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How To Test a Sump Pump

Sump pumps are used to remove water that accumulates in a sump pit. Sump pits are typically placed in basements or crawl spaces beneath a home. The purpose of sump pits is to collect water in one place for easy drainage to a place away from the home or building. Water may build up as a result of a high water table, drainage from a collection system or direct run-off.

Caution: Please read our safety information before attempting any testing, maintenance or repairs.

Sump pumps are simple mechanical devices. A typical sump pump is placed into a small, lined well. It is a submersible device and therefore should be plugged into a GFCI controlled power source. As water enters the sump pit, the rising water level lifts the sump float. When the float reaches a certain height, it turns on the sump pump. The sump pumps water out through a drainage pipe connected to it to direct water away from the home. As the water level in the sump pit drops, so does the float, which turns off the pump.

Because sump pumps are mechanical, they are subject to mechanical failure and should thus be inspected periodically. For units that experience infrequent operation, an annual inspection should be adequate. Higher frequency use warrants more frequent inspection.

To test a sump pump, ideally, you should add water to the sump pit until the sump float is lifted high enough to engage the pump. However, that may not always be practical. In this case you can lift the float by hand to engage the pump. Do not operate the pump for more than a few seconds without water in the sump pit.

If the sump pump does not power on when the float is lifted, make certain the pump has power. If it does have power, then the problem may be a failed float switch or a jammed / clogged pump. The float switch may be replaceable, depending upon the unit.

Because the water carried into the sump pit may contain dirt and debris, the sump pump can become clogged. It is recommended to scoop debris from the sump pit and to run clear water through the pump to remove any build-up. Run enough clear water to flush out debris build-up from the drainage pipe as well.

Keeping the sump pump in working order is vital to protecting your home or other building from moisture damage, including mold. It also protects the foundation from shifting as a result of excessive soil moisture. Testing should take only a few minutes and is very easy to do.

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