Do you know the purpose of a sump pump? Many people have them in their basements or crawl spaces but don't fully understand what sump pumps do. They just hear a motor running from time to time, followed by a sucking noise.
If you haven't owned a sump pump before and then purchase one, then you'll have a much clearer sense of their purpose. Moreover, a simple sump pump installation could save your basement from damaging flooding and other water catastrophes.
This article explains the sump pump purpose and uses, sump pump installation, sump pump maintenance, and other information about sump pumps. If you're interested, read on!
The Purpose of a Sump Pump
What is a sump pump? Its fundamental purpose, of course, is to remove water from your basement or crawlspace and keep these areas dry. But it has several other related purposes you might not have considered, including the following.
Protecting the Foundation
In some cases, especially where the water table is high, water from the soil can damage the foundation. As the water flows downward, the sump pump disperses it away from the house.
Preventing the Spread of Mold, Mildew, and Bacteria
Places with moisture in the air and on surfaces are a haven for annoying and potentially harmful microorganisms. Keeping the basement dry with a sump pump curtails their growth.
Protecting Basement Appliances from Corrosion
If your basement floods and there's standing water for any amount of time, your appliances will start to rust. Depending on the water level, they also might have internal damage.
Removing Foul Odors and Improving Air Quality
As we all know, most flood water is dirty and might contain sewage or other waste products. A significant purpose of a sump pump is to get this water out of the house. The nasty smell is merely a warning of worse things.
Alerting Homeowners When the Water Level is Too High
Most sump pumps have high-water alarms. Some have low-water alarms too. Having a sump pump alarm allows homeowners to call for expert help before an overflow or another incident occurs.
In fact, any time you might think there's something wrong with your sump pump, call a plumber to check it out.
Adding Value to the Home
Not every home has a sump pump, but most prospective home buyers (or at least their home inspectors or real estate agents) know a good thing when they see it. A house with an installed sump pump is one of those things.
A sump pump doesn't quite equal a soaking tub in the master bathroom or granite countertops in the kitchen. But it's definitely an asset, as well as a sign of a well-cared-for home.
Upholding Flood Insurance Requirements
If you live on a flood plain or have had a pipe burst in the past, you probably know enough to have flood insurance. Many policies require a functioning sump pump or other flood mitigation measures.
Stabilizing the Soil
By moving groundwater away from your basement and house, a sump pump reduces hydrostatic pressure on the foundation, thereby stabilizing the soil around the foundation.
What Is a Sump Pump's Structure?
A sump pump typically sits in a sump pit, which is a hole with a gravel base. A sump pit is about 60 centimeters deep and 45 centimeters wide. You will usually find the sump pit in the lowest spot in a basement or crawlspace.
Sump Pump Types
There are two basic sump pump types. The first, a submersible pump, rests in the water, enclosed in a waterproof housing. The actual pump is at the bottom of the pit, and the outlet pipe near the top.
The second, a pedestal pump, sits on a long stick or tube that keeps it out of the water. An intake pipe goes to the bottom of the pit to draw out the water.
Activating the Pump
Most sump pumps switch on automatically using either a float activator arm or a pressure sensor. The pressure sensor works just like its name suggests: Because water places stronger pressure on the sensor than the air does, it activates the pump.
The float activator works a lot like the float in your toilet tank (if you still have one). A floating ball rises to the top of the water and manually moves the arm as the water rises.
As with many plumbing mechanisms, many of a sump pump's actions occur through gravity and water pressure.
Sump Pump Installation
Installing a sump pump is not a DIY project for most homeowners to undertake—although sound written instructions for doing so are available online. Even the handiest homeowners often miss critical steps or make mistakes in their execution.
You need to contact a professional plumber who has sump pump knowledge and experience. Plus, many of us offer written guarantees on the work we do.
Sump Pump Maintenance
Your sump should receive semi-annual or at least annual maintenance. You can do this yourself or hire a plumber to do it for you.
Here are the steps:
1. Unplug the pump and remove it from the pit. Then examine it for rust, and be sure to clean the pump inlet screen.
2. Check the owner’s manual about whether the pump bearings need lubrication. If so, lubricate them with the recommended oil or grease.
3. Check the sump basin and remove any debris.
4. Put the pump back into the pit, connect it, and plug it in.
5. Pour a bucket of water into the basin and watch the float switch. You should be confident that the float moves through its entire process without getting stuck and that it turns the pump on and off when it should.
6. Go outside and check the state of the pump's discharge pipe. It should not be obstructed by dirt or vegetation. Then verify that it drains fully and doesn’t contain leftover water that could freeze in winter. Freezing could rupture the pipe or obstruct its flow.
You should expect to replace your sump pump roughly every ten years.
What Does a Sump Pump Do? Now You Know
The purpose of a sump pump is straightforward: to remove excess water. Yet, some articles we read on this topic cite other purposes too—ones the sump pump's inventors would never have thought of.
Basements are known for flooding—whether it's stormwater, a burst pipe, a leaking water heater. Or some other cause. Whatever it might be, we hope you now have a clearer idea of how a sump pump could help.
Since Anta Plumbing installs and maintains sump pumps, we would be happy to help you with yours. Just reach out to us when you're ready.