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How Does a Sump Pump Float Switches Work and How to Maintenance Them for Long-Term Reliability

An essential aspect of maintaining a home, particularly in areas with frequent rainfall or where basements lie beneath the water table level, is relying on the sump pump and sump pump float switch. Its primary function entails effectively draining collected accumulation from designated pits to prevent any flooding and ensure an integral foundation for one’s household while also preventing mold growth. Consequently, this safeguarding measure successfully precludes property damage caused by excess inundation resulting from rainfall downpours.

The sump pump float switch is essential for the smooth functioning of a sump pump. Its purpose is to detect water levels in the pit and trigger automatic activation once it reaches a certain point. The activation prompts the expulsion of water out of the pit, which makes this seemingly simple component vital for independent operation during times when homeowners are not present at home.

Understanding Sump Pump

Purpose of a Sump Pump

A sump pump is essential in basements or crawlspaces to prevent flooding and manage water levels efficiently. It’s typically installed at the lowest point to remove accumulated water and acts as the primary defense against mold, mildew, and other water damage – particularly in flood-prone areas where it becomes an indispensable tool.

Different types of Sump Pumps: Submersible vs. Pedestal

There are two main categories: submersible sump pump and pedestal sump pump. The former functions while fully submerged in water, typically having a waterproof casing shielding its motor within the pit. This design is favorable for domestic use due to producing less noise and remaining out-of-sight underground.

Meanwhile, the latter has an elevated motor situated above the pump’s chamber that makes it easily maintainable when dry but possibly noisier with heightened visibility than their underwater counterparts; however, they possess extended lifespans as their engines are not susceptible to direct contact with moisture like submersibles’.

Both types of sump pumps can come with a float switch, which is important in their functioning. Its purpose is to activate the pump when water reaches a certain level, preventing overflow from the pit. Whenever there’s an increase in water levels inside the hole, so does it happen with the floating mechanism—the activated buoy signals that it has attained its predetermined height and triggers pumping action straightaway, therefore decreasing liquid bodies within visible range.

The operation works like how we see buoys on open waters—they bob up and down depending upon sea conditions or tides – similarly, as they signal boats using lights at night-time; this logic applies here too where upward movement of floats initiates automatic working for sumps hence guaranteeing homeowners’ peace even during heavy rain spells or flood-prone areas without manual intervention every time.

Dive into Float Switches

What is a Float Switch?

The primary function of a float switch is to determine the liquid level in a tank or container. When the liquid reaches a particular height, it triggers an action that can either activate or deactivate equipment based on its configuration. This straightforward and efficient mechanism plays an essential role in different scenarios such as activating water pumps for sump pits or indicating levels within storage tanks.

Akin to a toilet tank’s mechanism, the operation of a sump pump float switch involves its rising water level just like the float ball in toilets. Correspondingly, once it reaches an established point, it halts running water and activates the sump pump in the pit. The pump then lowers the volume of water ensuring that no overflow occurs by switching off when safe levels are attained as dictated by descending floats – much like turning lights on or off using switches.

Types of Sump Pump Float Switches

There are three main types of float switches, each with its unique mechanism and suitability for different situations.

Tethered Float Switch: The pump is connected to these switches, which rest on the water’s surface. When the water level increases, a tether attached to the float lifts and triggers the pump into action. If/When it reaches its maximum height, gravity pulls down on an untethered float mechanically turning off the power relay. Tethered switch floats are suitable for sump pits with extensive areas since they demand enough leeway to move around without any obstructions hampering their motion freely.

Vertical Sump Pump Float Switch: Vertical float switches are specifically intended for usage in narrower sump pits. They function by moving up and down on a vertical rod to match the water level changes. Once the water reaches a specific height, it prompts the float to rise, activating the pump simultaneously. Later as water levels decrease, they shut off the pump autonomously too. Owing to their compact design structure that suits smaller spaces efficiently; vertical float switches become an ideal choice in such circumstances.

Electronic Sump Pump Float Switch: Electronic float switches differ from tethered float switch and vertical ones as they do not depend on movable components. Instead, electronic sensors detect water levels and trigger the pump through circuits with a piggyback plug. These high-precision switches can be customized for specific activation and deactivation points. While dependable and accurate, their higher cost could make them a costly alternative to conventional mechanical options.

Importance of Float Switches in Sump Pump Operation

The float switch plays a pivotal role in safeguarding your basement from the menace of flooding and consequential property damage. Envision returning home to a dry, secure basement, even after a torrential downpour.

