Sump pumps are not complicated machines. They are actually very easy to repair and maintain. If you want to avoid costly labor expenses for something you can do on your own, here are three things you can do to maintain your sump pump.
Checking and Changing the Float
Similar to the float in the back of your toilet tank, the float in a sump pump aids in the removal of water. As the water level in your pump hole rises, it pushes the float upwards, which activates the pump motor and pushes the water up and out of the drain pipe. When there is no water in your pump hole, the float drops down into its lower position and waits for the water to rise again.
When you check the float in your sump pump, you only need to pour a large bucket of water into your sump hole. If the float rises and turns on the pump motor, your float is fine and doing exactly what it needs to do. If the float does not rise, then you may need to replace the float and float arm, which in most cases easily unscrews from the motor. (Also, be sure to remove anything that might have fallen into the sump hole and gotten stuck on the float, such as matted hair, mud or debris, as this can change the weight on the pump and change its effectiveness.)
Clearing the Grate on the Bottom of the Pump Motor
The suction action of the pump comes from underneath the pump motor. Dirt and tiny bits of concrete or other debris can get stuck in the grate that covers the suction hole, preventing the motor from doing its job. Detach the pump motor from the drain pipe about once a month during really rainy seasons when the hole is empty. Clear away any debris you see from the motor's grate and then reinstall the motor in the hole. Reattach the drain pipe and use a bucket of water to test the motor to make sure that it is working.
Clearing the Vent Hole on the Discharge Pipe
If your sump pump has a vent hole on the discharge pipe (usually located just above the "on" line of your pump motor) then you need to clear it regularly. This hole exists to prevent air locking, a problem where the air that gets trapped in the pipe above the pump motor pushes against the upward flow of the water. It is similar to a vent hole in a portable gas tank--it exists so that air pressure within is released and the liquid can travel the direction it is supposed to go. You can clean the vent hole on the discharge pipe with cotton swabs and/or a small baby bottle brush, whichever is more convenient.
For more information on how to maintain your sump pump, consider contacting a professional like those at Perma-Dry Waterproofing & Drainage, Inc.