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Picture this: you’re sitting in the kids’ playroom, pretending you’re locked in a cell tower guarded by a dragon while you’re waiting for your kids to valiantly come to your rescue when you hear faint grumbling sounds coming from the basement. You quickly put two-and-two together and know your kids haven’t gotten really good at simulating dragon sounds — it’s your sump pump turning on. But wait — it’s not raining outside. Why is your sump pump running?

Since there are several reasons why sump pumps fail, it may take some investigating to figure out why your pump is working hard when there’s not a drop of rain in the sky. Here are the most common reasons your sump pump could be running when it’s not raining:

The Pump Has a Broken Float Switch

Your sump pump is equipped with a float switch that tells the system when it needs to turn on or off. This mechanism floats up when the basin fills with water, triggering the pump to turn on, and glides down when the water is drained, triggering the pump to turn off. Occasionally, the float switch can get stuck on the sides of the basin or in the “up” (“on”) position, causing the sump pump system to run constantly, even when the basin isn’t being filled with rainwater.

If the float is stuck on the side of the appliance, you can manually knock it free. If the switch will not move, you can try lubricating it with WD-40. Otherwise, you will need a professional to replace the float switch.

There’s Been a Rise in the Water Table

Throughout the year, your area’s water table can rise and fall. If your sump pump is running even though it’s not raining, you may be experiencing a season when the water table has risen. This most commonly occurs when there’s been heavy rainfall over the last few days. So, while it may not be running right at this moment, your sump pump could still be working on getting rid of water from the previous days.

Construction and rivers changing course can also cause an increase in water levels that affect your sump pump. Most of the time, these changes are temporary, but in some cases, the increase in the water table can be permanent, so make sure you keep an eye out for flooding problems.

There’s Snow Melting Outside

Did it recently snow in your area? If a thick layer of snow covers the ground outside your home and temperatures rise above freezing, the snow is likely melting and triggering your sump pump to turn on. Melted snow typically seeps into the ground, but some of the water can enter your basement, causing your sump pump to run. This is a good thing (considering it prevents moisture damage on your home and foundation) — as long as the pump turns off as soon as the snow is fully melted.

There’s a Clogged Drain Line

If your sump pump is constantly running, even though it’s not currently raining, the drain line may be clogged. This discharge pipe is responsible for carrying water inside the sump pump pit away from your home. After several months and years of use, it can become filled with dirt and debris, which makes it impossible for water to flow through. When the water can’t drain, it will build up in the pump’s basin, causing the system to turn on at seemingly unusual times.

A sump pump that runs continuously is prone to failure and may overheat and steam or smoke. For this reason, it’s important to hire a professional to clear the discharge line as soon as you suspect a blockage.

The Pump Has Failed

Unfortunately, sump pumps can’t last forever. If yours is constantly running, making weird noises, or not draining water, it may be on its last legs, and failure could be imminent. Sump pump systems last anywhere from 7 to 10 years, as long as they have been properly sized for the home and regularly maintained. If your pump has failed, it’s time to call a plumber for a replacement.

Problematic Sump Pump? Turn to Northern Services!

We know how frustrating it can be when a part of your plumbing system goes up in smoke. That’s why we offer prompt, affordable plumbing services, including sump pump repair. If your sump pump is running even though it’s not raining outside, you can count on our experienced technicians to arrive at your home with a guaranteed solution so you don’t have to worry about your electricity bills skyrocketing or your basement flooding. For more information about our services, contact us today!