As a homeowner, a flooded basement is a dreaded catastrophe and you would be well advised to take the necessary precautions. Rainwater and rising water table levels, will often result in accumulated water in low areas, like a basement or the crawlspace beneath your floor. The best way to prevent water damage, and the resultant costly repair bill, is to pump the water from the basement before it can become a problem.
Controlling Damp and Flooding
A basement should have a drain or sump. This is essentially a pit that extends well below the floor level of the basement. As water always flows to the lowest point, any moisture collecting in the basement will end up in the sump. The sump or drain can vary in depth and is usually several feet deep. The diameter of the sump will also vary, ranging from around 6” to 15” in diameter. A sump pump forms an important part of controlling the water that is collected in the drain.
What is a Sump Pump?
To remove the water from the drain, it needs to be pumped to ground level, far enough from the home as not to cause any damage to the foundations all walls. For this purpose, a sump pump should be installed. So, what exactly is a sump pump?
As you’ve probably guessed this is a pump. Though it is not any ordinary pump, it is designed to automatically remove water from a basement sump. To do this, the pump must have a means to determine the water level. When the water level in the sump rises to a point where flooding becomes immanent, the pump must switch on automatically. It must then remove the water until the sump is almost empty. It is important that the sump does not run completely dry, as this may damage the pump.
There are two types of sump pumps. A submersible sump is installed in the sump pit or drain. This means the pump is permanently submerged in the water. A pedestal pump is installed outside the sump, with a pipe extending into the drain pit, below the minimum water level.
Here are some of the key differences between a sump pump and a pedestal pump:
How is a Sump Pump Different From a Utility Pump?
The primary difference between a sump pump and any other type of pump is the fact that a sump pump switches on and off automatically according to the water level in the drain. The pump is usually controlled using a float switch.
Submersible sump pumps are generally more compact, in order to fit the confined space of a drain. There are several additional features that as sump pump may have, as listed below.
How Much Power Does a Sump Pump Require?
All sump pumps use an electric motor that can vary in size from about ¹⁄₅HP to around 1 HP. There is no one size fits all sump pump. The power required for these pumps should be calculated according to the following two factors.
The amount of water that a pump can remove from a basement is measured in Gallons per Hour (GPH). It is important that this is assessed within a reasonable margin of tolerance. The GPH spec for the pump must be inline with the rate at which water collects in the basement.
If the pump does not pump water from the sump fast enough, flooding will result. The water accumulating in the pit will not be removed timeously. Conversely, if the pump is too powerful, the water will be removed too quickly. The resultant effect will be numerous, short pumping cycles. This means that the pump will switch on and off in rapid succession, causing excessive wear which will shorten its lifespan. In some instances, pumping the water too fast can result in the sump running dry which will ultimately damage the pump.
Vertical lift, or head, refers to the maximum height that the pump is able to lift the water. The GPH spec and Vertical lift spec for a sump pump will always be relative. In other words, as the head increases, the pump will remove less water per hour. If a basement sump is 20-feet below the ground level, a less powerful pump will remove the water from the drain much slower than if the sump were 5 or 10 feet from the ground level.
It is important to account for the depth of the sump drain and not just the depth of the basement floor. The pump needs to be sufficiently powerful to lift the water from the lowest point of the drain to an exit point, which may be higher than the actual ground level, depending on where the most convenient position is for the discharge pipe.
How Long is a Sump Pump Good For?
The life expectancy for a sump pump will depend on a number of factors, including the brand and pump model, the type of pump, and the working conditions. Generally, you can expect your sump pump to last an average of 10-years. Pedestal sump pumps tend to last longer, often more than 10-years. Whilst submersible sump pumps don’t last as long, 5 – 10 years.
It’s good to know what the best practices are for prolonging the life of a sump pump. Here are common causes for sump pumps not lasting as long as they should:
Signs That a Sump Pump May be Nearing the End of it's Life
It’s always better to replace your sump pump before it’s too late. Waking up to a flooded basement is something we would all rather avoid. Here are some tell-tale symptoms that your pump is not good for much longer.
Do Sump Pumps Require Maintenance?
Like any essential piece of household equipment, a sump pump needs periodic inspections and some maintenance. Fortunately, sump pumps are usually reliable and don’t need much hands on maintenance. However a few basic maintenance procedures will ensure your sump pump does not let you down. At least once a year, before heavy rains are expected, this basic checklist should be followed. This is important to ensure proper working and prolonged pump life, as well as your own safety.