What To Do For Frozen Sump Pump Discharge Lines

Sump pumps are a necessity in our area of Minnesota. Besides the ground being clay, we have developments all around us that were placed on top of back-filled swamps and marsh land. Residents of this area have their sump pumps run year-round. Because the pumps run year-round that creates issues when the temps are below freezing. If your sump pump seems to be running continuously it could mean one of two things: either your back flow check valve is failing or your discharge line is frozen.

Sump pump discharge lines can freeze causing the sump pump to run continuously, eventually burning up the pumps motor. It also means if the water has nowhere to go the sump pump basket may overflow flooding your basement.

A person can do a few different things to prevent this from happening. Often times the sump pump is hard piped from the sump pump to the outside of the house. Once the pipe is outside however it is often then attached to flexible sump pump discharge tubing. This flexible discharge line should be removed in the fall so that it doesn’t freeze up. The problem with doing this is that if the sump pump needs to run in the winter it will be discharged right next to the house instead of away from the home. When that happens it is likely that the water that you just pumped out of the basement will make its way back to the basement again. A homeowner should have a couple flexible discharge lines on hand so that if you have a period of heavy sump use you can throw a flex line on to get the water away from the house. Then, if and when the line freezes up, you can detach that line and put your other spare flex line on.

We do not recommend directing the water into a floor drain or laundry tub inside the house. This is considered an illegal hook-up of the sump discharge. However in an emergency situation this is an option.

Another option would be to use some kind of heat cable on the discharge line. You would only do this if your discharge line is hard piped with PVC. This is not something we recommend if you are using the thin flexible discharge line. You could use a roof and gutter de-icing cable and run it through the discharge line and plug it in as needed. DO NOT use pipe heat tape. Pipe heat tape is meant to be used on the outside of the pipe in indoor applications only and is not to be exposed to the elements.

It’s good practice to periodically check your sump basket to make sure that your pump is working properly. If you have a flex line on the sump make sure that it is free and clear of debris, snow, and ice during the cold winter months. You may also want to make sure that it is not discharging water that will freeze and create dangerously icy conditions in a spot that could cause you trouble. In other words don’t allow your sump pump to discharge massive quantities of water onto your sidewalk and driveway.

Donna J. Seymour