Staying Pumped: How to Keep your Sump Pump in Top Shape

Your sump pump system is your home's first line of defense in heavy rains, flash floods and other water emergencies, so it is wise to keep that system in working order.

Sump pumps operate automatically and are permanently installed typically in the basement in a "sump pit" or hole in your floor, while utility pumps are portable units that plug into an electrical outlet, though gas and battery-powered utility pumps are available. They attach to a garden hose for removing standing water manually. Both types of pump need to be ready to perform in emergencies.

If your sump pump is not working up to par or you need a new system installed, consider upgrading to a new microprocessor-controlled switch. "If your sump pump is as old as your house, it likely has a mechanical switch," says Tony Ferrante, vice president of Sales & Marketing, Wayne Water Systems. "When pumps fail, it is usually due to switch failure. Mechanical switches, like tether and float switches corrode and wear out over time."

Here are additional tips to ensure optimal pump performance and safety.

  • Check your sump pump regularly by pouring a pitcher of water into your sump pit. This will turn your pump on.
  • Make sure your sump pump can handle the maximum amount of water anticipated, measured in gallons per hour. Refer to your instruction manual for performance reference.
  • Include a battery back-up system in addition to your primary pump in the event of a power outage.
  • Remove standing water from your home or property with a utility pump to avoid mildew damage and the infestation of insects that may carry West Nile virus.
  • Utility pumps are usually non-automatic pumps that come in various submersible and non-submersible designs powered by electric, gas or battery. For submersible utility pump, the "pump" is intended to be submersible and therefore the typical 8-foot cord will be partially as well. Do not allow water to get near an outlet as the risk of electric shock.
  • Transfer pumps are never submersible and are used to quickly transfer standing water from one area to another, like flooded basements or to fill or empty aquariums, water gardens or water beds.
  • For quick removal when the water level has reached areas of concern, make sure your utility pump and any suction attachments are accessible. Do not store out of reach, such as in a shed. Water can rise to dangerous levels in minutes. If it is high enough to reach outlets, leave the area.
  • Do not stand near open drains or catch basins, especially in or near moving water. If you lose your footing, water pressure can hold you under.

By following these tips, you can keep yourself and family safe as well as prevent extreme water damage to your home and valuables.

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