Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

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jimmo
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Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by jimmo » Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:15 pm

UPDATE/RESOLUTION: See post 29; 8/17/18

This is just our second year in our current house. It's that time of year when the ground thaws, frequent rains, and sump pump issues. Not sure if I didn't notice last spring or it was a dryer spring, but our sump pump runs A LOT.

So about 3 weeks ago, we got around 2.5 inches of rain in around a 24 hours span. A lot of rain, but not unusual at least a couple times a year around here. During the last 12 hours of that rain event, our sump pump was kicking on every minute, actually every 45 seconds and on for about 5 seconds at a time. By a day or two later it would stretch back out to 10 minute frequency and by a week later about every 30 minute frequency. A week or so ago, we got around 1 inch of rain and it was then kicking on every 4-5 minutes at its peak before dialing back. It got me thinking about several scenarios: (1) Is there something wrong with my sump pump? (2) Is the water its pumping out somehow ending up right back in the sump pit? i.e. clogged tiles, backflow issues. (3) Or am I just in a low lying area and this is just my unfortunate reality that I will have an overworked sump pump.

So one at a time:
(1) sump pump: it's a Zoeller model (appears to be M53) that was put in about two years ago when we moved in to replace and old dying one. Some research shows it's a very good pump. Only downside is you can't adjust the float to allow it to come on less frequently and pump more water per cycle. Nonetheless, when it kicks on it clearly pumps out around 5 inches of water in the pit, which leads me to (2)...
(2) The water is pumped out of the house and into underground tile that dumps out at the curb. To test that it was working, when I heard the sump pump kick on, I'd quick run out to the curb and within 20 seconds would see water pouring out of the tile along the street curb, which leads me to (3)..
(3) When the water pours out at the curb, it runs downhill two houses down where it drains into storm drain and that would appear to be low spot on our street (so not my house).

If you stayed with me this long, here's where it gets interesting. Since I can see where all the neighbors sump pumps drain water out to the street, I started to monitor more closely, and notice within a few days of a rain event that the neighbors on each side of me and couple more houses down all have dry curbs at the outflow tile where sump water drains. i.e. their sump pumps have stopped running or runs so infrequently that it drys out at the curb before next cycle. Meanwhile, mine will still be running every 30 minutes or so even after we haven't had rain in a week. Bummer. However, if I go around to other streets in the neighborhood, it seems there's a least one house per street that's still pumping water out to the curb from the tile coming from sump pump. i.e. may have similar situation to me.

So...here's my hypothesis. But first, an important additional piece of information, we have a known high water table around here. I know because last year when I replaced an old fence post in my yard, the bottom of the 3 or 4 foot hole filled with water immediately, and this was middle of the summer. So my thought is that my house foundation and subsequently sump pump pit must be set at least somewhat lower than all my immediate neighbors, such that my pump is doing all the work to set the water table height for all the houses around me. Presumably the same is happening for other folks in the neighborhood whose pumps are still running weeks after a rain.

Do you agree with my synopsis or do you think I'm missing something here? And is there any real remedy or do I just accept that I'm always going to have an overused sump pump that will need replaced more often? Would it be a bad idea to set my sump pump say a foot higher in the pit, so instead of emptying all but a few inches at the bottom it would always stay close to half full, and would subsequently get much closer to the top of pit before kicking on? Seems risky and not sure it's a good idea for an extra foot of water to build up around my foundation. Anyhow, some fresh perspectives would be appreciated on the matter.

EDITED TO ADD: There are two 2 tiles that drain into the sump pit, and these are positioned about halfway up pit. During and immediately after rain event, water will come in from these tiles and drain into pit. Within a few hours after normal rain, no more water coming out of those tiles into pit. So after that, the pit is filling from the bottom up. Is that a sign of a high water table or is it normal for the pit to fill this way?

UPDATE/RESOLUTION: See post 29; 8/17/18
Last edited by jimmo on Fri Aug 17, 2018 8:13 am, edited 6 times in total.

Liberty1100
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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by Liberty1100 » Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:28 pm

Your water table idea could be an interesting factor to this problem. However, before attempting, ensure that the check valve is operating properly. It could very well be dysfunctioning and causing water to go back to the pump and require to be pumped again. I would also make sure the check valve placed properly as well. Too far or too close to the pump is no good.

