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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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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