If you live in a home with a basement or crawl space, you probably have a sump pump. You may have heard it cycling during a rainy part of the year, but you were not quite sure where it was located or what it was doing. Unfortunately, sump pumps are underappreciated, and usually only thought of or cared about after failure when you notice water in your basement or crawl space.
As a rule of thumb, it is a good idea to check your sump pump(s) annually, generally before the spring thaw. Here are a few guided steps to get you started.
First, locate your sump pump. It can usually be found in a basement utility room or low point in the crawl space. The sump pump will be recessed in a sump basin or pit with a discharge pipe running up to the ceiling or out the wall. Most have covers, which can easily be pried open with a screwdriver or knife. In review, you want to make sure the sump pump is plugged in to a working electrical outlet.
NOTE: Be sure to unplug the sump before working on or around it. Also DO NOT use an extension cord to connect the sump pump to electrical. The sump pump cord must be plugged directly into a working outlet that is installed above the pump.
Keep the Basin Clean:
Next, look inside the sump pump basin/pit. You may find varying amounts of water, debris, etc. Take this time to remove any debris (i.e., golf ball), roots, dead mice, et. al. Doing this will eliminate anything from interfering with the operation of the sump pump. A Sump pump only activates or “kicks in” when water fills the basin/pit and raises the float switch. When that occurs, the float will activate the pumping mechanism. This cycle will continue as long as water fills the basin/pit. Once water recedes, the sump pump will sit inactive. Depending on your location, a sump could sit inactive for several months, which is why it is suggested to “test” the sump pump annually to assure operation when it is called upon.
If your sump pump has been idle for a while, you can test it by pouring water into the basin/pit until the float switch is raised. Fill a 5-gallon pail with water and start filling. It may take the sump pump a minute or two to cycle and start discharging water. In the event the sump pump does not cycle, check to make sure it is plugged into an operating electrical outlet. If it is a GFCI outlet, you may need to reset the GFCI. If the sump pump still does not operate, it may be time to replace it.