Another thing, your sump pump may be underpowered as well. I would check the lines for restrictions.

chambers136
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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by chambers136 » Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:33 pm

Is there anywhere that water pools after a hard rain? I had water pooling between my house and the lot next door- it now has a house, but was empty at the time. This pool of water was probably 70ft away from my foundation. I suspected what would happen is it would sink into the ground, travel across a limestone bed, and end up in my sump pits. So I buried a pipe to drain this low spot and cored through the curb to drain it. That pretty much too care of it. The pump will still run every year or two after a slow melting wet snow, but it used to run after every heavy rain. Also, you can disable the Zoeller float and use a secondary (may be called piggyback?) float (either vertical or tethered) if you don't like the way that performs. Mine is a Zoeller and I noticed the integrated float had very little travel, so I used a vertical switch and zip tied the Zoeller float down.

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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by bob60014 » Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:47 pm

I had a similar issue of the pump running frequently. The issue was resolved by ensuring the pump was at the correct level in the pit and by properly adjusting the float. It took about 30 minutes to adjust, no problem since...no flooding either!

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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by Shikoku » Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:54 pm

It seems a lot of water activity immediately after the rain. You may like to make sure that the downspouts have extensions and ground is properly slopped so that water moves away from the house quickly. Discharge of my sump pump goes to the underground stormwater drain. It is a good idea to check where the pumped water is really going.
"I don't worry too much about pointing fingers at the past. I operate on the theory that every saint has a past, every sinner has a future." -- Warren Buffett

jimmo
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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by jimmo » Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:55 pm

chambers136 wrote:
Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:33 pm
Is there anywhere that water pools after a hard rain? I had water pooling between my house and the lot next door- it now has a house, but was empty at the time. This pool of water was probably 70ft away from my foundation. I suspected what would happen is it would sink into the ground, travel across a limestone bed, and end up in my sump pits. So I buried a pipe to drain this low spot and cored through the curb to drain it. That pretty much too care of it. The pump will still run every year or two after a slow melting wet snow, but it used to run after every heavy rain. Also, you can disable the Zoeller float and use a secondary (may be called piggyback?) float (either vertical or tethered) if you don't like the way that performs. Mine is a Zoeller and I noticed the integrated float had very little travel, so I used a vertical switch and zip tied the Zoeller float down.
Thanks, I may have to look into a secondary float that has a longer travel time and then would hopefully cut back on frequency that the pump comes on.

Additionally water does collect between my house and neighbors house after heavy rain. Our yards are both graded to do this to get water away from our houses, but yes over time that probably seeps in and end up feeding down to my pump.

jimmo
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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by jimmo » Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:57 pm

Shikoku wrote:
Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:54 pm
It seems a lot of water activity immediately after the rain. You may like to make sure that the downspouts have extensions and ground is properly slopped so that water moves away from the house quickly. Discharge of my sump pump goes to the underground stormwater drain. It is a good idea to check where the pumped water is really going.
Downspouts are tiled out to curb as well. Possible to have some blockage in there I'm sure, but that wouldn't explain pump running every 20-30 minutes a week after rain, right?

jimmo
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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by jimmo » Fri Mar 09, 2018 2:01 pm

bob60014 wrote:
Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:47 pm
I had a similar issue of the pump running frequently. The issue was resolved by ensuring the pump was at the correct level in the pit and by properly adjusting the float. It took about 30 minutes to adjust, no problem since...no flooding either!
How is the correct level in the pit determined? Mine is a Zoeller model that is intended to be submerged in water so it sits at bottom of pit, and after it kicks on and empties water, there's still a few inches of water at bottom. I'm wondering if I should sit it on some blocks to raise it up higher so more water would always be in pit.

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jharkin
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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by jharkin » Fri Mar 09, 2018 2:01 pm

It could be the water table is really high. Could also be that the soil around your foundation is not graded properly so that rainwater off the roof doesn't flow away from the basement. Could be other neighbors have had exterior foundation sealing done or have exterior foundation drains. Could be a lot of things.

Raising the pump may help so long as you keep the highest point below the floor. I have a high water table and at times when the table is high I had to do that to reduce nuisance runs. But I got more relief when we did backyard patio work and regraded around the foundation to direct more water away. Sometimes a french drain is the answer.

The building science website is a good resource to research this stuff:
https://buildingscience.com/documents/b ... tions/view


Also, you may not have though about this yet, but if its running that much I would look at getting a secondary pump on battery backup put in for piece of mind.

