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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!