Ahh, the wonderful world of Sump Pumps. Those pesky little things in your deep, dark basement that we only ever think about when they stop working. Though I would say we likely don’t think about our A/C, Furnace, Water Heater, or Water Softener before they go out either. Beyond them existing, we don’t think about how they work much at all. And most of the time, you don’t need to know. The important thing is that they work.
However, if you have an inquisitive mind, read on….
Basic Operation of Sump Pump
A Sump Pump operates on simple physics. A water-cooled motor is housed inside a (if properly built) cast iron or stainless-steel casing. This motor moves a propeller at the base of the pump, pushing water up through the pipe. Imagine a plane propeller facing the ground, pushing all the air straight up. Same concept, but with water and your basement.
This water is pumped through a 1.5” or 2” pvc pipe, passing a 1-way check valve, and runs outside your house and into the yard or storm sewer system. The basic concept being that as long as the Sump Pump can keep the water in the basin discharged, it can keep the water level under your floor, and your basement dry.
Read also – How Submersible Sump Pumps Work?
Alright, now for the confusing part. In the pvc pipe described above, between the pump and the 1-way check valve, there needs to be what is called a “weep hole” in the pvc. This is a 1/8” hole drilled at an upward angle. Now, why would anyone drill a hole in a pipe they are discharging pressurized water through?
The answer is Air Lock. Weep Holes prevent Air Lock in your Sump Pump. Dumbed down a bit more, think a bubble of air surrounded by water on both sides. This “bubble” of air causes a change in pressure that does not allow the pump to push water through the pipe. It simply doesn’t have the power.
Compare to Brakes
Have you ever done brakes on your car? Do you know about how we need to “bleed” the brake lines in order to make them effective? This is much the same concept, as air in the brake lines do not allow you to put enough pressure to activate the brakes through the pedal.
An air bubble in your Sump Pump line will cause “Air Lock” and prevent your pump from pumping the water effectively out of your home.
Installing a Weep Hole in your Sump Pump is easy. You simply take a 1/8” drill bit and drill. Once you have your initial Sump Pump assembly together with the pvc piping installed, you then drill the hole (Pump OUT of the pit, as you will find this makes it far easier).
It is important to start this hole about 6” above the Sump Pump, and to drill it at a 45-degree angle UPWARDS. This will allow the water that will inevitably shoot out of this hole to be directed downwards. You will slap your own forehead when you install this hole at a downward angle and water is spraying up and out of the pit every time the pump goes off.
Thanks for reading, and as always:
“Not Everything’s Better When Wet”
thank you for your advice.
Can you put a weep hole 15 to 18 inches above the pump?
Best not to put a weep hole that high. You’re likely to get spray up over the pit lid. The most effective placement of the weep hole is a few inches above the connection the sump pump. You also want to angle that hole downwards so the spray from the water goes down to the bottom of the pit. Hope this helps!
In 15 years of servicing and installing sump pumps never once Have I received a call for an air locked Home Depot sump pump. But I have opened plenty of crocks to check the pump or water flow and PSSSSSSS water everywhere.
Unscrewed a crock lid once just as the pump kicked on. Customer was standing across from me and took that “downward” spray from knee to face! I guess the original call was for sewage back up. The second call was to another contractor.
Beware the PEE hole!!
Hahaha beware the pee hole! Yes, it is very important that when the weep hole is drilled that it is drilled upwards into the pipe, allowing the water to spray down into the pit. Air lock in sump pumps is a real thing and it is not only standard installation procedure for the industry, but also standard installation procedure straight from the manufacturer.