How Does a Sump Pump Work and Are They Really Necessary?

Most people have heard the term, ‘sump pump’, but few people know what they are or how they operate. In fact, ‘what is a sump pump?’, is one of the most common questions we receive (even from homeowners who already have them installed on their property!)

So, if you don’t know what a sump is or why they’re needed, you’re not alone. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about sump pumps, how they work and what to do when things go wrong. 

sump pump installation

What Is a Sump Pump?

A sump pump is a common type of submersible pump that helps to protect properties against flooding. When it rains, water penetrates the soil and moisture builds up in and around the foundations of your home. This is particularly problematic for properties with rooms below ground level, such as cellars and basements, which can be prone to flooding. 

Regular drainage solutions don’t work in these situations, as the water saturates the soil below the water table and affects the property below the level of the main drainage system. Instead, a sump pump system is needed to collect the water and force it upwards, through a discharge pipe. Then, it can be directed to the main drainage system, away from the property. 

How Does a Sump Pump Work?

Now you know what a sump pump is, you’ll want to know how they operate. When you have a sump pump installed, a sump pit acts as the ‘housing’ for the sump pump system. Essentially, it’s a lined hole in your garden, basement or cellar that collects the water that would otherwise damage your property. 

A submersible sump pump is then placed in the sump pit so that the water that’s collected can be removed from the area via the discharge pipe. 

In most instances, a pedestal pump is used to draw the water up from the sump pit via an in-built impeller. The motor, at the top of the pedestal pump, provides the power which pushes the water up into and through the discharge pipe, and a check valve acts as a backup to ensure that the water only flows in the right direction. 

Is a Sump Pump Activated All of the Time?

Yes and no. A properly installed and functional sump pump should be ready to remove water from the sump pit at any time, but this doesn’t mean that it is in constant use. Generally, a sump pump only needs to kick in when rainwater reaches the sump pit. When the water reaches a specific point in the sump pit, it triggers a float switch that activates the pump. 

The pump draws power from the property’s main power source (e.g., your electricity system) to ensure that it is powerful enough to propel the water upwards through the drainage pipe. A battery backup sump pump can also be used to ensure that the pump system will remain functional, even if there is a problem with your usual power source. 

Do You Only Need a Sump Pump If You Have a Basement?

No. Properties with basements or cellars certainly benefit from sump pumps, but a below-ground-level room isn’t the only reason a sump pump may be needed. 

If water is allowed to saturate the soil surrounding your property and isn’t removed, it can cause significant property damage over time. Whether it’s a basement floor or the foundations of your home, you’ll want to ensure that a build-up of rainwater doesn’t cause water damage to your property. 

In addition to this, many properties are situated a fair distance from the main drainage system, which can be problematic if the positioning of the property means gravity doesn’t facilitate the flow of water away from the home. In such instances, adding a sump pump will ensure that water can be effectively pumped away from the property. 

Another reason a property may have a sump pump is if the existing drainage system isn’t sufficient to remove wastewater. If you notice water backing up at the slowest point in the drainage system, for example, it may indicate that the drainage system is unable to cope with the volume of water. If so, a sump pump system could be a viable way to remedy the problem.

Read More: When Do I Need a Sump Pump?

What Happens If a Sump Pump Fails?

A sump pump plays a critical role in preventing flooded basements and damaged properties, so any type of failure can have catastrophic consequences. 

If the power to a sump pump system fails and an alternative source of backup power is not available, for example, rainwater could cascade into the property and cause flood damage or seep into the building and cause long-term harm to its foundations.

If your sump pump stops working or you suspect it’s malfunctioning, it’s important to act quickly. With a professional sump pump repair or replacement, you can ensure that water doesn’t flood or damage your property.

How to Maintain a Sump Pump

Regular maintenance is required to keep a sump pump system in optimal working order. Typically, this includes:

1. Checking the power supply

As well as checking that the main (and alternative) power source is providing sufficient power to the sump pump system, you should also ensure that particular elements of the pump, such as the motor, are not in contact with the water. 

2. Remove Debris and Clean the System

It’s possible for debris to accumulate within a sump pit and, when this happens, it can affect the functionality of the float switch and therefore the pump as a whole. So, removing debris and cleaning the sump pit and discharge pipe is an essential part of maintaining your sump pump system. 

3. Monitor the Float Switch

The float switch triggers the pump based on the water level. By monitoring its performance, you can ensure that the pump kicks in at the right time before the water level becomes too high and risks damaging your property. Adjusting the float switch will affect how the sump pump system operates, so be sure to double-check its functionality after any modifications. 

Protect Your Property with a Sump Pump

Sump pumps work to prevent flooding and water damage, which is why they’re such an important piece of kit. If you want to prevent high water from seeping into your home, a sump pump is the obvious solution. 

To find out more or to arrange for professional sump pump installation in London, maintenance, repair or replacement, contact First Response Drainage now on 0800 043 4860.