How Often Should a Sump Pump Run?

How Often Should a Sump Pump Run?

A sum pump will run wherever water is present in the sump.  During dry periods, the sump pump may not need to run at all.  During rainfall the sump may run continuously or come on every few minutes.  It’s not unusual for a sump pump to run several times a day.  

But what is a sump pump?  Why might you need one? What happens if it is not raining?  Read on to find out the answers to these questions.

What is a Sump Pump

This is a type of pump you have in your home to remove any water that has accumulated in the water-collecting basin of the sump pump.  You will usually find these in the basement of a home.  The water may enter through the perimeter drains of the basement waterproofing system.  Generally, this is because of natural groundwater or rain if the home’s basement is below the water table level.

Why do you Need a Sump Pump

People generally use a sump pump because basement flooding happens regularly.  They are also used to help solve dampness when the foundation is below the water table.  

How Does a Sump Pump Work

The sump pump will send the water away from the house to any place where the water will no longer be problematic like a dry well or municipal storm drain.  In the older sump pumps, they may have discharged the water to the sanitary sewer.

Typically, a sump pump is hardwired into the electrical system of the home but some could have a backup battery.  When water starts to invade your basement, it will run into and collect in a big hole in the ground.  This is called a sump.  

A sump pump is put into the hole so when the water reaches a certain level, there is a float on the pump that will activate a switch, turning on the sump pump.  It will pump the water through a line so the water goes outside and away from your home.

Types of Sump Pumps

Pedestal sump pump: The motor of this type is mounted above the sump pump.  This is so you can service it easier.  The drawback is that this one is more conspicuous.  This type will last 25-30 years if you have them installed correctly and are kept free of debris.  They are easier to remove and less expensive.

Submersible sump pump: This one is mounted entirely inside the sump pump.  It is specially sealed to prevent electrical short circuits.  It will last 5-15 years and are more expensive.  The one plus with this type is that it can take up debris without clogging.

How Often Should a Sump Pump Run?

A sump pump should only run when it is needed.  Generally, this is when the water table level activated the float switch.  It is not unusual for your sump pump to turn on one or two times a day but it depends on your location.  Sometimes your sump pump will run all the time but this is very unusual and can signal an issue with the sump pump.

If your sump pump runs for 30 seconds for more than two or three days, this can indicate problems with your sump pump but it also depends on the local water table conditions and outside weather.  In heavy rains, the water table will rise so your sump pump may run constantly.

Why a Sump Pump Might run Continually

Most sump pumps will run when there is an increase in the water table level or it is raining.  There are a variety of reasons why it may run and there is no rain or other reason for it to run.  Some of these reasons this might happen, which can include:

Increase in groundwater: This is the most common reason.  Groundwater can come from a variety of sources like a broken pipe, nearby lakes or rivers, or construction nearby.  

It is almost impossible to detect this water above ground.  It is possible that it is pooling at the lowest point in your home and causes the sum pump to run continually.

Melting snow:  When it has snowed in your area and the temperatures got above freezing, the snow will start to melt.  When this happens, it will seep into the ground.  Some will be absorbed by the soil and plants but you may still hear your sump pump running, especially if there was a blizzard.

Water table increased: There are a variety of reasons that a water table changes.  Some are natural like a river changing course or increased rainfall while others are man-made like new construction. 

Generally, the water table will go back to a normal level but if the water has nowhere else to go, the rise could be permanent.  Check your home for other flooding issues if you notice a high water table level.

Broken check valve: The check valve is a one-way valve that helps to prevent water from being pumped out of the sump from flowing back down the pipe.  Over years of working, it can become worn out and starts to stick in the open position.

This will allow water to run back into the sump pump. As a result, the sump pump will keep trying to move it out.  At this time, the sump pump will probably be working almost continually.  Although it is not hard to replace, it is an expensive part.  To make sure that is the problem, you have to remove it from the line and inspect it.

Not enough power:  Depending on the water conditions in your area and the size of the house, your sump pump might be too small.  The most common one for a home is intended to pump 25 gallons of water per minute and rated at one-third horsepower.  If they are not big enough, they will wear out and need to be replaced sooner.

It could also not have enough power because it is old and worn out or there is some other mechanical issue.  If you are using an extension cord, it could be that it is too small.  

Clogged and/or frozen discharge line:  If the water discharge line is blocked by something along the path or at the end, it can cause the water to flow back into the basement.  This is a common reason for your sump pump to continually run but not drain.  If you know where it is clogged or frozen you can clear it yourself.  To do this you will probably have to disconnect the line from the sump pump and clear the clog or unfreeze it.

Clogged up switch or pump: If the sump pump has no lid and is just a big hole, it is very easy to become clogged or frozen.  The pit will just continue to collect stuff like dirt and debris. The intake holes may be clogged and preventing from entering.

The float switch can also easily become stuck in the on position, causing the sump pump to turn off and on quickly, staying in the off position and letting the basement flood, or run constantly.  To keep any of this from happening, make sure that you keep a tight cover over the sump pump to keep out debris and dirt.

Sump pump not draining: If it is not raining or there is no reason for it to be continually running you need to check to see if it is draining from the pit.  Add some water to the pit to raise the float switch to an on position.  

If the pump begins to run but the water is not going down, there is an issue with the drain system or sump pump.  There are many electrical and mechanical reasons for this to happen.


Sump pumps are not only found in homes but are also utilized in commercial and industrial applications to help control problems that are water-table related to surface soil.  On average, a sump pump runs every 15-20 seconds when it is raining, there is a high water table level, and other reasons.  If you feel that it is not running correctly, look at some of the above reasons and troubleshoot.

If you cannot figure it out, then you need to call in a professional so your sump pump does not overheat and wear out too quickly.  Just remember, a sump pump is there to help protect your basement from flooding, which could cause water damage and expensive repairs.

The simple answer to the question of how often should it run is that when it is needed to take water from your basement onto the outside to prevent flooding.

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