If you live in a house with a basement, chances are you have a sump pump system (consisting of a sump pit that houses a pump) in your home. A sump pump system is installed to help manage exterior water runoff that drains toward the foundation of a house. Not all homes with basements have a sump pump system, but if water may be deposited near the exterior of a house, the builder will likely install the system when the house is being constructed. And you don’t need a basement to have a sump pump—some homes with crawl spaces have them, too.
It works like this: A drain system is installed around the perimeter of the home. The drain tubes usually have a diameter of a couple of inches, and have small holes drilled in them to collect and capture the water that’s heading for your basement. Once the water is captured, it’s directed to the sump pit, where the sump pump is installed. When water enters the pit, the pump is activated by a float and the accumulated water is pumped out of the home to a spot where it flows away from the home.
Since a sump pump helps remove moisture from the underground areas of your house, it’s important that the system is inspected and maintained in proper working order. Your pump should be tested at least twice a year, and more often if the pump runs frequently. If you have a pedestal model, just lift the float to test the pump. If you have a submersible model, pour a few gallons of water into the sump pit until the pump is activated. Of course, if the pump fails to activate when you test it, have it serviced immediately by a qualified technician!
Also, the sump pump should be plugged into a dedicated GFCI outlet. If it’s on a shared circuit, other appliances could trip the circuit, thereby disabling your sump pump. Some companies offer back-up pumps that run on battery power in case of mechanical or power failures. The sump pit should also be covered to help keep it free of debris that might hamper the movement of the float valve or cause other damage to the pump. With regular minimal maintenance, a sump pump should last anywhere from five to seven years, on average. That life span can be a bit shorter if you live in a damp area and your pump runs more frequently.