Informational Guide

How To Test Sump Pump

by Ian Haynes

A sump pump is vital to protecting homes from water damage during severe storms and heavy rains. They remove excess water from crawlspaces, the basement, and near the foundation and drive it away from the property.   

To ensure uncompromised results, one should test their pump every six months before the fall and spring. Want to know how to test sump pumps?  

Luckily, testing one is relatively straightforward and only requires a few minutes. Read on!  

A sump pump is a small device that removes water from a sump basin.  Other than that, they help avoid groundwater intrusion and are instrumental if your basement floods due to burst pipes or malfunctioning washing machines.  

The unit is placed in the lower section of a building or home and is designed to avoid flooding after heavy rainfalls and storms.  

Sump pits under the building or home collect water. And when this water passes a specific point, sump pumps self-activate and channel it away.  

Remember, the number of times a pump runs depends on how humid the place is.  

While the pump and pit are relatively simple to locate, there’s a range of other components that work to keep humidity away from home too.  

The discharge pipe removes water and drains it outside. The tube must be placed cautiously to ensure water doesn’t circle back. In addition to that, these discharge pipes have check valves to channel water away. And the water is directed through the tubes with the help of a fan-like motor. 

Sump Pump

Why Test Your Sump Pump? 

Sump pumps are one of the most vital plumbing components that ensure water never accumulates in the house or near its foundations.  

And if water levels rise above an adequate range, they drive it away to a containment pond or storm sewer. 

For best results, you must test sump pumps periodically, especially during heavy rains, to avoid potential water damage.   

How To Test If Sump Pump Is Working 

Always begin by checking your manufacturer’s manual for pump-specific tests.  

With that said, here are some convincing ways to test your sump pump without calling in a professional.  

Turn It Off And On 

One of the best ways to test electrical appliances is by turning them off then on again. Cycling the current will reset its motor and potentially the CPU, provided the sump pump has a board computer.  

After switching back the power, wait for the pump to begin pumping. Just make sure to switch off the sump pump properly; otherwise, there remains a risk of a power surge that may damage its circuits.  

Run The Sump Pump 

First, fill the basin with water (use five buckets at most) and allow the sump pump to operate. If the device is working correctly, the water will disappear in six to twelve minutes.  

Note: run the sump pump twice if you live in a place with more than acceptable groundwater levels.   

Check Drainage 

Even some of the most powerful sump pumps won’t dry a cellar if the drainpipe is clogged. The problem is that sump pits and drainage lines accumulate dirt, pebbles, rocks, and other debris that distort operations.   

Start by adding a few buckets of water, then power up the unit. If the drainage system fails to drive water outside, you better call an expert to unclog it.  

Test Alarm 

Check the alarm every quarter by pressing and holding the given test button. If you have a Wifi-alarm, ensure it’s connected and sends prompt alerts to a phone and your email. 

Test Battery Backup 

If your sump pump has a battery backup, it’s crucial to check if it’s operating and the battery charge level.  

To ensure this, disconnect the device from the wall source.  

Now add a few water buckets to the basin. Wait a couple of seconds! If the device kicks off, it means the battery works fine. 

For clarity, watch this video that describes each of these steps in detail. 

How To Test Sump Pump Battery Backup 

Battery backup pumps should be checked in a similar way you test your regular sump pump. Nevertheless, here’s how you can test if the sump pump battery backup is working or not: 

Check The Power 

Please disconnect the power, then connect it back. Typically, the given socket will have two different plugs. One connection is for the float switch, and the other is for the motor.  

Unplug both of them and just connect the one leading to the pump. Now, if the unit fails to activate instantaneously, you have to repair or replace it.  

Pour Water 

You can test the sump pump by pouring water into the sump pit. Fill it with the right amount (probably five water buckets) until the sump pump kicks off.  

However, if it doesn’t self-start, the chances are you might have a faulty switch. 

Note: During the process, watch the battery backup indicator light. Remember, if the illuminated light is green in color, it is fully charged, hence, operational. The best part is that sump pumps with batteries have an alarm that goes off when the battery is low on juice.  

