How To Prevent Sump Pump Discharge Line From Freezing

How To Prevent Sump Pump Discharge Line From Freezing - Image 1

Your sump pump line is frozen, or you’re worried about it getting frozen in the future. Either way, you’re thinking one thing: What do I do?

At Thrasher Foundation Repair, we’ve helped thousands of homeowners maintain and fix their sump pumps. We get it – dealing with this can be a real headache. The good news? We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves to keep your sump pump discharge line from freezing this winter. 

This article will discuss what happens when a sump pump discharge line freezes, how to prevent it from happening, and what to do if it has already frozen. Let’s get into it. 

What happens when a sump pump discharge line freezes? 

When temperatures dip below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, water freezes. That means any water in or around the discharge line can freeze.  And when a sump pump discharge line freezes, a few problems can happen that will compromise your sump pump system:

The anatomy of a sump pump: picture with callouts

This image shows the anatomy of a sump pump and all the components that can get damaged from a frozen discharge line.

  1. It will clog. If ice forms in your discharge line, it will create a blockage and impede the normal flow of water. This will cause the sump pump line to work harder and could even cause the motor to burn out.
  2. It will back up and overflow. With the discharge line blocked, water from the sump pump has nowhere to go. This leads to backups in the sump pit and, ultimately, a flood in your basement. The purpose of the sump pump is to prevent flooding, and a frozen discharge line undermines its ability to do so.
  3. Your pump will be damaged. As the sump pump operates against the resistance of the frozen discharge line, it’ll experience increased stress. Over time, this stress leads to premature wear and tear on the pump components and causes them to malfunction or quit altogether.
  4. Water damage can happen. The purpose of a sump pump is to prevent water damage to your basement. When the discharge line is frozen, this protection is compromised, and the risk of water damage increases.
  5. Pressure will build up. As the pump operates against the frozen blockage, pressure can build up in the discharge line. This increased pressure can cause the pipe to rupture or joints to weaken, leading to leaks once the ice thaws.
  6. Your foundation can be compromised. If the frozen discharge line causes water to pool near the foundation, it can result in soil expansion and contraction as the water freezes and thaws. This leads to pressure on your foundation walls, causing cracks or other structural issues. 

Okay, so obviously, nobody wants to experience any of the above scenarios. So, what do you do? Lucky for you, we have a few tips and tricks to share. 

How to prevent frozen discharge lines

If your sump pump discharge line isn’t frozen right now, let’s talk about prevention. Preventing your discharge line from freezing is 100% preventable with a bit of know-how and some elbow grease. So here are the best actions to take to prevent any frozen situations this winter.

1. Insulate your pipes

The simplest and most effective way to prevent sump pump discharge pipe freezing is insulation. We recommend using heat tape to provide a barrier against the cold, but you could also wrap the pipe with foam pipe insulation. It’s best to focus on vulnerable areas like the outside portion of the pipe and any exposed sections.

How To Prevent Sump Pump Discharge Line From Freezing - Image 3

2. Install a freeze guard

Picture of IceGuard Freeze Guard

A freeze guard provides an alternative discharge point for water to exit from when there are blockages in the discharge pipe.

A freeze guard is a device designed to prevent sump pump discharge pipe freezing by allowing water to escape if the pipe is at risk of freezing. It diverts water away from the frozen pipe, mitigating the potential for blockages. 

We install a freeze guard called IceGuard. It features a patent design that features perforations that provide a backup, alternative discharge point when pipe terminations are blocked by ice or snow. It is an anti-freezing system, installed on the outside of your home. It ejects water away from the foundation if your sump pump discharge lines freeze or become blocked or clogged. 

3. Bury or extend the discharge line

Make sure your sump pump discharge line extends away from your home. By directing water away from the foundation, you reduce the chances of freezing near the house, which can prevent ice buildup and subsequent freezing of the discharge pipe. 

Discharge lines buried in the yard are preferable, if possible, to prevent freezing. Soil is a natural insulator and doesn’t freeze as easily, so burying the discharge line is utilizing the warmth of the ground around it. We recommend burying the line at least five inches below the surface of your yard. 

If using an above-ground discharge line, be sure it is angled at a downward slope to use gravity to carry the water out and away from the house. Standing water has a much higher likelihood of freezing. 

Buried discharge line

Make sure to bury the discharge line below the frost line and at a downward slope.

4. Create a slope

Make sure your sump pump discharge line has a downward slope away from your house. This encourages water to flow away naturally and minimize the likelihood of standing water in the pipe, which could freeze. A slight slope can make a significant difference in preventing freezing issues. 

5. Regularly check and maintain

Stay proactive by regularly checking your sump pump system and discharge pipe throughout the winter. Remove any snow or ice accumulation promptly, and ensure that all components are in good working order. Regular maintenance can prevent issues before they escalate.

P.S. We can do this for you. On an annual basis, our crews visit homeowners and check their sump pumps to make sure everything is working properly. If you're interested in learning more, you can learn more about this service here. 

What to do if your sump pump discharge line is frozen

Now, if your sump pump discharge line is frozen, here are the steps you need to take.  

1. Identify the blockage

The first thing you need to do is find the location of the ice blockage. This will help you focus your efforts on the specific area that needs attention.

2. Thaw the ice

A frozen discharge line with a hairdryer to thaw

First things first: Thaw the ice.

Now, gently thaw the ice within the discharge line. You can use a hairdryer, heat gun, or hot water to melt the ice. Be cautious about using excessive heat though, as this could damage the pipe. 

3. Insulate the pipe

Once the ice has melted, insulate the discharge line to prevent it from freezing again. Add heat tape or foam pipe insulation to vulnerable areas.

4. Check on your sump pump

Make sure your sump pump is still working correctly. As we mentioned above, ice blockages can put a lot of stress and pressure on your sump pump. If the pump has been continuously running, give it some time to cool down before resuming regular operation.

5. Install a freeze guard

Freeze guard

A freeze guard gives water an alternative exit point when ice blockages form.

We highly recommend installing a freeze guard to give your discharge pipe an alternative discharge point when the ice starts to form (hint: we happen to offer these and can take care of the installation for you).

6. Take preventative measures

Now you’re probably thinking, how do I make sure this never happens again?? That’s exactly why we outlined all the preventative measures in the previous section. All the details you need are just a scroll away. 

When in doubt, consult a professional

If you are experiencing difficulties or are completely unsure how to address the issue, we strongly recommend consulting professional sump pump specialists or a plumber. They can provide expert advice and ensure your sump pump system is functioning the way it should be.

And hey, nice to meet you! We didn't introduce ourselves earlier, but we're Thrasher Foundation Repair, a foundation and basement contractor with almost 50 years of experience. When it comes to sump pumps, we've got the know-how. If you happen to be in our service area, we’re here to help with any sump pump questions, installing freeze guards, or even just chatting about life – we’re up for that, too. You can reach out to us by calling us at 1-844-948-3306, filling out this form, or starting a chat in the bottom right-hand corner. 

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