Sep 262014
 

High water alarms are a must for any sump pit.  But what good is an alarm if you are not home to hear it?  The new Blue Angel Advanced Text Alert solves this problem by sounding an audible alarm in a high water event, while texting an alert to up to 3 cell phones.  And furthermore, it will text you when the situation returns to normal.  This feature will provide peace of mind by allowing the homeowner to contact someone to check on a possible flooding situation and prevent any damage before it occurs.

The alarm also has a battery back-up feature that will allow the alarm/text notifications to work in the event of a power outage.  Not only will you be alerted to high water situations but additionally you will be alerted when you lose AC power to the alarm and again when the AC power is restored.  This would also let you know that other appliances may also be without power.  Additional texts are sent to alert you to a low battery.  One other feature allows you to text the unit to get a report on how everything is functioning.

The system is easy to set up and requires just a low annual fee for service.  It provides great peace of mind for those people on the go.

Mar 292012
 

We get a few calls each year from plumbers, builders and inspectors about homes or buildings under construction that miscalculate the sewer elevation.

You guessed it, somebody miscalculated the location of the gravity sewer connection in the street or they set the elevation of the house too low.

If the building has a basement, the plumber can re-route and install a hung sewer that will offer gravity drainage for a portion of the building or home. If that is feasible they will only have to pump a portion of the home and the rest will be taken away by gravity.

Depending on the design of the lower level or basement, the hung sewer may not be an option. Then the whole house will need to be pumped. If that is the case we have the experience to help design and supply a properly sized waste water system that will work for your job.

Here are a few questions to consider.

How many water supply fixtures are there?

Is it a residential or commercial building?

What is the total vertical pumping height?

What is the total horizontal pumping distance, and are there any elbows or other pipe fittings?

We can size the basin, pumps, switches and controls to fit most situations. And as always we recommend a highwater alarm for all pump systems and suggest a duplex system (two pumps) for large estate size homes as added protection.

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.

Mar 162011
 

When I was in college I moved my study room into my parents basement. Yes, I lived at home, I was a “commuter” student. The study room was in an area located right next to the sump pump, which may have been the inspiration for my life’s work.

Late one night in March, I think it was around St. Patrick’s Day, I came home to finish some reading only to find the window well above my desk full of water and leaking around the sash and water running down my cork board wall drenching my desk. Fortunately no electrical devices were on my desk to get wet or damaged. In 1973 the only things that were at risk were my eight track tapes, and they were safe.

The sump pump was running continuously, so I ran outside and found the discharge pipe was un-attached and a huge pond was forming right outside that corner of the house in the flower bed. I think the discharge pipe must have broken apart due to the small diameter pipe being clogged or frozen.

Once a larger down spout pipe was attached the water started to flow away from the house. The next morning the window well was baled out and I was able to drag my cork board and desk out to dry.

Fortunately the basement was sparsely furnished. It was just concrete block walls, old furniture and a few throw rugs. Back then a finished lower level was rare and even then is was referred to as a rec room that may have included a ping pong table, a pool table, laundry room or a bar.

Remembering that event reminds me that by this time of the year, the beginning of spring, you need to take a long hard look at your sump pump discharge and make sure the water you are pumping has a place to go, other than in your flower beds.

So far in Wisconsin we have had a pretty good melt down, but there still may be some drifts and piles of snow that can block the natural drainage from around your home. In addition, you should take a walk around your home and make sure your down spouts and gutters are free and clear because in the event of a heavy spring rain you want the water from your roof to have a place to go.

If your sump basin is dry it would be a good time to carefully add water with a hose or a 5 gallon pail to “test run” your pump. You want to make sure that it runs several times so you know it is ready for the spring rains.

In closing, remember if you have a finished lower level you need protection. Consider a high water alarm or a battery back up system to protect your property.

