How to Prepare Your Cellar Sump Pumps for a Harsh Winter

How to Prepare Your Cellar Sump Pumps for a Harsh Winter
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    In this article, we’ll explore some common issues around sump pumps, so you can fix your problems before the bad weather comes.

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You can usually find out whether your sump pump is automatic or manual by sight: typically, an Automatic Pump will have a Flappy Cable float arm or a fixed rising arm on the side of the pump, or it could have a tube {tube float} on the outside which houses the magnetic float. As the float rises with the water level, it activates the pump to start clearing the water. If the pump does not have the arm, then it is probably a manual pump and will need manually switching on and off at the power source.

While there are both manual and automatic pumps used in domestic cellars, we’re focusing on automatic pumps in this article as they are by far the most common.

Blocked Sump Pumps

It’s natural that waste and debris will build-up in and around your pump over time. As this detritus becomes more concentrated, it can result in a blocked pump or pipework. Your pump can’t do its job (leading to higher water levels) and it’s at risk of breaking completely. If possible, you need to keep the area around the pump free of debris. This can be done in several ways. For example you could put the pump inside a cage or container with holes drilled in the side to filter out larger particles, or construct a sump to collect the water and sit your pump half way up the sump, so that debris collects below it. If you’re still worried about your pump, you could invest in a water level alarm, which will alert you when the water gets too high, due to pump failure or blockage.

Overworked Pumps

Automatic pumps may continue to run, long after the water level has dropped to its normal level. This may be due to the Flap or Arm not falling with the water as it ‘stuck’ in the up position or the tube float may be stuck inside its tube due to dirt or grease ingress.

If your pump is ‘continuously rated’ {The Pump Manual should tell you this} then in theory it will work continuously throughout its warranty period and probably beyond, however, if not, then it should not be left in constant use. Common pump failures include overuse and too much or too little water being pumped through. In the former situation, as the pump can’t keep up, water floods the cellar and your pump works continuously to rectify the issue. Eventually, your pump will overheat, the pump seal may leak and cause water to enter the motor, thereby ‘earthing’ the system and blowing the motor and fuse.

Frozen Pipes

Weather across the world is only getting increasingly more extreme – and during a particularly cold winter, pipes can freeze. Ensure that your pipes are protected with waterproof insulation, or this could cause serious problems with your discharge pipe. In the long term, consider moving your pump to a place where the pipes will be less exposed to the elements.

Electrical Power Outages

If you live in an area where power cuts are fairly frequent, or you can’t rely on your electricity supply, a back-up battery or generator may be worth considering. Obviously, it’s not a cheap option, but it will stop your house from flooding drastically. Make sure that you buy this from a reputable company with the necessary experience, before you make the investment.

Damaged Parts

It’s was always going to happen one day – your pump gets old, and you need to buy a new one or replace damaged parts. It’s important that you know all of the correct information about your pump, if you’re looking to get new parts, such as the make, model number, Voltage and the size of the discharge pipe. Unfortunately, if your pump is very old, you may struggle to find replacement parts. and most modern domestic pumps are manufactured on a ‘one life’ basis, with no spares available.

If you need a new pump; go for a well-known, reliable model that’s likely to stand the test of time. Branded pumps are normally the easiest to find and come with anything up to five years warranty, so if you have a failure, you can get the help you need quickly and easily.

To find out more information on replacing your pump or replacement parts, talk to the Pump specialists at Collister & Glover.

Image credit: Sum Pump, on Flickr

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