This level of peace of mind is what a reliable float switch offers. Embedded in the heart of a sump pump system, the float switch automates the process of water detection and removal, efficiently preventing water from reaching a level that threatens your home’s integrity.

The technology behind the float switch is elegantly simple yet profoundly effective; it detects rising water levels and activates the sump pump when necessary, and then deactivates it once the water is safely expelled. This automation ensures your basement remains dry without constant monitoring, embodying an efficient guardian against water damage.

Maintenance Tips for Sump Pump Float Switch

Regular Inspection and Cleaning

Regular inspection and cleaning of the sump pump float switch are crucial for maintaining the efficiency and longevity of your sump pump system. The sump pump float switch, being the component that dictates when the pump should start and stop, can become hindered by debris, potentially leading to malfunctions or inefficient operation. A blocked or damaged float switch might not trigger the pump at the appropriate time, risking water damage to your property. Follow these steps to ensure your float switch remains in optimal working condition:

  1. Safety First: Before starting, ensure safety by unplugging the sump pump or turning off the circuit breaker that powers it.
  2. Access the Float Switch: Depending on your sump pump model, you may need to remove the lid or disassemble part of the unit to access the float switch. Consult the manufacturer’s manual for guidance.
  3. Inspect Visually: Look for visible signs of wear, damage, or obstruction. Check if the float switch moves freely up and down. Any hindrance in its motion could indicate the presence of debris or damage.
  4. Clean the Float Switch: Using a soft brush or cloth, gently clean the float switch. For any hard-to-remove debris, a mild detergent diluted in water can be used. Avoid harsh chemicals that could damage the switch.
  5. Check for Damage: While cleaning, inspect for any cracks or damage on the float switch. If any damage is detected, consider replacing the float switch to prevent future pump malfunctions.
  6. Test the Float Switch: After cleaning, manually lift the float switch to check if it triggers the pump. This will confirm if the float switch is operating as expected.
  7. Reassemble and Power On: Once everything looks clean and in good working order, reassemble any parts you removed and restore power to the pump. It’s a good idea to pour a bucket of water into the sump pit to test the system’s operation because in our career, we have seen many pump failures due to dry running. It is better to avoid costly repairs.

Troubleshooting Common Sump Pump Float Switch Problems

Switches, crucial components in devices, can stick due to debris accumulation or mechanical failure.

Debris Accumulation: Dirt, dust, or grime can hinder the switch’s function over time.


1. Power off for safety.

2. Use compressed air to remove debris.

3. Apply an electronic contact cleaner to dissolve the remaining grime.

4. Let dry before powering on.

Mechanical Failure: Internal parts like springs or contacts wearing out can cause sticking.


1. Power off and unplug.

2. Carefully access the switch by disassembling it if possible.

3. Check for damage or wear.

4. Replace broken parts or apply electronic lubricant if needed.

5. Reassemble and test the switch.

False Activations: How to Diagnose and Fix

Cause 1: Incorrect Installation

         Solution: Ensure proper installation according to the manufacturer’s specifications. This may involve relocating the device away from environmental triggers like heat sources, windows, or high-traffic areas. Refer to the installation manual or seek professional advice.

Cause 2: Mechanical Faults or Wear and Tear

         Solution: Conduct regular maintenance checks on the device to detect wear, tear, or damage leading to false activations. Replace damaged parts with genuine manufacturer components. For intricate systems, consider professional maintenance services.

Cause 3: Environmental Interference

         Solution: Identify external factors causing false activations, such as wildlife, weather, or electronic devices. Adjust sensitivity settings, relocate the device, or use physical barriers to reduce interference.


In conclusion, maintaining your sump pump and understanding its components, particularly the float switch, are essential steps in safeguarding your home against water damage.

By adhering to regular maintenance practices outlined in this guide, such as inspection, cleaning, and testing, you not only ensure the longevity and reliability of your system but also mitigate the risk of potential disasters.

Remember, proactive maintenance is the key to preventing water damage and protecting your investment in your home.

By taking the time to care for your sump pump system, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that your home is safeguarded against flooding and its devastating consequences. So, let’s commit to proactive maintenance habits and empower ourselves to keep our homes safe and dry for years to come.

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Email: info@drainexpress.ca

+1 416 752 5959

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Etobicoke, ON, M8V 2E8

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