Sump pump failure flooding

How Long Does A Sump Pump Last?

Updated January 1, 1 . AmFam Team

Wondering if it's time for a new sump pump? Learn about the signs of sump pump failure, how often to service it, and when to replace it from American Family.

Like other appliances and equipment in your home, your sump pump won’t last forever. Averaging about 10 years, you might not notice your sump pump has malfunctioned until it has stopped working. And once it does, water damage to your home and the belongings within it can follow closely behind.

Because your sump pump’s life expectancy depends on a number of factors, we’re here to help you understand how your sump pump works and what to look out for when it needs replacement.

Common Sump Pump Problems

Sometimes, a sump pump will tell you when it needs replacement. It may begin acting up and hopefully you’re wondering what that new sound coming from the basement is all about. Here are some common signs that your sump pump is having problems.

The pump won’t engage. This usually happens when the pump itself is clogged with dirt and debris. Loose-fitting lids can let dust and other material in that can build up over time. Also, the float can become obstructed or jammed when rust and gunk builds up around it. Solve the problem by picking up a well-fitting, airtight lid.

On less expensive models, the switching systems can get jammed and wires will tangle over time, causing the pump to stop working. Get your sump pump inspected by a certified professional to ensure it’s in working order.

The pump’s getting old. When your pump’s over 7 years old, it’s time to consider replacement. Specifically, if the sump pump has been working hard and running frequently for long periods of time.

Rust is clearly visible around the base. When corrosion and rust are present around the motor and the float, bacteria and chemical build-up can take its toll on your system. Iron-loving bacteria can form a thick, gel-like substance on the equipment and can clog your pump in severe cases.

The pump rarely turns on. When sump pumps aren’t engaging regularly, their lifespan can be reduced. By maintaining a sump pump journal, you’ll be able to track how your sump pump’s operating, and have a log of when maintenance was performed. You’ll also test it regularly, and that can help it remain functioning longer.

The pump runs constantly. When a sump pump finally fails for good, it’s usually because of non-stop running right before failure. Because the float acts as an on/off switch for your sump pump, if the pump shifts or changes position within the basin, the float can lose its calibration. And pump vibration combined with a bad installation can lead to issues where the float engages the pump too frequently.

The pump runs for a really long time. This may be a sign that the water pumping capacity of the sump pump isn’t enough to get the job done. Consult with a licensed and bonded plumber to review the specs on your pump and verify the pump’s capacity isn’t maxed out. Other factors like pipe diameter and the amount of elbows and turns in pipes can add up and make outflow difficult for low-horsepower pumps.

Your home’s had frequent power outages. Electric systems can be susceptible to power surges that occur with power outages. Not only is this a great reason to get a battery backup power system for your sump pump, but many are shipped with built-in surge protection technology.

How Often Should You Replace Your Sump Pump?

It’s really important that you monitor the condition of your sump pump all year long. Because of the many ways your sump pump can fail, you need to know when it’s telling you trouble’s ahead. Here’s a list of what to look out for:

Place a “replace by” sticker on the unit. A “replace by” sticker can help you track when your pump’s due to be swapped out. Since they’ll have a 10 year window of safe operation typically, write down the date that the system was installed and write down the date 10 years out. Be sure that your sticker is readily viewable.

Purchase a Wi-Fi enabled smart sump pump outlet. Some app-based sump pump outlets can help inform you before disaster strikes. The outlet collects and tracks data from the sump pump verifying that it’s in working order. When an issue is detected, you’ll get a notification sent directly to your smartphone and it can be configured to send emails and texts out as well. Another feature is a high water sensor that’s mounted within the basin of your sump system which lets you know that flooding may happen soon.

Install a battery backup and second sump system. Backup systems help keep you prepared for the unexpected. They may seem costly at first, but they’re worth their weight in gold if your main sump pump should fail, or if the power should go out.

Because storms frequently take down powerlines just as the rain’s starting to come down, your home may be left vulnerable for hours until the power’s restored. And the insurance implications can be important. If you’ve got extra sump pump insurance, you’ll need to have a backup system installed when your policy renews if your primary system has recently failed.

Check in on your sump pump frequently. When testing your sump system and writing up your log entry, be sure to examine the condition of the pump if possible. Make appointments in your calendar to check in on it, and get a plumber out for an annual check-up.

What if My Sump Pump Already Failed?

Water damage due to sump pump failure can be costly. But our water damage and sump pump failure coverage is designed to mitigate the cost of repairs caused by water leaking into a home due to a backed-up drain or an overflowing sump. This additional coverage can easily be added on for a fraction of what it would cost to repair and replace water-damaged items in your home.

While considering your sump pump options, remember to check in with your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab). They’re your local coverage experts and can help you get a customized policy that insures everything you’ve worked so hard for.

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