Sump pumps are a huge help in areas that are prone to flooding or often experience heavy rains or snow. Sump pumps work to move water away from the foundation so that your basement or crawlspace doesn’t flood. The fact that sump pumps perform such an essential role means you obviously want to keep the unit in good shape to ensure it works whenever it is needed. As with most other things, sump pumps require regular maintenance, or else they can quickly break down. Should this happen, you might find yourself facing huge issues if the sump pump fails and your house floods.
How Often Do I Need to Do Sump Pump Maintenance?
Sump pumps should be inspected and maintained at least once a year. Annual maintenance is usually sufficient if your sump pump rarely runs. The more your sump pump runs, the greater the chance there is for issues to arise that could prevent it from working properly. This means that if your sump pump runs quite frequently, you may want to inspect and maintain it two to four times a year instead of just annually. With this in mind, let’s look at the steps that are involved in sump pump maintenance.
Many homes have the outlet from their washing machine leading directly to the sump basin. In this case, the sump pump should really be cleaned every month since the basin will fill up and the pump will run every time you wash a load of laundry. You probably don’t need to deep clean the entire pump on a monthly basis, but you should clean the inlet screen to prevent it from getting clogged.
Remove the Sump Pump and Clean the Basin
Before doing anything else, make sure to unplug the sump pump from the outlet. Attempting to do any work on the sump pump while it is still plugged in can be dangerous.
Once you’ve unplugged the unit, take the cover off of the sump basin. Don’t worry if there is some standing water in the sump basin. This is completely normal since the pump will only kick in once the water rises high enough to reach the float. If there is any debris inside the basin, get rid of them before removing the pump.
To remove the sump pump, you’ll first need to disconnect the discharge pipe from the unit. After disconnecting the pump, carefully lift the pump out of the basin. If your sump pump is located inside the building, place it in a bucket or trash bag so that it doesn’t leak water everywhere when you carry it outside to clean it.
Once the sump is out of the way, use a wet/dry vacuum to remove all of the water from the basin. There will often be lots of sludge built up in the bottom of the basin. If so, scrape and remove as much of it as you can. Be aware that this is often quite a nasty job so you may want to wear a mask and gloves.
Inspect and Clean the Pump
After cleaning the basin, take the pump outside so you can clean it without making a mess. Start by spraying the pump with your hose to remove as much sludge from it as possible. You’ll then want to wipe off all of the remaining sludge and grime from the exterior of the pump and then thoroughly rinse it with a hose. If you can’t remove all of the grime, try spraying the unit with vinegar and then carefully scraping the unit with a putty knife after letting the vinegar sit for a few minutes.
Once the unit is clean, carefully inspect it for any signs of damage or corrosion. If you see anything unusual, it is always best to have the unit inspected by a professional plumber before reinstalling it.
Clean the Inlet Screen
After cleaning the exterior of the pump, turn the unit over so you can access the inlet screen on the base of the pump. The inlet screen is a filter that prevents dirt, rocks, and debris from being sucked inside the unit when the pump runs. If your sump basin regularly fills up with water or your washing machine drains into the basin, the inlet screen can quickly become clogged. When this happens, it prevents the unit from pumping water and can cause the basin to overflow and your house to flood.
The easiest way to clean the inlet screen is with some water and a toothbrush. Gently scrub the screen to fully remove any debris and grime.
Lubricate the Bearings If Necessary
Some sump pumps need to have their bearings lubricated regularly while others have sealed bearings that never need lubricating. Check your owner’s manual to see if it says the bearings need to be lubricated. If so, carefully follow the provided instructions. Failing to lubricate the bearings can quickly burn out the sump pump so this is an important step.
Check the Discharge Pipe
You should also inspect the discharge pipe where the water exits the drainage system. Make sure that the pipe drains far enough away from your house and that it is not clogged. You should also occasionally check the discharge pipe when the sump pump is running to make sure that water is flowing out the pipe properly.
The discharge pipe should drain at least 20 feet away from your house. If you can’t find the discharge pipe, it most likely runs under the yard and exits somewhere near the storm drain.
If your discharge pipe feeds directly into your home’s sewer line, then you have a problem. Running a sump pump discharge pipe into your sewer line is illegal in Colorado and most other states. This problem used to be more common, but it is still something we occasionally encounter. When we do, we are not allowed to do any work on the sump pump until a proper drainage system is installed and the system is brought up to code.
Test the Pump to Make Sure It Works Properly
The final step is to put the sump pump back into the basin, plug it in and test to make sure it still works. If your sump pump was resting on bricks at the bottom of the basin, make sure to put these back in first. The pump needs to sit perfectly level and upright or else it won’t work properly. After situating the pump in the basin, reconnect the discharge pipe.
To test the pump, you will need to put a few buckets of water into the basin. Keep adding water until it reaches the float and the sump turns on. Watch the unit to make sure that the float switch is working properly and turns the unit on and then off when the water reaches certain levels. If the pump won’t turn on, make sure that the circuit breaker isn’t tripped. If this isn’t the issue, then you will need to have a professional inspect your pump.
Reliable Plumbing Services in Denver
If you’re having any issues with your sump pump not turning on or not running constantly, the experts at High 5 Plumbing can help. Our licensed plumbers install and repair sump pumps and water heaters. We also offer a full range of other plumbing services from drain cleaning and hydro-jetting to sewer line repairs for customers throughout the Greater Denver area. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment or if you have any questions.