Fix an Electrical Circuit for a Sump Pump or Septic Pump

By Dave Rongey - Summary:

My pump is not working and I am trying to troubleshoot the problem: How to Identify Typical Septic Pump Problems.

Sump Pump and Septic Pump Problems

Electrical Question: My pump is not working and I am trying to troubleshoot the problem.

  • Due to a ground fault interrupt, I’ve lost a circuit.
  • The electrical panel load center is a GE Power Mark Gold #tm3215ccu.
  • Circuit breaker #31 is marked “Panel GFI and outside and sump pump plugs.”

My question:

  • Is there an internal GFI reset?
  • I’ve reset the breaker with no effect. Or, should I assume that this breaker is shot.
  • Unfortunately, I cannot afford an electrician at the moment as we have just bought this house and are up to the neck financially in doing all the stuff needed in a new home.

Thanks for any help you can provide.

This electrical wiring question came from: Tom, from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical wiring question Tom.

How to Install and Repair a Sump Pump or Septic Pump

Application: Sump Pump or Septic Pump.
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced – Best installed by a Licensed Electrician.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools, electric drill,  auger bits and extension cord.
Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience, ability to work with tools and install electrical circuit wiring.
Notice: Installing additional outlet wiring should be done with a permit and be inspected.

Example of a Typical Sump Pump or Septic Pump Circuit

A dedicated 120 volt 20 amp GFCI protected circuit. See installation manual for specific details and circuit requirements. Septic pumps typically do not require GFCI protection.

  • The GE Power Mark Gold TM3215CCU is a 150 Amp 32-Space 32-Circuit Main Breaker Load Center and sells for around $140.00  at outlets such as Lowe’s or Home Depot. The General Electric GFCI and AFCI circuit breakers are compatible with this top or bottom feed load center.
  • Most sump pumps and septic pumps require that the pump and motor are submerged in fluid or liquid and should not be run dry otherwise damage may occur to the unit.
  • Some sump pumps and septic pumps may have a built in thermal cut out switch which will automatically shut off the motor if it should over heat, however this will only provide temporary or limited protection.
  • All the start and stop components of a septic or sump pump system should be inspected and tested to make sure that they function and are reliable per the design of the specific application.
  • When a GFCI trips off this generally indicates that voltage has been detected to ground due to a fault and tests will need to be performed to determine the cause.
  • A tripping GFCI circuit typically does not mean that the GFCI device or protection is bad and in need of replacing, but rather that the GFCI device is doing it’s job of detecting a fault that will need to be discovered and repaired.
  • In situations such as this it is best to locate a licensed electrical contractor or qualified pump technician in your area who can diagnose and fix the electrical circuit for a sump pump or septic pump.

How to Identify Typical Septic Pump Problems

testing a pump

Septic System Circuit Power

  • First check the circuit power for the septic system and make sure it is on and providing circuit power.

Septic Pump Float Switches

  • Float switches make the pump turn on either directly or through the septic tank control box.
  • If one or more float switches become faulty replacement will be required. Condition of the float switch can be tested by identifying the pair of wires leading to each float and tested with a continuity tester.
  • Note that some floats are NO or normally open or OFF, and some float are NC or ON. The position of the float will affect the continuity test reading that you receive.
  • If the tank is full then the START or RUN float should produce a continuity reading.

Septic Pump Motor

  • The septic pump motor may have burnt out and require replacement. A continuity test may be performed on the pump motor to test the motor windings and test power to ground for a short.
  • If the motor is suspected to be OK then the septic pump controller should have a Manual On switch which should bypass the floats and make the pump start.
  • The pump amperage should be tested to see if the motor is running withing specifications for the horsepower rating of the motor which should be indicated in the owners manual for the septic system or identified inside the septic control box.


  • Continuity tests for system components must be performed while the circuit power is OFF.
  • Consult the documentation and wiring diagrams of the sump pump or septic pump and the related control system for application specific information.
  • Electrical tests and determinations about the septic system are best performed by a licensed electrician or certified septic pump service technician.

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  • This article looks at common 120 volt and 240 volt house wiring circuits and the circuit breakers that are installed identifying the types and amperage sizes used in most homes.
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  • A guide to home electrical circuit breakers and how they work to protect your electrical wiring. When properly installed, your home electrical wiring is protected by a circuit protection device.
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Be Careful and Be Safe - Never Work on Energized Circuits!
Consult your Local Building Department about Permits and Inspections for all projects.


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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

4 Responses to “Fix an Electrical Circuit for a Sump Pump or Septic Pump”
  1. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi JC,
    I would inspect the sump pump electrical wiring, especially where the cord enters the cord connector of the pump. Make sure there are no areas of the cord where the insulation is cracked, nicked or pinched. Also make sure the pump is in good shape. If the pump is older then it may have developed normal wear and tear which can lead to water seeping into the electrical component areas.
    You may consider exchanging the GFCI outlet with a known good one to see if the GFCI is faulty. Also make sure the outlet box enclosure is dry and free of any moisture.
    I hope this helps,

  2. jc says:

    Hi Dave
    I’m having an issue with my septic pump tripping out my GFI but when I plug it into another outlet its fine. Also I have 2 GFIs on the same circuit, 1 outside and 1 in the basement. 1 is for the pump, and 1 is for an alarm. Any thoughts?

  3. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi JR,
    In the USA the typical home electrical service panel has two separate main lines of power, so the 120 volt circuits are connected to one or the other main lines. If one of the main line has a problem then it could affect many circuits. This may be what the home is experiencing. The main circuit breaker may be partially tripped which will interrupt power to one side of the main power. The main circuit breaker should be turned OFF and then back ON to see if this solves the problem.

  4. JR says:

    There was a snow storm. Then a light in two separate rooms and the bathroom exhaust fan stopped working. There are all different rooms. The sump pump breaker was tripped. How is this connected? Why are the problems in some of the room but not all the room?


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