Sump Pump Running Constantly (Causes and Solution)

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When I moved to a new home a few years back, my first purchase was a sump pump. I, like any other homeowner, cannot stand a flooded basement. And with a decent sump pump, I did not have to worry about this even after heavy rainfall. However, there was another issue that bugged me. During the rainy season, I often noticed that my sump pump was running constantly. Although the thought of my system malfunctioning scared me at first, after enough research I knew that I had nothing to worry about.

A sump pump can run constantly for a couple of reasons:

  • If there was a heavy rainfall recently
  • Because of a faulty check valve or float switch
  • If the sump pit size is wrong
  • If the motor power is not sufficient
  • Or even due to other seasonal issues.

And thankfully most of these issues have a very simple fix. In this article, I will share my knowledge of how you can identify why your sump pump is running constantly, and the things you can do to fix it. With a few simple tricks, you can get your pump back in action. However, if the damage is permanent no amount of sleight of hand will bring the pump back to life.

Why Does my Sump Pump Keep Running?

As I have said, if your sump pump runs 30 seconds or every 10 seconds, there could be many different reasons behind it. Diagnosing the issue is the first step towards a valid solution. And in many situations, the issue resolves itself on its own. The last thing you want is to start fixing something that is not broken in the first place. Before you bring out your plumbing gears, take a step back to delve deeper into the mystery and figure out exactly why it is happening with your pump.

1. Sump Pump Running Constantly After Heavy Rain

The most obvious reason behind a sump pump running constantly might just be rainfall. After heavy rainfall, it is natural for the sump pump to kick in and get rid of the water that starts accumulating in the sump pit. After it displaces enough water, the pump automatically shuts down. Imagine this scenario. It just rained, and your pump kicked in to displace water. Before it could finish displacing the water, the rain started pouring again causing your pump to keep working overtime. This is a very common issue and once the rain stops, it should get fixed on its own.

Sump Pump Running Constantly

2. Jammed Check Valve

Another pretty common issue with a sump pump continuously running is a faulty or jammed check valve. The check valve serves the important task of regulating the flow of water and preventing pumped water from backwashing back into the sump pump. Without a check valve, your pump would have to work for longer burning motor power and increasing your electricity cost. Thankfully, a check valve is quite inexpensive, and you can replace it yourself once you know how to do it.

3. Sump Pit Issues

The sump pit is an important part of a sump pump system. That is why the pit size needs to be perfect for a specific pump. If the pit is too large, the pump needs to run for longer. Unless you are well-versed in the installation process, it is a good idea to have a professional plumber check out your basement before installing your pump system. He can advise the proper size of the pump and the sump pit that you need to get the most out of your system. In addition, it would prevent your sump pump from running every minute because of pit size.

4. Faulty Float Switch

Similar to the check valve, the float switch is another important component of a pump system. And if the float switch is faulty or clogged, your pump will not start or stop when it should. The float switch goes inside the pit and when the water level rises to make it “float,” the pump kicks into gear. As time goes by, dirt and grime can cause the float switch to get jammed. If it gets jammed in the on position, the motor will never stop unless you drop the switch manually. So, it is a good idea to check if the float switch is the culprit before you take apart your pump system.

5. Insufficient Motor Power

There are a wide variety of sump pump systems available in the market. But not all of them might have enough power under the hood to suit your basement. If you have excessive moisture or rainfall issues, you might need to invest in a more powerful pump system.

Insufficient motor power, however, does not necessarily mean that the pump cannot displace water from the sump pit. It just means that your motor needs to work harder and will take more time to properly discharge the water. This can be another reason behind why your sump pump running nonstop.

6. Frozen or Clogged Discharge Line

The sump pump discharges water through a drain pipe. If the pipe itself gets clogged or frozen, your pump will not be able to displace water through it. However, since water is still present in the pit, the motor will keep running even though it is not getting rid of any water. This is a serious issue that can severely damage your pump system. If you notice that the motor is running but water is not being displaced, immediately call the plumber. Not only is it harmful to your pump, but it can also overflow your sump pit which in turn will flood your basement.

7. Seasonal or Environmental Reasons

Most homeowners think that a sump pump works only during the rainy season typically after heavy rainfall. This is understandable to a certain level since the job of the pump is to prevent rainwater from flooding your basement. However, there can be other reasons to start the sump pump apart from rainwater. If you live near a river or a lake, water can make its way to your sump pit, especially if your drainpipe is designed that way. Furthermore, melting snow or trapped moisture inside the basement can also raise the water level in the sump pit in certain cases.

