While sump pumps may function perfectly well on warm days, it’s a slightly different story come winter. I had forgotten to take precautions for my pump a few years back; it was not pleasant.
Winters can hamper the efficiency of sump pumps and even cause them to fail, especially if you live in a colder region. But the good news is that you can totally prevent this from happening with proper winter care.
These are some of the procedures you could follow:
- Avoiding frozen water by keeping it flowing
- Giving the pump a slope so that water runs down the pipe
- Insulating the discharge line and intake section
- Burying the discharge pipe in the yard
- Redirecting water away from basement to prevent overworking the pump
- Testing regularly to ensure the pump is functioning
- Cleaning the sump pump’s pit free of debris and ice
- Removing outside sump pump extension hose
- Thawing a frozen pipe with caution etc.
So, why should you pay any particular attention to your sump pump in winter at all? Let’s start with an answer to this question.
An ideal sump pump’s job is to collect excess water from around your foundation and bring it into the sump basin, from where the water is pumped away from your home through a discharge line. Obstruction in this line causes the pump to overwork.
Water may freeze inside the discharge line during winter, causing ice to disrupt the water flow. Then the pump has to work harder to discharge and will overheat as a result. This can lead the pump to bail on you.
Even if the sump pump runs, the frozen water could prevent lowering the pit’s water level. When it fails to keep up with the groundwater around the house, your basement might flood. Winterizing can save you the trouble- let’s see how to do that.
Winterizing Your Sump Pump
Keeping the discharge line of a sump pump from freezing has become synonymous with preparing the pump for winter. If the line manages to freeze, the ice has to be taken care of as soon as possible. Below, we try to give you a better idea about winterization steps.
Preventing A Frozen Sump Pump Discharge Line
· Keep water flowing:
If you keep water running, it is less likely to freeze. Water should not be allowed to pool in the sump bottom as it can freeze easily that way. Do not make the mistake of avoiding even a little frozen water in the pump- because eventually, it will be crumbling under the pressure of ice, blocking up movement. The next thing you know, it’s reduced to just an ice bucket.
So, you might want to keep your plumbing in check. Your pump can likely move more water than its average when the setting is turned up. As soon as you see icy water, adjust the device’s settings to keep it functioning.
· Give it some slope:
It is an above-grade solution for your discharge line where you let gravity work its charm instead of having standing water freeze the line. What you want to do is watch where the pipes of your sump pump go and try to work out a way to make it more like a slope and less like a straight line. Doing that makes water flow naturally down and then out.
It’s okay if there is no natural slope around because it can be manually created by making a trench at the end of the pump line or a slide turning into a ledge. The path has to be continuous, but steepness is not necessary.
Take some time and evaluate the area around the pump’s discharge line. Once the scouting is done, try to find creative ways of making the pipes slope-like. At first, you may feel like it is more trouble than worth, but trust me- this little trick can be what stands between your pump and its death.
· Bury your discharge pipe:
This greatly helps in stopping the water from meeting cold air, especially if you live in a flatter region. Burying the discharge pipe in the yard will lessen the chance of water coming in proximity with the air and freezing. The frost line is the maximum depth of the ground, underneath which soil does not become frozen. Do not bury less than 5 inches below the frost line.
Again, people living in flat areas are more than welcome to go for this option. Although I must warn you- the installation cost is going to take a significant leap. Burying the pipes under the ground is more work, ergo more monetary investment.
So, make sure you have the greens ready before you make this decision.
· Insulate the discharge line and intake section:
Insulating the line, as well as the intake section, prevents water’s temperature from dropping too low. This also resists external objects from damaging a sump pump. You can use heat tape, a cable that is tied to a thermostat to envelop the pipes. Hay and tarp can protect the pipe too because hay is a natural insulator.
Going with the insulation process will save you a lot of money. It is perhaps the most cost-effective way to keep the pipes from letting the winter breeze in. While insulation is budget-friendly, it is not as effective as burying. So, if winter hits too hard, no amount of exterior protection besides the warm mother earth can save your discharge line.
· Keep the basement warm:
Basements get cold, so do the pipes and sump pit. Any of your pipes might be prevented from getting frozen if your basement is kept heated normally. Keeping basement windows insulated also helps.
· Removing sump pump discharge hose:
Normally, the pipe gets frozen in the section where it meets the ground at the frost line as well as the end where water diffuses. So, the odds of extension hoses getting frozen are strong. Disconnecting your pump’s discharge hoses is crucial in this season. You would be lucky if there is just a leak in the hose, but damage to the basement floor and discharge pipe is not uncommon.
You can attach a rigid freeze-proof extension hose if water has to be carried further than the discharge pipe allows. Remember to put the discharge hose back on when it is warmer.
· Redirect water away from the basement:
This step reduces the workload of your sump pump. It makes the pump less susceptible to freezing and breaking down. You can place a large loose-fitting pipe over the little discharge pipe to redirect water away. Maybe get some work done around the foundation. Landscaping can make the water pour downwards too.
· Clean the pump basin:
Ice, dirt, and other debris do no good to your plumbing. Accumulation of debris in your sump pump’s pit can only contribute to clogging the system and stop water from flowing.
Keep the sump pit clean to prevent standing water. If there is a lot of rubble, you might want to contact a professional to do the job. However, once you formulate the habit of maintaining the sump pit regularly, you will not have to deal with a pile of rubbles.
Therefore, I prefer checking up on my sump pump at least once a month. Work done periodically is better and yields more results than work done in massive quantities over a short period.
· Test regularly:
Check your pump from time to time by running water through it so that you can ensure it will function when the snow melts.
Got a frozen discharge line?
If your sump pump pipe is frozen, it is unusable without thawing. Using portable heaters is a good option for this. Better avoid blow torches; it poses danger to the applier themself and their property.
Different building materials of pipes may need specialized treatment in thawing. Remember that the power of your sump pump should remain turned off during the process. However, thawing requires some skill and may have to be done by a professional.
Additional Winter Maintenance Tips
- Unplugging the sump pump entirely may not be a good idea; a warm front can come through, and then all your precautions will be wasted if you forget to plug back in.
- Increase the distance between the wastewater area and your sump pump.
- If you can, leaving a cold water tap on low during winter may be beneficial.
- Do not put automotive anti-freeze in your sump pump.
- Using a blow torch for thawing is discouraged, as it is risky.
It is far better to prepare your sump pump for winter than having to cost a fortune repairing your basement or replacing the pump. I know it sounds like a lot of work and it kind of is, honestly speaking. However, the money you save balances the equation.
Spending big bucks every winter to get a new sump pump is a nightmare. Everyone wants their pump to survive for 5-7 years. Therefore, this winter, give these suggestions a try before snuggling down and avoid dealing with either.