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How to Test If Your Sump Pump Is Working

How to Test If Your Sump Pump Is Working

Sump pumps can be a huge help when you’re living in a rainy area or if your home is in a location that may be prone to flooding. This device should ensure that your basement or crawl space doesn’t flood. If your home does have a sump pump, it is vital that you test it occasionally to determine that it is still working and pumping as it should. We recommend testing your sump pump at least twice a year.

If you haven’t tested your pump in a few months and a major rainstorm is predicted, we recommend testing it immediately before the storm hits. This way, you can ensure that your pump is ready to go and also give yourself time to get the pump repaired or a new unit installed in case it isn’t working. Testing a sump pump is quite easy and only takes a few minutes. Here is a guide on how to test your pump and what to do if you notice any issues.

Steps for Testing a Sump Pump

The only thorough method of testing a sump pump is to fill up the pump basin with enough water that the float switch triggers and the pump starts running. The easiest way to accomplish this is to use a garden hose to fill up the basin. This will require two people as one of you will need to hold the hose while monitoring the water level and the pump, and the other person will need to be outside to turn the water on and off.

If you don’t have anyone to help or your pump is in an area where you can’t easily reach it with a hose, you can also simply fill up a couple of five-gallon buckets with water and dump them in the basin. It will usually take around six gallons of water to trigger the pump to run, but this can vary depending on the diameter of the sump basin and the type of float switch the unit uses.

Once there is enough water to get the pump running, you’ll want to listen to make sure the unit sounds normal. You’ll also want to make sure that it is pumping efficiently. It should only take a few seconds for it to remove all of the water you poured into the basin.

After testing to make sure the pump runs, you will want to test it a second time to make sure that water is flowing out of the discharge pipe. This will also typically require two people. You can also do it on your own, but you will typically need to fill the basin at least half full so that the pump is still running when you go outside to check the discharge pipe.

If your discharge pipe empties directly into a storm drain, you may not be able to check it. On some older homes, the discharge pipe may instead empty into the building’s main sewer line. If this is the case, you will want to have a plumber reroute the discharge as soon as possible as it is against building code to have a sump pump drain into the sewer system. This means that you likely wouldn’t be able to sell your home until you have this issue fixed.

Testing a Sump Pump Without Water

If for some reason you can’t fill the basin with water, you may still be able to test if the pump runs. You can do this simply by lifting up the float. Lifting the float should automatically trigger the unit to run so at least you know it is working. However, this isn’t an ideal way to test the pump since you’ll still want to make sure the unit is pumping efficiently and that water is flowing out of the discharge pipe. If you do use this method, make sure that you don’t let the pump run for more than a few seconds because the motor can quickly burn out if the unit runs dry.

Testing the unit without water isn’t always possible as some new units don’t have a float that triggers the pump. Instead, they use either an electronic switch or a diaphragm switch. An electronic switch works by using electrical currents to sense the presence of water in the sump basin, whereas a diaphragm switch is activated by the pressure that the water in the basin exerts on it. As such, the only way to test a unit that uses either of these types of switches is to fill up the basin.

What to Do If Your Sump Pump Won’t Run or Has Issues

If your sump pump won’t turn on at all, it usually indicates that either the float switch is bad or that the motor is burnt out. Replacing a broken float switch is usually a fairly simple thing for a plumber to do, but you still may want to have a new unit installed if your current pump is more than five years old. If the motor is burnt out, your only option is to have a new pump installed.

If the unit turns on but doesn’t pump at all or it pumps the water out too slowly, you’ll need to remove the unit from the basin and check to make sure the inlet screen isn’t clogged. If you have a submersible sump pump, the inlet screen is located on the bottom of the unit. For pedestal pumps, the screen is at the end of the inlet pipe.

After removing the pump from the basin, use a bristled brush to thoroughly clean any dirt and debris off the screen. We would typically recommend removing the pump and cleaning the screen every time you test the unit as the screen can easily get clogged by dirt whenever the pump runs. If your sump pump runs quite frequently, you may want to test it and clean the inlet screen every three to four months.

After cleaning the screen, you’ll then want to put the pump back in the basin and test it again to see if it now pumps as it should. If the unit turns on and hums but still won’t pump, it could be that the impeller is jammed or broken. If the impeller is simply jammed, a plumber should be able to partially dismantle the unit and easily fix the problem.

If the impeller is broken, you are usually best to have a new pump installed. The impeller can sometimes be replaced or repaired, but it usually isn’t worth the cost unless your pump is fairly new. If your pump is older, it may also not be possible to find the necessary replacement parts.

If your sump pump isn’t working or you need a new pump installed, you can count on Crystal Blue Plumbing, Heating & Air for help. We specialize in all types of plumbing repairs and installations, and we also offer a full range of heating and cooling services for customers throughout the Sacramento area. Give us a call today if you need your sump pump inspected or any other plumbing or HVAC service.