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One of the best ways to avoid a frozen discharge line (pipe) is by using a vent-like fixture attached to your pipe just outside the wall of your foundation. It will carry the warmth inside to the outside and prevent the pipe from freezing.
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If you already have a basement waterproofing system, a sump pump will likely be connected. That also means a sump pump discharge line goes through the basement wall to the outside. That transition from inside to outside can decide how your holiday season will turn out.
It is possible to get a frozen discharge line, stopping water from pumping to the outside and burning out your sump pump motor in the process.
In Connecticut and New York, the winters can get brutally cold. Temperatures in these two states can go as low as -10 to -20 degrees year after year.
Planning and preparing your home for winter is essential before freezing temperatures do damage.
Discharge Pipe Installation
Generally, waterproofing contractors install a sump pump discharge pipe using a 1½-inch PVC pipe connected to your pump, extend it high enough to go through the basement wall, and stay 1 to 2 feet from the ground outside. At this point, it is essential to have discharged water redirected away from the home’s backfill area.
A backfill area surrounds the house and extends 8+ feet. Soft-pan soil or bulldozed dirt is softer and more absorbent than hard-pan soil, which is untouched during the construction of the house. The trick is to get the water from the house to the hard-pan soil area.
Dry Well or Drain Field Installation
Some homes already have a way to get water 8+ feet away into the hard-pan soil area. One such installation is called a dry well or a drain field. An underground pipe pitched away from the house connects to a bubbler pot surrounded by a three-quarter-inch stone. The water gets absorbed into the hard-pan soil and directed away through underground capillaries.
Why Do the Discharge Lines Freeze-up?
The water from the sump pump discharge line will begin to freeze with layers of ice in the middle of the night when it is colder. It will freeze shut the 1½-inch opening with solid ice. The lower layers of snow, sleet, and freezing rain on the ground will continue to melt and get absorbed into the backfill area.
Cold wind and no sun will ensure the pipe will remain clogged with ice. The sump pump continues to run and attempts to discharge water but cannot.
The water pressure increases, causing the sump pump motor to strain as the accumulating groundwater builds up in the clogged discharge pipe.
The stress will weaken the PVC joints and cause the discharge line to leak or burst. Eventually, the sump pump will burn out its motor. The result is water in the basement from a dead sump pump and possibly a pipe leak or burst.
Town or City Sewer System
If we pump groundwater into a city sewer system, discharge line freeze-ups are not a problem. The discharge line can be tapped into your septic pipe in the basement, depending on building code restrictions in your area.
If you live in suburbia or the city code says not to tap into the sewer line, you have another option. A unique overflow fixture is attached between the outside discharge pipe and a 4-inch dry well pipe. This connection allows water to flow when pipes freeze underground or jam up with other blockages.
Discharge Line Freeze-Free Vent Solution
At American Dry Basement Systems, we use a fixture called a Freeze-Free vent. We attach it to where the sump pump discharge line exits the house wall.
The groundwater temperature in Connecticut and New York consistently ranges between 44 and 54 degrees in the summer and winter. The water will not freeze as it exits the Freeze-Free vent.
The water temperature will never go below freezing and will melt anything within the Freeze-Free vent, allowing complete freedom for water flow.
The Freeze-Free vent is connected directly to the PVC discharge pipe and stepped up to an expander connection to the dry well pipe for a clean look. It is the best way to guard against discharge line backup and basement flooding during the winter or at any time.
Other Ways to Avoid a Frozen Discharge Pipe
- Insulate the pipe: Insulating the discharge pipe can help reduce the risk of it freezing. You can use foam insulation sleeves or wrap the line with heating tape.
- Keep the pipe above freezing: Try to keep the discharge pipe above freezing by running it through an insulated pipe or a heated area.
- Keep the pipe short: The shorter the discharge pipe, the less likely it is to freeze. Consider installing the sump pump as close to the exit point as possible.
- Use antifreeze solution: If your discharge pipe is particularly susceptible to freezing, you can use an antifreeze solution in the line to help prevent it from freezing, only in an emergency.
- Keep the sump pump running: Regularly running the pump will help prevent the discharge pipe from freezing by continuously moving water through the line.
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