During heavy rains, water can start seeping through your foundation and into your basement or crawl space. In some cases, a leak in your main water line or the municipal water main can also lead to water infiltrating your home. When water does start coming into a house, it can easily lead to flooding and potentially cause hundreds or thousands of dollars in water damage. A sump pump is the first line of defense for preventing this from happening and hopefully ensuring your basement or crawl space doesn’t ever flood. The only issue is that sump pumps can sometimes fail to work when they should, which is why it’s a good idea to invest in a sump pump alarm.

How Does a Sump Pump Alarm Work?

The purpose of a sump pump alarm is to alert you when your basement or crawl space is at risk of flooding. If the water in the sump basin or pit rises to around 6 inches from the top, the alarm will sound to let you know that there’s an issue with your sump pump. Most sump pump alarms have a sensor that will trigger the alarm to go off if it gets wet. Others just have a basic float similar to the float that triggers your sump pump to run when the basin starts filling with water. In this case, the alarm will trigger whenever the water level in the basin rises high enough to lift the float. Sump pump alarms run on a battery, which means they’ll still go off even if the power to your home is out.

Sump pump alarms are similar to smoke alarms in that they produce an extremely loud noise that you should be able to hear throughout your house. That means that the alarm should wake you up if it goes off at night. This is important since you will need to take immediate action to prevent your basement or crawl space from flooding if your sump pump isn’t working and the basin is at risk of overflowing.

Common Reasons a Sump Pump Alarm Will Go Off

The most common reason that a sump pump alarm will go off is that the pump lost power, leading to the water level quickly rising because the pump isn’t running. That’s why we recommend investing in a pump that has a backup battery. This way, you can be assured that it will still work if your power goes out, the circuit breaker gets tripped or there is an issue with the outlet that you are using.

If the alarm goes off, it can also indicate that your sump pump has worn out and you need to replace it. There is also a chance that there is a clog in one of the discharge pipes or that the pump simply isn’t working effectively and is not pumping the water out of the basin quickly enough. In either of these two situations, the alarm will sound while the pump is running. The latter scenario where the pump isn’t working effectively enough is fairly rare, but it can occur if your system is wearing out or undersized.

What to Do if Your Sump Pump Alarm Goes Off

Any time your sump pump alarm goes off, you should immediately go into your basement or crawl space to check if the pump is running and see how much water is in the basin. If the pump isn’t running and the basin is mostly full of water, the first thing to do is check if it has power. You can do this by plugging something else into the outlet to see if it’s working. If the outlet has power and your sump pump won’t turn on, it likely indicates that either the system is worn out or the float switch isn’t working to trigger it to run. In either case, you’ll need to have a plumber check the pump and either repair or replace it.

If the outlet doesn’t have power, the next step is to go to your main electrical panel and make sure the breaker that controls the outlet isn’t tripped. If the breaker is tripped, try to reset it and check to see if your sump pump is now running. If the pump still isn’t running, you should check the breaker again. A malfunctioning or jammed sump pump can sometimes trip the circuit breaker every time it tries to turn on. Should this happen, you should just leave the breaker off to avoid any potential electrical issues.

If the outlet doesn’t have power and the circuit breaker isn’t tripped, it indicates an issue with the outlet itself. In this case, your best option is to use an extension cord to plug the pump into an outlet on a different circuit. This way you can get it to start working again until you can get an electrician to inspect the outlet.

If the alarm sounds and you can hear the pump running, you should go outside to wherever the discharge pipe empties out and see if water is coming out of it. If water is flowing out of the discharge, it indicates that either your pump is too small to work effectively or that it has some issue that is preventing it from working properly.

If you don’t see water coming out, it likely means that either there is a clog somewhere in the discharge line or that the inlet screen at the bottom of the pump is clogged. Sometimes sump pumps are installed so that the discharge pipe empties directly into the storm drain, in which case you won’t be able to check it.

There are also situations where the sensor on the alarm can get wet and trigger a false alarm. If the water level in the basin isn’t all that high or the basin is empty, you should try to dry off the sensor to see if this shuts the alarm off. In some cases, the alarm may just malfunction and go off for no reason. If the basin isn’t at risk of overflowing and drying off the sensor doesn’t make the alarm stop sounding, you can just manually shut it off. However, this is only a temporary fix, and you should still have a plumber inspect the alarm as soon as possible.

How to Prevent Flooding if Your Sump Pump Isn’t Working

Unfortunately, there aren’t many effective options for preventing your basement or crawl space from flooding if your sump pump stops working or isn’t working effectively enough. You could try to either suck the water up with a wet/dry vacuum or run a hose from the basin outside and try to siphon the water out. However, either of these methods won’t be effective enough to prevent the basin from overflowing unless it’s filling up quite slowly. This is why it’s a good idea to invest in a backup pump and then keep it and a long hose nearby so that you can drain the sump basin if your pump stops working.

If your sump pump isn’t working or you want to install a sump pump alarm, Hope Plumbing is here to help. We have years of experience providing professional sump pump services to customers throughout the Indianapolis area. For more information on sump pump alarms or to schedule an appointment for any plumbing service, contact us today.

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