Sump Pump problem

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Tony wrote:

The float switch is the thing on the right in the picture that you posted.
As someone else suggested, with the pit open as you have it now, you could run water in the sink and watch the pit fill up. As the water level gets to the float and keeps getting higher you should see the float rising up. It should rise up easily because it is supposed to "float" on top of the water. It does it in a way that is similar to the ball float that is often seen in toilet tanks.
When the float rises enough, it is supposed to automatically close a switch inside the float switch mechanism and that switch causes power to go to the pump. After the pump pumps out some of the liquid, the water level lowers and the float goes down, and the switch switches to "off" and the power to the pump goes off.
If the float doesn't rise when the pit fills up, it can either be because: 1) the float is stuck on something; or, 2) it can be that the float has a hole in it and it no longer "floats" -- meaning that the float itself is bad.
If the float does rise easily like it is supposed to, but it doesn't turn the power on to the pump, it means the switch is bad. In other words, the float floats, but the switch doesn't work.
You can start this test with nothing plugged in if you want. In that case, you would just be watching to see if the float is floating the way it is supposed to as the water rises.
If that part works, you can try plugging in the cords. If the float floats and you plug the plugs in correctly as others have described, the pump should pump. If it doesn't (and the float did float), the switch is bad. In that case, you can temporarily plug the pump cord directly into an outlet to let the pump pump out the water in the pit -- then unplug it so it doesn't keep running.
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I already did everything you just said. I posted what I did an hour or so ago. I filled the tank with a few buckets of water and the float did rise. I plugged the pump in (piggybacked) as it should be. Nothing happened. I plugged the pump directly into the outlet and watched the tank empty out as the water shot up the pipes. The pump functioned fine but did not kick on because it looks like the switch is bad.
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UPDATE
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I was about to send this when I tried something. I put the shower on for 10 minutes. It seems to drain directly into the tank and not through the pipe that comes from the toilet\sink. When it filled high enough, the pump turned on as it should. Is it possible that the level was just not high enough when the engineer tested it? If so, then why did he say that the toilet was full to the top and not to flush it because the pump never tripped? This is weird.
Tony
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wrote:

Maybe the sewer line from the toilet is clogged or partially clogged and just needs to be snaked out! With the sump pump pit closed, the inspector wouldn't be able to see that he pit was not filling up, so he may have assumed that it did fill and the pump just didn't come on.
As you found out, you don't need to se a bucket to fill the pit while it is open. You can just turn on the water in the sink or shower and watch the pit fill. Same thing with the toilet -- flush it and see if water comes into the pit. It is open, so you can watch the whole operation. Ad, if you do it with everything plugged in the way it is supposed to be, you'll see what is working correctly and what isn't.
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wrote:

Apparently, my spell check isn't working. Shown below is my last post with some of the typos corrected to make it more readable. Also, it may be that you have two pipes emptying into the pit -- one from just the shower and one from the toilet and sink. Or, it is possible that they all drain onto one pipe that goes into the pit, but there is a clog between where the shower ties into that pipe and closer to the toilet/sink.
My prior post rewritten:
Maybe the sewer line from the toilet is clogged or partially clogged and just needs to be snaked out! With the sump pump pit closed, the inspector wouldn't be able to see that the pit was not filling up, so he may have assumed that it did fill and the pump just didn't come on.
As you found out, you don't need to use a bucket to fill the pit while it is open. You can just turn on the water in the sink or shower and watch the pit fill. Same thing with the toilet -- flush it and see if water comes into the pit. It is open, so you can watch the whole operation. And, if you do it with everything plugged in the way it is supposed to be, you'll see what is working correctly and what isn't.
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What makes you think the sewer line could be clogged. He clearly says the ejector pump:
A - runs and empties out the pit when plugged in directly
B - doesn't turn on at all when plugged in using the float/level sensing switch.
Given the skill set here and the fact that it's holding up the sale of a house, I'd just call a plumber and be done with it. The other alternative is to remove the pump and replace the switch. Given what the pump looks like, upon further inspection, I might replace the whole thing. Whether the poster can do that correctly is another question. I'm all in favor of folks doing as much work as they are capable of here, but clearly the OP is clueless. Suppose he does a hack job and creates a situation that results in someone getting electrocuted. The buyer is going to have pretty compelling evidence as to who is responsible.
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wrote:
What makes you think the sewer line could be clogged. He clearly says the ejector pump:
A - runs and empties out the pit when plugged in directly
B - doesn't turn on at all when plugged in using the float/level sensing switch.
+++++++++
By "sewer line", I meant the sewer line between the toilet-and-sink and the pit. I wrote that because the OP wrote,

