7 Causes of Sump Pump Failure and What to Do Next
Unless forced by pressure to do otherwise, water naturally obeys gravity and seeks to rest at the lowest level it can reach. When a large volume of water overwhelms a plumbing system due to breaks in pipes or joints or a failing hot water heater, your basement, if you have one, or space beneath your home can flood. Even a small amount of pooled water can cause extensive damage.
A sump pump is a good emergency backup, especially with the shift in our California winters to extended periods of rain and lower temperatures. But for the most part, your sump pump will sit inactive for much of the year. You may ask, “How do I know if my sump pump is broken?” How do you know if is in good working order and ready to take on the challenge of a flooded basement or foundation?
The question is important because the American Society of Home Inspectors has determined that more than 60% of U.S. homes have been affected by underground water damage or excessive wetness. Knowing the main causes of sump pump failure will help you take steps for effective preventative maintenance before a disaster happens.
#1: No Electricity
An electrical power outage is one of the most common reasons for sump pump failure. There can be several reasons for this. If your pump is on its own circuit breaker, a power surge may have tripped the circuit.
However, bad storms and power outages often go hand in hand. If your home often loses power, it’s a good idea to invest in a manual generator you can use to keep your sump pump functional should the basement or foundation begin to flood.
#2: “Switching” Problem
Inside your sump pump is a float that activates the automatic on-off switch. If the pump has shifted or tilted, the float may be stuck or lodged against the side and will not activate the pump when it should. Setting the pump up correctly should resolve this issue. A switching problem may also be caused by debris within the pump, restricting the function of the float. When inspecting your pump, make sure the float-arm assembly can move freely.
#3: Wrong Size Sump Pump
If your pump is too small for the quantity of water it will typically need to clear, it will get overwhelmed and can burn out, or reduce the lifetime of the unit. If the pump is too big for the job, it can also get overworked and burn out prematurely. In selecting a sump pump, you should estimate approximately how much water you expect the pump to process.
If you have no personal history with this, call Benjamin Franklin Plumbing in the Bay Area and we can give you an estimate based upon our extensive experience. In many cases, it is best to go with the smallest reasonable pump for the conditions in your area.
#4: Problems With the Discharge Pipe or Hose
The pipe that carries the pumped water out of the house must be open and flow freely. Dirt, debris or animal and insect nests can accumulate inside the portion of the hose outside the house. During rare times of freezing temperatures, water in the pipe can freeze, blocking the line.
It is also important that the power and force of the pump is capable of pushing water on any uphill route you’ve had to route your discharge pipe through. A good pump should be able to handle a moderate incline as long as the downward pitch is long enough after the peak. Routine inspection and correction of either of these issues is simple and quick.
#5: Wrong Installation
Each sump pump manufacturer has specific direction for installation. A hastily installed pump, or an installation that does not take into account the specific needs of that particular model can cause the pump to fail. Review the manual and verify the pump was installed correctly or that it is still installed according to manufacturer specifications.
#6: No Maintenance
While most sump pumps are built to require low maintenance, they still need quarterly maintenance. It’s a good idea to do this before the rain season or if you have other looming problems like an old water heater or cracked foundation wall. Check the pump manual. Maintenance is quick, often just running a vinegar solution through the pump to dissolve any calcification and ensuring your pump is seated correctly with a freely moving float. Ensure the pipe is discharging water. A sump pump working but no water indicates a problem with the unit. Inspect the air hole in the discharge line and clean it out if it is blocked.
#7: Pump Beyond Its Service Lifetime
Time flies, and the life of a sump pump is normally about eight to twelve years. The capacity and quality of the unit impact longevity, which varies brand to brand. When a pump gets old, it may burn out due to part failure or stop working due to another aging issue. When you spread out your initial cost over the lifetime of your pump, it is a good investment, particularly when you consider the risk of the expensive damage it these pumps can prevent.
Getting Beyond Sump Pump Problems – Get the Right Pump
If your sump pump is constantly running, it will soon wear out – you need the right pump for your home and environment, installed in the right location. If your home is vulnerable and a sump pump a necessity, Ben Franklin Plumbing can show you cost-effective systems that are very reliable and are designed to overcome many of the sump pump issues of lower quality units.
We can show you systems that automatically scale operations from small water displacement to heavy flood emergencies. Some models come with built-in backup pumps. These superior pumps come with designs that eliminate water intake clogs and floats and are manufactured to be jam-proof. They have excellent lifetimes and when parts wear out, those parts are replaced, rather than the whole system.
Benjamin Franklin Plumbing in the Bay Area offers a free consultation and inspection of your existing sump pump, your basement or foundation, and discuss installation of a quality sump pump to protect your home. Our experienced plumbers have seen just about every sort of flooding situation and are more than prepared and qualified to steer you in the right direction.