A great many country homes and some urban homes are equipped with a sump pump in the basement. Connected to a garden hose or more permanent piping to the outside free air, a sump pump can help avoid thousands of dollars in damages to your home.
You do not need to be in a flood zone to be exposed to flood damage. A broken water pipe running for only a few minutes can put hundreds of gallons of water into the basement. Boilers or furnaces, household goods, and stored toys can all become useless after being submerged under water.
One of the best ways to maintain your sump pump is to simply run it occasionally to assure it is pumping correctly. Pumps sitting in dry pits can dry out and allows the seals to shrink, brushes corrode from non use and other parts just plain rust. If you have to use a garden hose to add water in the pit to test the pump, it will be an easy chore that can save a great deal of heartache when you really need the pump.
Sump pumps can range in size from a small zero clearance pump at about one hundred dollars to a stand up three foot tall pump with external floats at about two hundred dollars or more. The larger pumps simply remove more water quicker. The more expensive pumps also seem to be better built. I have one that is over twenty years old and is still going strong.
If the pump will not run you can perform some simple tasks to get it running again. With the pump unplugged from the power source (never try a repair with the unit plugged in, ever) if there is an external float see if a hole has developed in the float. A float full of water cannot rise and turn the pump on.
With the pump out of the pit and on dry land, if no hole in the float is evident plug the pump in and manually raise and lower the float to see if the pump activates. Do not leave the pump running dry. If it has a slide float, check that the float is free and not binding on the vertical rod. Again manually operate both the float and the trip switch to see if the pump works.
Now before you get too deep into your work, plug something into the pump outlet and make sure you have house power to the pump. A tripped breaker or GFI device has fooled many a homeowner. Check your power supply first before continuing.
Internal repairs are a bit harder. Some pumps simply cannot be dis-assembled at all. They are factory sealed units with internal floats. If you are in dire need at the time, a replacement is your only option.
If your reading this article and are doing your checkup now, you may have time to send it to the factory for a rebuild much cheaper than purchasing a replacement. If your pump can be dis-assembled, check the motors brushes. Are they stuck or worn down so far that they no longer touch the commutator?
Replace the brushes. Using very fine emery paper, very lightly sand the armature face to remove any dirt, dust or scale. Blow dry the armature clean before replacing it in motor. Make sure the pumps power cord is not frayed or damaged. Make sure the plug is not bent or otherwise damaged. Brushes can be had for a few dollars at most electrical supply stores or go the company's website and search for parts there.
With a little maintenance a sump pump can be a dependable friend when you badly need it.