Apr 252012
 

In some cold weather installations where the drainage sump pump pumps the water out to grade (your yard) or into an open site drain like your gutter or down spouts a plumber or installer may not use a check valve due to the possibility of the discharge line freezing the trapped water in the pipe during the winter. Even with the possibility of freezing there are some drainage installations that incorporate horizontal discharge pipes where you would want a check valve installed to prevent the lengthy discharge pipe from siphoning back into your basin after the pump shuts off.

We suggest consulting a licenced plumber or foundation specialist familiar with local plumbing codes when routing or connecting your sump pump discharge line. We also suggest that when you replace your sump or sewage pump you also replace the check valve, flappers have been known to break at the hinge and if your pump has failed, your check valve is soon to follow.

If you have a lengthy discharge pipe system we recommend a ball valve to be installed above the check valve to isolate the long column of water when servicing the check valve or the pump. There are some check valves that screw right into the discharge of the sump pump. If you use this type keep in mind that you will have the whole column of water to deal with when you change or services this pump. We also suggest using a separate check valve and ball valve for any two pump (duplex) system. This prevents one pump from back feeding to the other pump.

We also suggest bracing or clamping your pumps discharge pipe securely to the wall or structure to prevent any torque or movement of the pump when it starts or stops. We have heard of poorly installed pump discharge pipes coming apart at the check valve. Again, check you local plumbing codes, some areas do not allow rubber connections in the discharge pipe of any sump or sewage pumps.

Finally, there is a lot of discussion about whether a check valve should be installed horizontally or vertically. This too may be covered in the local plumbing codes. Most check valve manufacturers will emboss arrows on the valve for either method of installation. Some pump manufacturers feel that a check valve installed horizontally will open better if there is a build up of solids, sediment, or waste resting on the flapper. Others feel that the flapper closes better in the vertical position. I personally prefer the vertical installation.

Check out our online catalog for our full line of check valves, from 1-1/4″ thru 4″, including silent check valves and clear check valves, a selection second to none.

Apr 172012
 

An integral part of most sump pumps and especially sewage pump installations is a check valve installed in the discharge pipe of the pump. In most plumbing codes there is a requirement for a full flow check valve to be installed in any application where a sump or sewage pump is installed. This prevents the back flow from the sanitary or storm sewer siphoning back into your basin or sump pit after the pump shuts off. (See typical installation below)

The check valve is a fitting that has a flapper that acts as a one way trap door by allowing the water flowing out to open the flapper while the pump is running. When the pump stops the water in the discharge line forces the flapper or trap door closed.

There is a secondary benefit to having a check valve, it helps prevent the constant recycling and re-pumping of the same water left in the discharge pipe when the pump shuts off.

Below is a drawing of a typical sump or sewage pump installation. Note the need for a 3/16″ diameter bleed hole in the discharge pipe. We suggest that it be located below the “On” point of the pump being installed. The bleed hole is to prevent an air lock and in essence it would allow water to fill the pump base with water, rather than air.

Typical Installation

Typical Installation

Dec 282011
 

Every year when the temperature drops below freezing we get a few phone calls from frantic home owners that say “My sump pump seems to be running, but it’s not discharging water”.

This usually happens if you have a small diameter pipe or flexible hose discharging to a low spot in your yard, perhaps that low spot is full of frozen water. We will usually suggest that the home owner un-plug the sump pump and detatch the small diameter hose pipe and install a 3″ or 4″ diameter pipe that would be pitched away from the house allowing the water to flow by gravity through the larger pipe. Plug the sump pump back in and observe that the water is actually flowing away from the house.

If you have a buried sump pump discharge line and you think the discharge line is frozen this situation is a bit more complicated. You may want to consult with a plumbing professional. You will need to locate where the discharge line leaves your house. Sometimes it is below grade and other times it comes out and is “elbowed” down into the ground and the rest is buried below grade.

Depending on the temperature and your drain line set-up you may want to temporally cut into the discharge line and attach a larger discharge pipe above grade rather than digging things up during the winter. With the ground being frozen, it could be a huge expense. Consult with a plumbing professional if you are concerned with where your water is being discharged. If you are in a city with sidewalks, ice could be an issue.

