With the spring rains showing no signs of stopping, it's an important time of the year to do some simple maintenance on your sump pump system. If you don't have an annual maintenance package and aren't a member of Thrasher's Customer Care Club, the tips below are an excellent start to ensuring your sump pump system is in good working order.
Clean the Pump Inlet
Most sump pumps will have a small screen that covers the inlet nozzle to the pump. Occasionally, grime and silt can build upon that screen, limiting your pump's ability to draw in water that flows into the sump pit. Cleaning off that inlet screen ensures that your pump isn't overworked. Some sump pumps will have a vent hole near the bottom to prevent an "air-lock." This vent hole should be regularly cleaned to allow air to escape from the pump, which will enable the water to flow through the pump and out of your basement correctly. A sump pump air lock can burn out your sump pump and cause your basement to flood. A small screw or piece of wire can be used to flush out this vent. It would help if you did this at least once a year. If you have a hefty amount of iron/mineral deposits in your water, you should flush this vent multiple times a year. This will also increase the life span of your sump pump.
Clean out the Sump Pit/Liner
Quite often, sump pump liners will collect silt and debris, clog up the sump pump intake. Adequately installed sump pump liners will have weep holes (allows water to flow in and out of liner). Silt, sand or gravel may wash into the pit and cause your sump pump to fail. Sump pumps should be slightly elevated off the bottom of the sump liner. This will allow the sump pump to activate even when a small amount of debris collects at the bottom of the pit. If there is a large amount of silt/mud/sand at the bottom of the liner, this could indicate your drainage system may be failing or the sump liner was incorrectly installed. It is also good practice to keep your sump pit covered and airtight if possible. Open sump liners can cause soil gases, humidity and odors to escape into your basement.
Check the Pump Power
It may seem to be common sense, but make sure that your pump is plugged in. Because sump pits are often in tucked-away basement corners, it can be easy to inadvertently unplug the pump when shifting around stored boxes and totes. Sump pumps will often fail from your outlet tripping as well. Check your circuit breakers and GFIs. It is highly recommended to have your sump outlet on a dedicated circuit. If you have a battery back-up on your sump pump, ensure that component is drawing a charge as well. Unplug your sump pump and flood test the back-up system. Check to see if your water watch alarm is working and the battery inside still holds power. Corrosion to the alarms sensors will need to be regularly cleaned as well.
Test Your Sump Pump
If you haven't yet had a good burst of rain, fill your sump pit to a high enough level to activate the float. Pay attention to the float. The float is the device attached to your pump, which rises with water levels. If the float doesn't activate or is getting stuck, you may need to call in a service tech to double-check the pump's condition. Listen for any rattling or loud sounds that may indicate a bad pump. Loose couplers and check valves may cause issues. If the pump activates, keep an eye on the water level to make sure the pit drains appropriately. It is also good practice to see where your sump pump is draining to and if it has the opportunity to freeze in the winter. Lack of pitch in your discharge pipe or a buried discharge line with inadequate flow can cause significant issues during a seasonal freeze/thaw cycle. Ensure your sump pump discharge line pumps the water far enough away from the house and will flow away from your foundation. Give both your interior and exterior PVC discharge pipe a good once over. Make sure there are no loose or leaking PVC joints.
If you're not overly handy, securing an annual sump pump maintenance package with your system's installer may be the best way to make sure your home stays safe and dry. Thrasher offers two options for maintenance - our regular annual maintenance package and the Thrasher Care Club. For more information about our maintenance options, call 800-827-0702 for more details.