Have you ever performed a sump pump inspection during the winter months? Why not? Winter is a good time to check your sump pit and pump. The reason winter is a good time is that most pits are not active during the winter months. Without water accumulating in the pit, you have access to it and the pump without the risk of flooding your basement.
First, the pit!
Is the pit clean? Sump pits are wet, dirty, and sometimes moldy environments. If your sump pit has not been cleaned in recent years, or ever, it would be a good idea to clean it. It can be easily cleaned with a scrub brush and mild detergent. Simply scrub well, rinse, and run the pump. if you need a source of water, the water heater and washing machine both have faucets to hook up to. If the bottom of the pit has debris present, remove it. If you have drainage tile feeding the pit, check for rodent droppings. Surprisingly, mice can and do enter homes through these tiles. A screen can be placed at the exit of the pipe, but it must be inspected periodically to ensure that no clog is present in order to maintain good function. Now that the pit is nice and tidy, let’s look at the pump.
How to inspect your pump.
Inspecting your sump pump can consist of a simple visual inspection with a quick run, or physically removing the pump to inspect the impeller, electrical connection, and general condition of the unit. While you have the pump removed, you will want to inspect the check valve to ensure proper function. You should also check the condition of the discharge pipe to ensure no leaking has started. The pipes move every time the unit cycles on, so the possibility of leaking exists. Some sump pumps have screens that should be inspected for debris accumulation.
What pump should I buy? How often?
Sump pumps require periodic replacement due to normal wear. Their service life varies greatly depending on several factors, e.g. number of run cycles, condition of your sump pit (clean or dirty), and brand of pump. The brand of pump you purchase is a personal choice. However, if your pump only runs a few times per year, you may opt for a lower-priced unit and proactively replace it on a set schedule, say every 4-5 years. Lower-priced units usually have plastic cases and can be priced under $100.00. If your pump runs often, you may opt for a more expensive unit with a cast-iron case and stainless steel parts. The higher-end units may run in excess of $175.00 but are designed for heavy use and typically last much longer.
To float, or not to float?
Last but not least. If your sump pump does run often throughout the year and you don’t have one already, you might consider installing a piggyback variable level float switch. Installing one of these will dramatically reduce the number of run cycles and may greatly increase the life of your pump. Again, if you are not qualified, I highly recommend these items be installed by a licensed plumber because improper installation can end up being a very expensive mistake.