Sump Pump questions

OK, just bought a house. My last house I built was a walk out basement, so the only time my sump pump even went off was when I stuck a hose in it to test. 6 years and it never filled at all. This house is a standard ranch, poured basement, with a pump that runs.
My well is 24 inches deep, 17 inches wide. From the base of the well to the bottom of the single 4" feeder pipe is 12". Then the top of the pipe is 16" above the bottom of the well, and 8" from the top.
Now yesterday we had one of those weird wisconsin winter thunder storms, with constant rain all day.
The sump pump was going off about every 90 seconds, running for about 15 or 20 seconds each time. I thought that was way too much. So I kept it from firing off while I watched it fill at one point, and I saw that once the water got around 1/2" to 1" above the *bottom* lip of the feeder pipe, it leveled off and filled very very very slowly after that. In fact, I had it actually off for about 6 or so hours, and that was how long it took it to raise up another 5 inches or so.
Once it got that high, I let the pump run again, and it ran until it got down to the point where the water level around the house was no longer above the top of the pipe, and was once again hitting equilibrium a little over the bottom lip.
So here's my questions. This has a floater valve, one of the teathered units that has the switch that fires when it gets inverted beyond a certain point from the water rising. But there's not enough there for me to adjust it so it doesn't run every four or five minutes.
Right now, 24 hours after the rain, it's firing off every four minutes or so. I measured things a few minutes ago, and here's what I found.
The pump running takes the water down to 6". Then it shuts off. From that point, it takes the water about 30 seconds to get up to the 13" level (one inch over the bottom lip of the feeder pipe). from that point, it took longer than I wanted to stand down there waiting to see it rise even half an inch.
So my questions are:
1:) Is there any reason that it has to run and try to keep the water *below* the lip of the feeder pipe?
2:) Considering how long it was able to go without running during the rain to get the water level up to the top of the feeder pipe (which is still 8" below the lip of the well), is there anything wrong with setting it to run far less often, but just for longer? I'd rather have it fire off every four or five hours during a storm and run for 5 minutes or something than have it do the every 90 seconds running. That frequency just seems like it's begging for a burned out motor.
3:) Is there any level I should not be comfortable with it rising to before it kicks off the sump pump?
4:) I hear a thump a bit when the backup valve engages after the pump is done (as well as the rattling a bit of the pipe going through the floor joists without any padding there - gotta fix that). They have the valve about 5 or 6 inches *above* floor level, so when it stops, the bottom of the pipe below that valve empties back, and fills with air. So the next time the pump kicks off, there's 16 inches of air in the pipe, and you can hear the air as it bubbles through when the pump starts. Should I have that valve lower, like right off the top of the pump, so that there's no air in the pipe? Or does that one way valve have to be above the lip for some reason?
5:) It rises about 10 feet before going horizontal out of the house. And with the rate of water I cited above, what should I look at for a replacement? I had an issue with the float valve being kind of "sticky" yesterday when I was testing things out, and I'm sure it's just one of the cheaper ones that builders use to maximize their profits. I'd like to replace it with something quiet. Considering the rate of flow once the bottom of the unit fills up, I'm hoping I can get away with one of the smaller HP units that I would assume are more likely to be quieter? With the description above, does anyone have any suggestions for what I could get that would be more silent than this one I have now?
Thanks for any help. I'm also going to be dealing with a backup unit (one of the battery ones most likely) next spring to make sure I'm covered when spring hits, since it's not unheard of to lose power around here (southeast wisconsin).
--
John

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Yes, you thought right.

Not that I'm aware of.

Every motor has a duty cycle. Most have a maximum number or starts per hour. If you can have it start less often, that would prolong the life.

If your feet get wet, it is starting too late.

All the pumps in our shop have a foot valve. As the name implies, it is on the bottom and keeps the column of water above it. Never a dry start for hte pump (unless the foot check valve fails)

We use both Zoeler and Teal submerisbles that are very quiet. I have one Teal that is above the water and screams like hell when it starts, screams a bit less once it is pumping. OK in a boiler room, but not in a house. Lok at www.grainger.com or www.mcmaster.com for some other styles.
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On 1/3/2006 9:15:50 PM, "Edwin Pawlowski" wrote:

Thanks for the quick, informative reply. Time to pick up a Zoeler.
--
John

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If your basement drains okay it shouldn't matter. My old basement used to flood in some areas if I didn't keep the level low in the crock.

Seems like a good idea. If you want to raise the whole pump, you could probably do that also.

Whatever level keeps your basement dry.

The pump has to push against that weight, which can be difficult when the pump is just starting up and torque is low. I had a pump that actually required a small hole in the pipe or the pump couldn't start. The advantage was that the starting current was very low and more generator friendly. I suspect it also had a longer life.

You get a fair amount of water. Having had problems in the past (solved by moving to a house that doesn't need a sump pump...) I wouldn't press my luck.

Absolutely. Unless your current experience is as bad as it gets, a backup is pretty essential. It also protects you in case your pump breaks, which they do.
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That pipe is probably connected to a network of pipes under the floor. If you raise the pump to where the pipes fill every time, the pump will run longer, but if you do that and the eclectic goes off, then you have a lot less time before flooding happens.

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John wrote: ...

I have two comments.
First I suggest you consider a water powered pump rather than battery for backup. Battery power will not last all that long and batteries get old so a few years down the road you may only get a few minutes of protection from the battery powered backup.
Second, while reading your message, something kept whispering in my ear "Check the foot valve" or what ever kind of back flow valve(s) you have. It just sounded a little too much like you are getting a leakage coming back into the sump from the water you just pumped out. Nothing certain, just a feeling I have about it.
--
Joseph Meehan

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Water powered is best but with power outages if you have a 240 Well you have nothing. www.zoeller.com or www.basepump.com. They outperform battery in every way with good city water. Batteries last 4-8 years, what if power goes out and batteries last 3 minutes, plus they just dont last in Gallon Per Day or gpH.
But you have not determined if you need a pump yet, if house will leak at all or is it possibly gutters , downspouts , grading, etc are wrong. Turn it off and see what happens after a few days, you likely have a fairly nearby water table but it could be runoff. Find out water table depth. Not running it might make basement humid, ok in winter, but maybe level is below floor leak point on average and only needed March through June, You pay alot to pump out the water in Kwh. You can raise level and shutoff point, it is your experiment depending on your water table .
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Any way to use a gravity drain? people miss this all the time wanting to avoid outside digging. but its really the best way.
big storms equal most need for pump, and most likely power failure:(
My next BIG job here is a interior drain with gravity drain if theres enough fall.
once the basement is dry its time for a new high efficency furnace, with air
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