Understanding Sump Pumps

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Sump pumps don’t last forever!
Cincinnati sump pump

It’s that time of year.  Beautiful sunny days followed by torrential rainfalls.  Your sump pump is often working overtime to keep up with the extra water and drainage.

May is a good time to “rerun” an article reminding homeowners to check on the most forgotten appliance sitting in the lower level.

The Basics:  Flooded basements are not just happening in older homes without proper drainage.  Flooded basements are everywhere.  I live in a “newer” neighborhood and trust me young sump pumps fail during the worst times too.  Any pro will tell you it’s better to replace a sump before you figure out it’s broken.  And lately, the neighborhood Facebook page has exploded with calls for suggestions from terrified homeowners hearing sump pump alarms.  Or a worse discovery a failed sump.

Our neighborhood is newer with the oldest home built around 2011 or 2012.  Not too many people replace their sump pumps on a regular basis.  Personally, we experienced a soaking wet basement from a dead sump pump 20 years ago and as a result, replace the pump somewhere in the 4-5 year range. 

 What is a Sump Pump?

A sump is a small pump installed in the lowest part of a basement or crawlspace.  A sump pump is used in basements or crawlspaces to help keep the area dry and prevent it from flooding. Sump pumps are installed in specially constructed areas called sump pits.

Its job is to help keep the area under your home dry and to prevent flood­ing. Normally, sump pumps are installed in specially constructed sump pits. Water flows into the sump pit through drains or by natural water migration through the soil that was set-up when the house was built. (or later if you added a sump because of problems) 

The sump pump’s sole job is to pump the water out of the pit and away from the foundation so the basement stays dry.


Sump Pump Backup Systems

Sump pump backup systems come in a variety of packages.  Before you spend the money on a back-up system ask yourself a few questions.  Do you want a backup system that good for 8-10 hours? Or a system that runs indefinitely until the sump pump is replaced or lost electric service is restored? 

Bad weather and loss of electrical power require the following backup:

A battery backup is a rechargeable battery pack that keeps your sump pump running in the event of a blackout. Some newer model sump pumps come pre-packaged with a built-in battery backup system.

A second sump pump that’s battery-powered is another option. It should be as powerful as the main pump, and it has a couple of advantages over just a battery pack.  It should kick in not only during power outages but also if the main sump pump breaks down or needs help.  According to my research, both types of battery backup options should switch on automatically when electric power goes out and should give you about 10 hours of pump time. 
We opted for the water-powered backup which eliminates both the battery and the second sump pump.  The system gets its power from our water main.  Professionally plumbed to a water line in the basement, it uses the pressure in that pipe to create a vacuum that sucks water from the pit. 

The pros of a water-powered backup system are that there’s no battery to run out of juice — or eventually need replacement.   The cons are the amount of water it uses could leave us with an astronomical water bill.  But for us, it was an easy decision.  Having endured a flooded basement with homeowners insurance covering most of the costs isn’t worth the messy cleanup.  So we opted for the system that will hopefully eliminate any water build-up.

It’s no fun when a furnace or hot water heater breaks.  A broken sump pump causes more damage and is harder to clean up than any major appliance located in your home.  Keeping an eye and ear on the pump.  Talk to your plumber and set a replacement schedule.  

Be proactive and keep your eyes and ears on your sump pump and stay dry!

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