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

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.

Jun 172011

We get a lot of call from customers requesting that we come visit their job sites that have older commercial pumps systems. We are asked to inspect and prepare a quote, if necessary, for pumps, controls and covers. We are willing to do this to help insure that we are supplying the proper product. If the pump system is really old and unidentifiable, we can often times reverse engineer the system based on the plumbing code and established formulas used by plumbing designers.

Restaurants and commercial kitchens are really hard on pumps and floats, even with a “well maintained” grease interceptor, a lot of grease and fat can collect in the sump and on the floats. Commercial dishwashers and overuse of some cleaning solutions that go down the drain can effect the pumps power cords, seals, gaskets, and anything rubber leading to a shorter product life.

Most property owners or maintenance technicians will call you when they hear an alarm or if they have water backing up their floor drain. Let’s hope it’s the alarm and not the latter.

Typical Duplex Pumping System

Sometimes it’s just a matter of cleaning and adjusting the floats or pumps switches. If the system is set up properly the floats will be accessible and easily removed to be cleaned and reinstalled. If it is a true duplex system, there will be an alternator with a “hand on / off” switch for each pump inside the control box. Some commercial pump systems will have a rod and float set-up with a mechanical alternator. On larger covers there is usually an access opening that the floats can be serviced through.

If you can manually activate one or both pumps and they both seem to draw the tank down, you could eliminate the pumps as being the problem. If you know the amp rating of the pumps and you can test, then you would insure that both pumps are working to spec. Caution: Always disconnect ALL circuits feed the pump and control panel before servicing.

If one or the other pump hums and does not start you could either pull the pump and inspect the base and impeller for clogs and debris or switch the pump power cord to the “good” running side of the panel and see if the humming pump starts, or if it reacts the same way on the “good” side of the panel.

If the pumps are 3 phase electric and you change the power cords, the rotation of the impeller will need to be checked before reinstalling the pumps.

If you are suspicious of the integrity of the control panel you may want to consult a qualified electrician. The sensor floats that operate the control panel can be tested with an OHM meter by simply disconnecting each individual float and lifting it while observing the OHM meter for continuity.

We always recommend that a vacuum truck be brought to the site on a regular basis to clean and wash the tank especially if there is a build up of grease and debris.

Feb 282011

At Jim Murray, Inc. we specialize in sump, sewage and wastewater pump and pumping related products for residential and commercial applications. In this blog article we will try to break down the most common categories and offer a description to help you identify your product and how it works.

4 Pump Calcifications We Deal With

Dewatering Pump:

Generally referred to as a drainage or clearwater sump pumps. Dewatering pumps have screens which prevent the solids from entering the pump. These pumps are used to pump ground water out to grade or to a storm sewer. These pumps usually have a 1-1/4″ or 1-1/2″ discharge.

Effluent Pump:

Effluent pumps are rated for the use in sanitary sump drainage applications. These pumps are designed to pump grey water and capable of passing limited amounts of ½” or 3/4″ solids. The sump basin used must be gas tight and vented according to code. Most often these pumps are 1-1/2″ discharge, and sometimes they are 2″ discharge. Effluent type pumps are often used in septic and or mound systems.

Sewage Pump:

Sewage pumps are used in sanitary pumping applications where toilets are being used. These pumps are capable of passing 2″ solids. As with effluent pumps, sewage pump basins must be gas tight and vented according to code. 2″ discharge is very common, but 3″ discharge may also be found on older residential or commercial applications.

Sewage Grinder Pump:

Grinder pumps are very powerful sewage handling pumps that actually chop, grind, and shred the sewage and reduce it to a slurry. Sewage grinder pumps are capable of pumping this slurry through smaller diameter pipe and for much higher and longer distances than a sewage handling pump. 1-1/4″ discharge is common, however the discharge pipe may be increased to a larger pipe size.

How your pump works:

All of the above pumps have impellers that are attached to the shaft of the pumps motor and turn inside of the pump volute to eject the liquid. Below is a list of common sump and wastewater impellers. Attached are cut away drawings that will give you a visual idea of the internal design of each impeller.

Vortex Impeller:

A vortex impeller is located at the top of the pump volute, as it spins it creates velocity that transfers the liquids and solids. By theory, this impeller is a better selection for handling solids than a deep vane impeller because the solids are less likely to come in contact with the impeller. (Please see 18S cut away)

18S Cut Away

Deep Vane Impeller:

The deep vane impeller paddles the liquid and solids. Pumps with these type of impellers typically will produce a greater gpm outlet. (Please see 16S cut away)

16S Cut Away

Vortex Grinder Pumps:

A grinder pump uses a cutter and shredder to reduce the solids to a slurry. As the solids pass through the cutter they reach the volute where a vortex impeller passes the slurry along. (Please see Omni Grind+ cut away)

Omni Grind + Cut Away

Progressive Cavity Grinder Pumps:

This grinder too has a cutter and shredder to reduce the solids to a slurry. The slurry is then removed by the positive displacement of a rotor and a rubber stator. (Please see UltraCav cut away)

UltraCav Cut Away

So there you have it, hopefully you now have a better understanding of how your pump works.

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.