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What is a Sump Pump and How Does it Work?

All that’s needed is one flooded basement experience as a homeowner to know that you never want to deal with that again. Whether or not your home has a finished basement, standing water presents both structural and health hazards, and can result in costly damage. A sump pump can prevent disaster in your home.

A sump pump is a small pump installed in a sump pit, usually the lowest point in a basement. It’s your first line of defense against flood waters in your basement. The sump pump works as soon as there’s water around it, drawing in the surrounding flood water and pumping it back out of your home through a series of pipes.

Sump pumps in Alexandria, VA and the surrounding DMV region are a must to prevent water damage in your home. Flooding in Alexandria, VA, situated on the Potomac River, is an ever-present threat during the spring and summer months. According to the city government, twenty percent of Alexandria, VA homes are on the floodplain. As the rain season starts to pick up, we’re giving you all the information you need about what a sump pump is, how it works and why you need one in your home.

 

What is a sump pump?

Sump pumps are relatively small appliances that take on a large task. They work in your basement, usually in a sump pit, and as water enters the pit, the sump pump activates, pulling in the water and expelling it away from your home. A check valve on the sump pump keeps the expelled water from re-entering your home.

 

Why does my home need a sump pump?

Regionally, homes should absolutely have a sump pump to prevent flood damage in Alexandria, VA and the surrounding DMV area. A home’s need for a sump pump is really dependent on your home’s likelihood of experiencing basement flooding.

Your flooding potential is dependent on a number of factors: how close you live to a body of water, where your home is on the floodplain, seasonal weather changes or maybe you just live in a really rainy climate! Additionally, if you have slight cracks in your foundation or unevenness, these increase your flood risk as well.

If your home’s flood risk isn’t warning enough to make sure you have a working sump pump, flood damage in your home presents many problems. Flood waters can carry bacteria, insects and a number of germs you don’t want in your home or around your family. Water damage, especially in a finished basement, can be a nightmare to deal with. Mold growth, floor and wall deterioration, electrical damage and furniture damage are all possible issues.

 

How does a sump pump work?

We’ve discussed the basics: sump pumps work to remove water from your home. Here’s detail on the different types of sump pumps and how they work.

  • Pedestal Sump Pumps: The pedestal sump pump has a motor situated on a small pedestal. A pipe leads downward from the motor on the pedestal to the bottom of the sump pump pit. In the pit, a float is attached to a stand-alone metal rod that is attached to a switch on the pump. This sump pump does not go under the surface of the water but is triggered similarly to a toilet, with the plastic float triggering action. Once the switch is activated, the water is sucked into the pipe and flows into a different hose or pipe that leads to the septic (sewer) system.

 

  • Submersible Sump Pumps: This type of sump pump is meant to be submerged in water and is out of sight and earshot for homeowners because it is underneath the floor’s surface. At the bottom of the pump there is a filter that prevents debris and gravel from being sucked into the sump pumps’ suction valve. These are usually larger in horsepower, but because they are submerged under water, their longevity is roughly half of that of pedestal pumps.

 

Sump pumps are most commonly wired to your home’s central electric system. In the case of storms, you risk losing power in your Alexandria, VA home. That being said, it’s essential to have a backup power supply like a standby generator or backup battery system so your sump pump can work during an outage. Power outages in Northern Virginia are not pleasant in general, but they are worse if a raging thunderstorm is also producing heavy rains and your basement is taking on water with no refuge.

 

How do you know when to replace a sump pump?

There are a few important warning signs indicating the need for sump pump repair or sump pump replacement in Northern Virginia homes. It’s important to know the age of your home’s system, schedule regular maintenance and if you experience issues with it, call the experts at John C. Flood as soon as possible.

Here are the warning signs that tell you it’s time to replace a sump pump:

  • How old is your equipment? Pedestal sump pumps can last up to 30 years before requiring replacement. Submersible pumps usually last about half that lifespan as they experience wear and tear under the water’s surface.
  • When’s the last time it was used? This may not mean you need to replace it, but sump pump maintenance is a good idea. Visible rust on the equipment is also an indication of sump pump repair or replacement.
  • Is it malfunctioning? If the automatic shut-off isn’t working, the equipment isn’t kicking on at the right time, or it makes weird sounds or movements, it’s time for repair or replacement.
  • When was it installed? If you don’t know the answer to that question, it’s best to investigate. If your home’s sump pump was installed when your home was first built, it is likely reaching the end of its life and may not be up to modern standards for efficiency and effectiveness.

The expert team at John C. Flood can inspect your equipment and let you know if you’re in need of sump pump repair or sump pump replacement. If you haven’t had this equipment checked in awhile, it’s best to schedule it as part of your home’s regular system maintenance inspection with John C. Flood.

Don’t get bogged down

As a homeowner, we believe knowledge is power, which is why we think it’s important to share tips and best practices for common household appliances and equipment. The more you know about your home’s inner workings, the more prepared you can be in the event of a weather issue, keeping your family comfortable and minimizing expensive or irreparable damage.

Don't risk flood damage in your basement. Work with Alexandria plumbers on a sump pump installation or repair. Call John C. Flood at (703) 783-0247 or schedule service online now.