8. Faulty Sump Pump

Although most of the situations that I described above are easy to fix, there might be another reason behind the sump pump running continuously. If the pump itself is damaged or malfunctioning, then there is nothing you can do. In that case, we advise that you call a plumber, or if possible, send your pump for a replacement. This however is quite rare. Even a budget-friendly sump pump system these days is durable enough to last a decent period of time. So, before you dismiss your pump system as faulty, make sure you go through the other possibilities. Or better yet, call a technician to get it checked professionally.

How To Stop Sump Pump That Keeps Running Constantly?

When I faced this issue for the first time, I was quite scared. Naturally, my first thought was that something was wrong with my pump system. However, it simply turned out to be an excessive accumulation of water in the pit due to extreme moisture. So, the first piece of advice that I can give you is don’t panic. Try to identify why is your sump pump always running. If it is due to water accumulation, snow, rainfall, or simply motor power issues, then leave it be. After enough water is displaced, your pump should stop automatically. If the issue is related to the check valve or float switch, you might need to consider a replacement. Thankfully, both of these components are pretty inexpensive and if you are handy with tools, you can fix it without too much trouble. However, if none of the above solutions work out for you, you might need to call a professional. He will be able to do a quick and thorough diagnosis of your machine and suggest the best course of action. Sure, it might cost a bit.

Even if it is as simple of an issue as a faulty valve or switch, getting professional help means you do not have to fiddle around with tools yourself. Since you paid for his services, he will figure out the problem and fix it for you while you can monitor and learn the process for future reference.

How Long Can Sump Pump Run Continuously?

Sump pump systems are designed to run until it does its job. So, if the water level inside the sump pit is high enough, your pump will start running automatically. As long as the water level inside the pit is high enough to activate the float switch, it is normal for the pump to run. Approximately sump pump runs 6 to 24 hrs. During the rainy season, a sump pump typically has to work harder. If your region is particularly prone to heavy rainfall, you might even go through days when the pump runs continuously every other hour. As long as the pump shuts down once the water level goes down, you have nothing to worry about.

Sump Pump Running No Rain

If you notice your sump pump running despite no rain whatsoever, there might be other reasons for that too. Melting snow or stream from a nearby water body are two common examples of why your sump pump might run without rainfall. This, too, does not require any troubleshooting. Other than that, if the float switch is faulty, then your sump pump will keep running regardless of whether there is water in the pit or not. This, however, is a mechanical failure, and you need to either replace the float switch or call professional help to fix it.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should a sump pump run?

Well, it mostly depends on how frequently it rains where you live. A sump pump under normal circumstances only kicks in when the water level rises high enough to activate the float switch. If there is no water, then it should not run at all. However, if the float switch is activated it can even run three or more times a day.

Can a sump pump run continuously?

Yes, many situations can cause a sump pump to run continuously even if there are no mechanical failures. Constant rainfall or even the changing of season can cause the sump pump to kick in and continue running. Other than that, system failures can cause continuous sump pump running too.

Is it normal for a sump pump to run every minute?

No, it is not exactly normal for a sump pump to run every minute if your pit size and machine are capable enough. However, certain situations can cause this issue. The most probable cause behind a sump pump running every minute is if it is raining constantly for a couple of hours.

How often should a sump pump run when raining?

During rainfall, a sump pump can run continuously. As soon as the water level in the sump pit raises the float switch, a sump pump will start running. And it will not stop until the float switch goes back to its original position.

How long should a sump pump run after rain?

If it has rained quite heavily, a sump pump would kick in to displace the rising water level in the sump pit. In this situation, a sump pump could keep running for quite a while. There are cases when the sump pump kept running for a good two or three days after heavy rainfall.

Final Thoughts

Most homeowners despite owning a functional pump system rarely take the time to learn how it works. So, when the pump starts acting up, it is natural to feel a bit scared and confused. Remember a sump pump is designed to prevent flooding in your basement. My pump system usually works every 30 seconds during heavy rainfall, and I try not to make a big deal about it. If I had a low-power pump, it would have to run even more frequently. As long as you can identify the issue, you can fix it in most cases. Hopefully, by now, you have enough information to know what to do if your sump pump constantly running.

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