how often should a sump pump run

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If your home has a basement or crawlspace, heavy rains could cause water to seep into the lowest parts of your home and cause problems like mold growth and water damage. Sump pumps can prevent these issues by pumping water out of a catch basin before it can spread throughout the area. You’d expect the device to run during a big rainstorm, but how often should a sump pump run in general?

As Cedar City’s top plumbing company, Iron Mountain Plumbing is well-versed in all things relating to sump pumps including the ideal sump pump frequency for optimal efficiency. Here, we share what you should know about your sump pump and how often it should run. 

How a Sump Pump Works

A sump pump is a device with the sole purpose of pumping infiltrating water out of your home. During installation, a plumber will dig a hole in your basement at its lowest point to create a catch basin. When water seeps into the property, it’ll go inside the catch basin and activate the pump using a float switch. 

The float switch is a device on the sump pump that remains inactive until there’s enough water inside the basin to cause the component to float and flip the switch. Within minutes, the sump pump will clear out the water by pumping it through a drain line where the excess water will go into a drain, dry well, or detention pond. Once the water inside the catch basin is low enough to deactivate the float switch, the sump pump should turn off. 

You have two choices for sump pump types:

  • Submersible Sump Pump: A submersible sump pump goes inside the catch basin and has a high float switch. Since the float switch sits up high, there will always be some water in the catch basin; the pump will only activate if there’s enough water to flip the float switch.
  • Pedestal Sump Pump: Unlike a submersible pump, a pedestal sump pump can’t go underwater. Instead, it has a low-lying float switch connecting to the pump motor that sits outside the basin. If your basement has a flooding problem, this isn’t the ideal option.

How Often a Sump Pump Should Run

How often should a sump pump run? In short, sump pump cycles should only happen when necessary. Whenever the float switch activates, the pump should work until the water level decreases enough to deactivate the switch. The typical sump pump running time is about two to three minutes. 

Depending on where you live and how prone your property is to water seepage, your sump pump usage may be higher or lower than others. However, your device shouldn’t run all day, every day, unless you’re experiencing a severe weather problem. If you hear the sump pump running frequently without a known cause, it could indicate a problem with the device. 

Problems That Could Make a Sump Pump Run More Often Than Necessary

Problems with sump pump operations could stem from the device itself or your location. Below are the most common reasons a sump pump will run more frequently than you expect.

Bad Check Valve

When the sump pump plumbs water out of the catch basin and into a drain, the water flows through a drain line. Sometimes the pump’s float switch will deactivate before all the water inside the drain line clears. The check valve prevents the excess water from flowing back through the line and into the catch basin where it could restart the pump. 

If the check valve malfunctions, your sump pump will run more often. It doesn’t mean your home has excessive water seepage; it means the pump system isn’t clearing water effectively. 


Sometimes dirt, leaves, and other debris can get inside the catch basin or drain line, causing a clog. The pump can’t do its job correctly if there’s an obstruction. It will continue to run for as long as the float switch is in the on position, leading to energy inefficiency. 

The same problem can occur if the line freezes. If ice is inside the drain line, the pump won’t be able to force the same amount of water through it as it normally would. 

Broken Float Switch

A common mechanical problem that plagues sump pumps is a faulty float switch. The switch could malfunction and cause the float to remain up even after the water level inside the catch basin declines. When that happens, the switch will stay in the “on” position. A plumber with sump pump experience will need to repair or replace the device to ensure the pump only runs when necessary. 

Broken Underground Water Main

If you’re asking how often should a sump pump run after determining that your device isn’t defective, the problem could be excessive water seepage. Torrential rainfall and snowmelt could cause water seepage, but so can an underground water main break. 

If your device is operational and the weather isn’t bad, underground water infiltration is most likely the culprit behind your constantly running sump pump. You can check by turning off the water main to see if the basin continues to fill and trigger the pump. 

Raised Water Table

You can expect your sump pump to run more frequently if your property sits below the local water table. Rain and snowmelt can cause the water table to rise, which can cause more water to get inside your basement. You might need a more powerful sump pump in this case. 

Keep Your Sump Pump in Great Condition with Iron Mountain Plumbing

After learning the answer to “How often should a sump pump run?” you’ll need to give your device the best care to keep it doing its job. At Iron Mountain Plumbing, our team of licensed local plumbers provides comprehensive services to residents throughout Cedar City, Utah, including sump pump repair, sump pump maintenance, and sump pump replacement. 

We provide accurate estimates with flat rate pricing upfront—call (435) 500-2576 to schedule your appointment with Iron Mountain Plumbing. 

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