Many homes with an active sump pumps have a check valve installed which prevents the water in the discharge pipe from flowing back into the sump basin and making the pump work harder than it needs to. There are situations where you may consider removing the check valve during the winter months to prevent the freezing of trapped water in your discharge pipe. If you remove your check valve make sure you have a good pitch for the water running away from your home, otherwise the water could siphon back into the sump basin inside your home.

Apr 252011
 

A service plumber from a plumbing company had called me from a job site and said his customer had a clear radon sump cover on the sump basin and it appeared that the pump was running, but not removing the water. When the plumber was looking into the sump basin there was bubbling and turbulence. To complicate matters there were two pumps in the basin, one primary pump and one battery back up pump, both discharge pipes were coming up through the cover and were tee-ed together. He could not tell which pump, or if both pumps were running as both discharge pipes were vibrating.

As a process of elimination I asked the plumber to unplug the primary pump. He did and reported that nothing had changed, there was still turbulence and bubbling action going on in the sump basin. I then asked if each pump had its own check valve and sure enough, they did.. The plumber asked “why two check valves?” and I explained that without a separate check valve for each pump there would be water recirculating from pump to pump.

As it turned out the primary pump had a stone jammed in the impeller and the check valve for the primary pump had a broken flapper. The battery back up pump was just recycling water through the path of least resistance, the primary pump.

The plumber did mention that the alarm on the battery back up system did not work. Some battery back up systems have an alarm with a “silence mode”. I asked him to check the alarm to see if it was set to this “silent mode” and it appeared that it had been “silenced”.

With the rock removed from the primary pumps impeller, a new check valve installed, the alarm mode set to “audible” and the radon cover resealed the homeowner is back in business. Fortunately the homeowner had heard a different noise coming from the area where the sump pump was located and took action by calling a professional plumber. The service plumber had never seen this type of installation and called us for troubleshooting advice. A Job well done. Mysterious bubbling sump pump solved.

How Long Should a Sump Pump Last?

 check valve, float switch, Sump Basin, Sump Pump  Comments Off on How Long Should a Sump Pump Last?
Jan 182011
 

This is a question that people ask me all the time. My answer always starts with another question, “How long has your existing sump pump been in service?” I feel if you have received 7 to 8 years of life from a basic sump pump you should consider replacing it. I do know there are plenty of pumps in service that are a lot older. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbvImHRE1FcI

I also know that there are a few sump pump installations that never make it through to the end of their warranty. When I hear about that I wonder if the problem was a manufacturing defect, an installation problem or an unusual job site issue. Sometimes poor installation and unusual job site issues can lead to a short pump life and in turn are mistaken as a manufacturing defect. We do receive a lot of returned sump pumps that we can find no problems with and that makes us wonder.

Over the years I have had the opportunity to visit many job sites with plumbing contractors to investigate and learn a lot about why sump pumps fail or why they have a shorter life. I feel the biggest issue with sump pumps wearing out prematurely is that people are building homes in high water table areas and builders are not sizing the diameter of the sump basin correctly. A lot of builders go with a “one size fits all” philosophy and home owners call us after they are in the home for a year or two wondering why their sump pumps don’t last very long. After a few questions you find out that their sump pump cycles every few minutes and it’s no surprise that the pump has failed because the switch has worn out.

A larger sump basin diameter would help increase the life of the sump pump and switch. An example I like to give contractors is that an 18″ diameter sump basin will hold 1 gallon of water per inch of depth where as a 24″ diameter sump basin will hold 2 gallons of water per inch of depth. With a sump basin that is 6″ larger in diameter you could double your switch and sump pump life.

A few other suggestions that I have to decrease the cycling of your sump pump, install a check valve in your discharge line. This will prevent the back flow of water when the sump pump shuts off, you won’t be pumping the same water over & over. You should also make sure the sump pumps discharge pipe leaving the home is pumping water far enough away from the foundation to prevent recycling of the same water over and over. Also, checking your gutters and down spouts to make sure the drainage system is carrying water away from the foundation.

