A Backup Battery-Powered Sump Pump is a Must for Your Basement
Your house is the headquarters for your life; it’s the place where your day begins and ends. If you’re like most homeowners, your house is also the largest financial investment that you will ever make.
In order to protect your investment from damage, one of the things you should be aware of as a homeowner is the function and value of sump pumps. What are they? How do they protect your home? And how do you maintain one?
If you grew up in a southern state, you might not know what a sump pump is. That’s because houses in the south generally do not require them.
The purpose of a sump pump is to draw water away from the foundation of the house in order to prevent flooding and costly water and foundation damage. This becomes an issue if your house has a basement.
Houses in the South generally don’t have basements. Why is that? Basements cost more and take time to build. They’re undesirable for builders to bother with unless they’re required.
Basements are essentially deep foundations designed to extend below the frost line. Building codes require a house’s foundation to extend below the frost line: the point at which ground water will freeze during a cold snap.
In southern states, the frost line may be only inches into the ground. Houses in those regions don’t need basement foundations. If you live in an area where the frost line is between several and more than a dozen feet deep, you may be required to have a basement foundation.
Positioning a foundation to a depth below the frost line prevents freezing ground water from heaving the house off its foundation during the winter.
The water table
Ground water is problematic for foundations, and not just when it freezes. It can seep into basement foundations and cause them to crack, crumble, and fail.
If your basement floods, it may also start to develop mold. The mold can spread and be costly to remove. If you’re allergic, it can make your home uninhabitable, and possibly unsellable.
When a home’s basement is built below the frost line, inevitably it’s also below the water table at least some of the time, if not year round. Basements are usually waterproofed and have foundation drains installed; but without a sump pump, most basement foundations would eventually fail from ground water invasion.
So if you own a home with a basement, your sump pump is as important to your foundation as a roof is to the rest of the structure.
How sump pumps work
As part of your basement’s waterproofing system, there should be a water-collecting basin, also known as a sump basin. This basin’s purpose is to collect water that pools around your foundation from either storms or the water table.
The basin holds the water separate from the foundation. When it fills up, the basin must be drained to prevent basement flooding. This is done via a pump, or a sump pump.
The water is pumped away from your home to an area mandated by the local building code, generally a municipal storm drain or dry well. A water powered sump pump is a great investment.
However, because sump pumps are electrical machines, they will eventually break, wear out, or fail. If your sump pump stops operating for days, either during a storm or in a region where the water table is high, you might be risking a serious basement flood.
What causes sump pump to fail? Usually it’s an electrical outage, from either a storm or a rolling “brown out.” A “brown out” is the term for when electricity outages are imposed on a portion of the electrical grid to forestall a total “black out” if demand for electricity exceeds the utility companies’ ability to supply it.
In any case, your main electric sump pump cannot operate without electricity.
Sump pumps may also fail from debris blockages, mechanical failure, and worn parts. The motor on your sump pump, as is the case with all electric motors, will eventually wear out.
Because of the extreme hazards of water around the foundation, most homeowners with sump pumps install backup battery-powered pumps to take over if the primary pump fails.
Having a backup sump pump, if it’s not required by your insurance or building code, should be common practice due to common sense. A second pump will ensure that your basement stays dry.
This pump should be battery powered, so it will be able to run during electrical outages. The battery must be a marine-grade, long-storage battery to ensure it will work after sitting idle for long periods.
If your home is older, it may not have a backup pump installed. Luckily, there is a selection of easy-to-install backup pumps for the do-it-yourself homeowner.
Whether you decide to install the backup pump yourself or hire a contractor to do it, at least one backup pump should be installed in every home with a sump pump.