Is it safe to quickly test a dry sump pump?

I’m a new inspector so you’ll have to bare with me in asking these newbie questions :slight_smile:

I inspected a house the other night and the basement had a pit with a sump pump in it and it was bone dry. Not even a drop of water. I didn’t test the sump and put it in my report that I didn’t test the sump pump because the pit was completely dry and I didn’t want to damage the motor.

Is this the best way to handle this type of situation or is it safe to quickly turn it on and off? I really wasn’t sure what damage it may cause.

Please let me know what you normally do with dry sump pumps.


What would turning it on and off tell you if there’s no water in the sump? That it turns on? Even if it turns on, does that mean that it pumps water?

I would do the same thing you did.

It won’t harm it to run it for a short period of time. Even if there is no water in the sump at least you know the unit runs. If its not making strange noises chances are the bearings and impeller are fine. I have come across sump pits with water in them only to find out the pump runs but does not pump. So its 50-50 chance that it will pump if the motor runs.

Even if there is no water I would test it.

I take a bucket with me. pour some water in it.

I agree with Ray. I test them anyway. I will also tell the client that sump pumps can fail at any given time and that it is advisable to have a back up sump pump ready to go at any time.

We are required to test them per the SOP.

2.6. Plumbing
I. The inspector shall:

H. Inspect the drainage sump pumps testing sumps with accessible floats.

They should be tested with water. It’s not just whether a sump pump functions, other factors must also be taken into consideration.

In particular:

  1. where is the water discharging? The yard? :stuck_out_tongue: The sewer drain?:roll: Across the sidewalk?:roll: On a neighbor’s property?:roll: or to the road?:stuck_out_tongue:

  2. is it discharging? Is the pipe blocked? or broken?

As long as I can get to it,I test it.

Test it. If not possible disclaim it in the report.

I have a 5 gallon bucket in the truck for these situations. If there’s water service, pour a bucket in and briefly test it.

I’ve never dragged a 5 gal bucket of water into a 'crawl’space, but I have dragged a hose or four!:mrgreen:

Fill it, run it, fill it, run it, look for the discharge… or (as stated) disclaim it.

I recommend that they be serviced at the time of transfer and annually after that. I test them wet or dry to see if they run, but don’t check the discharge. That way, if they don’t respond at all you can tell them that.
Read a post a while back about someone reaching into the water to test one and getting zapped.

Yah you should never test a sump pump with your hand as well as go into a crawl with standing water. Just asking for trouble. Unless of course you check a main elec panel standing in a puddle of water.

Never thought of that ,as I always pull the float to test.
Great ,that just ruined my test.

Damn if I am going to go around dumping water.

Does standing in 2’ of snow count as standing in water?

Kenton, maybe if the snow is melting. lol

DANG! I love this thread!


  1. If there is no battery backup on a basement sump pump, I recommend one.
  2. I too, don’t haul or carry or hose water into a sump to test a sump pump. I once did so, and water sprayed all over the place in a vacant home. ( I now carry a Box-O-Rags in the truck.) I disclaim an empty sump, but do remark if or not the pump responded to the controls.

BTW: Submersible pumps have an oil bath seal that allows them to run dry. Line shaft sump pumps have no seal to fail if run dry. In short, they are designed to run dry for quite some time