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How Does a Sump Pump Work? Your Guide to Using & Maintaining a Sump Pump

Posted On: April 01, 2019
Sump pump in a home’s basement

If your home has a basement, there’s a good chance it has a sump pump to go along with it. So how does a sump pump work, and why does it seem to sit around doing nothing in your home’s lower level? If you’re asking yourself these questions, it’s important to learn the sump pump basics, so you can better protect your home from costly damage.

You might not get regular use out of it, but your sump pump exists for a very important reason — to prevent flooding. A sump pump drains the water that accumulates on basement floors, helping to lower water levels when you find yourself wading rather than walking through this part of your home. Read on to learn more about these handy devices that can prevent costly structural damage.

How Does a Sump Pump Work?

While there are minor differences between sump pump models, all of them work using the same fundamental principles. No matter which type of sump pump you own, it most likely resides in the basement. Sump pumps typically go in this part of the home because it is the lowest point in the building where flooding is most likely to occur.

The main parts of a sump pump include:

  • Basin
  • Float valve or sensor
  • Impeller
  • Centrifugal pump
  • Check valve
  • Return pipe

In the event of a flood, water begins to collect in a sump pump’s basin where it triggers the sensor or float valve (manual pumps lack this feature). This mechanism activates the pump, which begins to rotate an impeller. The impeller works much like a motor, continuously driving water away from the top of the basin and towards the pipe at the bottom of the pump.

As the pump continues to drive water towards the only exit available, water levels in the basement begin to lower. The pump will continue to drive water towards its pipe until there is none left to move. In order to prevent the backflow of water, sump pump pipes feature a check valve. This component ensures that the water that was initially pooling can’t make its way back into your home.

What Types of Sump Pumps Exist?

Like most home appliances, there are a variety of sump pump types to choose from, each with their own unique features. Some of the most common choices that buyers face are:

Automatic vs. Manual:

In an automatic pump, the float valve or pressure sensor detects increasing water depths to start the pump. You never have to wonder how to use a sump pump with this type of equipment because it does all the work for you. Manual pumps will only start when a person physically starts the device. You might save money on a manual pump, but you will also need to be in your home when it begins to flood to get any use out of it.

Pedestal vs Submersible:

The difference between a pedestal and submersible sump pump is mostly aesthetic. A pedestal sump pump has its motor elevated above the basin, while a submersible pump keeps the motor below floor level. Some people prefer submersible pumps because they keep the motor out of sight. This design comes with a drawback, as it can be more expensive to maintain a submersible pump. Its components are more difficult to reach, making breakdowns a bit more complicated to fix.

Head Pressure Rating:

This is a measurement of a pump’s ability to push water. While this rating will vary from model to model, you can get a rough estimate of the effectiveness of your pump by measuring the height of the pipe from the bottom of the basin. This measurement should not exceed 80% of the pump’s head pressure rating. If it is below this percentage, your pump is less likely to experience inefficiencies or breakdowns.

How to Maintain a Sump Pump

While a sump pump may go unused for many years, it still requires regular maintenance if you want it to minimize damage during a basement flood. Maintaining a sump pump doesn’t take a lot of work, but it does require dedication to a plan.

How Important Is a Working Sump Pump?

A sump pump is especially useful in the Upper Midwest, where heavy precipitation falls throughout the year and drastic temperature swings are a regular occurrence. These conditions can lead to burst pipes, which have been the cause of many basement floods. When water flows uncontrollably through a basement for an extended period of time, it can damage a home’s foundation. That’s why it’s so important to have a plan for flooding, even if it seems like an unlikely event.

Other sources or flooding include wall leaks that let in melting water. As temperatures rise throughout spring, melting snow never just disappears — it turns into water that can easily find its way into a home. Snowstorms transition to heavy rains later in the year, which only add to the risk of flooding. If you want to keep your basement dry, a sump pump is a necessary addition to your floor plan.

Prioritize Pumping

Ready to take the plunge on a sump pump? We’re here to help you keep your home dry with a device that adds peace of mind to everyday life. Our friendly team knows how a sump pump can help you prevent future disaster, and we can use our expertise to install one that fits right into your basement.

Want to learn more? See how we help customers find the right sump pump for their unique needs and quickly install these appliances without cutting corners. We can also complete preventative maintenance on your pump to ensure your equipment is working as intended, which will reduce the chances of damage in the event of a flood.

When you’re ready to take action to prevent flooding, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team!

Proudly Serving The Twin Cities!