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Troubleshooting Common Sump Pump Problems

Troubleshooting Common Sump Pump Problems

A Guide for Homeowners: Troubleshooting Common Sump Pump Problems

Sump pumps are an essential component of many homes, especially in areas prone to heavy rainfall or flooding. These devices play a crucial role in preventing water damage by efficiently draining excess water from basements and crawl spaces. However, like any mechanical system, sump pumps can encounter problems over time that hinder their performance. In this article, we will delve into some of the most common sump pump problems homeowners might face and provide guidance on troubleshooting and resolving these issues.

Sump Pump Won’t Start or Run

One of the most frustrating issues homeowners may encounter is a sump pump that refuses to start or run. Several factors could be responsible for this problem. First, ensure that the pump is properly plugged in and that the circuit breaker hasn’t tripped. A blown fuse or a faulty float switch can also prevent the pump from operating. It’s wise to check for any obstructions that might be jamming the float switch, impeding its movement. Additionally, a clogged or frozen discharge pipe can hinder water flow, causing the pump to struggle or not start at all.

Pump Runs Continuously

Conversely, if your sump pump seems to be running non-stop, this can also indicate an issue. A likely culprit is a switch problem. There are two types of float switches: tethered and vertical. A tethered float switch can become entangled with the pump or other debris, preventing it from functioning properly. Vertical switches can become stuck on the basin wall or other objects. Regular maintenance, including ensuring the float switch moves freely, can help prevent this problem.

Inadequate Pumping

If your sump pump is running but not effectively removing water, there could be a variety of reasons behind the inadequate pumping. The pump might be undersized for the job, struggling to keep up with the volume of water entering the pit. Alternatively, the check valve – responsible for preventing water from flowing back into the pit – may be faulty or improperly installed. Regular inspection of the check valve and proper sizing of the pump can help address these issues.

Strange Noises

Unusual noises coming from your sump pump can signal impending problems. A grinding or rattling noise might indicate a damaged impeller or motor. These components could be obstructed by debris or worn out due to excessive use. It’s important to address such noises promptly to prevent further damage and potential pump failure.

Frequent On-Off Cycling

Excessive on-off cycling, known as short cycling, can significantly reduce the lifespan of your sump pump. This issue might stem from a variety of causes, including a malfunctioning float switch, a check valve that’s stuck open, or a high water table that’s causing the pump to turn on and off rapidly. Addressing the underlying cause and adjusting the pump’s settings can help prevent this problem and extend the pump’s longevity.

Lack of Maintenance

Regular maintenance is key to preventing many sump pump problems. Neglecting your pump can lead to clogs, rust, and overall reduced performance. Make sure to clean the pump and basin regularly, inspect the float switch for debris, and test the pump’s operation periodically. It’s also a good practice to test the pump by pouring water into the pit and observing its functionality.

Power Outages

Sump pumps are rendered useless during power outages, which often occur during heavy storms or flooding. Installing a backup power source, such as a battery-operated backup pump or a generator, can ensure that your sump pump continues to function even when the electricity is cut off.


Sump pumps are unsung heroes that safeguard our homes from water damage, but they are not immune to problems. By familiarizing yourself with these common sump pump issues and their potential causes, you can take proactive steps to prevent or address problems when they arise. Regular maintenance, proper sizing, and installing backup power sources are all integral aspects of sump pump ownership that can contribute to a dry and secure home. Remember, when in doubt, it’s always a good idea to consult a professional plumber or technician to diagnose and resolve complex sump pump problems. Your diligence and attention to your sump pump system will go a long way in ensuring its reliability and effectiveness for years to come.

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