25 March An old sump pump in the process of getting replaced

How to Test a Sump Pump

Posted by PlumbWize

After a long winter, you’re likely excited about the spring and summer weather—but is your sump pump sharing that excitement, too?

You won’t know if yours is ready for the serious storms of these warmer seasons unless you check it yourself. If you don’t, you run the risk of serious basement flooding when the calendar flips and the weather turns nasty.

In this guide, we’ll discuss how to test a sump pump and what steps you can take if yours isn’t quite storm-ready. Let’s get into it!

How Do You Know if Your Sump Pump Is Working?

Sump pumps are a home’s defence system against a flooded basement and water damage. While these plumbing systems work the most when the snow melts and gives way to warmer temperatures and rainfall, they can also break if they are left untouched for a while. This is why it’s important to test your sump pump regularly.

In saying that, testing a sump pump can be done in two ways:

1. Lift Your Sump Pump’s Float

The easiest way to conduct a sump pump test is to check the float. The float is the black or white plastic ball typically attached to the pump through a cord or metal rod.

The float, as the name implies, floats in the sump pit and rises along with the water until it reaches a predetermined level. At this level, the float triggers the sump pump switch that turns on the pump so it will start discharging the water into the storm sewer.

You can therefore use the float to test if your sump pump is working. Simply take the float and lift it as high as possible. If your sump pump’s motor starts automatically, it means the system is functioning as it should. If not, you have a problem.

2. Pour Water in the Sump Pit

If you’re wondering how to test a sump pump without a float, the answer is straightforward: just pour some water into the sump pit.

Once you fill the sump pump pit with water, stand by and observe if the pump motor starts automatically. If it doesn’t, and you know that you have a power source connected to the pump, there may be minor issues with the device.

A sump pump in the ground surrounded by water

Image source: Canva

3 Sump Pump Troubleshooting Tips

If your sump pump test has led you to believe there is an issue with your system, you can try the following to straighten it out.

1. Reboot the Sump Pump Motor

A sump pump periodically needs rebooting after months of not being used. Try unplugging the pump cord from its power source and waiting a few minutes before plugging it back in. Then, try either of the two testing methods to see if it works or not.

2. Inspect the Sump Pump’s Power Source

Your sump pump should be plugged into a power source called a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlet. This type of power outlet has special circuit breakers installed that protect the sump pump from an electrical short while submerged.

Try unplugging the GFCI outlet and plugging it back in to see if the power turns on automatically. You can also test whether the outlet works by pressing its reset button. If these methods don’t work, inspect the circuit breaker box.

Having said that, consider purchasing a battery-based backup pump to ensure your current sump pump will work in case of a power outage and while you’re waiting for emergency repairs.

A top-down view of a sump pump discharge hose coming out of a hole in the ground

Image source: Canva

3. Check for Pipe Blockages

If your sump pump is on but not dispelling water away from your basement, something may be blocking its discharge line. This is an issue often caused by sediment buildup in your sump pit or another issue with the discharge pipe.

Cleaning and maintaining your sump pumps regularly can help prevent these issues, but wear and tear is inevitable with age. A standard sump pump’s lifespan is five to seven years. If yours is older than that, it might be time to get a new sump pump installed.

We Know Sump Pumps at PlumbWize

Knowing how to test a sump pump is important to prevent numerous issues in the future, including basement flooding and major water damage to your home. However, the best solution if yours isn’t working is to call a professional.

That’s us at Plumbwize. We’re a trusted residential and commercial plumbing service provider with over 60 years of experience. If your sump pump test results aren’t pretty, you can count on us to get it fixed or help you install a new one.

Give us a call today to avoid a sump pump failure!


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