Shikoku
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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by Shikoku » Fri Mar 09, 2018 2:14 pm

jimmo wrote:
Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:57 pm
Shikoku wrote:
Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:54 pm
It seems a lot of water activity immediately after the rain. You may like to make sure that the downspouts have extensions and ground is properly slopped so that water moves away from the house quickly. Discharge of my sump pump goes to the underground stormwater drain. It is a good idea to check where the pumped water is really going.
Downspouts are tiled out to curb as well. Possible to have some blockage in there I'm sure, but that wouldn't explain pump running every 20-30 minutes a week after rain, right?
Sump pit can get filled with dirt resulting in reduced capacity. In that case, the pump will run frequently. There are so many variables.
"I don't worry too much about pointing fingers at the past. I operate on the theory that every saint has a past, every sinner has a future." -- Warren Buffett

Chip
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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by Chip » Fri Mar 09, 2018 2:17 pm

jharkin wrote:
Fri Mar 09, 2018 2:01 pm
Raising the pump may help so long as you keep the highest point below the floor. I have a high water table and at times when the table is high I had to do that to reduce nuisance runs.
In my case LOWERING the pump was the right thing to do. When I moved in to my house the pump would activate and run for 5 seconds or so, then shut off. Repeat every minute. The reason was that it was only pumping out what was in the sump, vs the sump plus all the water accumulated in the perimeter drain tiles. Lowering the pump caused it to run for 90+ seconds, pumping out a lot of the water in the drain tiles. Then it was off for several minutes while the tiles and sump refilled.

It would have been nice if this could have been done by adjusting the float switch travel but that didn't work in my particular situation.

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Epsilon Delta
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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by Epsilon Delta » Fri Mar 09, 2018 2:59 pm

jimmo wrote:
Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:15 pm
During the last 12 hours of that rain event, our sump pump was kicking on every minute, actually every 45 seconds and on for about 5 seconds at a time.
Regardless of anything else the pump only running for 5 seconds is a problem. Short cycling the pump is inefficient and will shorten the life of the pump. The problem might be that the floats are adjusted incorrectly, or that the pit is too small, or that the pump is too big. Managing the inflow or outflow of water by adjusting the grade, fixing gutters, positioning the outflow etc. may or may not be useful for other reasons, but they will not affect the short cycling.

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hand
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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by hand » Fri Mar 09, 2018 3:15 pm

A couple of thoughts in no particular order:

1) Not stated in your problem statement is the risk of flooding should your pump fail or power go out - priority one for me would be ensuring I had a functioning backup pump and battery / generator backup

2) Idea of triggering pump at a higher level to potentially allow other houses to share in the load has promise; would be interesting to see what happens at your house and others if you allow sump to fill to a higher level (perhaps turn off your pump for a while and watch closely)

3) Floats are common failure points on pumps, replacing with an electronic float is likely a good idea regardless

4) short cycling pump or raising out of water is bad - allowing sump to fill more fully before emptying will likely extend life of your pump

5) One approach to address shortcycling is to increase the size (diameter) of the sump - if water inflow stays constant, it will take longer for water level in sump to reach trigger depth, and when it does, pump will run longer.

Really interesting challenge - please do update if you find a solution

Capsu78
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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by Capsu78 » Fri Mar 09, 2018 3:27 pm

I have close to 30 years of Sump pump experience as a homeowner. Here are my quick observations:
You are inspecting all the right places.
You have good equipment.
You have a lot of water finding its way into your drain tiles. Important to determine if it's all "cycling" once, or is it somehow recycling.
I was DIY for 15 years, suffered 3-4 failures leading to water in the unfinished basement. I had a lot of water all the time, except in droughts. I also had a bad check valve "bang" that I just tuned out, but visitors would say "What the what was that?". Finally had a failure while I was out of town on business, had a professional plumber come in to redo my pump, as well as all the lines and check valves. Upgraded me to Zoller. After about a week, my pit was holding very little water and has stayed that way since. I don't mess around with either water or electrical work anymore.
I suggest calling in a plumber.

One thing that was useful is a buddy from the water department gave me a small bottle of green flourecent dye they use for finding leaks. If you gee green dye anyplace its not supposed to be, that is where you start troubleshooting.

TrustButVerifying
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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by TrustButVerifying » Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:20 pm

Epsilon Delta wrote:
Fri Mar 09, 2018 2:59 pm
jimmo wrote:
Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:15 pm
During the last 12 hours of that rain event, our sump pump was kicking on every minute, actually every 45 seconds and on for about 5 seconds at a time.
Regardless of anything else the pump only running for 5 seconds is a problem. Short cycling the pump is inefficient and will shorten the life of the pump. The problem might be that the floats are adjusted incorrectly, or that the pit is too small, or that the pump is too big. Managing the inflow or outflow of water by adjusting the grade, fixing gutters, positioning the outflow etc. may or may not be useful for other reasons, but they will not affect the short cycling.
I agree with this post.

