How Does a Sump Pump Work (and How Can You Troubleshoot Common Problems?)

If your sump pump isn't working, you need to understand how it works before you can fix it. But how does a sump pump work, exactly? Click here to learn!

While basements offer storage, shelter, and extra living space, they’re also one of the most at-risk areas of a house. According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, 60% of basements suffer from dampness or moisture, and 38% are at risk of developing mold. 

If your home has a basement, it’s a good idea to get a sump pump, if you don’t have one. A sump pump can be the difference between a cozy space that you spend time in, and thousands of dollars worth of water damage.

But how does a sump pump work, exactly? Keep reading for a guide that will help you understand everything you need to know. 

What Is a Sump Pump?

If you’ve never seen one before, a sump pump is a small type of pump that you install in the deepest part of your basement, crawlspace, or lowest area of your house. Most people put sump pumps in sump pits, which are holes that are around two to three feet deep. 

Sump pumps work to keep the building dry, and therefore prevent water from flooding out. When water flows into or through the sump pit, the sump pump pumps it out, away from your house. This prevents the water from causing damage. 

Traditionally, people with homes in low-lying areas used sump pumps, as did people who had to worry about water from melted snow. However, recent legislation has made them required in most buildings. Today, you’ll see a sump pump in the basement of most newer homes.  

How Does a Sump Pump Work?

The basics are easy to understand, but how do sump pumps work?

As mentioned, sump pumps are often in sump pits. As water begins to pour into the hole, the sump pump turns on and carries the water out through pipes. The location where the water exits the pipes needs to be far enough away to prevent damage to your home’s foundation. 

Most sump pumps are automatic and rely on pressure sensors to know when to turn on. As water exerts more pressure than air, the pump knows when to activate and empty the water. You can also use a manual sump pump, although these are less common. 

There are two common types of sump pumps, submersible pumps, and pedestal pumps.  Submersible pumps reside in water, sucking water through a grate and into pipes. Pedestal pumps are out of the water and use a long pipe to get water out. 

How to Choose the Right Sump Pump

Depending on where you live, you might not need to have a sump pump at all. If you live in a dry region that’s often warm and dry, you shouldn’t have to worry about moisture and water damage. 

If your basement has a musty smell, feels damp, or sometimes floods, getting a sump pump can be a good idea (and may be required by law). Getting one will help keep your home’s moisture levels under control.

To check if your basement has a moisture problem, tape some pieces of plastic to different surfaces around the room. Wait a few days, then remove them. If the space under the plastic is wet, then your basement has a moisture problem. 

When looking at different sump pumps, make sure you get one that’s automatic. Ensure that the cord is long enough (you don’t want to use an extension cord), that it has the adequate horsepower, and that it will notify you if something goes wrong. 

Sump Pump Repair and Maintenance 

Most sump pumps come with alarm systems or notifications that can let you know when and if there’s a problem. If the water begins to back up, the alarm will go off. More advanced and modern sump pumps will call your phone to inform you about the problem.

However, sump pumps are for the most part reliable, and you shouldn’t worry too much about water overflowing. There are some things you can do to make sure that it’s working as it should, though. 

From now and then, you can try pouring a bucket of water into the sump pit. This will let you see whether or not it’s working. As soon as the water is in the pit, the pump should turn on and the water should drain out. If it doesn’t, get it serviced.

You should also make sure that the sump pump is always standing up straight. As the pump operates, it may vibrate, causing it to tip over. Keeping it right side up will ensure that it does its job.

Why Are Sump Pumps Important?

Sump pumps help keep your walls, floors, and furniture protected against water damage. This lets you avoid the high costs that go along with repair. If water damage does occur, you’ll need to look into water damage restoration

Yet aside from avoiding the economic cost, having a sump pump in your basement also lets you avoid the health costs. 

Basements that have a buildup of moisture and water are a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Both of these can have serious effects on your health if you’re around them too much. Sump pumps help prevent mold from developing in the first place.

Keep the Water Out and Your Sump Pump on

When you own a home, you quickly realize how important your sump pump is. If you were wondering, “how does a sump pump work?” this guide should have helped you understand everything you need to. Next time you turn your sump pump on, make sure to appreciate all that it does!

Do you now have a better understanding of how a sump pump works? If you do, make sure to check out some of our other articles for more guides and tips. 

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