Gutter Siphon: Huge Fail!

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The gutter siphon, also called gutter pump: inexpensive, yes, but totally ineffective under my conditions. Source:

Here’s a product to avoid: the gutter siphon (also called a gutter pump). It’s supposed to prevent debris from plugging downspouts (drainpipes) and thus to keep gutters from overflowing and tearing apart the garden below.

This is how the gutter siphon is supposed to work. Source:

According to the product description, “the outer shell blocks leaves and debris from the downspout, while an elevated slot in the underside drains rising gutter water. If the tool is submerged due to heavy rainfall, the unit siphons water through debris and into the downspout to prevent overflow.”

It sounded good to me and I thought I’d at last found an easy solution to a problem I’d had for years. So I ordered not one, but two.

Back Story

I have learned that I have to get up on the roof and clear out the gutters at my house at least twice a year or I’m in for disaster. In fact, I added a second downspout to the same problem gutter (at the opposite end), under the theory that two drains must necessarily be better than one and that has proven to be fairly true. Even so, whenever I’ve even slightly delayed a cleanup, one end or the other of the gutter would plug and … there’d go the garden below! Torn leaves, uprooted plants, dirt everywhere: what a mess! One time the overflow fell straight into a window well and caused serious damage to my basement office.


So, I tried installing the gutter siphons, certainly easy enough to do if you’re not afraid of heights. However, it didn’t take long to find out they don’t work. In the slightest. At least under my conditions.

Do note that I dutifully cleaned out the gutter before installing them, ran water through from a hose to check (I’ve had blockage occur part of the way down the spout before, out of sight). Everything was fine.

Until I installed the gutter siphons.

… and Error!

It didn’t take long to discover the gutter siphon didn’t work: damage occurred at the very first rainfall! Source:

After the very first rainfall, a fairly big although not exceptional thunderstorm, one accompanied by strong winds that obviously carried debris into the gutter (spruce needles, helped along by a few twigs, are the main concern for me rather than leaves). Normally the gutter would not have overflowed this quickly after cleaning, but it sure did this time!

As I watched in frustration from the safety of my bedroom window (no! I do not climb up ladders to unplug gutters when there is lightning flashing!), the gutter overflowed and water tore up the garden below.

This is one downspout. After removing a few handfuls of debris, the gutter siphon can be seen. Source:

The next day, I went up and checked. One gutter siphon was completely hidden from view by debris. I had to pull out several handfuls of (mostly) spruce needles to even see it, let alone remove it. But, to give the product its due, that end of the gutter was at least empty of water. It hadn’t prevented the overflow, but it did seem to have allowed the water to drain… too late to be of any use. It was, in fact, near this spout that the damage had occurred.

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At the opposite end, there was no overflow, but water backed up and did not drain away. Source:

At the opposite end, where there was no damage to the garden, much less debris had accumulated near the downspout and I could easily see the gutter siphon, but the water was still backed up nearly 24 hours after the storm ended and showed no sign of “siphoning out” the way the device was supposed to ensure. I removed the debris and the gutter siphon and the gutter drained immediately.

Not the First Time I’ve Been Had

By the way, this is not the first time I’ve been taken by some sort of gutter protection device that didn’t work under my conditions.

The gutter strainer also proved to be ineffective. Source:

Years ago, I tried a so-called gutter strainer and it was no more helpful than the gutter siphon. If fact, it too made things worse. It did keep some debris out of the downspout, but caught leaves and twigs, causing backup and therefore overflow and damage.

Mesh gutter guards were no more effective. They do keep larger debris (like leaves) out, but were ineffective against conifer needles and smaller twigs… and made cleanup awkward. Source:

I also tried installing mesh gutter guards with equally disappointing results. While they  did keep larger leaves and some twigs out, spruce needles and smaller twigs still easily worked their way through and removing and reinstalling the gutter guards each time I had to clean the gutters (twice a year) was just too much effort for the (very slight) advantages they gave.


