Power outages are never fun. When preparing for a power outage, your mind may turn to needing candles, a flashlight, and how to keep your ice cream from melting. But have you ever considered what might happen to your sump pump during a power outage? What about the rest of your appliances? Find out how to ensure your sump pump has backup power, what to do when your sump pump fails and other helpful tips to prepare for a power outage.

What Causes Power Outages?

First, what causes power outages? Most people immediately assume power outages are caused by storms, and in many cases, that is true. Lightning can hit trees, which then fall on the electrical equipment. Or lightning can strike the equipment directly. High winds and ice (especially when you combine the two) can also bring down power lines and poles.

But there are other factors as well. For example, animals. Squirrels, birds, and even snakes that are looking for warmth or food can run afoul of transformers and fuses. Tree limbs often come in contact with poles and power lines, despite the electrical company’s best efforts to keep them pruned back. Construction equipment can inadvertently damage electrical equipment. Finally, electrical equipment can fail simply from old age.

Whatever the reason for an outage, it has repercussions for anything in your home that runs on electricity, including your sump pump.  If you have a sump pump, it’s probably not something you think about very often. However, that could change if it stops working! 

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How Does a Sump Pump Work?

Sump pumps sit in a sump pit, which is usually installed at the lowest point of your basement. Water that makes its way into your home’s foundation is diverted into a drain system that surrounds the basement perimeter. That water drains into the sump pump pit, where the sump pump, triggered by a float switch, removes the water by pumping it into a storm drain, retention pond, or dry well.

Keeping Your Sump Pump Running

Many sump pumps work off of your home’s electrical system, which is why power outages may cause your sump pump to fail. If there are heavy rains in your area, that’s exactly when you need that water pumped out of your home to avoid water damage! That’s why many also have a battery backup for your sump pump to make sure the pump keeps running even if your power is out. In addition to battery sump pump backups, some pumps also have water-powered backup systems that use your home’s water supply to remove water from the sump pit.

Sump Pump Maintenance

Be proactive; you don’t want to be in the middle of a storm wondering if your basement will flood and your home will suffer water damage. Check your sump pump regularly. This is easy to do; all it takes is a bucket of water. Pour the water into the sump pit. The pump should turn on and drain the water from the sump pit. This is also a good time to check the sump pit. Clean out any dirt or debris that could cause blockage.

What Happens if your Sump Pump Fails?

If the worst happens and you get water in your basement, you need to act fast. Here are the critical first steps you should take if you find that your sump pump is no longer working after a power outage:

  1. Unplug any electronics.

  2. Remove furniture to a dry spot as soon as possible.

  3. Pull up any carpets and padding.

  4. Use towels or a mop to soak up water.

  5. A wet/dry vacuum can be useful, but be sure that any outlet you use is well away from any water.

  6. Use fans and dehumidifiers to draw moisture out of your basement, and, if weather allows, open up your windows.

Lastly, you’ll also want to contact your agent to determine what damage is covered by your insurance policy and what your next steps should be.

Power Outage Checklist

If you’re experiencing a power outage—or concerned that one may be on the way—use this checklist to better prepare you and your family.

Preparing for a Power Outage

  • Keep a fully-stocked first aid kit.

  • Have flashlights handy.

  • Make sure you have the power company’s number.

  • Stock your pantry with canned foods and water.

  • Fill your freezer and refrigerator with frozen water bottles to help preserve food.

  • Have a battery-powered radio on hand so you can keep track of weather conditions.

  • Turn off and unplug appliances and electrical equipment to prevent power surges.

  • Ensure your sump pump has backup power, whether it is water-powered or battery powered.

After a Power Outage

  • Reset clocks and alarms.
  • Don’t plug appliances back in immediately; wait at least 10-15 minutes for power to stabilize.
  • Check food, and throw out any perishable items that may have thawed.

Protecting Your Home

Your home is where your heart is—do you have what you need to protect it? Farm Bureau offers coverage to help protect your home, your belongings and your future. To learn more about homeowners insurance, connect with your Farm Bureau agent.