What is a Sump Pump? 7 Frequently Asked Questions

Does your basement need a sump pump?

If you are a homeowner in the middle of the rainy season in Vancouver—or anywhere on the West Coast really—and you don’t already have a sump pump, you are likely thinking about getting one.

In rainy areas especially, wet basements can be a serious problem that can cause a huge amount of structural damage and lost property. A sump pump is the most direct way to ensure that your basement is safe from intermittent flooding due to heavy rains. 

If you’re considering installing a sump pump in your home, you probably have a few questions. Here are five of the most common ones.

Wondering how to ready your home for the rainy winter season? Here are 5 Plumbing Tips for Rainy Weather in Vancouver

Frequently asked sump pump question #1: What’s a sump, anyway?

A “sump” is a shallow pit that has been created to collect excess water or any other type of overflow material. They are used in many applications, from collecting chemical run-off in industrial environments to collecting oil in an oil pan in a car engine. In homes, sumps are dug in the lowest point of the basement where water will naturally pool. The sump pump is installed here to pump the water that collects out of the home.

Frequently asked sump pump question #2: Are there different types of sump pumps?   

There are two different types of sump pumps: pedestal and submersible. The pedestal type’s pump is at the base sitting in the bottom of the sump, and the motor is at the top where it is meant to stay dry. Its function is triggered by a ball float, which turns it on and off. The advantage of the pedestal pump is that its on/off switch is visible so its function can be easily seen.

The submersible pump is designed to be completely submerged in water and its on/off switch is attached to the pump or ball float. Both types are reliable, as long as they have check valves on their water outlet pipes so that water doesn’t flow back into the sump after the pump has shut off. 

Frequently asked sump pump question #3: If the outer pipe is frozen, will the sump pump shut off automatically?

If your sump pump is a newer model, yes it will. All newer sump pumps have thermal protection that will cause them to shut off if they get too hot. If this happens, unplug it to let the motor cool, and the thermal relay will reset in about 15 minutes.

Frequently asked sump pump question #4: What size pump do I need?

There is no correct size of sump pump. Rather, factors such as the size of the drainage area and the depth of your basement will determine the horsepower needed for your sump pump.

Frequently asked sump pump question #5: Do sump pumps have filters that need to be replaced?

Simply, no. But they do have small openings or screens where water enters the pump, and these can occasionally become plugged.

Frequently asked sump pump question #6: Do I need a back-up pump?

A battery-powered backup sump pump will kick on if your main pump fails or if there is a power outage. It will give you peace of mind if you live in a heavy precipitation area (such as Vancouver) and are worried about flooding, or if you go away for an extended time. Your back-up pump needs to be tested and maintained just like the primary one.

Frequently asked sump pump question #7: How often do I need to replace my sump pump?

This question really depends on how often your sump pump is used. Those manufactured in the last ten years are made with plastic or cast-iron bodies and stainless steel shafts, and are not as susceptible to corrosion as older models. Some manufacturers recommend replacing switches and floats every two years, and the pump every five.

You have enough home maintenance to think about without worrying about flooding. At Ashton Service Group, we are the flood prevention experts, and know what steps to take to save you time and money in costly damage. Be proactive and rest easy this winter, give us a call and see how we can help today.