I have the same issue as you with my sump pump running often even when the weather has been dry for a long time. I have had 4 Zoeller pumps fail in the last 14 years and I have come to believe that the short cycling is the cause. I am trying to figure out how to increase the time interval between cycles and in fact I have been talking to our plumber about this issue. He has suggested that my pump is too powerful (1/2 hp) and that it clears the pit of water too quickly. He thinks that switching to a 1/3 hp sump pump would let the pump run for a longer period of time before the water level drops to the shutoff level. My concern is that in the past, there were times when the 1/2 hp pump barely kept up with the inflow.

Zoeller does offer a Long Cycle Kit - Model 10.0001. This won't work for me. I would have to have a deeper sump pit for this to work because the specs call for a minimum pit depth of 43 inches.

There are non-automatic sump pumps that don't have the on/off switch incorporated into the pump. Those are controlled by a separate float mechanism. Maybe others can tell you about those types.

What I am doing in the meantime is to get a 1/3 hp Battery Backup Sump Pump installed. The next hard rain we have, I am going to unplug the main pump and see if the 1/3 hp backup pump will keep up with the inflow. If it does, I may consider using a less powerful pump.

jimmo
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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by jimmo » Sat Mar 10, 2018 6:11 am

The more I look into sump pumps, the more I'm confused by the design of the standard Zoeller model that can cause short cycling. The float is not adjustable and the travel distance seems rather short. From the comments here, there are ways to override by piggybacking a secondary float and the like. Obviously this is altering the original design of the pump. For being a high quality pump, why design with unadjustable float and fairly limited travel distance?

Carl53
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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by Carl53 » Sat Mar 10, 2018 7:11 am

I've got a Zoeller pedestal pump that is north of 30 years old. We are at the top of a rise in one direction with a gentle grade in the others but with heavy clay soils. Even in droughts my sump pump will kick in a few times a day as I've been advised there are springs in the area. When we have multiple inches of rain, it may run up to two minutes, shut off for perhaps 45-60 seconds and then back on again all day and perhaps several hours thereafter before slowing down.

I have replaced 300 foot of downspout drainline to the nearest gulley for the downspouts on the basement end of the house, and the remaining are directed well away from the basement on the garage/crawl space end of the house. I had the internal Bdry basement drain system partially redone. (OP, the following may apply to your situation.) More recently, I lowered the sump pump by more than an inch in the pit by replacing the block it was set on with a much thinner piece. I also adjusted my float rod start/stop trips such that it will run longer and empty the pipes more fully to reduce the number of cycles. I've got to believe that it has gone through 100,000 cycles or more (probably a lot more given that I've tried to stretch the cycle time) over the years.

BTW, the only maintenance the pump has required is replacing the float rod due to rust that made it fail (found pump running very long time once) and putting a little lube on it every few years to deter future rusting and I changed the check valve once. I thought about putting a water powered backup sump in but was turned off after talking to my water company insisting that I would have to have them inspect annually for a fee. Made no sense to me since if their high pressure water failed the water based backup pump was not going to be pumping water back or aspirated back into their system.

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Extended Runtime Switch

Post by willift » Sat Mar 10, 2018 2:05 pm

I've got a unusually narrow and deep sump pit and I was experiencing short cycling on my Zoeller pump. Installed a pump controller gizmo from HydoCheck and it works great. It's a dual probe/contact type switch. You can set the on and off levels at any desired heights. Both contacts wet=pump on, both contacts dry=pump off. Google HydroCheck HC6000. Works great for my application.

The water table issue is interesting
If it was a water table issue and not drain tiles you could possibly raise the pump inside the pit and just let the water table be where it is. I would guess if you place your pump below the water table it would spend a good portion of it's life just trying to lower it (the water table). The drain tiles around your footing is what I think I'd be concerned about, if you're keeping them empty you're protecting the basement.

If you use the 2 stage switch:
A. You wouldn't have to move the pump, just adjust the on/off levels to fit your scenario
B. Make sure your pump is running before those drain tiles fill up. If you allow the water to build up in the tiles then the water that can't get into the filled tiles is heading for your basement.

That's my 2 cents your situation might be different

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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by Boglegrappler » Sat Mar 10, 2018 3:22 pm

Most of the discussion of "water table" is misguided, including by professionals.

Your house rests on a foundation that sits in a hole in the ground. No foundation is water tight, nor are they intended to be. If the water that would like to fill up the hole occupied by yorur foundation gets above the floor-wall joint, you'll have water. Sump pumps exist to prevent this from happening.

