For many people who live in wet areas of the country, waterproofing measures are necessary and extremely important when it comes to keeping basements dry. However, if you notice your sump pit filling up with water and stop hearing the telltale click of the sump motor turning on, then you have a fairly obvious issue that needs to be resolved. Keep reading to learn about floats, possible issues, and how the problem can be fixed.
Types of Sump-Pump Floats
Sump pumps have devices installed inside of them that tell the pump when to turn on and off. The parts are called switches, and they are located on the side of the pump. A typical switch will be installed as a separate mechanism that is attached directly to the motor of the pump. When the switch activates, the motor turns on. There are several different types of switches that you may see on your sump pump, and some of the devices work better than others. The switches are tethered, vertical, and electronic switches.
Tethered switches are bulbs filled with air that float on the top of the water that fills the sump pit. As water levels increase, the bulb floats higher and higher. The float is attached to a hose or a wire that pulls on a switch. The pressure on the switch lessens as the float rises, and the pump motor then activates. Vertical switches are similar to tethered varieties. Instead of a large bulb, the vertical float features a smaller circular rubber part that is attached to a long metal rod. As water levels rise, the rubber piece floats upward and forces the rod up as well. The movement of the rod forces the pump switch to activate.
Electric switches are different than the other types because they rely on electronic probes to activate the sump pump. Two different probes determine the level of the water in the sump pump and turn the motor on and off based on the water levels.
Investigating the Floats
If your sump pump is not working, then it is possible that the float is not functioning correctly. If the float breaks, then there may be no or few indications that the pump has developed a problem. This is quite different than when the device has a mechanical issue. You will hear strange noises, hear the pump turning on and off often, and notice the pump running for a longer or shorter time frame than it should when mechanical problems arise. The only issue you will notice with a broken float is a sump pump that simply does not run.
If the pump is just not running, then start investigating the float. Tether floats will often get stuck or become tangled, so make sure the bulb is sitting straight against the sump housing and can move up and down freely. If you have a vertical float, then gently pull on the rubber attachment to make sure the rod is not sticking. If the rod moves hard, or if you notice that the floating end has actually sunk into the water, then replace the entire float mechanism.
If there is an electric float, then remove the outer casing to reveal the two probes underneath. These probes will often become dirty or build with mineral deposits from your water. If you notice brown or black debris on the probes, then use soap and water to clean them. If you notice white accumulation, then use white vinegar to dissolve the minerals. When you are done cleaning, then replace the float cover and try the sump pump again.
If your sump pump works after you investigate, clean, or change the float, then your pump should work normally again. If the device still does not work like it should, then contact your local plumbing professional to help you troubleshoot the issue.