Homeowners Should Learn Sump Pump Basics

Water issues in a home are common and can result in many a sleepless night for homeowners. Leaks or damp conditions can lead to damage in a home and a large financial investment. Sump pumps are often part of an easy water management system.

Due to high water tables or flood-prone areas, some homes are more susceptible to water infiltration. The type of soil under the home or even in the region also may contribute to water-entry issues in the home. Homeowners may find water accumulates in the basement or crawlspace, or other low-lying areas of the residence. A sump pump can be an effective means to removing water from the home.

A sump pump is a device that pumps water out of the home to a place where it can drain properly. The pump is often placed in a sump pit, which is a hole dug into the lowest-lying point in a basement or crawl space. The pit is lined with gravel. Most sump pumps are submersible types, which means the motor and electronic components are housed within a sealed, waterproof plastic shell. The submersible pump can be placed directly in the pit in the accumulated water. A pedestal pump is another type of sump pump that elevates the motor on a stick, keeping it out of the water. Because the motor isn't contained, these pumps tend to be less expensive, but louder to use. Submersible pumps may not last as long as pedestal pumps simply because they spend a lot of time below water.

Sump pumps can work in a few different ways. A common type uses a float that rests on the surface of the water, much like the float inside of a toilet tank. When the water rises to a certain level, the float rises as well, triggering the motor to turn on and expel the water. A pump with a pressure sensor works by having the water, which is heavier than air, trigger a sensor that will activate the motor.

Inside of most sump pumps is an impeller, which looks like fan blades that spin the collected water and, through centrifugal force, pushes it into a discharge pipe. This pipe exits the house and usually drains far away from the foundation. The discharge pipe likely has a check valve that prevents water from seeping back through the pipe into the sump pump.

Homeowners also can choose manual sump pumps. But, unlike automatic pumps, manual pumps require a person to turn the pump on and off.

Due to the fact that sump pumps are electrical devices that work off of regular household current, it's important to have a ground fault interruptor (GFI) installed at the outlet where the pump will be plugged. This way the power can be turned off should an electrical surge take place.

Sump pumps can only be used where there are minor water problems in a home. Flooding or severe conditions may require alternative situations that are best handled by a professional service.