Is your Sump Pump Ready for Winter?

A sump pump installed in a basement of a home with a water powered backup system.

What is the Purpose of my Sump Pump?

The main purpose of a sump pump is to pump and send water away from your home, to a place where it can cause less problems — usually a city storm drain or a dry well. Sump pumps are usually hard wired directly into the electrical system of a home; however, some sump pumps may have an additional battery back up system. Your homes sump pump is equipped with valves that sense escalating water levels or pressure. When the water gets too high, sump pumps automatically pump excess water out of the basement and away from your property using a discharge line. This line, called an effluent, connects the sump pump to a designated drainage area.

What can Happen if my Sump Pump Fails?

If your sump pump fails and the soil around your foundation thaws, it can give you a flooded basement. Basements usually don’t have much insulation, so they can be endangered by freezing temperatures. In addition to water from outside entering your home, pipes can freeze and burst or leak. A burst pipe, whether it’s just a leak or major breakage of a pipe first creates water damage in interior and exterior walls. Inside the wall, insulation may grow saturated with water. If water accumulates or saturates timbers and structural components for a long period, structural weakness may occur.

How to Prevent Sump Pump Failure in the Winter Months?

Remove your sump pump’s discharge hose for the winter. When you know your area is about to experience a long period of cold weather, remove the hose connecting your sump pump to the discharge pipe and leave it off until warmer weather returns. If water were to freeze inside the hose, it’d be unusable until it thaws — and could damage the hose, too.

Make sure to re-attach the hose when warmer temperatures return. If you decide to remove your hose for the winter, make sure to reattach it when any period of warmer, thawing weather returns. Your sump pump won’t do you any good if it can’t take the water in its pit back outside!

Have an extra discharge hose handy. This tip isn’t just for wintertime — you’re better off having an extra discharge hose on hand during all times of the year in case your primary one freezes or breaks. But if you do have at least two discharge hoses already, you don’t necessarily need to remove the one connected to your sump pump when winter comes. If it freezes, just remove it, attach the spare and let the other one thaw out. That way, you don’t have to be as vigilant with detaching and reattaching the hose as temperatures fluctuate.

Never unplug your sump pump. While you might think you don’t need your sump pump over the winter months, you shouldn’t unplug it entirely. If a warm front comes through, snow melts and a rainstorm hits, you might end up with a wet basement all because you forgot to plug your sump pump back in. 

Clear out debris in your sump pump’s pit. Making sure there’s no dirt, gunk, ice or other debris in your sump pump’s pit. This will help you avoid clogs in it’s intake or discharge pipes. If you notice a lot of debris in your pump’s pit, calling a professional to have it cleaned out can potentially save you thousands if a flood is avoided.

Test your pump regularly. Run some water through it during the winter to make sure it’s still functional. When that big snowmelt comes, you’ll be glad you made sure your sump pump is working. And if you removed the hose earlier, make sure to reattach it before you test.

Make sure your discharge pipe gets rid of water away from your home. Your pump’s discharge pipe’s job is to take the water from the sump pump and dispose of it away from your home. If it’s too close, that water could keep seeping back into your sump, causing your sump pump to run continuously. And your pump will have even more hardship to deal with if that water were to freeze. Experts recommend that water be discharged at least 10 feet away from your home’s foundation.

Keep your heat on. Your basement can get cold — and your sump pump’s pit and pipes can get even colder. Make sure to keep your heat on and heat your basement normally, as it can prevent any of your home’s pipes from freezing.

Inspect you Sump Pump. In most cases, sump pumps should be tested every three to four months. This should involve opening the inlet screen (often also called the pump screen) and cleaning it out, among other things. However, in some cases, your sump pump might actually benefit from more regular cleanings.

Have your Sump Pump cleaned and inspected annually by a professional. While you can do much of this maintenance on your own, having a professional inspection once a year will help to prolong the pump’s lifespan. When you hire someone to come inspect it, you should expect the professional to look at six things.

  • The sump pump pit needs to be inspected. The pit must be large enough for the sump pump to function effectively.
  • The check valve also needs an inspection. The discharge pipe must have a functioning check valve, to keep water from flowing back into the pit once the pump turns off.
  • The backup power source should be inspected. It should be determined that you have a backup power source and that it’s working properly.
  • The professional inspector will check the alarm. Not every sump pump has an alarm that goes off when it’s activated, but many do so that the homeowner will be alerted to water buildup in the pit.
  • The removable cover will be inspected. The cover helps prevent water from evaporating into the basement, so it’s important that it fits properly.

The final thing to check is the discharge location. An experienced professional will be able to tell you if the sump pump is discharging in the wrong location. The discharge location needs to be at least 20 feet away from your house, and should not drain into the public sewer system, your septic system, or neighboring properties.

I think my Sump Pump is Failing. What Can I Do?

A few things you can do would be to first listen for any unusual noises when the motor is running. If all sounds okay check the operation of the float to make sure it is not restricted. If the float is working properly clean out the air hole in the discharge line. You can clean your sump pump by disconnecting the sump pump from the discharge pipe after turning off your sump pump then cover the pump with plastic to prevent spills and carry it outside. Once outside use your garden hose to rinse off the dirt on the surface of the pump and use the plastic scraper to clean out stuck debris. If you find that you are not comfortable to attempt these tests on your own or would rather have professional plumber come to your home or business to inspect your unit, Allegiance Service Group has experienced and licensed plumbers on staff in Chicago who specialize in sump pump repair and can diagnose and repair your sump pump problems. Call us today to schedule annual maintenance or repairs to your home’s sump pump, (224) 778- 9165.

Call us today to schedule annual maintenance or repairs to your Sump Pump.

(224) 778- 9165

(847) 721-3302

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