A sump pump is the homeowner’s failsafe against flooding in the basement. It gives you peace of mind that in case of a storm, water will swiftly be discharged out, saving you thousands in damages.
You however need to keep a watchful eye on the sump pump to make sure that when the time comes it will work as designed. But how do you when to replace your sump pump, and when to fix it?
If your sump pump is older than 10 years, runs constantly, makes unusually loud noises, cycles irregularly, runs on a dry pit or clogs often, you most likely need to replace it. A visibly rusty pump is also a good sign that its good days are well behind it.
On average sump pumps lasts for 7-10 years. This will however depend on its quality, frequency of use, the length the pump has to carry water to discharge it and how well or not it is maintained.
A sump costs between $50 and $200. It will however cost you an average of $500 to have a professional plumber replace/install one for you. The price will be higher if you will be installing a backup system as well.
While replacing a sump pump is not very difficult, it is critical that it is installed properly. Given the amount of damage that can be brought about by a flooded basement, you want your sump pump to work seamlessly and hence the need to have it installed by a licensed plumber.
To check if your sump pump is working, dump a 5-gallon bucket of water in the sump pit. The pump should come on immediately and drain the water. If it doesn’t, it is clearly not working and you need to fix it as soon as possible.
Signs You Need to Replace Your Sump Pump
Replacing a sump pump is not cheap (especially if you have to bring in a professional to do it) but it is nothing compared to what you would have to pay in damages, if the pump fails to kick in when needed to.
You however don’t have to replace your sump pump every time it has a problem. Some problems can be fixed but at times a replacement makes more sense than fixing.
The following are the telltale signs that your sump pump needs to be replaced:
1. It is Old
Do no wait for your sump pump to completely fail in order to replace it. Doing so can be quite costly, as it is going to fail when you most need it to work.
Your house will last for many decades, but definitely not your sump pump. Every appliance in your house will need a replacement at some point but those with a motor are likely to wear out quicker due to the friction generated.
A sump pump will most likely last for 7 to 10 years. If yours is older than that you are living on borrowed time. Needless to say, and old pump is more likely to fail than a new one.
Most sump pump manufacturers recommend annual maintenance of sump pumps by qualified personnel. A professional plumber will be able to advise you on the worthiness of your pump and when a replacement is a better alternative than fixing.
If your sump pump is already older than 10 years, you need to start planning for a replacement before it fails completely. Of course, quality pumps will last longer than those of not so good quality.
2. The Sump Pump is Running Constantly
Your sump pump should only run for some time and when the level of water in the sump pit falls below a certain point turn off automatically. A continuously running sump pump is a sign that everything is not alright.
There are several reasons why your pump could be running continuously. This are:
A Stuck Float Switch
A sump pump float switch is a lightweight mechanical device that is used to turn the pump on and off. It moves up and down the sump pit relative to the level of water.
When the water in the pit is at the bottom, the float switch will also be floating at the bottom of the pit and the pump will be off. As the water level in the pit rises, the float switch rises as well, until it reaches a certain point when the float triggers the switch and the pump starts running.
The pump empties water from the sump pump until the level reaches a set level where the float deactivates the switch effectively turning off the pump.
A pump’s float can however get stuck in the ON position, resulting in a continuously running pump. Whenever you have a sump pump that won’t stop running, the float is the first thing you should check.
One main cause of a stuck sump pump float switch is the pump’s own vibrations as it run. The vibrations cause the pump to shift in position inside the pit, which jams the float against the liner.
Debris, mineral deposits, wires and pipes can also cause the float switch to be stuck in the on position. This is why it is important to have a nice lid for your sump pit and also clean it regularly to keep debris at bay.
Faulty Check Valve
A sump pump discharges water out of the sump and out into the discharge area via a vertical pipe known as a discharge pipe. This pipe is usually installed with a check valve very close to the pump.
A check valve allows water to only flow in one direction, meaning water cannot flow back to the sump pit. If however the check valve is faulty, water in the discharge pipe will flow back to the sump pit once the pump turns off, resulting into an on and off running of the pump.
A sump pump check valve replacement is however quite easy and as a homeowner you should do this on your own without calling a plumber. Since these valves can be quite noisy, look for a good quality and quiet check valve.
Leaking Underground Pipe
If an underground sewer pipe has burst, the water will find its way to the sump pit forcing the sump pump to run constantly in a bid to keep up with the incoming water.
Underground leaks are not easy to find, and in most cases will need a professional to spot. If you notice that there is an endless supply of water in your sump pit, that water has to be coming from somewhere, and in this case a burst pipe.
Wrong Size of Pump
It is important that you size your sump pump correctly. You may think that a big pump is always a good thing but it actually isn’t.
When a sump is too large relative to the size of the pit, it means water will fill the pit faster, and the pump needs to work hard to empty it. There is also the risk of the pump pumping dry.
If the sump pump is too small, the water volume in the sump pit will overwhelm it, meaning it will need to run constantly otherwise the basement will start to flood.
