Sump pump analysis paralysis

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BlkSC

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Hello all, first time poster but I've read more threads here than I can count...and that has led me to analysis paralysis. A lot of this may be useless info but I want to paint the best picture I can in hopes of getting the best answer. First bit of useless information, I'm an electrician by trade and plumbing isn't high on my list of things I like to do...electricity gets loose and it (should) trip a breaker...water gets loose...f-ed.

In 2016, I bought a house that was built in 1999. For approximately 2 years before I bought it, the house was foreclosed on and sat vacant. Of course, because there was no power, the finished basement got water in it...but the bank paid someone to remove all the carpet and replace the bottom four feet of the sheetrock throughout before they put it up for sale. From the few things that weren't replaced (the bathroom vanity), it doesn't look like the water got more than a couple inches high.

Before I even moved in, I bought a Zoeller M82 pedestal sump pump as I was just certain I'd find the installed sump pump (1/3hp Wayne pedestal pump, 18"x24" sump, 1.5" discharge that travels up 5.5', 5' horizontally outside and down underground all the way out to the curb, I'd guess 100'...maybe 150') dead. To my surprise it worked...and has continued to work since I moved in. So I figured I'd just keep the new sump pump as a spare. For the first couple years, the sump pump rarely ran, only when it would rain fairly heavy for a longer period of time and never runs in the winter or middle of summer.

In 2019, we got torrential downpours that ended up flooding part of the town, what many would say was a 100 year flood. So bad that I left my house for a callout driving my normal route over the spill way south of the lake and when I attempted to get home just an hour later, going that same way was impassible. Come to find out, my neighborhood can become an island when it floods. I was very accustomed to slow floods growing up, this was my first experience with a flash flood. About an hour later, I found a way to get back to my house (despite the fact I made it home, I'll never do what I did to get home again). My sump pump was running non-stop and the motor was so hot I couldn't touch it. Without shutting off, the float would come up, start going back down and just before it would shut off, the float would just stop and slowly start coming back up. I later had an epiphany that the suction of the sump is on the top, the water was rushing in so fast that it was causing the pump to cavitate. I tested this later by deflecting the incoming water with a hamper lid, worked like a charm. When it's really bad, the sump pump runs approximately 20 seconds, is off for 40 seconds, then comes back on, etc...and this was after I adjusted it to come on when the water level almost gets up to the single incoming drain tile.

This may be more worthless info but here goes. I was at work and it was raining pretty good most of the day, enough that when I got home I expected to hear my sump pump running. I was home for a few minutes and hadn't heard it so I investigated. The float was stuck...but the water was still about three inches from escaping from the sump. I unstuck the float and it ran off and on for a few hours before the drain tile was empty (this is when I did the hamper lid cavitation experiment). It makes me think that, if the sump pump were to die while I'm home, I'd have some time to change it out before the sump overflowed...but in the back of my mind I think this may just be a false sense of security.

My gutters are a couple years old, they go out several feet to good slope away from my house but...my backyard slopes towards my house. This summer, I plan on having a concrete patio poured, about 15 feet wide and the entire length of my house, with a sidewalk along the south of my house to the driveway. The slope of the patio will be such that it directs the water around my house to where I have good slope away. This may completely alleviate my sump pump "issues"...but, again, in the back of my mind, I can't help but wonder if the water table just comes up that high when it rains hard. If it helps, I'll attempt to draw a picture and attach it but my front yard slopes around 12 ft down to the road, then the house across the street is at the road level and their backyard then slopes down quite a lot as it runs out. Is it even possible for my water table to be higher than the house across the street?

I want to replace the sump pump. The neighborhood has lost power maybe a dozen times in the last six years, maybe two times for a couple hours (one of those times was the Big Freeze we experienced in February 2021), it's usually just a blip and it's never done it when my sump pump needed to run. But I'd really like to plan for more of a worse case scenario. I was about to pull the trigger on this:

Ion alternating sump pump with inverter battery backup

but then had the thought...two submersible pumps are going to take up quite a bit of my sump volume. It's approximately 15" from the bottom of my sump to the bottom of the drain tile, that's roughly 16.5 gallons. Minus the few inches in the bottom that's always left and the volume taken up by the pumps, I just wonder if this will lead to worse short cycling issues.

