Testing Your Sump Pump

Probably lots of you have sump pumps in your basement. We’re going to show you today in more detail in video format, how to take care of that. There’s a few things I want to show you before we actually look down in the sump pit. You probably have a lid like this. A lot of them kind of turn to unlock. That’s kind of what ours does. So just get your lid off there. Some of them screw down, and that’s okay. Just figure out how yours attaches and get that lid off of there. I want to show you some of the components, too, of a sump pump. We’re going to look down in the hole later, as I mentioned. But the things you can see on top is usually you’ll have a power cord and usually that just plugs into the wall. You also have a discharge pipe. Ours goes under the floor here and then up the wall and out. Yours may not do that. Some of them come up and they’re on top of the floor. That’s okay too. But there’s going to be a discharge pipe somewhere.

Sometimes you’ll have a hose like this black flex hose. If you do, that’s okay, but this is going to be a little less reliable, so just remember that. You want to check this for cracks, and if you can, try to replace this at some point. Get into hard piping is ideal. If you do that, try to stay with inch and a half for most residential sump pumps. But you can look at your sump pump and try to calculate what size pipe you have or you want to use yourself. But inch and half’s a pretty safe pipe.

This is a sump pump. It’s an old one. It’s obviously not the one that we’re going to work on here, but I just wanted to show you a couple things. One is that if you have this type of black pipe, you’re probably going to have a connector like this that screws in and then the pipe goes on there and there’s a hose clamp on that. That’s kind of the difference. Also, this is one switching method. We’re going to show you another one down in the hole here. Some sump pumps use this floater as a switch, so this is actually your switch. If you listen carefully, you might be able to hear this click. So that’s the on and off port. So when the water fills up in your sump basin down here, this will start to float and it will kick that direction and turn the sump pump on. We’re going to show you a different kind here in a couple minutes.

Another thing to be aware of is that sometimes your sump pump will be kind of cruddy and gross. Sometimes there’ll be bugs living down in there. A good solution for that is to use a pool shocking chlorine. You could also use bleach too, but we have a pool, so we use the chlorine shock. I usually just pour like a half a cup in there or less, maybe a quarter of a cup. Now if your sump basin is dry down there, I probably wouldn’t pour it into a dry sump basin. I’d probably put some water in first, maybe a quarter of the way at the bottom, and then pour the pool shock in there and then kind of squish it around a little bit. That kind of kills all the bugs and different things down in there. That’s a good way to start.

We’re outside now and we can take a look here and see the pipe where our sump pump discharges. Obviously we’ve got plenty of good flow here. You might want to take a look at where your pipe ends up. Is it buried in the grass? Is it being restricted in some way? Just make sure you’re getting good flow out of the discharge pipe on the outside of your house.

Now we’re down in the sump pit here. We’re going to kind of look at the anatomy of the whole system. This is called the sump basin, just this bucket type thing down in here. You can see here, this particular design has the tubes or the pipes that run around the perimeter of the basement drilled right through the side of the sump basin. When rain water collects underneath the floor or underneath the footing of the house, it migrates through the gravel bed that’s under the floor and into these pipes that have holes in them. Then the water runs out and dumps into the sump basin. So if it were raining pretty steadily right now, we’d probably see water dripping out of these two pipes.

There’s another way that you might see this done as well. That’s with small holes drilled in the side of the sump basin, just all around it could be perforated. Then gravel surrounds that sump basin. So when water collects in that gravel, it runs through those perforated areas in the side of the sump basin and just starts filling up that way. Either way, this is a low point in your basement where the water’s going to collect. So the water collects in the bottom of here, and this is our sump pump that’s sitting down in here. Out of the sump pump is a pipe.

Then we have this. This is called a check valve. A check valve is for one way flow of water. So when water flows up and the pump kicks off, all the water that’s developed upstream here in the head of the pipe doesn’t run all the way back down and fill the sump basin back up. This kind of holds the water at that point. When more water fills up from the bottom, the pump will kick on and it’ll pump more water out through the check valve. So that’s what that’s for.

This is kind of a slip coupling. You’ll probably see that in your sump pump. That’s just for taking your sump pump out and servicing it if you need it. You can loosen these clamps, remove this whole thing, and pull the whole thing out. Now, our sump pump here has a little float on it. So when the water comes up, it floats up and it trips this lever. We’re going to turn the sump pump on manually here, like that. Drains all the water out, and then the water drops back down.

Now, this is what I want you all to do. I want you to try to trip your sump pump and get it started manually. Make sure that it’s running. We don’t want to find out when it’s raining or some early morning you come down to find two inches of water in your basement. You want to find out now if it’s working or not.

Another way that I want you to check it is pour water in there. I got my son here, Jake. He’s got a bucket of water. Let’s let him dump this in here and see if the pump kicks on. Okay, that’s the sound we wanted to here. We pour the water in, took a couple buckets for us, and the pump kicked on. Now you know you’re safe. Now you can feel a little more confident next time it rains your sump pump’s going to kick on, and you’re not going to be stuck with water in your basement. So get out there and check your sump pump.

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