What Causes a Faulty Sump Pump?


What Causes a Faulty Sump Pump?

A sump pump is one of those things that is easy to overlook but that can cause a lot of trouble if it stops working.  That familiar “whirrrr…clunk” of most sump pumps becomes just another of those house noises that make up the soundtrack of home ownership and it’s easy to take for granted.

Although a sump pump is a pretty simple piece of machinery, there are a number of things that can go wrong with one and a faulty sump pump can very quickly lead to a wet basement and damage to property.

What can go wrong?  Let’s take a look at the things that can cause a faulty sump pump…and some of the ways they can be prevented.

5 Causes of a Faulty Sump Pump

Stuck Float Switch – High water in the sump basin is what turns on a sump pump and it does so by raising a float that either trips a switch or contains a switch that activates when the float is mostly upright.  The former type of float switch, called a vertical switch, is a more reliable device because is it contained within a cage or rides on a rod to reduce the chances of it sticking.  The latter, a tether switch, is more likely to become entangled in the power cord or trapped against the basin wall when vibration causes minor movement of the pump.

Insufficient Capacity – A sump pump is a sump pump, right?   Well, no.  If you look around in the big box hardware store you’ll see some pretty inexpensive sump pumps and there’s a reason for that.  These pumps are not only made of inferior materials but have very low pumping capacity, a problem when the water is running into the sump basin faster than  the pump can move it out.

A minimum of a 1/3 horsepower sump pump is recommended for most houses – it can pump 35 gallons of water a minute to the ten-foot height that is common in full-depth basements.

Electrical Power Fails – The best sump pump in the world, packed with power and loaded with features, won’t do a thing for your basement if it can’t get power to operate.  If an overloaded circuit kicks a breaker off – no sump pump.  Of course, power outages often occur during thunderstorms so the sump pump can fail just when it’s needed most.

Prevent overloads by using a dedicated circuit for your sump pump and install a battery backup sump pump to keep your basement dry during power outrages.

Pump is Plain Worn Out – A sump pump is a mechanical device with moving parts and it will eventually wear out entirely or in part. 

Testing a sump pump regularly, say twice a year, can help ensure that it will work when you need it.  Also, although many homeowners would apply the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” formula to their sump pumps, we’d suggest “when in doubt, throw it out.”

Frozen or Clogged Discharge -- Unless your sump pump discharge is tied into a storm sewer, it probably discharges to daylight somewhere outside.  If the discharge pipe isn’t pitched properly to drain completely, it may collect water that can freeze during the winter months.  When this occurs, the newly discharged water has nowhere to go but back into the sump basin, resulting in not only a flooded basement floor but a sump pump that is running and running and running.

Obviously, a sump pump is an important part of keeping any basement dry and when one is faulty it may result in serious water damage, particularly if it goes bad when the homeowner is away.  At U.S. Waterproofing, we’ve been helping our customers keep their basements dry by installing and maintaining both primary and battery backup sump pumps for the better part of the last 58 years.  Rather than take a chance on your old sump pump, ask us for our free advice.

Want to more about why faulty sump pumps occur and how to avoid the problems they cause?  Please post your questions in the Comments box below.


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