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Sump pump with backup battery inside basement.

Sump Pump Maintenance & Troubleshooting Issues

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If you truly care about your basement, you should keep the sump pump operational. A faulty sump pump exposes your home to flooding and water damage. When the floods arrive, they can result in water-damaged homes that cost thousands of dollars to repair.

Don’t join the list of Raleigh, NC, homeowners who leave their basements to fate. Make sure your sump pump is in good working order, and you’ll never worry about what will happen.

In this guide, we’ll give you a rundown of the common problems, show you how to check your sump pump for damage, and ways you can maintain it.

Common sump pump problems and fixes

Sump pumps, like other mechanical devices, can develop problems that may hinder its performance. Here are the seven common ones and how to resolve them.

Pump fails to operate  

When the pump doesn’t actuate, it means the motor isn’t running. The power cord could be disconnected, or the receptacle has poor contact. Replace the plug, clean plug prongs, or replace the receptacle.

Pump actuates but doesn’t eject water

The impeller could be loose on the shaft or clogged. Try tightening the fasteners and replacing the key. You may also remove the screen cover and clean the volute or impeller.

Pump operates momentarily, then stops  

This happens a lot when the pump motor overload trips or whenever there’s an internal motor defect. Ask your electrician to check the branch circuit voltage and repair the circuit.

Pump runs continuously  

When the pump keeps running, even at the normal shut-off level or all water has been removed, the level switch could be defective. Turn off the power, detach the pump from the sump, and check for impeller and shaft rotation. Tightening fasteners and replacing the key might resolve the issue.

Pump cycles frequently  

The cause could be excessive water flow or an inoperative check valve. Try cleaning the gate of the valve or readjust control floats. If any of these fails, get a larger pump.

Pump keeps turning on and off  

When this happens intermittently, it could mean the float operation is either restrained or obstructed. It could also be that the float rod is bent or blocked by debris. Try adding water to the sump pit, then turn it on. Readjusting the weights or control floats can solve the problem.

Pump operation is noisy

Squealing, grinding, or hammering sounds are not unusual. It could be the impeller is rubbing the inlet plate/pump housing, the impeller is loose, or rotating parts are obstructed. The noise could be excessive when the pump isn’t positioned firmly to the ground. Try tightening the fasteners or replacing the pump bearing. Tightening the coupler and set crews might also help. If the noise persists, replace the pump with a newer one.

Inspecting the Sump Pump

If you suspect your sump pump is faulty, here are two ways to determine its working condition. A technician with your local waterproofing contractor also can check these various items.

Step 1: Unplug the sump pump’s power and plug it back in

A sump pump has two distinct plugs. One plug is for the float switch, and the other is for the motor. To troubleshoot your pump, unplug both of them.

Plug in the motor and then switch it on. If your pump doesn’t turn on immediately or isn’t very accurate, contact a professional to repair or replace it. If the pump powers on well, reconnect the float switch plug and move on to the next step.

Step 2: Flush the system

Another way to test whether your pump is working is to run water through it. Slowly drain a bucket of water into the sump pit. If the sump pump automatically comes on, pumps the water out of your basement, and then turns off, it is in good working condition. If, however, it does not automatically power on or it does not stop running, your appliance is faulty. In that case, you will need to proceed to further inspections, which include:

  • Inspect the float: As the water fills the sump pit, make sure it travels easily on the float rod.
  • Clean the filter: Your sump pump filter can get blocked with dirt and small debris like rocks and pebbles. A dirty filter can keep your sump pump from running effectively and could eventually burn out the motor, causing it to fail. Take time to thoroughly clean the filter before putting it back in.
  • Check the discharge pipe: It can also get clogged with debris, rodent nests, mud, stones, or mulch. Ensure that this pipe is clean and discharges water away from your home.
  • Inspect the check valve: Ensure that your sump pump has a 3/16” weep hole in the tube between the pump’s discharge pipe and the check valve. This hole prevents your pump from going into “vapor-lock” and dramatically extends the lifespan of your pump.

Maintenance tips

  • Replace the battery on your backup sump pump every three years.
  • Install a protective cover or grate to prevent debris and pests from entering the discharge pipe.
  • Clean out the air hole in the discharge line.
  • Readjust weights and floats.
  • Install a wider discharge line.
  • Use vinegar to clean tiny particles.
  • Apply water repellent to deter corrosion.
  • Clean the vents and air holes to enhance pump efficiency.
  • Lubricate the bearings in the column gap.

If, after trying these steps, your sump pump is still not functioning well, ask a local waterproofing professional to check it. Tar Heel Basement Systems is a leading basement waterproofing company in Raleigh, NC. We offer a range of basement services, including sump pump maintenance, repairs and installation.

If you are not sure about the status of your sump pump, get in touch with us for a free basement waterproofing inspection.

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