrations from the motor can cause the pump to tilt; you can adjust the float so that it moves freely, without touching the basin wall. Then pour a bucket of water in the basin and watch the show (the pump should start immediately).

Follow the Water

Look at the pipes that move the water out of the basement; the joints should connect tightly.  If the pipe drains to the yard, make sure it’s pointing away from the foundation of the house.  Clear any debris that could be blocking the discharge pipe.

Have a Plan B

Strong summer storms are notorious for causing power outages.  Think about a generator or backup battery to keep the sump pump running if the power is out.  And remember that sump pumps need to be replaced approximately every ten years.

You can also ask your plumber to install a LeakSmart system—it will not only monitor for leaks and shut water off automatically if a leak is detected, including a sump pump malfunction, but also remotely control your water supply from your smart phone. And it works if the WiFi or power is down. That way, you can ensure a water crisis is averted even while you’re gone on a summer vacation.