How to Fix a Smoking Sump Pump

Last Updated on by Anthony Brown

First of all, if your sump pump is smoking (or on fire) then you need professional help or even the fire department. If possible flip the breaker that controls your pump or if the smoke is just coming from the actual pump, unplug it immediately.

Smoke means you are at risk for starting a fire – or one has already started. While this may seem scary it is important to never throw water on anything that uses electricity to put out a fire. You should always keep a smoke detector nearby in case of pump problems.

Can a Sump Pump Catch Fire?

Yes – sump pump (and basins) can catch fire! The most common cause is older, overworked pumps. Another common cause of basement fires is low quality electrical work to power the pump, alarm and battery. Also remember to make sure you are using the right size extension cord.

Pump fires are on the rise as older homes (and water pumps) age and maintenance gets ignored. Always preform yearly upkeep, clear your pit of debris and monitor its workload.

Common Causes of Smoke

Next – lets explore some ways you can prevent sump pump from steaming and smoking. If you notice a burning smell or the pump is hot to the touch you might have a big problem on your hands.

1. Smoke Detector and Fire Extinguishers

Although you may have good fire preventative habits upstairs, it is easy to forget about a basement you don’t use often.

Keeping a fire extinguisher that is rated for electrical fires and keeping a smoke detector that is in sync with upstairs detectors is the best way to protect your family from a fire caused by a sump pump.

2. Lack of Lubrication

If your sump pump runs out of oil, then parts can grind together enough to cause smoke. If this has progressed too far, then your entire sump pump may need to be replaced.

This is one of the reasons why making sure your pump is holding oil and repairing leaks immediately is so important to the life of your pump.

3. Stuck Float

If your sump pump float is stuck, then your pump may not know to cut itself off. A stuck float happens most often with tethered floats that become attached to the side walls of your sump pit.

If your sump pump runs for too long with no break, then it will become hot and start steaming and smoking.

4. Electrical Issues

A cracked sump pump assembly can lead to water getting into areas of the sump pump that are meant to remain dry at all times. This can lead to corrosion and electrical shorts in the pump.

Wiring in your home can also be a factor. This is most common in older homes that have outdated wiring, but even modern homes can experience electric current issues.

5. Frozen or Clogged Discharge Pipes

A frozen discharge pipe can cause a pump to run constantly. The water around the pump may also feel warm. This, of course, happens most often during particularly cold weather.

During colder and wetter periods, it is good to check your discharge pipe regularly for ice and if necessary install accessories to prevent ice buildup. Sometimes just keeping your basement a bit warmer is not enough.

A sump pump specialist can help determine what can be added, so you don’t have to worry every time the temperature dips down.

Sump Pump Fire Awareness

Sump pump fires are increasingly common. These happen the most during colder months when things become frozen, or there are high water table conditions. Good sump pump maintenance and taking some precautions in case of fire can avoid catastrophe. 

If you have just moved into a home and don’t know much about your sump pump, then you may want to have it inspected before the start of wet weather conditions. A small amount of prevention can go a long way if your sump pump is smoking.

What About Steaming Pumps?

When your pump is working too hard it may start to steam. This is a good sign that there is a mechanical problem or you just need a more powerful pump. Keep an eye out for steam coming off your pump as well as water in the pit. If it is steaming it will be hot to the touch!

Frequently Asked Questions

Need some extra help with a fire or smoking pump? Check out our FAQ section!

Why is my sump pump smoking?
Sump pumps start smoking when they are overworked and unable to drain the pit.

Can a Sump Pump Overheat?
Yes! Sump pump will overheat if they do not have the proper electrical connections, pump too much water too fast or if the drainage lines are clogged!

Can a Sump Pump Catch Fire?
Yes! Sump pump can catch fire if they overheat for too longer. Another problem to be aware of is basin fires. If a cast iron pump gets too hot the plastic basin may catch fire before the pump!