How to Test If Your Sump Pump Is Working

How to Test If Your Sump Pump Is Working

Sump pumps can be a huge help when you’re living in a rainy area or if your home is in a location that may be prone to flooding. This device should ensure that your basement or crawl space doesn’t flood. If your home does have a sump pump, it is vital that you test it occasionally to determine that it is still working and pumping as it should. We recommend testing your sump pump at least twice a year.

If you haven’t tested your pump in a few months and a major rainstorm is predicted, we recommend testing it immediately before the storm hits. This way, you can ensure that your pump is ready to go and also give yourself time to get the pump repaired or a new unit installed in case it isn’t working. Testing a sump pump is quite easy and only takes a few minutes. Here is a guide on how to test your pump and what to do if you notice any issues.

Steps for Testing a Sump Pump

The only thorough method of testing a sump pump is to fill up the pump basin with enough water that the float switch triggers and the pump starts running. The easiest way to accomplish this is to use a garden hose to fill up the basin. This will require two people as one of you will need to hold the hose while monitoring the water level and the pump, and the other person will need to be outside to turn the water on and off.

If you don’t have anyone to help or your pump is in an area where you can’t easily reach it with a hose, you can also simply fill up a couple of five-gallon buckets with water and dump them in the basin. It will usually take around six gallons of water to trigger the pump to run, but this can vary depending on the diameter of the sump basin and the type of float switch the unit uses.

Once there is enough water to get the pump running, you’ll want to listen to make sure the unit sounds normal. You’ll also want to make sure that it is pumping efficiently. It should only take a few seconds for it to remove all of the water you poured into the basin.

After testing to make sure the pump runs, you will want to test it a second time to make sure that water is flowing out of the discharge pipe. This will also typically require two people. You can also do it on your own, but you will typically need to fill the basin at least half full so that the pump is still running when you go outside to check the discharge pipe.

If your discharge pipe empties directly into a storm drain, you may not be able to check it. On some older homes, the discharge pipe may instead empty into the building’s main sewer line. If this is the case, you will want to have a plumber reroute the discharge as soon as possible as it is against building code to have a sump pump drain into the sewer system. This means that you likely wouldn’t be able to sell your home until you have this issue fixed.

Testing a Sump Pump Without Water

If for some reason you can’t fill the basin with water, you may still be able to test if the pump runs. You can do this simply by lifting up the float. Lifting the float should automatically trigger the unit to run so at least you know it is working. However, this isn’t an ideal way to test the pump since you’ll still want to make sure the unit is pumping efficiently and that water is flowing out of the discharge pipe. If you do use this method, make sure that you don’t let the pump run for more than a few seconds because the motor can quickly burn out if the unit runs dry.

Testing the unit without water isn’t always possible as some new units don’t have a float that triggers the pump. Instead, they use either an electronic switch or a diaphragm switch. An electronic switch works by using electrical currents to sense the presence of water in the sump basin, whereas a diaphragm switch is activated by the pressure that the water in the basin exerts on it. As such, the only way to test a unit that uses either of these types of switches is to fill up the basin.

What to Do If Your Sump Pump Won’t Run or Has Issues

If your sump pump won’t turn on at all, it usually indicates that either the float switch is bad or that the motor is burnt out. Replacing a broken float switch is usually a fairly simple thing for a plumber to do, but you still may want to have a new unit installed if your current pump is more than five years old. If the motor is burnt out, your only option is to have a new pump installed.

If the unit turns on but doesn’t pump at all or it pumps the water out too slowly, you’ll need to remove the unit from the basin and check to make sure the inlet screen isn’t clogged. If you have a submersible sump pump, the inlet screen is located on the bottom of the unit. For pedestal pumps, the screen is at the end of the inlet pipe.

After removing the pump from the basin, use a bristled brush to thoroughly clean any dirt and debris off the screen. We would typically recommend removing the pump and cleaning the screen every time you test the unit as the screen can easily get clogged by dirt whenever the pump runs. If your sump pump runs quite frequently, you may want to test it and clean the inlet screen every three to four months.

After cleaning the screen, you’ll then want to put the pump back in the basin and test it again to see if it now pumps as it should. If the unit turns on and hums but still won’t pump, it could be that the impeller is jammed or broken. If the impeller is simply jammed, a plumber should be able to partially dismantle the unit and easily fix the problem.

If the impeller is broken, you are usually best to have a new pump installed. The impeller can sometimes be replaced or repaired, but it usually isn’t worth the cost unless your pump is fairly new. If your pump is older, it may also not be possible to find the necessary replacement parts.

If your sump pump isn’t working or you need a new pump installed, you can count on Crystal Blue Plumbing, Heating & Air for help. We specialize in all types of plumbing repairs and installations, and we also offer a full range of heating and cooling services for customers throughout the Sacramento area. Give us a call today if you need your sump pump inspected or any other plumbing or HVAC service.

What Is the Expected Lifespan of a Tankless Water Heater?

What Is the Expected Lifespan of a Tankless Water Heater?