When he wrote that, it made me think that the inspector turned on the water in the sink and/or flushed the toilet and the toilet backed up without the ejector pump coming on. So, the inspector assumed that the ejector pump (in the closed pit) wasn't working. But it may have just been that the water in the sink and/or toilet wasn't even getting into the pit due to the clogged line. Had the inspector run the shower for long enough, my guess is that the pump would have come on and the toilet would not have backed up.
And, earlier, the OP apparently had not let the pit fill up enough (he was only using buckets of water) to know if the switch and pump were working properly. Later, with the pit open, when he ran the shower, the pit filled up to a high enough level for the pump to automatically come on. So, everything was working correctly when hooked up correctly and when the shower was allowed to run.
My guess is: 1) the switch works (with enough water in the pit); 2) the pump works (which we already knew); and, 3) there is a clog in the line which prevents water from the sink and/or toilet going into the pit.
Clear out the clog and I'll bet the whole thing will work fine.
As far as the OP's skills are concerned, he seems to be figuring it out step by step. He took the top off, took pictures and posted them, and did various tests. It looked at first that it was the switch that was bad, but he may not have known how high the water level has to go before the switch activates the pump. Now that he has tried letting enough water go in (from the shower), the switch and pump appear to be working correctly. I think he is close to having this solved.
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I missed that part of the story.

Yes, I agree now. That's a definite possibility.

This has been total amature hour from the start and he hasn't been capable of figuring anything out, only attempting to follow directions by remote control, with no evidence of even the most basic repair skills. But maybe he will wind up fixing it. Or screwing it up worse. We'll see.
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snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

I have a completely different take on this. From my perspective, the OP is an intelligent person who posted a practical question, and then (unlike many who post here) he followed up with more posts, more photos, etc. He took in what people were suggesting, he tried some of the ideas people offered and he did some experimenting on his own. In the end, he may have solved the problem, and along the way he (and some of us) learned some things that we may not have known before. All in all, a good couple of days.
I actually have a basement level bathroom that I am redoing and I have been researching my options for a while now. One of my options has been to install a macerating ejector pump in a pit similar to what the OP now has. Another option is to use one of the Saniflo ( http://www.saniflo.com ) surface-mounted upflush systems. So, while deciding, it actually helped me to see the photos the OP posted of his system in both the open and closed states. And, while looking up info about the types of switches, I got to learn more about the different types, which are the most reliable, which cost the most and least, etc. In part, that is why I am here -- both to pass on any information that I may know that may be helpful and also to get more information and learn more. We all start somewhere, and all of us know some things and don't know other things.
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In the beginning he said he bypassed the float switch because he was screwing around and didn't know what he was doing, which started the pump up and he then let it run dry for 4 hours. Many post and days later he;s still incapable of figuring out if the float switch does or does not work correctly. All that takes is watching the tank that's sitting there with the cover off fill with water from the sink.
I'm all in favor of people with some basic skills and sense doing their own work. In this case, the added factor is that it involves a home sale contigency inspection. I think the buyer is entitled to have the system checked and fixed by someone with the appropriate skills. They deserve to have it fixed right.
If it were you or many of the other posters here, I'd say we could DIY. In the process, we could see what was going on and might see other things that need to be corrected.
How about this scenario. He does whatever he does. The buyer closes on the property and 2 weeks later, there is bathroom waste and water all over the basement floor, damaging personal property that he had there. Now the buyer wants $5000 in damages to cover the cost of the lost goods, drying out the basement, and having a plumber fix the ejection system. IMO, the buyer would likely have a compelling case.
//He took in

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On Sat, 18 Jun 2011 11:18:29 -0700 (PDT), " snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net"

