How to Identify Sump Pumps and When to Replace Them

Ever wonder if there’s a foolproof way to know when to replace that old tired sump pump?

If you are even thinking about it, it’s probably past time to replace it.  Most of the folks we talk to here at Yes! Plumbing actually think their sump pump is a lot younger than it really is.  It’s common for us to hear things like “I just had this replaced a couple years ago and it won’t run at all.”  

If they had it replaced by Yes! Plumbing, we can look up the installation date in our database because we have a record of every repair ever made to our clients’ plumbing systems.  It’s not uncommon for us to reply “Mrs. Smith, our records show that you bought our premium grade pump, guaranteed for 7 years, over 18 years ago.” Mrs. Smith is almost always shocked.

So, keeping the receipt close to the pump or in a plumbing only folder (we provide one for all clients) will help you forestall the instinct to “wish” your sump pump into a youthful condition.

Let’s talk about what the sump pump does.  The humble little sump pump is one of the smallest pumps in the home.  The only smaller ones would be a hot water recirculation pump (most homes don’t have that luxury item) or a condensate pump (which is only necessary if there is no floor drain next to the furnace). But the little sump pump has a mighty job to do.  It has to take all the water that seeps in around the house from the groundwater table or from rain, and make sure it goes away.  Otherwise it will end up all over your basement floor.  Sometimes when it fails, the depth of the water is measured in feet.

Obviously you don’t want your washer, dryer, furnace, water heater, stored family heirlooms and personal property submerged in several feet of water.

If you have a sump pump, it is pretty easy to identify. It will be sitting in a small pit in the basement and may or may not have a cover on it. If it does have a cover, it will be easy to move around and will usually only have one pipe coming up through the lid.

In older homes they used to dump washing machine water into a laundry tub that discharged to a sump pit, or straight into a pit with a loose lid, but that practice was made illegal by code changes instituted in the 60’s to protect the groundwater from contamination. The pump in this type of pit is actually the same type of pump used for groundwater pits.  To differentiate it from the other use of the pump it is referred to as a Utility pump.

In current codes in Illinois and Indiana, only clear water waste such as air conditioner condensate water, ground water, and rainwater are allowed to be discharged into the sump pit.

With a few exceptions, the sump water is usually discharged directly outside the home and not into the municipal sewer or septic system.

If you have a pump in a pit that is covered with a sealed lid, usually bolted down, you are looking at an ejector pump pit.  Ejector pump pits are different from sump pump pits in that they have two pipes in the lid and both of those are sealed also. This is because ejector pumps receive sewage from bathrooms and other sanitary waste producing fixtures so the sewer gas must be vented to the outside atmosphere through the roof of the home.  This article only covers sump pumps so we have only included this description for clarity and differentiation.

Let’s look at the question of age for replacement now. At what age should your sump pump be replaced?  The answer varies for each home.  If your home’s basement is built in the water table and your pump runs frequently every day, then you need to replace it more often.  If it only runs when it rains, replace less frequently.  And if it doesn’t run even when it rains, replace it only due to its status as an antique.

The final consideration is the quality of the pump.  That can usually be determined by the warranty or guarantee.  Of course legally speaking, a 1 year guarantee is heads and shoulders better than a 1 year warranty.  And a lengthier time, of course, indicates a better quality than a shorter coverage time.  So determine what kind of guarantee your pump has and use that information as part of your decision making process.  Using Yes! Plumbing pumps as an example, (they come with 3, 5, 7 or 10 year guarantees), if my pump is 8 years old and had a 3 year guarantee, I might consider a replacement.  If it was a 7 year pump, indicating a better quality, we’d let it ride.  If it was one of our 10 year pumps, we’d never replace it.  We’d just repair it when needed.  We’ve seen those pumps over 30 years old in folks’ basements and they just keep on running.

If you are curious or want to have your pump checked out, give us a call anytime to talk to one of our friendly appointment agents 24 hours a day.