If you made it through all of this, what are your thoughts? Other than my obvious overthinking...lol
 

Drick

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Some thoughts;
1. Your comment about the stuck float and your basement still not flooding makes me think you have a fair amount of gravel underneath concrete floor and not just a drain tile. If you have a pump failure that gravel can act as a water storage area and buy you some time. The next time you have a storm I'd recommend unplugging the pump and watching how long it takes for your sump to fill to where you found it at with the stuck float.
2. Putting more hardware in the sump pit will shorten your cycle times, however if you have a alternating sump pump setup I think its an overall win because the off time of each individual pump becomes longer. You said during a heavy storm your off time for your pump is 40 seconds. To extend the life of the pump motor you really want to try to aim for at least 90 seconds so that the motor will have time to cool before the next start. If the short cycling is only during short periods of heavy rain I wouldn't worry about it too much.
3. A battery backup is unlikely to buy you a ton of time. 540 watts on 30% of the time is 180 watts continuous plus startup surge and inverter losses. Normally I'd say that the batteries would give you enough time to get back to your house and start a portable generator, but if you feel that getting cut off from your house by flooding is a real possibility I'd move installing a permanent autostart generator up on your list of priorities. (You could probably even skip the batteries if you had an automatic generator.)
4. Get a cheap flood alarm with a detachable sensor you can position inside your sump pit now. They are available at big box stores for approximately $15. Then at least you won't be sitting upstairs overthinking your sump pit while your basement is flooding. :)

-rick
 

BlkSC

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Because of that one experience of almost not being able to get to my house, I just stay home if things are looking dicey. It doesn't happen overnight, it takes several days of heavy rains, so I now know the signs to be aware of before this happens. One thing is that the city delivers fliers to my neighborhood if there's a chance of it happening.

Also, just wanted to add, after the experience with the motor getting so hot on the pedestal pump, whenever it's going to be raining a lot I set a very stout fan blowing directly on the motor to continue cooling the motor off when it's not running. That has seemed to help immensely.

At this point, I just need to decide what sump pump/sump pump system to go with. If the concrete patio alleviates the amount of water coming in when it rains heavily, done and done. If it doesn't, then I'll look into a whole house generator with automatic transfer switch...the ideal location would be on the concrete patio anyway. I'm trying to do everything I can to passively solve this problem, it just seems like the best way. I'd rather spend $15k to fix this passively than spend $5k to "fix" this with active solutions that will always require more maintenance and more things that can go wrong. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee the passive solution will help until I get it done...and that sucks, lol. I can't imagine it'd hurt though.
 

Martin Boring

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BlkSC Welcome to the forum. I throw my take on this. Sounds like you have ground water issues. Back in 1998 I bought the current farm and house I live in. Big three story house built in 1916. It had no gutters and the yard sloped toward the house. Water standing in the basement. We put gutters on fixed the yard put a pit in and still had water running threw the rooms in the basement when it rained. Cut the floor installed drain tile and a bigger pit. In the spring during the rainy season my sump pump runs a bunch. I have a four inch pipe that runs 500 feet from my house to a W ditch that the sump pumps dumps into. My pump will run some year around. My pump ran some much it would wear out the switches on the Zoeller pumps. I got tired of switching out Zoeller pumps because of switches every year of two. I always had a spare with pipe on it ready to go in the pit. I switched to a AMT model 523-D98 ten plus years ago and have never had any issues with it. I have a UPS battery back up system on it just in case the power goes out and I am not home to get the generator running. I don't have a whole house generator. We don't lose power much in my area.
 

Fitter30

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Never have seen a sump pump with the impeller on the top their always on the bottom because tring to get most of the water out of the sump and not have 10+ " in the pit. Instead of putting two pumps side by side is there room to suspend the second pump over the top of the other then it would a safety in case the primary fails. Look on the name tag on motor might have a temperature rating in celsius + ambient is the max temp of the motor's hot spot.
 
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LLigetfa

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When it's really bad, the sump pump runs approximately 20 seconds, is off for 40 seconds, then comes back on, etc...and this was after I adjusted it to come on when the water level almost gets up to the single incoming drain tile.
When I replaced a tethered float submersible with a pedestal, I was able to better fine tune the float to get about one minute of runtime. I could increase the runtime more by letting the water level come up and fill the perimeter drain as well as the crushed stone base under the slab but I prefer to keep that "in reserve" as it buys me around four hours of time before the water reaches the top of the slab.

I keep an old security camera on the sump pit/pump and my security system tracks the pump cycles. We are in a rain/snow storm system now and so the pump runs more plus my softener which dumps into the pit did a regen last night.

The following is a 24 hour period and the two dots closest together are the softener regen. The wider spacing is when the rain turned to snow.

14-11-09-10.png

I also have a high water alarm on it.
 
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LLigetfa

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Your comment about the stuck float and your basement still not flooding makes me think you have a fair amount of gravel underneath concrete floor and not just a drain tile. If you have a pump failure that gravel can act as a water storage area and buy you some time.
As mentioned above, I have crushed stone under my slab which holds a significant amount of water. I had to drill a bunch of holes in the plastic sump pit so that water could flow in fast enough for the pump to draw it down before the level in the pit dropped.
 
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