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If the float is triggering it to start the pump, but there is insufficient water to where the pump sucks air via a vortex, it will not pump out. That then means your float is not adjusted properly; it should not trigger on until there is enough water to avoid it sucking in air. Sometimes when there is heavy inflow and a pump that that was too small, people ...


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If the pit is dry, and the pump runs, you need to check the float switch for correct operation. You're right about how the sump pump should work. There might have been just enough water to trip the pump but not enough to fill the discharge pipe, although the float usually isn't that sensitive


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