Summer Fun With Sump Pumps
With the clear skies and sunny summer days upon us, why think about sump pumps and their maintenance now? Because it's better to make sure a sump pump works before you need it.
A sump pump is your last line of defense before a flood. When rainwater can't be moved away from low areas with passive drainage systems like gutters, swales or pipes, a sump pump can move that extra water to somewhere it won't cause any damage.
A sump pump works sort of like a reverse toilet tank. When water in the sump tank lifts the float, a switch turns on the pump that pushes that water back up to higher ground, where it can be put into the sewer or the storm drain system. When the float lowers again, the pump shuts off.
And just like a toilet, sometimes it doesn't work properly.
The most common problem with sump pumps is dirt, debris and other crud clogging the gravel/rock collection area or plugging up the inlet screen. Although a sump pump doesn't have a filter, it generally has an inlet screen with small holes that are easily clogged. Remove anything that keeps water from getting through the inlet screen. Also, inspect and clean the 3/16Ē weep hole in the discharge pipe. The weep hole keeps the air between the pump and the check valve from building up more pressure than the pump can handle.
Check to make sure your sump pump functions properly by pouring some water into it and watching it work. If you fill the tank and nothing happens, check that the pump is plugged in and the breaker isnít blown, and make sure that the float isn't obstructed. If it still doesn't work, the reset switch on the motor may need to be reset, the switch activated by the float may not be working, or the motor may have burned out by operating for too long while clogged. If the motor is burned out, the pump will most likely need to be replaced.
Once the pump starts working, check that a small stream of water squirts out of the weep hole. If you can, check the end of the discharge pipe to make sure water is flowing freely. A clogged discharge pipe is a common cause of pump motor failure.
Sump pumps of good quality should last years with proper care and maintenance. Remember to never operate the pump without water or with a clogged discharge pipe, and always refer to the manufacturer's manual for specific maintenance and performance requirements as well as safety information.
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