septic pump

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by motorboy, Jul 23, 2008.

  1. motorboy

    motorboy New Member

    Messages:
    5
    We bought a house that is 14 years old. It was vacant when we bought it and I peeked at the dosing tank and it was half-full. Since we actually moved it I noticed it was always wet around the cover of the dosing tank, so I pulled the cover and found it full. The full alarm never went off and we never had back-ups. I opened the electrical panel by the tank and found the sensor wires wet and corrode. I cleaned-up the connection and bingo- the alarm started going off in the basement!

    In the junction box there was a standard electric plug, but had no power going to it. I found a breaker in the house labeled sewer pump, but it was not tripped. I took an extension cord out and plugged it into the junction box male plug and it tripped the GFCI instantly. So I got smart and plugged it into a non-GFCI outlet and it tripped the breaker instantly.

    I plan on having the septic tank and the dosing tank pumped, but I would like to be ready to fix the problem before we fill-up the tank, any ideas?
  2. Southern Man

    Southern Man DIY Hillbilly

    Messages:
    530
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Definitely get the septic tank and the pump tank pumped out before you do anything. The septic should be pumped out every three years to avoid damage to downstream components. This will also make it easier for you to service the pump.

    It sounds like the system can flow by gravity if there is a problem with the pump- otherwise you would have water all over the ground. If the system was designed to be pressure dosed, gravity flow won't work in the long run. The likely reason for the pump is to completely fill the nitrification field so the water is distributed evenly- otherwise the far end won't see any water. Your local environmental health department should have a record of the installation, or if not can give you a fairly good idea.

    It sounds like the pump may be locked-up, possibly due to a long period of non-use, but it could be just a bad terminal like you found on the alarm.

    Normally these units have three float switches, all line voltage operation: #1 turns the pump on (high water), #2 turns it off (low water) and #3 turns on the alarm (above the high water). Sometimes a float gets tangled and gets stuck on or off. Try pulling them out individually then setting them back in.

    Since the alarm went off when the tank was full you have power to the panel and the alarm float switch works.

    I'm curious as to why there is a male electric plug in the panel. Perhaps it is for temporary power if the main circuit isn't working. As far as your tests with the circuit it sounds like you connected the temporary, which is probably live, to the live house circuit. That plug should be removed from the panel or isolated somehow.

    I suggest that you test the pump on float and the pump itself individually. The control panel should have a "pump on" manual switch to do this.
  3. motorboy

    motorboy New Member

    Messages:
    5
    I don’t believe we have a control panel for the pump, just a little alarm box.. I think the pump power comes from the main house breaker box, out to the tank where there is a small access panel in the conduit before it go’s down in the tank. I opened the little panel and found 2 connections, the first was the alarm wire with wire nuts (corroded) and the second was a stiff white 115-volt housing wire with a female type extension cord end attached to it (no power) and a molded male plug plugged into it with 2 sets of wires coming out of it and going to the tank.

    I think the alarm is on its own. The black alarm box is plugged into an outlet in the basement and has a double wire set that runs out to the tank. I assume when the float goes’s up it completes the circuit and sets the alarm off. I don’t know if that is the standard type of alarm or if most are tied to the pump circuitry.

    FYI some outside outlets and upstairs outlets have also not worked since we moved in. I am not sure if all the problems are tied together.
  4. Southern Man

    Southern Man DIY Hillbilly

    Messages:
    530
    Location:
    North Carolina
    It sounds like you’ve got a system with no panel. That’s not the system that I was envisioning put is actually easier to test and repair. My guess is a replacement pump will run you about $300.

    The female to male connection in the junction box is most likely a disconnect, allowing you to work safely on the pump without running back to the breaker panel. That's been Code for a long time, although I have no clue if this installation meets the Code overall.

    The female end of the disconnect should be "hot" and connected right to your breaker panel. That's easy enough to test by seeing if you get voltage there on-off with the breaker. You can also use this "outlet" to power a shop-vac or other tools to perform maintenance.

    The male end should then go to the pump itself. The pump should then be controlled by either an on-off float (most likely), and on-off pressure switch, or (least likely) two floats (on and off).

    It sounds like the alarm gets its power from this as well, and is triggered by a separate alarm float.

    Once you get this all working and cleaned up, make the connections with waterproof wire nuts then use silicone gasket cement to further seal them to the wire insulation, then where the wires pass through the box. The connection box should be above the alarm water level, therefore always dry.

    You should have a dedicated breaker for this system, and if so the other issues are not related.
  5. motorboy

    motorboy New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Well I emptied the tank and took out the old Zoeller N98 pump and double float switch. No quick disconnect like I had hopped so I just cut the pvc and will use a coupler to reinstall (I was not getting in there.) I ordered an exact replacement for $180 and a new double float for $90 from www.kscdirect.com (the cheapest site by far) The alarm float looked fine.

    Now I really respect people that do this every day, especially in other peoples crap. Thanks for your help!

    Justin
  6. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,453
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Latex gloves and a nose that doesn't work helps...:D
    What does get through smells like money to me!:cool:

    I checked that link out... I don't know how you could manage to find anything... The navigation on the site just plain sucks!
  7. motorboy

    motorboy New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Yes the navigation sucks. I typed my part number into Google and it directed me right to the part on several sites. You can also type your part numbers in the websites search.
  8. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,453
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Without a p/n that site would be useless.
  9. Southern Man

    Southern Man DIY Hillbilly

    Messages:
    530
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Not too much fun in your own crap either. Word of caution- never get inside any tank unless you're a trained pro. The gasses that you can smell would be the least of your worries. Tanks can have depleted oxegen, CO, H2S or some other gas that can knock you down and out. Next your buddy will try and rescue you then he's gone too. About 6 months ago 3 or 4 members of a farm family were killed at the bottom of an open manure pond this same way.
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