Sump pumps that run continuously will wear out quickly and cost more in electricity. Generally, sump pumps will run in intervals- turning on from time to time only as needed. If your sump pump has begun to run continually and has done so for more than a day, it's a good idea to give your local crawl space or basement waterproofer a call.
Sump pumps run continuously for three primary reasons:
Sump pumps turn on and off based on the operation of a special "float switch". When water rises in the sump pump pit, the switch floats upwards, naturally turning the sump on when it reaches a certain level.
These float switches sometimes get stuck on the "on" setting. This happens most commonly when the sump switch becomes clogged, jammed, or (in cheap sump models) the switch becomes tangled in the system. In some cases, the vibrations of the sump pump as it runs can cause it to begin to lean on the edge of the sump pit or liner, disabling the sump pump switch.
If your sump pump switch is clogged or in need of replacement, a basement sump pump service call is needed. With one brief appointment, a technician should be able to bring the sump back to effective performance.
If your sump pump is running nonstop, it may be that the pump is too small for the application it's being applied to. Thus, the sump is forced to run continuously, which can lead to its breaking down sooner than a larger, more powerful sump. It may be worth your while to upgrade your sump pump to reduce noise and increase efficiency. The best sump pumps are cast-iron Zoeller models.
Sometimes, the sump pump is large enough, but the liner is too small. When this happens, the pump discharges water out of the home faster than the liner can fill. The end result is the sump pump turning on and off constantly and its life being shortened significantly. This is known as a short-cycling sump pump.
Your pump is installed underneath the basement floor. Because of this, the discharge pipe for your sump pump must rise up several feet before being pitched downhill outside of your home. Every 10' of inch 1.5" pipe holds a gallon of water.
As it rises up out of the home, it should pass through a sump pump check valve, which is designed to make sure that any water that passes that point does not return into the sump pit.
If a sump pump check valve is not installed on the discharge line, water that is not pumped past the point where it begins to run downhill again will simply flow back down and reenter your sump pit- generally one third to two thirds of the total water pumped. This means that the sump pump will try to pump it out again and it will end up back in the pit once more. Until the water is gone, this process will repeat nonstop. In the long run, this spells a worn-out sump pump and very inefficient system.
The easy solution is to have a serviceman repair, replace, or install a sump pump check valve in your system. It's an easy and inexpensive fix, but neglecting it can mean a worn-out sump pump that can no longer keep the basement dry.
In some rare cases, the water flooding underneath a home is simply continuous. However, if the water table is just below the basement floor, the problem may simply be that the sump is set too low. While setting a sump low in the ground is generally a good thing, there are situations where raising it up a little will make all the difference, without compromising how dry the basement stays.
Neglecting to upgrade the sump pump may lead to larger problems in the future. If your sump pump is running constantly under normal conditions, it may flood when rains get heavier. And over time, a sump pump that runs nonstop can eventually wear out, potentially leading to a flooded basement floor.
A problem like this is also best checked by an experienced service technician.
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