Sump Pump FAQ: What Is It, and Why Do I Have One?

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If you’ve ever been in your home’s crawl space, you might have noticed a curious contraption consisting of a small motor and a tall tube. Say hello to your sump pump. Though it may be out of sight, this gadget should not be out of mind: It may be the only thing saving your beloved home from flooding (and your prized possessions from mildew). This is particularly true if your home’s foundation is below the water table.

To help you better understand these mysterious devices, we’ve answered a few frequently asked questions about them. Read on to get the scoop.

What Is a Sump Pump?

Often hardwired directly into your home’s electrical system, this device uses a motor of about 1/2 horsepower to expel dirty water that has accumulated in a basin. You will generally find it in the crawl space or basement where unwanted water accumulates.

Are They All the Same?

No. Sump pumps come in two varieties: pedestal, with the motor elevated above the sump; and submersible, which is completely underwater. Pedestal types are less costly and easier to repair. Submersible models cost more, but they’re better at handling gravel debris that can cause clogs and lead to costly flooding.

Most pumps are automatic. If you do have a manual pump, it needs to be activated at the right time, which can be tricky. For instance, some pumps need to be running before a basin fills, because a full basin can exceed an older model pump’s sump capacity.

Do I Need a Sump Pump?

If you live in a wet area, you certainly do need one. Rain, natural ground water and even the perimeter drains of your home’s waterproofing system can lead to flooding, which a pump can easily prevent. In many towns, including Amherst, New York, all homes must contain functional pumps by law.

Wetness is not just inconvenient. Damp crawl spaces are a favorite nesting ground for roaches, and mildew can also promote respiratory disease. If your basement floods every spring and stays unpleasantly damp year-round, your sump pump could be due for an upgrade.

How Can I Keep It Pumping Properly?

Because sudden flooding is possible, you should have this important device checked before you need its services. They require routine maintenance every six months to a year, but if you live in a damper climate, more frequent tune-ups can’t hurt.

As long as your plumber is performing a tune-up, ask about where exactly all that dirty water is going. When a lot of houses were built, the pumps sent basin water into sanitary water sewers, which is now illegal. In fact, you could be fined for polluting municipal sewers.

When was the last time you had your sump pump checked by a professional? Avoid costly flood repairs by having it inspected and maintained regularly. To schedule an appointment, contact the pros at The Pink Plumber. We’ve been tackling all types of plumbing problems for the past 50 years. These days, we’re also focused on fighting breast cancer, with a portion of every job donated to breast cancer research.

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