It’s All About the Sump Pump in Northern Virginia

It’s All About the Sump Pump in Northern Virginia

Sump pump: Do you have one? Do you need one?

As the installation and presence of sump pumps gain popularity in northern Virginia, and across the country, homeowners are asking questions, and looking for answers. And for good reason:

Sump pumps offer a solid line of defense against basement flooding.

There are two styles of sump pump, each of which has its own unique set of benefits; with proper care and maintenance either will work well to keep your home in northern Virginia safe and dry.

A pedestal (or upright) sump pump features the motor installed at the top, and the pump at the basis of a pedestal, which itself sits on the bottom of the sump. This type of sump pump turns on and off with the aid of a ball float, visible all the time: constant monitoring made easy.

Submersible sump pumps are intended for submerged use. The on/off switch for these might be of the same ball float-variety as their pedestal counterparts, or an adjustable, mercury-activated floating switch. (It should be noted that the latter switch option is inadvisable if the sump diameter is less than 18 inches.)

Left with more questions about operating, and tending to a sump pump?

For the answers to three of the most frequently asked questions about sump pumps in northern Virginia, My Plumber Heating & Cooling has traveled (virtually, of course) to North Dakota.

Dr. Thomas F. Scherer, Associate Professor of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering at North Dakota State University is an expert in irrigation systems and equipment, as well as irrigation waste management, and it is he who penned the answers you’ll find below.

Question: How do you check or test a sump pump?

Dr. Thomas F. Scherer: “First, make sure the outlet pipe is not frozen shut or plugged and that it directs water away from the house. Unplug the sump pump. Remove the lid (if the sump has one) and use a flashlight to check if the sump is clean and that the pump intake is not plugged. For pedestal pumps, the intake is on the top of the pedestal in the water. For submersible pumps, the intake screen is just below the motor. Normally, the intake is visible even in water but if not, use your fingers to make sure the intake is not plugged. In some sumps, the tile inlet or inlets are near the bottom of the sump. In this case, temporarily plug the inlet or inlets. Next make sure the pump is plugged in. Then slowly pour water into the sump. Try to simulate the speed that water normally would flow into the sump. Watch the on/off float switch’s action and listen to the pump. Make the pump turns on and off at least twice. If the pump doesn’t sound right, fix it as soon as possible.”

Question: Are there any problems with replacing a 1/3 hp pump with a 1/2 hp pump?

Dr. Thomas Scherer: “When used in similar conditions, a 1/2 hp pump will pump more water and lift it higher than a 1/3 hp pump. Most new sump pumps will have a chart or graph in the instructions or on the box that shows the flow versus height of lift for both sizes. The flow is usually given in either gallons per minute or gallons per hour (multiply gpm by 60 to convert to gph). The height of lift is given in feet of vertical lift. There shouldn’t be any problem, but where the flow into the sump is relatively slow there would be no advantage to using the larger pump. However, in situations where water flow can become rapid, a 1/2 hp pump may be able to keep up with the flow where a 1/3 hp pump may not.”

Question: Can or should you pump into a sewer drain or basement floor drain?

Dr. Thomas Scherer: “No, you should not. If you have a septic system, under no circumstances should the sump be pumped into the basement floor drain. During wet conditions, the drainfield of the septic system usually is saturated and struggling to handle the normal flow of water from the house. Adding to it with a sump pump can damage the septic system. Even if you are connected to a public sewer system, sump water should not be pumped into a floor drain except under special circumstances. Many communities have ordinances prohibiting the diversion of sump water into the sanitary sewer system during certain times of the year or during widespread flooding. Check with your municipal government to find out its rules.”

For any additional questions related to sump pumps in northern Virginia, contact My Plumber Heating & Cooling at (844) 294-8999!