Top 7 Questions About Sump Pumps

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The uses for most home appliances are obvious. If you do not already know what a dishwasher or an oven are for, then we strongly doubt our ability to teach you anything new. But if you’re unfamiliar with the sump pump, then you’re in the majority. What is this often indispensable piece of equipment – and do you need one at your home?


1. What Is a Sump Pump? 

A sump is any space in a building which is low enough to collect liquid. In the case of a single-family home, that low space is its basement, the liquid is more often than not water from rain, melting snow or leaky plumbing.

A sump pump prevents water from accumulating within a home’s basement, thus averting extensive property damage resulting from flooding or a burst pipe. A sump pump typically draws water out of a basin that was dug into the floor of the basement and directs it a safe distance away from the foundation.


2. How Does a Sump Pump Work?

In addition to its pumping mechanism, a sump pump has (A) a float activator arm, and (B) a pressure sensor. The float activator arm has a buoyant ball on its tip and extends down into the underlying sump basin. When the water in the basin rises, so too does the float activator arm. Once it reaches a high enough level, the arm triggers the pressure sensor, which in turn activates the pump.


3. What Kinds of Sump Pumps Are There?

There are three major kinds of sump pump: submersible, pedestal and backup.

True to its name, a submersible sump pump houses its pump and its motor together inside the basin. While a submersible pump’s lifespan may be relatively shorter, its quiet, compact and clog-resistant design coupled with its overall greater reliability make it a preferable choice for homes which are at frequent risk of flooding.

A pedestal sump pump’s motor is not housed within the basin; it is located above the pump which it powers. The advantages of an unsubmerged motor are its greater longevity and ease of maintenance. The disadvantages of a pedestal sump pump are its noisier operation and need for more space.

Backup sump pumps may be installed in basements with lower risk of flooding – or, conversely, basements with exceptionally high risk of flooding where a malfunctioning primary sump pump could result in extensive damage. A water-powered backup sump pump relies on the home’s water pressure, whereas a battery-powered one operates independently of the plumbing.


4. When Does a House Need a Sump Pump?

Most American homes experience some kind of flooding or otherwise significant moisture accumulation in their basements. If you have ever noticed standing water in your basement, you should be in the market for a sump pump. If you live in an area with lots of precipitation – i.e. the greater Sioux Falls area – then your home needs a sump pump. Finally, if your home is located in a floodplain or low-lying area, then a sump pump may easily spell the difference between a flooded basement and a dry one!


5. How Do You Maintain a Sump Pump?

Warning: Always disconnect your sump pump from its power supply before servicing it!

The exact fashion in which you should clean and maintain your home’s sump pump depends on its make and model. Consult its manual for specifics. That said, the Sump & Sewage Pump Manufacturers Association (SSPMA) recommends (A) cleaning the pump screen or inlet opening and (B) pouring sufficient water into the basin to activate the pump motor every three to four months. (These should be monthly steps if your sump pump’s basin receives discharge from a washing machine.)

The SSPMA also advises cleaning the sump pump and its basin annually. You must remove the sump pump while performing this step, although no further disassembly is required. Annual professional sump pump inspection is also highly recommended.


6. How Long Does a Sump Pump Last?

A sump pump’s life expectancy depends heavily on its make and model, as well as how frequently it serves its purpose. That said, it is reasonable to expect a single-family home’s sump pump to supply about seven to 20 years of reliable service, although some pedestal sump pumps can endure over three decades of regular use!

A sump pump offers several signs that it’s nearing the end of its lifespan. A sump pump which runs constantly – even when there is no water in the basin to activate it – is nearing death’s door. So too is a sump pump which fails to activate at all. A sump pump which has begun to emit strange noises or vibrate while activated is quickly approaching total failure as well.


7. Who Should You Call for Sump Pump Installation and Repair in Sioux Falls, SD?

That question is easy to answer: You should contact PrairieSons! In addition to HVAC specialists, our experienced team includes the career plumbers which homeowners in the greater Sioux Falls, SD area need to keep their basements bone dry all year round. Whether you are in need of sump pump installation, maintenance or immediate repair, we’re standing by to be of service!