How To Test Sump Pump Without Water (Is It Possible?) 

Testing sump pumps with water is one of the best ways to know they’re performing correctly and won’t disappoint during floods and heavy rains. But what to do if adding water isn’t an option?  

Here’s how you can test sump pumps without water: 

Just raise the float and see if the sump pump switches on. However, this method doesn’t tell if the drainpipe is in optimal condition. 

But keep in mind, make sure that the device operates for a few seconds only; otherwise, the motor can be damaged. 

Different Types Of Sump Pumps Explained 

Here are some of the most common types of sump pumps on the market:  

Submersible Sump Pumps 

A submersible sump pump contains the motor and pump in a single unit. These stand-alone units are placed underwater within the basin. Their placement makes them relatively quieter, plus they don’t require any extra space within the basement. 

However, they might not last long because of the constant water impact. Nevertheless, they’re a viable option for houses with serious flooding concerns.   

Pedestal Sump Pumps 

Pedestal sump pumps contain a separate pump and a motor. The motor is placed on a pedestal above the basin, with the hose running towards the basin. When activated, the hose drives away water to the drainage pipe.   

Since these devices aren’t submerged, they last longer and can easily be accessed for maintenance. Unfortunately, this also means they’re much louder and require adequate space than submersible pumps.  

Battery Backup Sump Pumps 

Backup battery sump pumps are an effective way to give additional security to your house from flooding and water damage. These devices with float switches allow the pump to run even during power outages — a common scenario during severe storms and heavy rains.  

Combination Sump Pumps 

These devices are a combination of both primary pumps and backup battery pumps.  

They’re perfect for bigger areas and fighting against major flooding and heavy rainfalls. Plus. Apart from being pretty convenient, they are also simple to install.  

Wayne Sump Pump Battery Backup

People Also Ask (FAQs)

How long do sump pumps last? 

It varies based on several factors such as manufacturer, features, pump type, etc., but on average, they last about ten years.  

As per experts, pedestal pumps can last up to 25 years, whereas a submersible pump may easily last up to ten years.  

What causes sump pump failure? 

Though there are many causes, here are the most common reasons: 

  • Frequent power failure  
  • Stuck switch  
  • Too much pressure 
  • Clogged or frozen discharge pipe 
  • Lack of care and maintenance  
  • Nearing end-of-life 
  • Improper installation 
  • Missing check valves on discharge lines 
  • No air-relief hole in the drainage pipe 
  • Product defect 
  • Placing your pump in dirt or gravel 
Can a sump pump be repaired? 

Yes, a sump pump can be easily repaired. Luckily, you don’t have to spend much money, time, and effort on upkeep. Here are a few common ways to test and fix things: 

  • Test the float as it’s amongst the most vulnerable things  
  • Clear sump pit 
  • Test check valves 
  • Clear the impeller  
  • Check the power  
How often should I replace my sump pump? 

On average, sump pumps last about six to ten years with proper care and maintenance. Homeowners should repair or replace their unit if it fails to operate even after troubleshooting. Nevertheless, here are a few indications: 

  • Vibrate excessively 
  • Visible rust 
  • Continuous operation 
  • Erratic cycling 
  • Makes odd noises 
  • Occasional pump usage 
  • Has been around for eight years or above  
  • Motor failure  
  • Frequent power failures  
  • Installed by builders  
  • Motor gets stuck  

If you are looking for a replacement unit or a new one, check this video on what to watch out for and what to avoid.  


A sump pump keeps your property safe and secure from any sort of water damage. When storms or heavy rains occur, sump pumps channel away excess water from the basement. 

Regular testing and maintenance ensure they work properly when required. And you can seamlessly perform these checks by following our guide.  

Ian Haynes is an expert writer who has successfully deployed over 500 plumbing pages and other related content. He has an excellent understanding of home plumbing issues and translates his experiences via Plumbing Lab so readers can have a better understanding of common household problems. Outside of his work, Ian likes exploring Brooklyn with his Labrador.