Can you run a sump pump continuously?


Sump pumps are one of those underrated equipment you have at home that you are aware of but probably don’t put much of your focus on unless they go bad or some problem arises. They are responsible for one of the most crucial tasks of keeping your home strong and safe–by pumping unwanted water out of it–whether it is floods or sewage.

Hence, it goes without saying that it’s pretty essential for you to know if not the nitty-gritty then at least the basics of how your sump pump should run. Should it run on an as-needed basis or continuously? Or should you probably run it every couple of minutes or so? We will answer this in the upcoming sections.

First things first, how does a sump pump work?

The credit to the sump pump’s invention goes to an American whose name was French way back in the 1800s. But of course we didn’t have electric pumps back then and it was all manual action–you had to work it by hand to pump the water out.

The functioning has definitely advanced now but the underlying principle hasn’t changed: when the rainwater goes into your basement it gets collected in a hole in the ground called a sump. This is where a sump pump plays its role. It’s placed right in this hole and when the water hits a certain level, the float on the pump activates its switch and the pump begins to pump the water away from your home through a line.

This line has a one-way check valve that keeps the water from coming back to the sump. If you take care of your sump pump well, it will continue to serve you for years together. Now, let’s try to understand how frequently you should run your sump pump.

How often should I run my sump pump?

The short answer is: whenever it is needed. In most situations you wouldn’t need to turn your sump pump on frequently, let alone run it continuously. For the long answer, read along.

A sump pump could run a few times a day or continuously–it’s all circumstantial. Let’s take a look at what the contributing factors can be.

Factors that decide the frequency at which your sump pump runs

  1. The slopes within your house are designed in such a way that all the water collects in your basement.
  2. There’s a high probability that your house has negative grading all around it which lets the rainwater inside instead of away from the house. You can fix this by building the grade up to redirect the flow of water away from your house. It’s a good idea to take a landscaper’s or a contractor’s help for this so that it’s done professionally.
  3. You could also have the main water inlet quite close to your home that’s broken. You can check this by turning the main water inlet off and see if the water level reduces. You can also check this by testing whether the water collected in the sump has any chlorine in it.
  4. There might be a possibility of your house sitting on top of an underground spring of some kind of water flow that happens on certain occasions or specific seasons of the year.
  5. Your house might be situated near a water source such as a pond, a lake, or a river. If its basement is below the water level, it would definitely get flooded quite frequently.

In all the cases mentioned above, your sump pump will have to either run continuously or every 5 minutes or so.

However, if your scenario doesn’t apply to any of the ones listed, then it’s probably time to take a look at your sump pump.

Your sump pump might also be the reason for it to run continuously

If you can’t put your finger on any potential external factor causing your sump pump to run overtime, it’s high time you look inside the sump pump and see if there’s any concern that needs to be addressed. Do this soon otherwise your pump will overwork itself to dysfunction and you might have to get it repaired or even replaced completely.

DTB Pumps tip: In situations like this, it’s better to call a pump expert or a professional plumber to take a look and give an assessment.

Here are some issues that are commonly found when there’s some issue with your sump pump:

1.   Check valve is broken

If a check valve malfunctions and allows the pumped out water to rush back in, then of course your pump will keep overworking itself to pump that water out again and the cycle will possibly never end.

2.   Pump is not getting enough power

Most homes would need a pump with ⅓HP. If your pump has a lower HP than that, then it might be the right time to upgrade it.

3.   Switch is clogged

The switch might get blocked by the debris in the water and might not work properly.

DTB Pumps Tip: There are also lots of other potential reasons for your pump working continuously, such as the sump pit being oversized or undersized, the float switch not getting activated, or the pump overheating. It’s best to seek professional help in such scenarios.


We hope that this information proved to be useful to you and answered your question on whether a sump pump should run continuously. Questions? Contact DTB Pumps.

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