Check the sump pump

We live in an area where the snow piles deep and spring rains can be deluges. A sump pump in our basement collects excess water around the house and pumps it out so the basement doesn’t flood. Before all the snow melts and the rain starts pouring, this is a good time to be sure your sump pump is working.

Tom Scherer is an extension agricultural engineer at North Dakota State University. He says pedestal pump motors sit above the sump pit and the pump sits on the bottom. A ball float connected by a rod to a switch near the motor turns the pump on and off. Submersible pumps are designed to be submerged in water. Both can have issues.

"All pumps have a motor. The biggest failure part usually is the switch that turns it on and off. The sump usually has a lot of water in it, you’ve got high humidity, so any electrical contacts can get corroded or worn off," says Scherer. "The submersibles, one of the main things that goes out in them is they typically have bearings that the impellers attach to that’s connected to the motor and sometimes those bearings just kind of seize up."

The float moves according to the water level in the sump. When the water rises to a specific level the pump turns on, and then turns off when the water level drops to a certain point. So, it’s a good idea to check that the float is working correctly.

"If it’s been a few years and it hasn’t run for awhile, or you haven’t checked it for awhile, it doesn’t hurt to just pour water in it," he says. "Or, sometimes you can just lift on it for a short period of time and see if the pump turns on, and so forth."

Make sure the pump is plugged in. If you have a battery back-up in case of a power outage, check the condition of the battery to be sure it’s still holding a charge. Call a licensed plumber if you’re unsure of what to do.