How To Know The Cause Of Sump Pump Constantly Running

By Kenvin F / September 2, 2016
How To Know The Cause Of Sump Pump Constantly Running

A sump pump is usually installed in the basement or crawlspace of a house. It is used to remove water from the area, keep it dry, and prevent flooding. A sump pit is a hole or hollow where water collects. Other terms used to refer to a sump pit are crock and sump basin.

In general, a sump pump runs in intervals or only when needed. But sometimes, a problem or malfunction can lead to a sump pump constantly running. If this happens, it can damage the sump pump and the electricity cost will be higher. What causes a sump pump to run continuously and how do you resolve the problem of a sump pump constantly running? This article will answer these questions.


Types of Sump Pumps

Typically, a sump pump is electrically-powered, but it can also be battery-powered (or both). There are two types of sump pumps:

Pedestal Sump Pump

This type of pump is placed above the sump basin. Because of this, it is easier to fix or repair when the need arises. A pedestal-type sump pump is very durable, usually lasting for 25 – 30 years.

Submersible Sump Pump

A submersible pump is installed inside the sump basin. It can be completely submerged under water. The pump has special seals to eliminate the possibility of a short circuit. They can last anywhere from 5 – 15 years. They are more resistant to clogging, but cost more when compared to pedestal-type sump pumps.

What Causes a Sump Pump to Run Continuously

1. The sump pump check valve is inoperative or missing

A sump pump is typically installed beneath the basement floor. The pump collects water in the basement and pumps it upward into the discharge pipe (channels water out of the house). The pipe rises up five to eight feet before pitching down outside the house.

A check valve makes sure that water passing a certain point will not flow again in the sump pit. If the check valve is inoperative or missing, water in the pipe that is not pumped out will reenter the sump pit. If that happens, the pump may attempt to send it back, making it a repetitive cycle. The system will become inefficient and it will damage the sump pump.

The solution to this problem is to have a qualified serviceman replace, install, or repair the check valve. This is an easy fix compared to the hassle of having a flooded basement.

2. The sump pump float switch is stuck

A sump pump system has a float switch. It is usually filled with air. The float switch floats upward as the water rises in the sump pit. When it reaches a certain level, the float switch will turn on the sump pump. Conversely, when the water level drops, the switch will turn off the sump pump.

The usual cause of a sump pump constantly running is a float switch that is stuck in the ‘on’ setting. This can happen when the float switch becomes jammed, clogged, or tangled in the sump system (such as a pipe or wire). The vibration of the sump pump can also cause the float switch to be pressed against one side of the liner, causing the switch to be stuck in the ‘on’ position.

A float guard can be installed to prevent the float switch from being stuck or jammed, thus avoiding a scenario where the pump runs continuously.

3. The sump pump or liner is not the right size

It is possible that your sump pump is too small to work efficiently. This is true if you have a very large sump system. In this scenario, the pump may be forced to operate more frequently than usual. It can lead to premature wear and tear. To make your sump system more efficient, you can consider upgrading to a bigger and more powerful sump pump.

In some cases, the size of the pump is not the problem. A liner that is too small can cause the pump to remove water from the house much quicker than the liner can accommodate. It can cause the pump to run continuously, making it prone to breakdowns. This occurrence is called a short cycling sump pump.

4. Plumbing leaks

Broken pipes or sewer lines underneath the house can cause water to seep into the basement. It will provide additional work load for the sump pump. A damaged sprinkler system allows water to run nonstop, and it might end up in the basement. These are some reasons why a sump pump runs constantly.

Leaking pipes waste precious water and will lead to higher water bills. Call an experienced plumber or serviceman right away to fix this problem.

5. The house is built at the wrong spot

In some rare cases, the location of the house may be just above a “water table line”. During the wet season or if there is heavy rainfall, the water table (level below the ground that is saturated with water) may be higher than the basement floor.

If there is an endless supply of water in the basement, another possibility is the presence of an underground spring in the vicinity of the house. One possible solution to both these cases is to raise the sump system. It would be better to consult a sump system expert to address this problem.

How to Maintain a Sump System

The sump pump and sump basin should be inspected every year. A sump pump can run more frequently due to weather conditions, water drainage, or higher water table. If this is the case, it would be better to hire a qualified serviceman to conduct inspections.

To extend the life of the pump and increase efficiency, a sump pump should be cleaned and be free of any debris such as dirt, sand, or gravel. Obstructions should be removed from the check valve and discharge pipe. It would be best to install a float guard to ensure that the float switch will not be stuck in the ‘on’ position.


To summarize, a sump pump is used to remove water from the basement. The two types of sump pumps are the pedestal and submersible sump pumps. Sometimes, a problem or malfunction can result in a sump pump constantly running. It can lead to premature breakdowns and higher electricity costs.

The causes of a sump pump that runs constantly are: check valve is inoperative or missing, float switch is stuck, sump pump or liner is not the right size, plumbing leaks, and the house is built at the wrong spot.

The sump system should be inspected and maintained every year to ensure efficiency and extend the life of the sump pump. To be sure, consult a qualified professional.

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About the author

Kenvin F

Greetings and welcome to our Home Improvement site! There are few things as rewarding and fun as working on your own home. The fact that you're here tells me you want to learn and get involved with your home too. I'm here to help you every step of the way. You can do this! Join me, won't you?

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