Hate to break it to you but I am very intelligent. I just never looked at a pump like this before in my life. Do you think a doctor or Einstien would just figure it out? I doubt it. Show me once, I can do it. I just did not know what to expect. The problem was the pump never kicked in. That seems to be because the level of water was never high enough. That was my thought from the beginning. I had to open the top to see the level of the water. I had to also disconnect the pvc pipe from the sink in the bathroom to be able to do that because there was no play in the pipe to allow me to pull the top off. With the PVG pipe from the bathroom off, I did not want to flush or run the sink because the pipe was disconnected. That is why I used the buckets of water. Then, I realized that the shower directly ran into the tank and that I could run it to fill the tank.
It turns out that my original observation was correct. I just had no idea about piggy backing the plugs had to be done. Now I know.
As for spending $41 to fix it, my house is a short sale. I have lived here for 7 years, have paid $3000/mo on time all the way through until now. The house is selling for $260,000 and I still owe $311,000 after the bank received over $181,000 from me in P&I the past 7 years. So, since I am walking away without one cent, I am no putting one cent into it. It just isnt worth it. The pump wasnt holding up the sale of the house. I was just doing it out of courtesty. With a short sale, you dont come back and negotiate after an inspection. The house is already priced to sell.
And I wrote earlier that there are no sewers anywhere near me. I have a cesspool.
Thanks to every who had the patience and confidence in me to help.
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wrote:

No sweat Tony, I was boilerman in the Navy working on high pressure steam/water piping, did plumbing work in the steel mills, replumbed all the supplies in my first house, and made money working with a plumber doing apartment building rehabs, including deep sewer tiles. Then I moved to this house in the suburbs. There's a pedestal pump on a steel tank in the basement floor. Big 2" copper pipe running into the floor by the tank and running around the corner and along the wall to T in the vent pipe by the laundry tub. An even bigger 3" copper pipe coming from the floor by the tank, going up high, then looping back to a sewer stub stickling though the wall. Pump goes on when we run water or flush the toilet. This is right next to a regular sump with sub pump. Besides that I had the familiar catch basin in back, and know how sewer systems are set up around here. But I couldn't figure out this system because I never saw it before. What I did was call a local plumber I found in the phone book. Asked him how much he wanted an hour to just come out and tell me what I had. $70. He was surprised and hesitated a bit when I told him to get over here. Maybe thought it was a stickup. Anyway, he had seen these before, but not set up like mine so it took him a little while to get it down and explain every piece to me. Maybe 45 minutes including running water from various sources and looking in the catch basin. We spent about 3 more hours bulls hitting, so his hourly rate really suffered. I knew you could do this as soon as I saw you could take the lid off and operate a camera. No rocket science, all desire. But when nearly all the mechanics are hidden, it's best to have it explained. If you actually had to pull the pump you could run into various snags, so it's good the float switch is working. Good luck on the house. Sounds like a good reason to walk away from a mortgage, but you have your own reasons.
--Vic
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<stuff snipped>

Ditto, Tony. I hope we were (mostly) helpful.

I knew we had something in common. My dad retired from Navy to become a forensic investigator who specialized, among other things, in investigating boiler explosions. I'm sure you know they can make a hell of a mess when they blow, and many become guided missiles because a fitting breaks and creates a "rocket nozzle" for the high pressure steam to exit. The boilers are often found up to 300' from where they started.
<stuff snipped>

Coming here to ask questions before he hired a plumber certainly doesn't qualify him to be called "clueless." Even if he doesn't do any of the work himself, he's at least trying to learn as much as he can about the situation. I was thrown the first time I saw that sort of completely separate float switch controlling the pump via that "piggy back" outlet. The only time I have ever seen those were Compaq monitor power cords so that the PC only took one outlet instead of two. It's a quite natural mistake to make, I think. The sump pump I just bought from HD has that same sort of switch arrangement.

As someone who was about to buy a horribly overpriced house when the market collapsed, he has my utmost sympathy. Someone here insisted a while back that we're out of the woods and the damage to people's live savings should be minimal but the facts are that people are still losing homes that became so overpriced in the great price run-up.
I've read that economists think there's another huge bubble working its way through the economy: the college bubble. Everyone's told the same sort stuff they said about houses: You'll make so much money over the non-college folks, you can't lose, etc. The costs for college have been skyrocketing while the product is largely unimproved. There's mounting evidence that kids starting life with tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt don't make out anywhere near as well as they had hoped to by taking on that outrageous debt. .
-- Bobby G.
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On Sun, 19 Jun 2011 06:03:37 -0400, "Robert Green"

Home prices have been ridiculously high for years. That should have been apparent to anybody who's been around a while. I absolutely KNEW a big crash was coming. When you KNOW you are making twice the income of those buying houses you can't afford, and you KNOW your kids are making "decent" wages and can't afford to buy a house - you KNOW it can't last. And that's without even considering a jobs crash. That's all simple market economics. Americans are really delusional. And that includes its "leaders." When houses were very near their high, I mentioned to my wife we could sell our house, get an apartment for a couple years, then buy a house after the crash. Of course that wasn't serious, because our house is our home, not a financial instrument. The drop in home prices is far from over.

