How To Test A Sump Pump | A DIY Guide

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

The primary job of a sump pump is to protect your home by evacuating flood water to a distant location. Constant water damage can weaken the foundation of your home. That is why, if you are living in a wet area, it is important to have a sump pump installed at the lowest part of the basement. To ensure that your pump is at its best, it needs to be checked and maintained on a regular basis. To test your sump pump, you can apply the following methods-

  • Unplug the cords attached to the power outlet and solely plug in the pump cord
  • Pour fresh water into the sump pit and check if the pump is discarding the water
  • Lift the float switch to activate the pump

So, there are three ways of checking the health of your pump. In this article, we are going to discuss in detail how to test the sump pump.

How To Test A Sump Pump

How to Test Your Sump Pump

· Method 1 (Check the Cord and Motor)

Check if the cords of your sump pump are undamaged. There are two cords that run from the outlet – one connects to the pump and the other to the float switch. Remove both the cords and only connect the pump cord to the socket. If you hear the motor of the sump pump running, then it indicates that the cords are undamaged and the pump is working perfectly. Re-plug both the cords back into the outlet.

· Method 2 (Fill Up Sump Pit and Check the Float)

Step 1

You can start by looking for the outlet pipe or the exit pipe. It is usually located outside the residence. The pipe carries the sump water away from the house and discards it at a distant location. Check the pipe for any superficial damages. Then, see if there is any form of debris, clogs, or ice. During winter, the water in the pipe freezes, and this blocks the flow of water, even when the snow begins to thaw. Unclog the pipe, if needed, and make sure that you clean the pipe thoroughly. After you have cleaned the pipe, see to it that the flow of water is directed away from your home.

Step 2

Next, locate your sump pump. It is usually in an unfinished area somewhere near the interior of the foundation. Before you take a peek inside your sump pump, check if the electrical cord is still lodged into the power outlet. Switch off or unplug the cord from the socket. If your sump pit has a lid, remove it and then inspect the insides with the help of a flashlight. If you find any debris in the basin, discard it.

Step 3

After manually removing the debris, slowly pour about five gallons of freshwater into the pit. If your sump basin is bigger, then keep adding more water until the pump switches on and starts removing water. Make sure you are aware of the capacity of the water your sump pit can hold. Don’t let the water overflow from the pit. On average, the pump starts draining water when it reaches a depth of eight to twelve inches below the ground level.

Step 4

Normally, every submersible sump pump has a float switch attached to it. The float switch tracks the rise and fall of the water level. The float triggers the signal to activate the pump. If you have one, check whether it is functioning properly.

  • First, look for any debris. If there is a build-up in the pit, it can cause the switch to malfunction. Also, see to it that the float isn’t caught onto the lid of the basin or entangled with any loose wiring. For it can also disrupt the proper functioning of the float switch.
  • If you are changing the height of the float, make sure that the pump is getting enough power. Also, it has to be connected to the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter.
  • After this, test the float and check if it is able to relay the signals to the sump pump. If the freshwater in the pit activates the pump and it starts removing water, then your pump is working.

· Method 3 (Start the Pump Manually)

In any case, if you are not able to pour fresh water into the sump pit, then you can manually lift the float and see if the sump pump starts running. If it activates, then it could indicate two possibilities-

  1. Both your sump pump and float switch are functional. Or,
  2. Your float switch is working properly, but your pump is malfunctioning

Therefore, this method does not entirely confirm whether your sump pump is fully functional or not. The same condition applies if the pump doesn’t run; either your sump pump is faulty, or the pump is working, but the float switch is defective. In that case, depending on the model, you can either repair the float switch or replace it with a new one.

If you are applying this method, then you must bear in mind not to allow the pump to run for more than a minute. Or else, it can cause the motor to burn out.

How to Test a Sump Pump Without Electricity

It is a known fact that a sump pump needs power from an electrical source to discard water from the pit. But if you ever find yourself in a situation where there is no electricity and you need to test your sump pump, then you can opt for an alternate power source. For example, you can use a generator to run the pump.

All you will need is:

  • Generator
  • Fuel
  • Extension cord

To test the pump,

  • First, add fuel to the generator and then connect it to the extension cord.
  • Next, connect the other end of the extension cord to the pump and check if it is running.
  • If your sump pit is empty, pour fresh water into the pit until it reaches the float switch and the pump activates.
  • To ensure that the pump is working properly, check if the water level in the pit is receding

How to Check If a Sump Pump Is Working?

Here are some of the ways of knowing whether your sump pump is working-

  • If you hear the sound of the motor in the pump running
  • Check the exit pipe and notice if the discharged water is coming out of it. Or, if water accumulating at the end of the pipe.
  • If you are able to take a look into the sump pit, notice if the water level in the pit is going down.

What to do if the sump pump does not work properly after I run a test?

If you have been using your sump pump for over 5 to 7 years, then it is likely to slow down and work irregularly. In that case, here are few things you can do to get your pump working.

  • Check if there is water in the sump basin.
  • Look for clogs in the pump and in the pit. Check if the mechanical parts are dirty or if the float switch is jammed.
  • Sometimes certain parts of the motor can crack or break due to excessive use. Assess the interior of the sump pump. If you find any irregularities, you can repair the motor, or you may have to replace the entire system.


Now that you know how to check the sump pump. You can apply these methods and monitor the health of your pump. If for some reason, your pump doesn’t appear to respond to these techniques, you can always call in a professional to take a look. We hope this article is helpful to you. Thank you.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top