Sump pumps are definitely the unsung heroes of dry basement spaces. In fact, as with most major appliances, most people don’t pay them any mind at all until they stop working properly.
Of course your sump system can’t speak to you and say, “Hey, I am getting worn out and need to be replaced.” Instead, it will “talk” to you by giving out warning signs that you must notice and correctly interpret.
This is not an exact science, to say the least. We have proof in the sheer number of calls we’ve received over the years from frustrated customers who say their sump system gave out without any warning at all.
The truth is, if you don’t know the warning signs to look for that your sump pump needs repairs or a replacement, it will feel like a major repair or failure came without warning.
This post aims to remedy that by giving you the most common signs that your sump pump needs repair or replacing.
Sump Pump Basics: What Is a Sump System?
There are two basic types of sump systems: pedestal and submersible. As their names suggest, one system sits above the ground and the other one is submerged. It is pretty easy to tell which type you have just by looking at it.
The heartbeat of any sump system is its motor. The motor works to push water out of the sump pit (holding area) and away from your basement space, keeping it clean and dry.
A Basic Sump Pump System Test You Can Do Yourself
This easy test will take only a few minutes and can alert you to any brewing troubles with your sump operation.
Fill a bucket with water.
Pour it into the sump pit.
Watch what happens next.
If the pump powers on, quickly drains out the water and then turns itself off again, your sump pump is working as it should. If anything else happens, it is time to call a pro.
If you have a battery-operated sump or backup system, this is also a good time to do a simple battery test.
Simple Sump Maintenance You Can Do Yourself
Over time, the sump pipes and pit can accumulate gravel, dirt and debris.
You can use a scoop or your hand to remove this debris so it won’t clog the pit or the drainage lines.
As well, if your sump pump doesn’t have a lid, adding one now can be a smart move to prevent more debris, dirt or gravel from entering your sump system.
Warning Signs of Sump System Malfunction
It usually isn’t difficult to tell when your sump pump stops doing its job correctly. What can be more challenging is to figure out if the malfunction warrants a repair or a replacement.
In many cases, moving parts like the float switch may simply need to be replaced. But in some cases, it may be your sump itself that has reached the end of its lifespan.
In either case, watch for these warning signs to signal when it may be time to call in a pro.
1. The noise level increases when your sump powers on
As a general rule, the pedestal-type sump system is noisier than the submersible sump system. However, if either system starts to get louder than usual when it switches on, this can be a sign there is a pending repair issue.
Here, noises to watch for include increased vibration, strange clangs or bangs, odd pauses during an operational cycle and rattles or grinding.
2. The sump pump never seems to stop running
If your sump system is running continuously, especially when the weather remains dry, there could be multiple possible causes, including a small leak you are not aware of.
It’s important to notice when this happens so you can investigate the cause before your pump motor wears out and breaks down.
3. Sump cycles are irregular
Frequent on/off cycling, erratic cycling (based on weather patterns that might indicate different on/off patterns), switching on or off at odd moments and other irregularities are also a warning sign something is amiss inside your sump system.
One of the most common reasons for irregular cycling is a pump motor and pipes that are accumulating debris and have started to clog or jam.
4. The sump housing, motor, parts or pipes start to look worn or rusted
If you see signs of discoloration, including corrosion or rust, it could be anything from a buildup of algae or bacteria to parts that have begun to rust and degrade.
5. Your sump runs when the sump pit is dry
This can seem particularly mysterious at the outset, but the most likely culprit is a clog in the drainage pipes somewhere.
If your sump is new and this happens, it could mean it is not installed correctly.
Repair or Replace: Which Does Your Sump System Need?
The typical sump system has a useful life of up to 10 years – this applies only if the system has received regular preventative maintenance and is sized properly for the job it has to do.
Sometimes, all your sump really needs is a backup sump to give it some help during heavy activity periods.
A robust backup system like the UltraSump® can protect your basement space from flooding, extend the useful life of your existing sump system and ensure your sump will remain operational even during a power outage.
The first step to repairing or replacing your sump system is to have your existing system evaluated by a professional. Once you know what is wrong, you have the knowledge to make informed choices.
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