Hadn't even thought about that one. You're right about outrageous costs. Academia is no better than the corporate executive ranks or the medical industry at sucking up every penny they can. They are very wealthy lots. My kids never got deep in debt getting their degrees, and managed to put them to use. Grants, part-time jobs, driving beaters. I kicked in very little except kicks in the ass. But the last one who just graduated is having a problem finding a job. She just graduated a month ago, so it's not a big concern - yet. Timing over which you have no control is always a factor. A large element of life is guided by pure dumb luck. When you were born, where you were born, who were your parents, etc. What gets me is culinary and other "trade" schools. I was downtown in Chicago a couple years ago doing something near the Chicago Culinary Institute and talked to some young folks on break there. Found some were in hock +$30k for an 18 month "certificate"course. My wife is a chef with over 20 years experience. She makes $15 an hour. And it's doubtful these kids will ever have the skill she has. I just wished them luck and didn't discourage them. But I felt depressed thinking about the disappointment and debt most would find as their reward for trying. Same with some of these automotive schools. Many if not most will get in hock for 10's of thousands, and end up unemployed or at Jiffy Lube. When I got out of the Navy in 1967 anybody who was willing to work could find a job to support themselves, and with just a little hustle a good enough job to support a wife and kids. Didn't need "education." You got it on the job. Not so easy now. I always consider myself lucky just to be born when I was, and usually my first thought when I meet somebody down and out is there but for the grace of God go I. And I'm not even religious.
--Vic
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Maybe I just approach things differently than an intelligent person. But if an inspector called out the pump system for the basement sink, shower and toilet as not working, the first thing I'd do is go turn on the sink and let it run and watch if the water continued going down and the pump turned on. Either the water has to back up at some point, start running out from the ejection pump tank, or get pumped out. Then I'd do the same with the shower. If both of those work, then I'd flush the toilet. In other words, I'd have simply checked whether if worked or not myself.
Instead, you started fooling around with unplugging two cords to the pump that you didn't understand.

Not sure which observation that was. But if what you're saying now is that it all works and there was no problem, then obviously the inspector is an imbecile. I think we all would agree with that.

Sorry to hear your misfortune.
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On Thu, 16 Jun 2011 05:52:24 -0700 (PDT), " snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net"

Something must have, because you concluded they *were* wrong. The engineer and everyone else who saw it called it a sump pump and you say it's an ejector pump.

Yes, but some people waver.

I stand corrected. Thanks.

Me neither, but I've seen only a few models.

I said I wasn't certain.

He didn't say "instantly". He said "when [they] are used for a while". If the water table is just below the level at which the pump goes on, a leak could do it. The picture doesn't show how far the pump is from the bathroom.
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On 6/15/2011 11:22 PM, Tony wrote:

What you have is a macerator pump. It chops the solids into small bits, and sucks the mix out. The typical residential pit is around 15" diameter by 30" deep. Others have explained how the piggy pack float switch controls the pump. Chances are that the float switch isn't bad, as sometimes they get hung up on the pipes and other wires in the pit. If you have to open the pit to free it, you may as well replace it anyway. There is a seal between the cover and the pit tank. It is there to keep gasses in the tank, so if you remove the cover, be sure that the seal remains intact, or replace it. Piggy back float switches are available at hardware stores and online suppliers.
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On 6/15/2011 11:22 PM, Tony wrote:

Since you haven't used the toilet, there won't be anything but water in the pit, along with wires and pipes. The larger PVC pipe will connect to the pump at the bottom of the pit. The smaller PVC pipe just goes below the cover. It is a fresh air vent. This allows air to flow into the pit, as the pump pulls the water out, without causing a vacuum.
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