I thought I’d warn readers that the gutter siphon obviously doesn’t always work … and perhaps never does! And there is probably no gutter protection system that works under all circumstances. At some point, most of us just have to get up there and clean out our gutters!20180622A

11 comments on “Gutter Siphon: Huge Fail!

  1. There’s a kind of fiberglass gutter, it’s light weight, easy to install and low maintance.

  2. These siphons do exactly what they say if you clean out your gutters at least one a year.
    I had two for years and the front gutter stone gets full of leaves, twigs ect from a big tree.
    If I don’t use them I would have to take the downspout apart clean out and refix.
    Your problem is that the pine needles are very fine and can build up very quickly blocking the siphons.
    Like you say no water was left in the gutters just pine needles, so still could drain water slowly even when blocked and you did not have to take apart and clean out the downspout.
    Solution would be to have your pine tree slightly lower than the gutters.

    • Quite possible, but if they don’t work with conifer needles, the product should say so. My trees (yes, plural) are much higher than the house and cutting them do to that size would kill them. So far, I’m simply getting into the habit of cleaning the gutters several times a year.

  3. John Wilson

    Okay… now here *is* a real coincidence, but it appears that this may only be a contractor installed product. In today’s Toronto Star newspaper, there is an ad for Englert Leaf Guard, by Gutter Depot:
    They appear to be central to the GTA, but folks can do a google search for their area, or contact the U.S. manufacturer themselves:
    Again, it looks to be contractor installed system, so will cost a buck or two, but may be helpfull to someone…

  4. John Wilson

    Here in zone 5, Brampton Ontario, I find that I need to clear my eavestroughs at least 2, sometimes 3 times a year. I have three large trees in close proximity to my house (norway maple, silver maple, and catalpa) that generate a lot of leaves, keys, flowers, pods, etc. The problem isn’t that they can’t handle the amount of water, but that the downspouts are too small a diameter to eliminate the debris in the gutters without clogging. All the inventions that strain the water of debris will do just that, up to the point at which they clog. Then the water just backs up until it overflows the eavestrough in a tidal wave. It seems to me that in order to eliminate regular maintenance, the answer is to identify a product that will keep the debris out of the gutters (without clogging), while allowing the water to pass through easily.

    Or, as a Laidback Gardener might suggest…. just hire a local teenager to perform the prescribed maintenance when needed!

    • And there’s the problem. It seems to me whatever barrier you try is eventually going to become clogged. You’re right, a teenager would probably do the job for a few bucks!

      • John Wilson

        I have seen a product on the TV show “This Old House”, where a solid metal gutter cover (sections have no holes) is laid over the complete length of the gutter, but the trailing edge is curved at an angle that allows debris to fall away, and the water follows the curve of the edge into the gutter where it flows directly in. I searched on their website, and the product is made by a company called K-Guard. However, it looks to be U.S. only distribution, possibly contractor installed product: Another product is called Gutterglove; again a U.S. company, but they do sell through Costco, Lowes, and Home Depot down there:

        Anyways, you spend your money and you take your chance no matter what you try 🙂

  5. I was just looking up this very issue on the internet yesterday, so thanks for the info. I’ll keep an eye on the comments to see if anyone has come up with an idea that helps. Speaking of the internet…quite the coincidence,hmmm?

    • I think it is not so much a coincidence as that so many people have gutter problems… and this is exactly the time of year when gutter problems tend to show up.

      • John Wilson

        A Laidback Gardiner always looks for efficiencies when onerous tasks are required. I like to wait for as long as I can in Autumn to clear fall debris, and as long as possible in the spring to clear winter and spring debris. However, sometimes Mother Nature has other plans, and I have had to climb the ladder 3 or 4 times. Currently, the gutters on the east side of my house are clogged at the downspout but I have to wait, as a robin is fledging two chicks in a nest she has built in the crook. I have now developed a relationship with this bird, whereby she accepts my presence, and actually follows me around looking for grubs and worms as I cut the grass.

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