Sump Pump Question

All,
I just moved to the midwest from Texas, into a house with a basement. The sump pump runs every 15-20 minutes when dry, and every few minutes when raining (The previous owner installed a drain tile in the front yard that empties into the sump, and the area I live in has a high water table). The previous owner claimed that the pump ran even more frequently before the tile was installed. The pump empties into a city owned french drain. It has a backup battery powered pump that I have tested and works fine. Since basements are new to me, I have a few questions:
With the amount of use this pump is getting, what is its life expectancy? Are there any warning signs I can look for that will tell me its time to get a new pump (other than a flooded basement)?
How much electricity do these things use? Would it be worth looking for a more energy efficient solution?
Do you think it will run this often during the winter (I am in Iowa)? Will the pump be able to keep up when the snow melts in the spring?
If the worst were to happen and the pump and backup pump were to fail, there is a drain in the basement located about 6 feet from the pump. I checked to see if it empties into the sump crock and it does not, so I assume it empties into the sewer. Would all the water just go down the drain?
Thanks, Dan
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Your sump pump should not run on days when there has been no rain. Your description suggests either (a) the water table has risen (since the house was completed) so the sump pumps runs every day, pumping water drawn from the water table, or (b) underground drains are collecting water from elsewhere and channeling it into your basement. You need expert advice to remedy this. The cost of electricity is less important than finding out whether your bad drainage is likely to get worse.
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Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs
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Don Phillipson wrote:

Well, if OP's post is to be believed (and I see no reason not to), unless the former owner misrepresented the situation (which would be a violation of the real estate disclosure laws undoubtedly so would have recourse against him), the frequency of the pump cycling is now less than it was before the drain was installed.
It's certainly not unheard of for water tables to be high enough in portions of IA for there to be high enough water tables to cause the need for sump pumps. In that case (and it sounds like it is from the description), it wouldn't be expected for the water to stop immediately just because it didn't rain for a day or two (or a week or a month, even). I wouldn't be for buying a house w/ a basement w/ these kinds of problems, but many are coping.
For OP, sounds like the former owner did a reasonable thing. In such a serious area you may want to check into the possibility of investing in one of the water-driven emergency pumps for the event of longterm power loss/outage.
It's unusual for a jurisdiction to allow for drains into the sanitary sewer system so unless the drain is going into a storm sewer not the sanitary sewer system it may not be kosher.
--


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I lived out there for a while in a house with a basement. Even in dry weather the sump pump would run probably 50% of the time. The whole neighborhood was like that. During snow melt or rain, the pump could barely keep up.
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How can a drain tile that empties into the sump, which means it is draining water into the sump, reduce the frequency of the pump activity -- not possible? Where in the front yard is this drain tile, it should be surrounding the house at the footing level of the basement to remove water from that area. Tile in any other area should be removed as it is increasing the water in the basement.
I have lived in two houses in high ground water areas, usually this means that somewhere around or under the basement there is a small seeping spring that the pump is constantly draining. If this is true, always keep a backup pump on hand, plus a generator in case the power goes out, if you are on city water get a quality water powered pump such as the Base Pump as a final back up.
In the two houses with high ground water, both were dry and habitable, but we took action to prevent and accidents and the keep the equipment operational at all times.

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It runs when Dry? I dont think so or something is wrong, a float switch rises from water. Try setting the switch so it has more travel and runs less, it wont last as long turning off and on alot. If you have city water look into a water powered backup from www.zoeller.com
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Avoid the Zoeller, I have one and I am replacing it, the plastic water valve with the float is a flimsy arrangement that keeps leaking water and seems to lock in the off position if not used regularly, I now have a Base Pump to install as its replacement, much heavier build.
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wrote:

I see this url cited often but I think I've never found the water powered back up pump it is supposed to have.
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To say "Your sump pump should not run on days when there has been no rain." is just rediculous. It all depends on where your are. I have two, and both run every 12 - 15 minutes during a drought. I have a spring under me. Simple. If the pump runs, it needs to. Don't worry about it. That's why it (they) are there.
steve

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wrote:

Agree that many sump pumps run on days when there has been no rain. Most common is for it to start running during a heavy rain, then continue for days afterward. In areas with a high water table, sump pumps can run even when there has been no rain for quite awhile.
But, what I don't understand is what kind of system has water from outside in the front yard routed to the sump inside. Agree with EXT on this one. If this is a perimeter drain system at footer level routed to the sump, then it makes sense. If it's some system that takes surface water and sends it into the basement sump, that is a prescription for disaster.

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I had a house with more or less similar drainage and pump situation and a pump would last several years, say 5 years. In my experience the pump itself rarely fails, its the switch that gives trouble. The switch becomes intermittent/unreliable. Given how often your pump runs, don't you'd think you'd notice if it stopped? An unnatural quiet?

I don't think its a huge amount; in any case, there is no more energy efficient solution (well, maybe pumping with a windmill!)

As for winter, it depends. In my current house the pump essentially stops when the ground freezes; in a previous house, the pump ran throughout winter too. As for snowmelt, well, did the basement flood every spring before?

It probably drains to the city storm drain system and would limit your water damage, unless in a severe storm the city storm drains back up too.

One last note: often when a sump runs a lot it's because the water is somehow short-cycling; the pump pumps it out and then it drains right back in. You might consider whether the outlet pipe could be leaking or maybe the french drain is clogged or is just too close to the house.
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wrote:

I would hold down the float, or the float switch arm, or unplug the sump pump, and see how high the water rises when there is nothing to stop it. Maybe it will only be an inch or two. If that is the case, you can readjust the float switch an inch or two higher, and then the pump won't run at all when the water level is the same as it is now.
My next door neigbhor's pump used to run a lot, and by raising the float one inch, over the course of a month, it was cut in half
HOwever, the water might rise above the top of the sump so be preparted to turn the pump on before that happens.

I think still a long time.

If it is the bearings that will fail first, I guess you could put your fingers on the top center to see if they are warm, or hot, after running for a while. You could listen to the sound the motor makes, but I personally have no idea if these are the things that will change, or if you will be able to notice them, or how long it takes to go from just fine to not working at all.
My pump doesn't run much, but I'm on only the second pump in 28 years, and the first one only wore out because it was a pedestal pump with a steel or iron pipe holding up the motor. The pipe rusted through at the water level. On the new pump, that part is plastic and I figure that part will never wear out. I guess some day the motor will fail.

Yes. IN 28 years, my pump has only been not able to keep up once following very heavy rains and while it was still raining.

Maybe. You might want to have something ready to channel the water from the sump to the drain. Sandbags? Two rolls of carpet, one for each side? Maybe just two pieces of foam, like the round foam people stuff in cracks, only an inch high. I doubt the water level will exceed an inch. I wish I had a drain like that.
Put a garden hose on the basement sink and run it to the drain, and put the water on moderate and see how much the drain will handle. Then increase the water to as high as it will go, and maybe the drain will handle that too.
Until you're convinced your safe, you may want to put things on palletees or something in the basement.
But as upset I was after my first mini-flood, I have had 10 more since hten, never more than a quarter inch, and really all that gets ruined are the boxes I put things in. And that only matters when the boxes are special, like they have the name of the thing and a picture on the outside, or when they are of a special size or shape.
I don't keep silk sweaters in a box on the basment floor. I keep a box of transformers, one of motors, one of power supplies, several boxes of scrap wood, and all that stuff dries out fine. But I'm tired of looking for new boxes.

If you think flooding is still near, you might want to get a Basepump (find it with google) or a battery powered backup electric pump. Each about 300 dollars iirc.
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