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What Should I Do if My Sump Pump Keeps Cycling?


Why Does My Sump Pump Keep Turning On and Off?

Your basement may be a super-functional space, or it may be simply a giant storage closet. However, in any instance, it’s a room which needs to be protected from the threat of intrusion by subterranean water. This is the job of your sump pump system. Water collects in your sump basin, and then the pump forces it up a drain line and out to where it can be disposed of safely. A working sump pump is extremely important to protecting your home from serious damage that this underground water can cause, and that’s why it’s extremely important to spot the signs of sump pump trouble early.

One of these signs is “rapid cycling” or “short cycling,” where a pump turns on and off quickly, often for no more than a few minutes at a time before switching again. Your pump could also get stuck in its cycle and refuse to turn off again. In both cases, this leads to a ton of extra wear and tear on your pump itself, which means it’ll wear out faster, need replacement sooner, and even burn more energy in the process, which means more money out of your pocket all the way around. Not to mention if the pump were to give out, your basement would no longer be protected, and could potentially face the threat of floods. That’s not a good thing, especially in the Chicago area which has a higher water table than many other areas in the country. Chicago often leads the nation in sump pump repairs and replacements every year as a result of this fact.

To help you better understand what could happen with your plumbing system, here is a brief explanation of what causes these issues and how to fix them.

Want to know more about what you can do on your own to help maintain your sump pump?
Check out our sump pump tips in our DIY Center!

What Causes a Sump Pump to Short Cycle?

In most cases, short cycling is a symptom of a fault in your pump’s float switch—a device which floats on the surface of the water in your sump basin and then turns your pump on when the water reaches a particular level. The float switch can become entangled in the pump’s electrical cord, or even potentially get caught against the side of the wall in the sump basin. In both cases, the float switch can’t move freely, and this can result in the pump getting stuck in this short cycle, or not being able to shut off again after the cycle has completed.

How to Fix a Sump Pump That Keeps Running

In many cases, replacing your float switch will actually solve the short-cycling problem. Usually, you can buy a replacement switch directly from the manufacturer of your sump pump system, so their website is a good place to look. However, in some cases, these switches can be expensive, and some are far more complicated to install and configure than others. A licensed plumber can handle these for you, but it may wind up being more economical to simply replace your pump outright.

Likewise, replacing your switch may not solve your problems when it comes to your sump pump—you could have a different problem which is forcing the malfunction. The next thing to focus on is your check valve on your discharge pipe. If this check valve is defective or is missing altogether, your pump could continue to run indefinitely without shutting off or turn off and then immediately turn back on again.

You could have another problem in your drain pipe itself as well. If there’s a clog or break in your underground discharge pipe, the pump will turn on, but the water it’s draining out won’t have anywhere to go, and that means it’ll just continue to run endlessly until the motor in the pump burns out. A burned-out motor mandates a complete replacement of your sump pump system, and that’s something nobody wants to have to deal with.

If you have a problem in your sump pump system, call Precision Today at (630) 523-8453 or feel free to contact us online.


  • Sump Pumps
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