High Water Table
If your house is constructed very close or under the water table, there is nothing you can about this problem. As a matter of fact, you will be happy your sump pump is running constantly, to prevent your house from water damage.
For more information on how to fix a constantly running sump pump, check out this post.
3. The Pump is Unusually Noisy
A sump pump or any other pump for that matter will make some noises while running. If you however notice unusual loud noises like a thud, grinding, rattling or gurgling, you have good reasons to be concerned.
Modern sumps are well constructed with cast iron and are self-lubricating to cancel out noise. Older sump pumps which were made of PVC tend to be quite loud but if they get even louder they are screaming for a replacement.
A vibrating, rattling or grinding sound by the sump pump is caused by a faulty motor or broken/bend/jammed impeller. The impeller is the fan at the bottom of the pump that scoops water inside the pump from the pit.
A sump pump impeller is bent when it sucks in a hard substance resulting in a rattling sound. A clog will also jam its free movement, usually signified by a vibrating noise.
If you are hearing a gurgling sound from your basement, these is often caused by the check valve. Replacing the old valve with a spring-loaded check valve is a better solution for this problem, since it does not rely on gravity meaning the water flowing through it is evenly distributed.
Replacing the motor and/or impellers on a noisy sump pump is possible if the pump is fairly new. When you notice these funny noises, plug off the power connection to your pump at once. If you are confident enough you can try to fix the problem on your own otherwise contact a plumber immediately.
A noisy and old sump pump should be replaced before it is too late. If your sump pump is older than 7 years and is rattling/vibrating/grinding, it is wise to replace it with a new one just to be on the safe side.
4. The Pump Gets Clogged
The need to frequently clean your sump pit cannot be overemphasized. This is in addition to having an airtight lid to cover it at all times.
An uncovered sump pit will invite debris from all over the basement as well as other foreign objects like nails, wires and screwdrivers. This debris will end up being sucked by the pump and if the don’t jam the impellers or float switch, they will end up clogging the pump.
A clogged sump pump will fail to empty the pit as fast as it should, which exposes the basement to flooding. The clog can even move in the discharge pipe in which case the pump will keep trying to discharge out the water but it will end up flowing back to the pit, and hence a continuously running pump.
Modern sump pumps have a filter which catches the debris before they are sucked in and impair the pump’s performance. If you are still using an old sump pump that clogs up often, replacing it with a modern one is a smart choice.
Note that if you live in a very cold area, the discharge pipe can freeze and as a result get badly clogged by ice. In that case the pump will struggle to push water through the blockage but it won’t, causing it to run continuously. This can cause premature failure of the motor due to overheating.
5. The Pumping is Cycling Irregularly
A sump should only start when the level of water in the sump pit is too high and when it has managed to empty most of the water it should go off. When you notice sporadic/erratic cycling from your pump, you definitely have a problem on your hands.
If the pump is not very old, that is a problem you can fix. On the other hand, if the pump is 7-10 years old or even more then you really need to start thinking about its replacement.
A sump pump with quick but frequents cycles is often caused by a faulty check valve. Once the pump goes off, the water in the discharge pipe fails to make it out into the discharge area and falls straight back in the pit causing the pump to start cycling again.
An improperly set float switch can also cause the pump to cycle frequently. When a float switch is set too low, it means it only needs the water in the pit to increase by a few inches for the pump to kick in. Adjusting the float switch position could fix this problem.
Another reason that can also cause the sump pump to cycle erratically is loose wiring. Loose wiring will in most cases cause an electrical short (short-circuiting), which can even turn off the pump the water level in the pit notwithstanding.
6. The Pump is Rusty
If your sump pump is evidently rusty, it is probably a good time to let it go in favor of a new one. If apart from being rusty the pump is quite old and not performing as much as it used to do un its good days, you will need to replace it as the sun stills shines.
Looking to buy a good sump pump for your home? The Wayne CDU1000 1 HP Submersible Cast Iron and Stainless Steel Sump Pump is a decent choice. Check it out here on Amazon.
Why You Need a Backup Sump Pump
What happens when your sump fails when you most need it to work seamlessly? The simple answer is your basement will flood, causing quite expansive repairs. And that is where a backup sump pump comes in.
A backup sump pump gives you the assurance that should the primary pump fail, it will step in and do the job. The cost of installing one is really nothing compared to what you would have to pay if the primary pump fails during a storm.
And what happens when a storm knocks off power in your area, bearing in mind that pumps are dependent on power to work? It is for this reason that backup sump pumps are usually battery-powered.
Both pumps are installed alongside each other, but the float switch is of the backup pump is set a few inches higher than that of the primary pump. This way, the back up pump will detect when the primary pump fails to kick in and therefore jump into action.
If your area is experiencing a storm, water in the sump pit could rise faster, triggering both pumps. In this case, the back up pump provides relief to the already overwhelmed primary pump.
Having a back up sump pump is not an invitation to neglect your primary pump. The back up pump should only be used for emergencies.
If you would want to check out a really good sump pump backup option for your home, this is one here on Amazon is a particularly good one.