Sump Pump Installation and Replacement

What Is a Sump Pump?

The literal definition: It’s a pump used to remove excess water from the immediate perimeter of your home or business. But it’s also a vigilant sentinel standing guard in defense of your foundation. An unsung hero ever watchful of the dangers of costly water damage. Tucked away in a corner or closet and most often electric-powered, sump pumps go unnoticed until there’s a power outage or they up and keel over.

Sump Pump Installation and Maintenance

To ensure that your sump pump is ready for the challenges of the rainy season, it should be inspected on a periodic basis, generally once a year depending on how frequently it may be in use. Pumps installed in areas of shallow water tables or drainage areas should be inspected more frequently. Also worth considering is a secondary redundant pump in the event of mechanical failure of the primary pump. To reduce the possibility of mechanical failure, sump wells should be cleaned and free of debris. Check valves and float switches should be inspected to safeguard against an overworked pump motor that could lead to overheating and eventually failure.

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Backup Sump Pumps

Redundant secondary pumps are great in the event of a mechanical failure, but what about in the event of power loss? In the event of an outage, two backup sump pump options are available: battery-operated backup sump pumps and water-powered sump pumps.

12-volt battery-powered backups require all the components of a standard sump pump and a battery capable of outputting low current for long durations of time; typically, marine batteries are used. In addition to a trickle-charger, some systems include monitors to manage charging the battery.

Water-powered backup sump pumps are powered through the use of water pressure available through a potable water system. Similar to an electric sump pump, a float initiates the start of a pump cycle. However, instead of an electric motor, water is pulled in from the municipal water supply and channeled through the discharge line. As water is forced through the system, a vacuum pulls water out of the sump well. Some water-powered backup sump pumps displace two gallons of water for every one gallon of potable water used. As they are rarely in use, backup sump pump systems should be checked regularly to ensure proper operation.

Foundation Cracks and Water

Believe it or not, cracks along basement walls can be totally natural and of no immediate need for concern. After concrete is poured and begins to cure, cracking can occur. As a rigid structure, it’s also not forgiving in the event of settling in the supporting bearing soil. Now, we say “of no immediate concern” because if the foundation is adequately drained of excess surrounding water, the water is ushered away before infiltration arises. Should water begin to accumulate around the footing of the foundation, bearing soils may be washed out and premature settling may occur. In terms of the foundation of your home or business, water is not your friend.

How Can a Sump Pump Help?

drain tile dischargeThe sump pump is one component of an unseen drainage system. Around the perimeter of the foundation are either drain tiles or perforated pipe that transfer groundwater from the surrounding soil to an underground channel. Pipe or tiles create an air cavity near the foundation footing, allowing water to seep past an earthen barrier into the channel, where it is then gravity-fed into a sump well. Sitting within the sump well is the sump pump.

As water enters the well, a float on the sump pump begins to rise. Once the float reaches a predetermined level; a switch on the pump is triggered, water is pumped up and out of the well through a discharge line and the discharge line directs the water away from the foundation into a dry well or an open area.

Note: Some older homes may have sump pump systems that discharge into city sewer systems, a practice now illegal and not in compliance with city code. A licensed plumber with Plumbing Solutions can evaluate your system and, if needed, schedule a time to bring your foundation drainage up to code and save you the expense of a fine.

Pedestal and Submersible Sump Pumps

Sump pumps are available in two common configurations: pedestal and submersible. Submersible pumps — as the name implies — are installed completely submersed in water within the sump well, hidden from sight. Even with special seals to prevent electrical and mechanical failure, this configuration is projected to last 5–15 years if installed properly. Typically more expensive, they tend to take up and discharge debris more efficiently than pedestal pumps.

Pedestal pumps, on the other hand, tend to be less expensive. Mounted atop a long, vertical shaft, the pump motor rests above the well housing, where it can be more easily serviced. With a life expectancy of 25–30 years, pedestal-mounted sump pumps typically outlive their submersible counterparts.