Check back for my next article about how simple maintenance can extend your sump pump life.

Jan 132011
 

“I need a grinder pump.” is a call we often get from plumbers when in most cases what they really need is a sewage pump. Some people think that all sewage pumps grind up the waste when in fact they pump the 2″ solids by velocity with either a “vortex” or “deep vane” impeller. The “deep vane” impeller will break up the sewage, but by no means will it be ground up.

A true grinder pump will actually chop and shred the sewage and pump it through a 1-1/4″ pipe. These are powerful pumps, usually 1 or 2 horse power and 230 volt depending upon the brand, they in fact are capable of pumping the waste for over a mile to a gravity sewer.

A sewage pump for most residential applications is either a 4/10 or ½ horse power and 115 volt, they have a 2″ or 3″ discharge and they will , in most cases, only need to pump up to 15 feet of lift to a gravity sewer.

There  is a huge difference in the replacement cost of the grinder pumps, which can have a $2,000.00 to $3,000.00 retail price depending upon installation and labor. The replacement cost of a sewage pump could be in the $400.00 to $600.00 price range depending upon installation and labor.

The typical sewage pump installation we see is where there is a bathroom group of fixtures in a lower level that drains and collects into a basin and gets pumped to a gravity line which is connected to the gravity sewer or septic system. The sewage pump is usually installed in that 18″ x 30″ or larger basin with a sealed cover, sealed vent and discharge, and a check valve to prevent backflow from the gravity sewer.

A grinder pump is usually used in jobs where the gravity sewer is a long distance from the home, or there is a high vertical lift of 30′ or more, and in a lot if situations, is part of a pressure sewer system. There are in fact whole subdivisions where all the homes have grinder pumps. These have sewer laterals that are 1-1/4″ with sewer mains being 2″. The ground up waste is pumped to a municipal sewer station for treatment.

Some grinder systems are installed outdoors in a “Lift Station” or indoors in a 24″ or 30″ diameter basin with a sealed cover, sealed vent and discharge, and a check valve. Most grinder pumps have a control panel with a built in alarm because they are serving the whole house.

In my opinion, all sewage pump systems should be equipped with an alarm that is properly set and tested. This will warn you to stop using your plumbing and allow you to call your plumbing service technician before you flood.

If you have questions, we have answers. Please feel free to call us for pump sizing and unique pumping situations.

Secondary Pump vs. Battery Back Up

 battery back up system, check valve, float switch, Maintenance, Sump Pump  Comments Off on Secondary Pump vs. Battery Back Up
Jan 052011
 

A lot of people tell me after they find out I’m in the sump pump business… “Boy, I need a battery back up pump, my sump pump runs all the time. In fact it can barely keep up with the water coming in.”

If that is truly the case I ask them “How often do you lose power?” and “For how long?”. If their answer is that they hardly ever lose power, then I recommend just adding a secondary sump pump and setting the float switch higher than the primary pump float switch, connecting the secondary sump pump to a separate electrical circuit, and running a separate discharge line. In addition, each sump pump should have its own check valve. If running a separate discharge line is not an option and you have to “T” or “Y” them together you will only receive 75 to 80% of the combined output. I also recommend that that give the secondary sump pump some “exercise”, in other words, unplug the primary sump pump and let the secondary sump pump get some run time. Do this every 60 to 90 days for a few hours at a time. If their answer is that they lose power all the time then I confirm that yes they probably should have a battery back up pump. But I tell them to keep in mind that most battery back up pumps only put out a fraction of what a 1/3hp, 115v pump puts out in gallons per minute or hour. A battery back up pump also has limitations depending upon the age and quality of the battery.

Every back up system will need maintenance and attention, it is a commitment, and I recommend giving these sump pumps some “exercise” too. You need to make sure the sump pumps will perform when needed. I recommend you use the largest maintenance free battery that you can buy and change it at least every two years. Talk to your plumber installation technician about a yearly check up.