April showers bring May flowers — and flooded basements, too. When it comes to preventing flooding in your home, sump pumps are among the most valuable tools at your disposal, especially during heavy rainfalls or snowmelt season. Learn how sump pumps work and how you can keep yours flowing smoothly all year long.
What is a sump pump?
A sump pump is a device that picks up water from your basement (specifically from the sump pit, a hole in the lowest part of the basement floor, where runoff from your home’s weeping tile collects) and pumps it safely away from your home’s foundation. Sump pumps are especially helpful in rural areas and regions prone to flooding, where rainwater and melting snow can’t easily drain into a municipal sewer system.
How do sump pumps work?
Once the water in your sump pit rises to a certain level, it raises a floating trigger that activates the sump pump, which brings the water up through a pipe and out of your home, usually into a storm sewer system or a drainage ditch. Some sump pits are open and allow you to see the water inside (so you’ll be more likely to notice if it’s close to overflowing), while others have lids that are bolted down to keep the moist air out of your home (and prevent little ones and pets from taking a swim).
How can I keep my sump pump in good working order?
While each sump pump system has unique features and should be maintained according to the manufacturer’s specific recommendations, keep these tips in mind to keep your sump pump running smoothly all year long.
- Your sump pump’s filter or grate can get filled with debris, which can cause it to malfunction, so you’ll need to clean it from time to time. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning.
- Most sump pumps rely on electricity to operate, so if your power goes out during a heavy rainfall (when you need your sump pump the most), you’ll be out of luck. Make sure you have a battery backup system or generator in place in case of a power outage.
- If your home is in an area that’s extremely prone to flooding, you could consider setting up a second sump pump in case yours goes down or needs extra support to handle the extra water flow during snowmelt season or a particularly heavy rainfall.
- If you suspect your sump pump isn’t running as it should, call in a professional plumber to inspect or repair your unit.
How can I test my sump pump?
While many sump pumps come equipped with alarm systems that will alert you if they stop working, it’s a good idea to manually test out your sump pump at least once a year to make sure it’s ready to do its job when you need it to. It wouldn’t hurt to test it again when you know the snow’s about to melt or a big storm is on the way.
Simply fill a bucket of water and pour it into your sump pit so you can see the float level rise. Once the float raises high enough to trigger your sump pump, you should hear it start to run and see the water begin to drain as it is pumped out of the pit. If your sump pump doesn’t kick in, try lifting the float a little higher in case you didn’t pour in enough water. If it still doesn’t start pumping, call in a professional to assess and fix the problem.
Did you know that sump pumps are just one of many ways to prevent flooding in your home, and installing one could qualify you for a discount on home insurance? Talk to your licensed broker to find out more about insurance discounts available to you.