A sump pump is one of the most important pieces of equipment in your basement and your first defense against flooding. But like all equipment, sump pumps tend to break down and not work correctly.
The most common reason for a sump pump to run but not pump is because of a clog in the outlet pipe or the sump pump inlet. The good news is that this is something you can easily fix yourself.
But first things first. If the water is getting too high in the sump pit, and your pump is not removing the water, you should first grab a bucket and manually remove a good amount of the water before you have a different problem on your hands.
How to Check For A Clog
Start by heading outside and inspecting the discharge pipe. Depending on where the pipe is positioned on the outdoors, you could have dirt, leaves, and other types of debris getting in and clogging it. If the discharge pipe is clogged badly, you might need to try poking a coat hanger down inside to loosen and pull things out.
If the problem is not outside with the discharge line, then that means the problem is inside. Unplug the sump pump, and shut off the breaker to kill the power going to it. Always do this to make it safe for you to poke around at it. Using a flashlight, inspect the inlet screen or small opening found at the bottom of the sump pump where the water enters the pump. If you can’t see well, you might have to disconnect the discharge pipe and lift the pump out of the pit to get a better look.
Remove any debris or muck that might be blocking the inlet. You might want to wear rubber gloves for this. Get as much of the sludge removed as possible and use a rag to wipe it clean. With the sump pump out of the pit, take this time to also scrap away and remove any of that sludge from the bottom of the sump pit and walls.
Use a shop vac and hold it up to the discharge pipe leading outside to make sure there is not a clog further up in the pipe. To help verify that the pipe is not clogged, you can have a person stand outside and feel how strong the suction is while you have the shop vac hooked up.
Now slowly place the sump pump back into the center of the pit, flat on the ground, and reconnect the discharge pipe. Plug the sump pump back in and then dump a bucket of clean water into the sump pit until the float rises high enough to turn on the pump. If the sump pump starts to pump out water, you’ve fixed the problem.
Another Reason Why Sump Pumps Stop Pumping Water
If you have checked and determined that your problem is not because of a clogged, there is another possible reason why your sump pump is not pumping, and that is because of the impeller. The impeller is often located inside of the sump pump behind a screen that is designed to prevent debris from getting past and clogging the impeller. Over time, sludge, and dirt could build upon the impeller and cause it jam. If this happens, the impeller will not be able to spin.
Not often, but sometimes, an impeller can also become damaged, or fall off. If this happens, it’ll also stop sucking up water.
How to Check and Replace The Impeller
- Unplug or shut off the breaker to the sump pump.
- Disconnect the discharge pipe.
- Remove sump pump from the pit.
- Depending on the type of sump pump you have, you might have to remove the bottom casing to get to the impeller.
- Inspect the impeller for any visual damage (replace if necessary).
- Take a rag and clean around the impeller.
- If the impeller had fallen off, see if you can thread it back on. To put the impeller on (and this goes for a new one), thread the impeller back on but not all the way, and then give it a quick spin, so it tightens into place. The threads are typically reverse threaded, which means that when the sump pump is running, it will tighten the impeller by itself.
- Place the bottom cover back on. Place the sump pump flat and leveled back in the sump pit, and reconnect the discharge pipe.
- Plug it in, and turn the breaker back on. Fill the sump pit with water until the float rises and turns on the pump. Hopefully, the water begins to pump out now.
If the problem had nothing to do with the impeller or a clog, then perhaps it’s just time to replace the sump pump with a new one.
How Do You Know If Your Sump Pump Stops Working
Most homeowners have no idea that their sump pumps have stopped working until it is too late. That is because you can’t tell by looking at it, other than finding that the water level has come up past the float switch.
Often the sump pump stops working during the middle of the night or while the homeowner is at work or on vacation, with no clue that their basement is slowly filling up with water.
Luckily there are a few great products that will help monitor the sump pump for you, so you don’t have to. One particular product that I have been using is called Proteus.
Proteus plugs directly into an outlet with a sensor attached that is mounted just above the float switch. When the water level inside of the sump pit reaches the senor, Proteus will begin beeping and immediately send you a text and email notification using the home’s Wi-Fi, alerting you of the problem.
You can purchase the Proteus Wi-Fi Monitor Senor directly from Proteus or Amazon for $99 with free shipping (click for current price).
How Long Do Sump Pumps Last
Sump pumps typically have an average life expectancy of about ten years. However, with routine maintenance, you might be able to get 15 to 20 years out of a sump pump.
Luckily, if you do need to replace your sump pump, they are fairly inexpensive, ranging anywhere from $60 to $250, depending on the style and model you choose.
What Maintenance is Required on My Sump Pump
Sump pumps do require some maintenance from you to ensure that they are working properly. It is recommended that at least once a year you pull the pump from the sump pit and give it a good cleaning and a visual inspection.
If you live in a location where your sump pump is used more frequently, it might be a good idea to inspect the sump pump every 6 to 9 months.
Sump Pump Maintenance
Step #1 Disconnect Power – Always start by unplugging or turning off the breaker to cut the power to the sump pump.
Step #2 Disconnect Discharge Pipe – Disconnect the discharge pipe, and pull the sump pump out of the pit and place the pump on a tarp if you don’t want the floor to get wet. You might also want to put on some gloves for the next part.
Step #3 Remove Check Valve – If your discharge pipe has a check valve, check to make sure that it works and that it is moving okay and that it’s not clogged, or dirty.
Step #4 Wipe Down and Clean – Take a rag and wipe down the sump pump to remove any dirt and sludge. Make sure the inlet screen is clear of any debris. You can use a garden hose to help clear away the sludge as well.
Step #5 Check Owners Manual – Check with the owners manual or look up the model online to see if your sump pump requires the pump bearing to be greased or oiled.
Step #6 Clean Sump Pit – Check in the sump pit and make sure there is nothing in there, such as an old sock, or toy car. Scoop out any sludgy slim build up from the bottom of the pit, as well as the walls.
Step #7 Connect Discharge Pipe – Place the check valve back on, and place the sump pump back into the pit. Ensure that the pump is flat and level. Reconnect the discharge pipe.
Step #8 Reconnect Power – Inspect the power cable for any cracks or signs of damage. Plug the pump back in and turn on the breaker to give it power.
Step #9 Test That Sump Pump Works – Make sure everything is working properly by filling the pit with clean water until the float turns on the pump.