Sump pumps remove water from homes during times of excessive snowmelt or rainfall, helping ensure that your home’s bottom levels don’t flood. To ensure that your sump pump will work properly when it’s needed, you should check it periodically. Here’s how to test your sump pump.
- Check for blockage
- Test the power
- Test the pumping action
- Test the pump shut-off
Check the Exterior Drainage Pipe for Blockages
Before checking the sump pump itself, you should first make sure that the pump’s exterior drainage pipe is free of any blockages. Find the pipe that drains pumped water away from your house, and examine it for any obstructions. Remove any dirt or debris (or ice buildup in the winter) that you see. Take care when removing debris not to strain or damage the pipe. If you find un-removable blockage or breakage in this drainage pipe, it is time to replace the drainage pipe. If you don’t want to tackle that task yourself, call on home maintenance and home repair specialists.
Make Sure the Sump Pump’s Motor Runs
The next step is to make sure the sump pump’s motor runs. To do this, locate your sump pump. Most pumps are in basements, crawl spaces or maintenance rooms.
There are two common types of power cords. One is a simple single power cord for the sump pump. The other is a piggyback system of two power cords, one plugging into the side or back of the other.
Single power cord
Your single power cord powers the pump, which means that the switch to make it run is triggered by the water level in the pit. You can’t effectively test that the power is working other than being sure that the circuit that powers the pump is working. If that electrical check is OK, then you move on to the pumping water test.
Piggyback power cord
In this arrangement, one cord is the switch that lets power come to the sump pump.
There will be two cords running from the pump to a nearby outlet, with one cord plugged into the back of the outlet. Unplug these two cords, and plug the one that was in the back of the other directly into the outlet. This cord is for the pump’s motor, which should immediately turn on. If the motor doesn’t turn on, the sump pump must be repaired or replaced.
Assuming the motor turns on, unplug the pump’s cord, and then plug both cords back in as you found them.
Watch the Sump Pump Drain Water
Next, watch the pump drain water out of its basin. This ensures that not only does the motor run, but the pump actually pumps out water.
To do this, you’ll need a 5-gallon bucket filled with some water. You only need enough water to raise the float switch until the pump turns on. Slowly pour water in until the pump turns on, and then watch to make sure the water’s pumped out. If the motor turns on but the water level does not go down, then the sump pump needs to be repaired or replaced.
Watch the Sump Pump Shut Off
Stay until the pump turns off, so you know it’s shutoff feature is working properly. A pump that won’t shut off will eventually overheat. Most likely a thermal overheat switch will shut it off at that point.
If at any point in the process the pump doesn’t function correctly, it will need to be repaired or replaced. If it turns on, pumps out water and turns off, your sump pump should be ready for any excess water that comes.
Testing your sump pump does not take very long. Doing it regularly can alert you to a problem before rising water threatens your home.
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