A sump pump is your first line of defense when flood proofing your home. It’s usually located in the basement of your house and requires yearly maintenance. Whether a pedestal or a submersible pump design, it must be free of debris to function optimally and avoid overflow issues or a dry pan.
There will be no water in the sump pit if the pump isn’t connected to a drainage system during the initial installation. A correctly installed sump pump uses a well-designed system that includes a drain tile set at the proper angle to divert the excess water into the pit.
Once a pump is fitted to a streamlined drainage system, there are some steps you must take to maintain its efficiency. I’ll explain how you can inspect it on your own and retain it in excellent running condition.
Why Your Sump Pump May Be Empty
The pit of your sump pump may be empty for three reasons. It could be as simple as the weather or a faulty drainage system.
Dry Weather Spell
The first and often overlooked reason for a dusty, empty pit around the sump pump is as simple as a spell of dry weather.
If there’s no rain or humidity, then that means there simply isn’t going to be any water available for the pump to collect and eject out of the basement.
Faulty Drainage System
If your sump pump was installed correctly, you should see a discharge line that leads from the sump to the outside of the house.
Check the pipe to ensure it isn’t discharging directly into the sanitary sewer system of your town or city to meet the necessary regulations.
This is especially important if you live in an older building or property.
You can install the necessary drainage system quite easily, as you can see in this short video by Jack from Freedom Homestead:
Most Common Sump Pump Problems
The most common problems you might encounter with your sump pump are often a result of inclement weather conditions.
Heavy rains and storms can play havoc with your anti-flooding equipment.
You need to check the electrical outlet to which the pump is plugged.
If there’s an indicator light to show that it switches on, make sure it goes on.
If there isn’t a light, plug in another piece of electronic equipment to test that the outlet works correctly.
Once you’ve verified that the electrical outlet is working, try pressing the reset button on your sump pump.
Frozen Discharge Line
If the sump pump is constantly running and the water level is not going down, you might have a frozen or blocked discharge line.
To avoid this problem, ensure that the line is installed below the frost line or on a slope.
This ensures any water pumped out has somewhere to go and won’t remain in the pipe and freeze during the winter.
Call a professional licensed plumber in an emergency situation and rig another pipe from the pump pit to the window to avoid flooding.
Sump Pump Overwhelm
You might have inherited a sump pump that doesn’t have the capacity required for the weather in the area where you live.
A pit that’s too small may leave you with a flooded basement.
The pump might also be overwhelmed because its motor isn’t powerful enough. This can end in a motor burnout or faulty float switch.
Make sure to size your pump correctly. If you determine you need something new, I recommend the Zoeller M53 Sump Pump (available on Amazon.com). It’s a powerful, high-quality, submersible design pump that can run for 10-12 hours a day without issue.
If you can, it’s a good idea to install a backup, like the Liberty SJ10 Sump Pump (also available on Amazon.com). It’s easy to install and much more reliable than battery backups, as you don’t need to remember to replace a battery every few years.
Inspecting the Sump Pump
According to this inspection video by Mister Quik Home Services, no water in the pit can also be a good thing:
Follow these steps to inspect your sump pump:
- Check that the discharge line is clear of debris, isn’t frozen, and leads far enough away from your house.
- Check that the sump pump is plugged in and the outlet is operating correctly.
- Clear any debris from the sump and the inlet screens.
- Pour about 5 gallons (22 liters) of clean water slowly into the pump pit and listen for the pump to switch on.
- Listen for the switch to turn off when the pump has expelled the water.
An inspection is also the perfect opportunity to add some water and white vinegar mix to the sump to help remove calcium and lime residue on the sides of the pit.
While an empty sump pump may be a sign of trouble with the initial installation, it could also be as simple as a lack of water during a very dry weather spell.
Make sure to inspect your sump pump and backup system regularly.
This is particularly important before the heavy rain season starts in your area.
If there’s a problem with the drainage system, the pump capacity, or an electrical fault, attend to it as quickly as possible.
You can do this yourself or call a licensed professional plumber for your peace of mind.