Feb 032011
 

The sanitary sump pump is different from a drainage sump pump in that this sump basin collects wastewater from plumbing drains and fixtures. In most states, if you have a basement with a floor drain, a laundry sink or a bathroom group you may need a sanitary sump basin and pump that can eject or lift the waste water to a gravity sewer drain.

If you have a gravity sewer or drain that exits the house below the basement floor, you probably would not have a sanitary sump basin and pump. All of your wastewater would then be flowing away from the house by gravity.

These sanitary basins and pumps are installed on the lowest level of your home and can involve a simple effluent pump that would only handle wastewater from a sink or floor drain. This system would be capable of passing ½” to 3/4″ solids, it is sometimes referred to as a “gray water” system. (please click on link for an example of a “gray water” system http://www.jimmurrayinc.com/detail.asp?pid=2&catid=1)

The other common sanitary sump basin and pump would involve a sewage pump which would handle wastewater from a toilet or bathroom group which may include sinks, showers, tubs and floor drains. These sewage pumps are capable of passing 2″ solids and would have a discharge pipe of either 2″ or 3″(inside diameter). (please click on link for an example of a sewage pump system http://www.jimmurrayinc.com/detail.asp?pid=4&catid=1)

Most, if not all, sanitary sump systems are covered and sealed and vented as required by state or local plumbing codes. Check your local codes with regards to vent size and other requirements. Some states require that the sanitary sump pump be vented through the whole house plumbing vent system, some allow separate vents. Studor vents or air admittance vents are not recommended for a sanitary basin and pump.

The whole theory of venting a sealed sump cover is to create a conduit for any odor or sewer gas to escape into the environment along with the other drains throughout the home that are vented and to allow proper drainage and plumbing system design.

Inspecting and maintaining a sealed sump basin and pump is more complicated in the sense that you must re-seal the cover when you are finished with your inspection or you can expect a foul odor. If you have a sealed sump basin for sewage or effluent you can look trough the cord grommet that seals the power cord into the cover. Carefully pry this flexible rubber plug out of its hole in the cover and use a powerful flash light to observe as much as you can. After you have made your observations carefully push the rubber plug back into place to maintain the sealed effect it offers. If your view is not satisfactory, or if you suspect that there is a potential problem you can carefully un-bolt the cover and lift it up to get a better view. Remember to unplug your sewage or effluent pump before removing the cover. You will not be able to completely remove the cover because the discharge pipe and the vent pipe are sealed to the cover, but you will be able to lift the cover several inches to gain a better view of the inside of your sump basin. At this point you can now add water to observe the sewage or effluent pump cycle and get a good look at the pump working. If you suspect there is a problem you may want to consider calling a professional for an opinion or a replacement.

Some “gray water” or effluent pumps, especially in laundry or kitchen applications, can have quite a build up of “gunk” and it may involve removing and cleaning the whole pump and sump basin. It is possible that you may be able to leave the pump in place while doing this by just hosing the pump down and “purging” the whole sump basin by letting the pump run a cycle or two. Same is true for a sewage pump and basin, it can be a nasty job and you may want to call a professional.

A yearly inspection is a good rule of thumb to follow with regards to this critical part of your plumbing system. If you have valuable furnishings or property consider installing an alarm to alert you in the event of a failure. Water will back up through the floor drain if the pump fails to turn on leaving quite a mess.

Jan 252011
 

The biggest maintenance item with any sump pump or sewage pump system is becoming familiar with the product and periodically giving it a visual inspection.

If you have an active sump pump that cycles daily or more often you may already know something is wrong if you don’t hear the sump pump running. Don’t wait for your pump to fail. Be proactive and look in your sump basin and observe its function.

In this article we are going to focus on drainage sump pumps, these are sump pumps that handle foundation water that enters the sump basin from foundation drain tiles that are installed when the home is being built and serve as a conduit which is in turn connected to the sump basin that collects the water.

