sump pump picture

Recently moved in to a place and am attempting to test the sump pump. Most information I can find online mentions that there will be a float switch somewhere to activate the pump but I am not seeing it any where on my unit.

Does this style of sump pump have the float switch inside of the case somewhere?

Is there some way I can manually switch this style of sump pump on? I have looked around on it and do not see any levers or other types of things that I can identify as a switch or float device.

Aside from manually switching the pump on I know I can add water to the pit to test it. I've started doing that but the pump hasn't turned on yet. I have filled in probably an inch or two to the pit. How do I know when I should expect the pump to turn on? I don't want to overfill it if it's actually broken and just not turning on for that reason.


2 Answers 2


Hard to be sure from that picture, but yes, it's probably an enclosed/caged float switch of some sort, and it should definitely take more than an inch or two to turn it on. Why? only pumping an inch or two is bad for the lifetime of the pump, which does most of its "wearing out" in the first few seconds it's switched on, so you want enough water that it's worth pumping for a while. If you get above the top of the pump itself (black parts) and it fails to turn on, something might be wrong with it, though before that point you might want to start with checking the outlet for power.

If the pump IS broken, the water will, barring a water influx event, tend to go back down where it started within minutes to hours. Since the pump is not turning on and the pit is not overflowing, you don't appear to have such an event going on right now.


There are sump pumps and there are sump pumps:

Type 1: Pump is on when it is plugged in. This isn't really a sump pump in the 'place and forget' but rather is the type of pump you use to pump out the pool at the end of the summer.

Type 2: Is a type 1 pump that plugs in to a float controlled switch. Usually the float looks like a oblong ball on the end of a cord. When the ball is above the cord, internally something shifts and turns on the pump. The something keeps the float ball wire end down until the wire forces it. up. They are usually set up to have about 1 foot to 1.5 feet between high and low.

Type 2a is one where the ball is part of the wiring to the pump.

Type 3 uses a column. Motor is on the upper end, pump at the bottom. Float rides a wire and there are two mechanical switches that are flipped as the float rides up and down the wire. These have a rep for the least reliable.

As someone who has had a flooded basement, I am now paranoid:

I have a master pump that I replaced just 2 years ago when the old one started to make a funny noise.

I kept the old pump as a spare. It hadn't quit yet.

I have a third pump of the type 1 class preconnected to a 60 foot hose that I can put into the basement within 5 minutes.

The sump has another pump in it 12 inches above the first. IT is powered by a 12v marine battery on a smart charger. Normally it never even gets wet.

The battery gets replaced every 5 years.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.