Home and business owners throughout North America are making the switch from a traditional tank water heater to a tankless water heater. These newer systems provide many advantages, including a virtually limitless supply of hot water on demand, energy efficiency and longevity. Tankless water heaters do cost more up front regarding both the equipment and installation; and when installing a tankless system for the first time, there can be additional expenses, such as an electrical upgrade. That said, an on-demand water heater will typically pay for itself over time because these systems usually last twice as long or longer than a conventional unit.

Water Heater Lifespan

A traditional tank water heater will last, on average, 12 years. Plumbers generally advise customers to replace their units at around the 12-year mark even if they’re still running. One reason for this is that you’re on borrowed time when it comes to a water heater leak that can potentially lead to serious water damage. Another issue is that a water heater tends to run inefficiently at this point and thus be more expensive to run month to month. You also need to factor in that the new system you purchase will be far more efficient than the unit you bought more than a decade ago.

A tankless water heater will last, on average, 25 years. This is why they can provide a superior return on investment even if you have to pay more for a conversion and an electrical upgrade. Plumbers do recommend proactive replacements when it comes to on-demand water heating systems as well, but there are some notable differences. Leaks are much less of a concern with a tankless system, and if a leak does occur, it will be relatively minor and isolated. That means that if you have your tankless system serviced at the 25-year mark and it’s still operating efficiently, you can continue to use it and squeeze more value out of the unit without the risk that doing so can lead to much bigger problems.

Manufacturer Warranty

Expected lifespans for equipment, like tankless water heaters, are estimates. In fact, there are many factors that will determine how long your system actually lasts. Ensuring long water heater life starts with the product you choose. Do your research. Lean on the professional advice from a plumber. Choose a trusted brand and a proven system. A strong manufacturer warranty will help protect you against getting unlucky, and it indicates how much the manufacturer is willing to stand behind the product. Warranties in the 12-to-15-year range are not unusual, and the best warranties currently available will protect you from 20-25 years.

Installation Location

The installation location matters, and you’ll almost always want to install your unit inside the home or building in order to protect it from the elements. A tankless water heater requires proper venting and should preferably be positioned as close as possible to the areas of heaviest use. One of the advantages of a tankless system is the smaller footprint which allows you to install it practically anywhere. It may seem convenient to install the system in an attic, crawl space or garage, but doing so can actually cause the system to work harder and thus diminish its expected lifespan. Ideally, you should install the system in the living space, such as a water heater closet, so that it benefits from climate control.

Annual Maintenance

While routine maintenance is recommended for a tank water heater, many home and business owners take a break-fix approach to their systems. Experts strongly discourage you from taking this approach with an on-demand system for a number of reasons. One of those reasons is that many manufacturer warranties require annual maintenance, and if you ever need to make a warranty claim, you may need to show proof that you had that service performed.

Plumbers also recommend annual maintenance because an on-demand water heater is a much more complex system than a traditional water heater, and your system may only last 15 years or less if you just ignore it until there’s a problem. Tankless systems need to be descaled. There is a water filter that needs to be replaced, and all of the plumbing and electrical connections need to be tested and tightened or replaced as needed. The system also needs to be recalibrated, and this annual maintenance will extend the life of your equipment and therefore pay for itself over time.

Hard Water

Hard water is the top concern when it comes to tankless water heater longevity. The minerals in the water accumulate in the tank and create resistance and pressure that causes the system to work harder and therefore succumb to more wear and tear. Descaling is a primary reason that you want to have your system serviced once a year, and depending on the hardness of your water, it may be recommended that you have your system descaled twice a year. The preferable option for a home or business with hard or extremely hard water is to install a water softening system which will not only protect your water heater but other appliances, too.

Point-of-Entry Water Filtration

Upgrading to a tankless water heater is an investment in your home or business, and consider expanding that investment to include a point-of-entry water filtration system. Your filtration system can incorporate any water softening that you require. It can also filter chlorine and a wide range of other impurities that can diminish the lifespan of your water heater and other appliances. Whole-house/building water filtration will not only extend the life of your water heater but provide many other benefits as well. This includes water that tastes better and water that improves skin and hair health.

As-Needed Service Appointments

You should also call a plumber to service your water heater at any sign of trouble. Modern units often have digital displays that will provide you an error code that you can look up in the manual or online. In some cases, you’ll just need to reset the unit. If you find yourself resetting it often, however, then there’s a problem that requires a professional to diagnose and fix. You should also schedule a repair if your system shuts off intermittently, water temperatures are inconsistent, you notice a drop in hot water pressure or you see any moisture near the system.

Certified Plumbing Services in Sacramento

When you need a tankless water heater installed, replaced, serviced or repaired, turn to the professionals at Crystal Blue Heating & Air. We are a family-owned and -operated company that has served Sacramento and the surrounding areas for more than 40 years. Our company provides a full range of residential and commercial plumbing services. Homeowners and businesses throughout the region also count on us for heating, air conditioning, ventilation and indoor air quality as well as for equipment installation, maintenance and repair services. Call Crystal Blue Heating & Air today to schedule an appointment or ask any questions about the services and products we offer.