Overhead sewer maintenance/alarms

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by mtwomey, Nov 5, 2008.

  1. mtwomey

    mtwomey New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Greetings,

    About a year ago, we converted our sewer system to an overhead system. This was due to some sewer backup issues we were having with the city during heavy rains. The conversion went well and to the best of my knowledge the company that did the work did a good job.

    Before they left, I asked them if any periodic maintenance was needed and they said 'no'. I've been thinking about this recently, and it wanted to get a second opinion on this 'no maintenance' concept. Does this sound correct? No annual... anything...?

    Since we have a finished basement (newly finished I might add), we're highly interested in catching any issues before we have any self-inflicted backup. My concern would be that the system would stop working and a load of laundry would come pouring out our toilet or shower drain, unnoticed until significant damage had occurred.

    Any thoughts on this or how people generally handle the long-term care of such a system?

    Thanks,

    -Matt
  2. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,453
    Location:
    Connecticut
    If this system was one that serviced my whole house I would use a duplex system with an alarm...
  3. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,270
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    sewer

    An overhead sewer, when properly installed does not have ANY basement fixtures connected to it, except by the use of a pump. Therefore the only maintenance needed is to check the pump for proper operation. And if it starts to back up STOP using water in the basement until the pump is serviced.
  4. mtwomey

    mtwomey New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Well, I believe this is what I have - basement fixtures go into the retention tank and are pumped up and out from there. There are four fixtures:

    Shower
    Toilet
    Small floor drain
    Laundry drain

    What I'm concerned about is how we'll know if the pump breaks before a backup occurs. Maybe I'm blowing it out or proportion, but we just refinished our entire basement at great cost due to the city sewer system backing up into our house (which led us to the overhead sewer conversion). Are there alarms that can/or should be added to the system? Also, the tank is in our crawlspace which is slightly below the level of our basement floor. Our crawlspace has a mud floor with a vapor shield. If the pump did break (for example while someone was taking a shower) would the water likely start to back up out the basement fixtures or would it overflow the tank into the crawlspace (I don't know if these tanks are sealed)? Frankly I'd prefer it back up into the crawl space rather than our finished basement - but I'm wonder how people avoid this all together?

    Thanks for you comments.
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2008
  5. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,453
    Location:
    Connecticut
    I think that you are worrying too much.
    I would make sure that your biggest worry is covered.

    I would not run the washer while not at home and I would make sure that the sump alarm is audable on all floors so if a failure occurrs you can run down and shut the washer off. Using other fixtures should not be a concern as they will just appear to be clogged and you stop using them.
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2008
  6. Southern Man

    Southern Man DIY Hillbilly

    Messages:
    530
    Location:
    North Carolina
    If the pump fails to start the water will back up in the lowest fixture; probably your floor drain. The most common type of failure is a float hang up on something like toilet paper. You can minimize the potential by limiting use of the toilet for "#2", and especially the disposal of cloth-like wipes or "woman products".

    It appears that the worst case would be your washer dumping water to the system with the pump off somehow. If that volume would cause damage then you might consider a high water alarm in the sump. A simple experiment with the pump turned off just before it was about to cycle and running the washer through a large cycle would tell you that answer. You could even rig an alarm to turn the washer circuit off.
  7. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,270
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    pump

    You can have a float alarm installed in the tank, but the only water that can overflow onto the floor is what you use in the lower level. Once you see signs of a pump failure, i.e., the toilet doesn't flush or water is coming up in the tub or shower, merely NOT using any water anywhere in the basement will stop the problem
  8. Southern Man

    Southern Man DIY Hillbilly

    Messages:
    530
    Location:
    North Carolina
    As long as you don't consider water on the floor to be a problem.
  9. mtwomey

    mtwomey New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Ok - thanks for the comments! I do consider water on the floor to be a problem (particularly if it's waste water). If it comes out our floor drain, it will put waste water into the carpet and nearby drywall (there is carpet over the floor drain). I will look into adding a float alarm to the system which sounds like the best option unless anyone else has any advice/comments?

    Thanks!
  10. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,453
    Location:
    Connecticut
    When you set up your pit alarm it should be set up something like the picture shows below. I like to set the pump to run as little as possible. The number of starts an hour has a definite connection with the life of an electric motor. Motors starting use between 125% and 150% of the amperage they run at. This puts heat into the motor which is the motors enemy.

    If you have adjustable floats on the motor set it so it goes as high as possible before starting without flooding the drain lines going into it, then have it pump out as low as possible without drawing air.

    The alarm should come on a very short distance above the highest point where the pump comes on. This give you a little time to get down the stairs to turn off the washer etc.

    [​IMG]
  11. Southern Man

    Southern Man DIY Hillbilly

    Messages:
    530
    Location:
    North Carolina
    It is unlikely that there will be room in the existing pump tank for an alarm. I think we are talking about putting a separate alarm contact in the floor drain sump, which is the fixture that would back up first. That could be a simple wet contact switch that shuts off the washer circuit before the sump backs up to the point that water gets onto the floor.

    [**prepares for another tirade against engineers and southerners**]
  12. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,453
    Location:
    Connecticut
    These would be some of the commonly used ejector pit alarm systems.
    Sump Alarms by Zoeller

    In the post above we have an engineer trying to reinvent a wheel.
  13. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,270
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    alarm

    The alarm operator is a simple float switch and there is plenty of room in the pit. You anchor it to the discharge pipe at the proper distance below the floor level.
Similar Threads: Overhead sewer
Forum Title Date
Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & Overhead sewer question May 3, 2013
Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & Use Clay pipe or cast iron pipe for overhead sewer (50-60ft underground in yard)?? Mar 31, 2011
Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & Overhead sewer system tie in. Oct 26, 2009
Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & Supply lines ran overhead..air lock concern? May 23, 2010
Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & Overhead Washer Drain Nov 14, 2009

Share This Page