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Why Pumps Fail

Updated: Apr 2, 2019

A sump pump that has failed is only good news for your plumber. Learn more about why sumps fail, and what you can do to prevent it.

10 years?  5 years? 3 months? Sooner or later the float switch on your sump pump is going to fail.  There is no way to predict when it will happen, and there isn't any way to tell when it is starting to fail.  The only thing you will know for certain is that it has failed, and that is because you will have water all over your basement, and a big plumber’s bill to look forward to, ranging anywhere from $200 to $500! Plus the expensive repairs from water damage!

What is a float switch? The float switch is what turns your sump pump on and off in response to the water level in the sump pit.  It’s like a beach ball that “floats” on top of the water.  When the water rises, the float rises with it.  When it gets high enough, a switch inside the float closes and turns on the pump, draining the pit.  When the water drops low enough, the switch inside the float opens and turns the pump off.  And the cycle is repeated hundreds, thousands, and even hundreds of thousands of times during the life of the switch.

Why will it fail? The float switch can fail for any number of reasons.  Many times the float simply gets stuck between the pump and the wall of the sump pit.  That’s because the pump vibrates slightly whenever it runs, and can "walk” across the bottom of the pit, eventually trapping the float between it and the side of the pit.  Other times, after so many up and down cycles, it just gives out and stops responding to the rise and fall of the water in the pit.  Often it stops working while the pump is running.  When this happens, the pump is left switched on so that it runs continuously until it burns itself out.  You can’t do regular maintenance on a float switch, you can only replace it once it fails.

What can you do? Install one of our Electronic Pump Switches. They're inexpensive and easy to install, and you won't need a plumber to do it.  Any of our Electronic Pump Switches will do what a float switch does, only much, much better.  The float switch hasn't changed much in the 75 to 80 years it’s been used to control sump pumps.  It is a mechanical device that has to eventually wear out.  Our Electronic Pump Switches, on the other hand, use reliable microprocessor technology to control your pump.  No moving parts in the pit ensure reliability while maximizing the life of your pump!

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Two additional features you might consider adding to your system might be:

  1. The ability to detect a power failure (or a tripped circuit breaker) and sound an alarm via a rechargeable or replaceable battery.

  2. The ability to adjust the volume of the alarm. Your current alarm isn't easy to hear from a 2nd floor bedroom when it's tripping in the basement.

Other than that this is a fantastic product!


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Mechanical float switches are truly "for the birds"- (horsesh!t) - as my chemistry teacher used to say, lol.

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