Should I Unplug My Sump Pump In The Winter?

When the colder season hits, more often than not (depending on where you live), you may be hit with a blanket of snow. Because of this, you might be thinking that it is worth unplugging the sump pump.

No matter how tempting that is, it is worth noting that you probably shouldn’t unplug your sump pump. There are only a few reasons why you should: cleaning it, maintenance, etc.

Other than that, you should get into the habit of leaving it plugged in and ready to go, otherwise you could be risking a flood to your underground living area such as the basement.

With all this in mind, let’s take a look at the reasons why you should keep your sump pump plugged in during the colder months.


Why You Shouldn’t Unplug Your Sump Pump During Winter

Even though there is less rainfall during the winter months due to snow taking over instead, it doesn’t mean that your sump pump will not be running – in fact, quite the opposite.

It isn’t uncommon, especially in today’s climate, to find that there are a few warmer spells during even the harshest of winters.

When the temperature goes above freezing, even just a few Farenheit, this could cause the snow to melt.

In doing so, the water table level underneath your home will rise due to the snow melting and the water accumulating below.

This means that the basin of your sump pump will begin to collect water and start the machine running.

If you had unplugged the sump pump, then you would have risked flooding of your basement or crawl space.  

This all happens because there would be an overflow of water, and it would cause a mini-flood which may turn out to be quite costly. 

Even if a flood does not happen, the weight of the water can be disastrous for the pipes. They may become so full that they crack, push upwards and create damage to any floor slabs and interior walls. 

Should You Prepare Your Sump Pump For Winter Use?

Absolutely you should. A common concern is frozen pipes when it comes to the winter season.

Instead of unplugging the sump pump entirely, you should prepare it for the winter weather so you are not met with any nasty surprises.

Here are a few tips to maintaining a good sump pump during the coldest of weather:

Keep The Discharge Pipe Low

If you are able to see the discharge pipe, then there is a good chance that it will not be protected in freezing conditions. If left like this, then you may suffer with a frozen pipe. 

What happens is that the water will freeze and block the pipe. The sump pump will continue to do its job and push the water through, however, no water will be able to pass. It will try so hard to push all the water through, ultimately burning itself out and failing.

To prevent such a thing from happening in the first place, make sure the discharge pipe is below the ground. It is recommended that it is buried around 10 to 12 centimeters below the frost line.

If you are unable to bury the discharge pipe so low underground, then another good option is to cover it with hay or tarp that has been insulated.  

Make Sure The Motor Is Protected

How To Prepare Your Sump Pump For Winter

If you are still worried about having frozen pipes, then you can make sure your sump pump doesn’t work as often.

However, whilst this may be a good solution during winter, it is only an option if you are really worried about frozen pipes and what that might bring.

Redirecting the water to various parts of the home can take off some of the stress and strain of the sump pump’s motor.

Doing so will create different paths of drainage, and stop the sump pump from switching on as often.

It also means that there is a risk limit to the pump having to work alongside frozen pipes.

Just like we mentioned above, this means that the sump pump could potentially overheat, so doing something to limit the risk is only a good thing. 

Make Sure Water Is Running

It might sound stupidly simple, but having running water means that it is less likely to freeze and cause trouble. 

Leaving a cold water faucet running slowly can do wonders for the drainage system in your home. However, this would need to be done for the whole of winter which could prove costly to those utility bills!

This isn’t a go-to method, or one that is completely risk-free, but if you’re not too fussed about leaving water running every day during the cold season, then this could be a good option for you.

Remove A Discharge Hose

If you have extension hoses attached to the discharge pipe, then you could be at risk of frozen pipes. Before winter arrives, it will be best to remove these as they are much more likely to freeze, unfortunately. 

However, if you need to keep these attached (as they do remove water a lot further away than the discharge pipe might be able to), then there is something you can do. 

You can purchase a freeze-proof sump pump extension hose. You will then need to make sure it isn’t pointing directly near somewhere like a driveway, and that the pipe slopes downwards to prevent the water staying in the pipe from freezing. 

To put it simply, you will need to make sure that the water flows in a natural fashion in order for it not to sit and freeze inside the pipes. 

Final Thoughts

It isn’t recommended to unplug a sump pump during the winter months due to water still being able to reach the basin and kicking it into running.

If left in an unplugged sump pump, you could be at risk of flooding and underground damage.

Even though freezing pipes is a worry during the colder months, there are ways to prevent it. Hopefully our tips will help you once winter rolls around. 



Bill is a DIY plumber, handyman, and homeowner with more than a decade of experience. He has replaced and repaired sump pumps, backup pumps, float switches, check valves, and many other things around his family home. An engineer and tinkerer at heart, he is always looking to see how things work and taking on new home projects that help him grow his skillsets. He is a husband and father of two boys, has a bachelors degree in Computer Engineer and minor in Mathematics and likes to make homebrew beer in his free time.

      Sump Pump Advisor