The snow season has just begun, and while frozen temperatures will be around for a while, it’s never too early to begin preparing for the upcoming spring. Warm temperatures and melting snow and ice can put you at risk for flooding in your home without a proper sump pump to keep groundwater from entering at the lowest level of your property.
What Is a Sump Pump?
A sump pump is a device that helps protect your home from not only heavy rains but also melting ice and snow as spring thaw sets in. Basement flooding can potentially cost you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in the repair and replacement of fixtures and flooring. The simple installation of a sump pump is all that is needed to keep much of your groundwater woes at bay and ensure that your home remains dry in wet spring weather.
How Does a Sump Pump Work?
A sump pump detects elevated water levels and excess pressure on your home’s lowest floor; its job is to ensure that these levels don’t rise higher than the top level of the sump pump well. A sump pump uses a switch to detect water levels in a basin placed in the floor. When this switch is activated by rising water levels, the pump is triggered to start a cycle, directing rising water into a discharge pipe, away from the home’s interior and foundation. Pumps can be powered by water, battery, or electricity, with primary pumps wired into your home’s plumbing. Many homeowners choose to install a secondary or backup pump that is powered by water or batteries in case of an emergency.
Sump pumps can handle a good volume of water, just not necessarily at one time. Cycling takes a certain amount of time to remove water from the basin. Sump pumps are designed to handle predetermined amounts of water for a given period of time. Various pumps have different horsepower ratings and gallon-per-hour capacities for pumping water. Though you might not know exactly what you need when purchasing a new or backup pump, choosing a model with slightly more horsepower and pumping capacity than you need will prevent excess flooding from occurring in and around your home.
A pump with a 1/3 horsepower motor will usually move close to 50 gallons of water in a five-minute period. This pump, over the course of an hour, can remove close to 600 gallons of water from a home and foundation.
Spring Thaw and All Its Challenges
Spring is a time when homeowners struggle to keep basements and foundations dry. If not properly monitored, this water can cause catastrophic damage to your property. Testing and evaluating your sump pump for efficiency and performance before this melting event occurs will potentially save you time, money, and expensive repair work by putting the correct system in place.
Making Sure You’re Pump Is Up for the Job
Well before temperatures warm up, consider testing your pump system to verify that it is not only fully functional but that it can also handle the excess flow. The following covers what to consider and do to test your system.
Find the exterior pipe that is responsible for collecting water that drains from the pump. Ensure that there are no blockages such as dirt, rocks, or debris in it that may clog the drain. Ice sometimes builds up inside this exterior pipe, and due to its location, it becomes a challenge to melt it off in time to handle a greater volume of water.
Adding Excess Water to Test
Fill a large pot or 5-gallon bucket with water. Slowly pour it into your sump pump pit, keeping a close eye on the water level as it rises. Pouring too fast will not allow the pump switch mechanism to activate as it should, while pouring too slowly will not give you an accurate picture of how well it can handle volume. Choose a steady stream and keep the water flowing freely as you evaluate your switch mechanism and float efficiency.
Evaluate Float Efficiency
The float is an integral part of your sump pump system. It causes the switch mechanism to activate when water levels have reached a certain height inside the sump pit. When properly fitted, a float should easily activate a pump switch and cause it to drain the pit efficiently. Your pump should easily shut off when the pit has been emptied of water.
Enlist the Help of a Specialist if You Notice Deficiencies
If you notice that the switch mechanism is failing to activate, or if the float is becoming stuck rather than raising and lowering easily with water levels, it’s time to call in a professional to assess your pump’s efficiency.
Weekly Troubleshooting Tips
As you begin to see signs of melting, you should hear your sump pump running more frequently. Follow this weekly troubleshooting tips list to make sure that your system remains in good working condition.
Make Sure Your Pump Is Plugged In
It’s surprising that many homeowners fail to check pump connections to make sure that all components are working properly; this is often the easiest fix to get your system up and running again. Make sure your device is plugged into a working outlet and that the circuit breaker hasn’t been tripped or compromised in some way.
Take Note of Hot Spots
Some portions of your home may melt quicker than others. See if you can get to the bottom of why this is occurring and develop strategies for handling a large volume of water going to one specific location.
Evaluate Gutter Location and Performance
Gutters should flow down and away from your home’s foundation. If you notice that downspouts are placed incorrectly, or if they are frozen and blocked, do what you can to correct these issues to get water flowing freely in the right direction.
Look for Puddles
Standing water or puddles near your foundation may soon make their way inside your home. Take note of vanishing water pools, and keep checking your sump pump system to ensure that it was able to handle the extra volume efficiently.
Inspect the Basement
Even with a working sump pump system, you still need to be diligent about checking your basement and foundation on a regular basis to ensure that everything is watertight and in good working order. Target the source of leaks and standing water that does enter your home, and do your best to clean it up and reroute it to prevent damage to floors, walls, and fixtures.
When Is It Time to Call the Experts?
Sump pumps can be put under enormous stress with the extra volume of water coming in after a spring thaw. It’s not uncommon for a sump pump to break down under this stress. Fluctuating temperatures as daytime and nightfall arrive may cause your system’s pipes to refreeze, making it unable to pull water from your home. In cases where this is occurring, the wise choice would be to call a plumbing professional to diagnose and make recommendations for repair or replacement of your sump pump.
We’re Ready for Spring Thaw! Are You?
Davis & Green has been proudly serving valued customers in the Richmond area and beyond for nearly four decades. Top-notch services in heating, cooling, plumbing, and electrical services make us a preferred one-stop-shop for all things related to taking care of your home and property. If your sump pump needs a bit of a tune-up before spring comes, look no further. Contact our trusted professionals today, and we’ll schedule a comprehensive maintenance check for you, giving you peace of mind that you’re ready for snow melt.