The sump pump is installed in the sump basin and is equipped with an automatic level switch, usually called a float switch,  that activates the sump pump when water reaches a set level. It will automatically turn off when it reaches the pre set “off” level.

Because of the nature of the sump basin being installed on the lowest level of the home it is not uncommon for sediment, sand or stones to erode into the sump basin along with the drainage water. This can cause a problem over time and in turn can cause a sump pump to fail or impair its operation.

For starters you should take a flash light and look into the sump basin to make sure the switch or float are clear and free, and that there are no obstructions that could prevent the pump from turning on and off. Second, look to see if there is an accumulation of sand, sediment or stones. If there is you will need to clean this out or have a professional do it for you. If you decide to do this yourself you must unplug the pump from its electrical outlet first. There are situations where the entire pump will have to be removed in order to thoroughly clean all the debris from the sump basin and then reinstall the pump. Other situations may only require use of a pair of rubber gloves or a wet/dry vac.

Every installation of a sump pump is not the same. I have found that sump basins in a new construction home have a tendency to accumulate more sediment and debris than in a sump basin in an older home. This is mainly due to settling of the material used in backfilling and soil conditions. So a sump system in a newer home should be inspected more often.

As far a covers for sump basins, we strongly recommend that they be installed on all drainage sump basins. Some covers are concrete and can be easily removed and reset quite simply, but often steel or plastic covers are used and are bolted down. If you are not comfortable taking the cover off call a professional plumber and have them inspect and clean your sump basin. At that point I would recommend that you ask them to install a high water alarm so you can be notified when your pump is not working.

Do you have a sump pump that hardly ever runs? That can be a potential problem too. Every sump pump needs some exercise or a test run. You can do that by carefully and slowly adding water to the sump basin and letting the sump pump run a normal cycle. If you have a sump pump that has not run for many years, don’t be surprised if it does not work. Over the years I have seen may sump pumps fail due to lack of use.

Remember to be proactive and inspect your sump pump basin. Many sump pumps fail prematurely because they are clogged or jammed with debris, a simple cleaning and frequent test running can extend the life of a sump pump.

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.

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.

Finished Lower Level? – You and Your Customer Need Protection

 battery back up system, Finished Lower Level, High Water Alarm, Sump Basin, Sump Pump  Comments Off on Finished Lower Level? – You and Your Customer Need Protection
Dec 302010
 

The cost of cleaning up a flooded basement in 2011 is astronomical. Just recently I received an insurance claim for over $16,000.00 relating to a failed sump pump that was over five years old. Yes… I said five years old! You have got to be kidding?!?!?

In this particular case the sump pump impeller was jammed with a buildup of iron and minerals, a sandwich bag full of debris, to be exact! This buildup prevented the sump pump from starting and the motor overheated and burnt itself up. I was surprised the homeowner did not smell something. Eventually the water raised up, probably after a big rain storm, saturated the foundation and leaked in around the finished areas creating a real mess.

“How could this be prevented?” you might ask. Well the homeowner should have tested the sump pump and periodically cleaned the sump basin as outlined in the owners information provided with each sump pump that leaves our shop. Or the owner or plumber could have installed a simple “High Water Alarm” set a few inches above the point where the sump pumps float switch turns the pump on; the homeowner would have been notified that there was a “high water” situation sooner and would have been able to remedy the situation before the water had backed up into the drain tiles and caused the flooding.

The retail cost of a basic “High Water Alarm” with a 9 volt battery, similar to a smoke detector, is about $35.00 and is easy to install. A better high water alarm, similar to a septic tank alarm, retails at around $109.00 and some can even be wired directly into a home security system or an “Auto-Dialer” that notifies the homeowner if they are away from their home.

The key is to remember with any of these  high water alarms is that they need to be tested and checked yearly, or even more often, if they have an active sump pump.

Or… how about a battery back up system, which is always a great idea and will be the subject of my next blog.

Remember… a finished lower level means you and your customers need protection.