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Sump Pumps

Sump pumps need some care and attention from time to time to keep them in good working order. This includes…

  • Checking the pump. Every so often, take the cover off the tank. Slowly pour water into it. This will make the float rise and trigger the pump. If it's working properly, the water level will quickly go down and the pump will shut off.

  • Cleaning the tank. It's kind of a groady job, but it needs to be done. To do so,you'll need to scoop out any debris that has collected in the tank. Hose off the tank.

  • Cleaning the pump. Sump pumps draw water in through a filter trap. This trap also needs to be cleaned on a regular basis. To clean the trap, you'll need to pull the pump out of the tank. Disconnect it from its power source and the piping, then pull it out of the tank.

Pumps can and do malfunction or break. Fortunately, replacing them is pretty easy. All you have to do is disconnect the old one and put in the new one. However, you do need to consider the following factors when choosing a new pump:

A Fine Mess

Always disconnect your sump pump from its power source when you're working on it. Failing to do so could result in a nasty shock.

  • Pumping capacity. This is measured by gallons per minute (GPM) or gallons per hour (GPH). It indicates both the pump's efficiency and how well it moves water from the bottom of the sump to the highest discharge point (expressed as "the head").

  • Horsepower (HP). Horsepower for sumps range from 1/6 to 1/2 HP. The higher the horsepower, the more expensive the pump. A 1/3 HP pump is considered standard for most houses.

  • Construction. Parts and housings should be made of corrosion-resistant or corrosion-proof substances like stainless steel, cast bronze, and epoxy-coated cast iron.

  • Cord length. It's not a good idea to hook sump pumps to extension cords. Buy a pump with a cord long enough to reach its power source.

  • Type of switch. The switch is what triggers the pump to swing into action. There are several types, and they can be manually or automatically controlled. Automatic switches are the best bet as you don't have to be home to turn it on when it's needed.

You'll also have to decide which kind of pump you want to use. There are two different kinds of sump pumps: pedestal and submersible. Typically, homeowners stick with the style they're replacing, but you do have a choice.

Submersible sump pumps are completely concealed in their tanks. They sit in the water and are quieter. However, they don't last as long-typically about 5 to 15 years, depending on how much they have to run and the conditions in which they're running. If they aren't maintained well and have to pump a lot of grit and sediment, they won't last very long.

Pedestal pumps have a column that sticks up through the top of their tanks. The motor that drives these pumps is attached to the column. This makes them noisier and more obtrusive and a bit of a hazard if small children are around. But they last longer than submersible pumps do-often as much as 15 years longer. They're also easier to repair.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Common Household Disasters © 2005 by Paul Hayman and Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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