Nov 112011

“You need to look at this thing and understand how it works”

Failures of battery back up systems can occur due to lack of maintenance. People spend a lot of money on these products and sometimes they feel they should last for years without as much as looking at them.

I recently got a call from a customer who installed a battery back up system for a single woman who built a new home in a high water table area. The plumber recommended a battery back up system and it was an easy sale, as the primary pump ran every few minutes during construction.

Unfortunately the primary pump had failed after 18 months and the battery back up failed to turn on because the “wet” battery had not been maintained. The battery was totally dry and the homeowner said “nobody told me I had to maintain anything”. The homeowner also felt that due to the fact that she had never had a power outage the battery should be as good as new because “it never had to work”. Actually the batteries are being trickle charged and the chemical reaction working in some batteries causes the electrolyte to evaporate.

Well, from my perspective as the supplier of this system, the plumber or the builder needs to go over this product with the homeowner. There was in fact a label on the battery case as a reminder that this system needs to be maintained and that the battery should be checked on a regular basis.

There are newer and more high-tech systems that are coming out on the market that will alarm and alert homeowners when they need to check critical functions. The battery back up that this particular homeowner had was a pretty basic unit. Some can be hooked up to a home security system which is highly recommended. In fact you can have your security company add a separate float switch that will work to notify your alarm company that you have a high water situation.

Even with all this technology, a service agreement to actually visit the home and simulate a failure and test the pumps and system on a regular basis should be offered. If you can not get people to buy a service agreement, a file should be kept on them and a reminder sent to tell them it’s time for a new battery.

In our next article we will discuss batteries and maintenance free batteries, testing and installation.

Jan 102011

Lately I have been recommending to those who have extremely high end finished lower levels to explore the cost of a generator, particularly a whole house generator. A whole house generator would turn on automatically if the power goes out and would in turn power the sump pump circuits along with other crucial circuits including heating, refrigeration, water well, phone, computer and security systems. With a whole house generator you would have almost unlimited pumping capabilities. You could up your pumping potential by then adding a second or larger sump pump and a “Duplex Control Panel” that would alternate the run time of the  two sump pumps or turn both sump pumps on if a single sump pump could not keep up with the inflow of water. This “Duplex Control Panel” has a built in high water alarm that would let you know if one sump pump has failed or if both sump pumps are working at the same time. A generator system will test itself weekly or monthly to insure that it is ready to go when you need it.

The key again is maintenance and testing. If you travel frequently or spend several months away from your home, you should have someone regularly check your house and basement. If you have a home security system it can be attached to your sump pump system or you can have an “Automatic Phone Dialer” installed that will notify you of any sump pump issues.