In an ideal construction, at the bottom of the hole, underneath your basement floor, the builder will have place about 4-6 inches of trap rock or large gravel, which provides a place for some water to dwell under there until it can percolate away down through the soil. And the backfill around the foundation will have been graded so that rain falling around the house will run away from the house (hopefully far) before it begins to percolate down into the soil. And, the gutter downspouts will be set up so that their outflow does the same. Note: I was told that some years ago, the downspouts were routinely attached to the footing drains at the foundation!!!! In cases where this was done (probably only where the footing drains could run to daylight), it would do an excellent job of putting the water directly where you don't want it. I'd make sure I knew where that water from the downspouts went. If you're on a hill with footing drains from years ago that are clogged, it means more water at your foundation floor.

Most houses are going to get some water beneath their cellar floor during periods of heavy rain. A sump pump ensures that that water level won't get up to where it begins to leak in. The proper way for that to happen is to have a perimeter drain around the foundation just below the floor joint, and have that drain slope all the water it collects into the sump. If its "pitched" correctly those drains should enter the sump not too far below the top. With the perimeter drain, there would be no need for perforations in the bottom of the sump pit.

If there is no perimeter drain, then the sump needs perforations to allow it to drain the area under your foundation. If you have, say, a three foot deep sump, and the perforations are at the bottom, you will be protecting your basement from leaks by constantly removing any water from a three foot depth under your floor. You really don't care if there is water under there though. You just need to keep it maybe 6-12 inches below your floor. Your situation sounds like your pump may be removing a greater volume of water than necessary.

I'd consider redoing your setup. There are some larger professional grade pits that will hold more quantity so the pit doesn't fill as quickly, and the pump doesn't cycle as often. The best ones are wider at the bottom, so that, after backfilling them and cementing, water rising around them doesn't push/float the sump pit up out of the hole. If you have to perforate rather than reattach the drains, perforate 6-10 inches under your floor. The pump will not have to drain so much water then.

Making sure your check valve is not allowing water back in is useful. I wouldn't downsize the pump. You want capacity to empty the sump within 15-30 seconds. The pump shouldn't be taxing itself to get rid of the water.

Unless your house's foundation is in rock (in which case there is no water table, just water in the hole), or unless you are next to a swamp, most of the discussion of water tables is usually just talking about what happens when it rains a lot. Proper grading, and downspout routing can mitigate that issue, but the sump pump is your last line of defense, and it sounds like you truly need it. Good luck getting it under control.

Added: If the pump runs quickly when it rains, then your surface water is making it quickly to the hole your house sits in. That's not good, and means your grading and or downspouts aren't up to snuff. Most sump activity should happen on a somewhat delayed basis as the rain percolates into the soil and eventually migrates to the hole. In the old house that I owned, it usually took 12-18 hours after heavy rain for the pump to begin running.

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FrugalInvestor
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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by FrugalInvestor » Sat Mar 10, 2018 3:46 pm

I owned a home on a great lot with a high water table. During the rainy season the pump cycled constantly during hard rains but kept things under control. If I were you I would maintain the pump every year including the check valve, aggressively replace it with a new pump every 5 years (they're not that expensive and Zoellers are a great brand) and not worry about it. If you are concerned I'd get someone who installs them to replace it the next time and ask for their input on whether you should be doing something differently. I doubt that you should. I would make sure that surface grading and downspout drainage around the house is good as that is always important.
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killjoy2012
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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by killjoy2012 » Sat Mar 10, 2018 4:05 pm

OP - I don't find your description to be all that abnormal. And I honestly would just accept it, and not change much.

What you might want to think about though, is that if your sub pump is running that often, what would happen when the pump motor eventually fails (they all do! esp ones that run that often). Or you lose electricity for an extended time, and maybe even during a thunderstorm. I would certainly think through scenarios like that, and consider a secondary city-water powered backup pump, and/or a generator. Especially if the basement is finished.

jimmo
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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by jimmo » Sun Mar 11, 2018 8:51 pm

Thanks all for the comments and feedback. I did a little more measuring and monitoring. I think I'm getting a better picture here and some next steps. A lot of responses on checking the check valve...after the sump pump runs the pit gets down to 3 inches of water at lowest level just as pump is shutting off and then immediately back to 4 inches, indicating the final inch pumped out comes right back in. I'm assume you're always going to get some small amount back in as check valve won't catch it all, but not sure what's "normal". 1 inch in my pit translate to 0.87 gallons. Anyone want to check theirs and see how much immediately returns? My check valve is positioned about about a foot and half above top level of pit, for what it's worth.

The sizing of my sump pit isn't exactly helping matters. It's only 16 inches wide by 24 inches deep. Seems 18in wide by 24in deep is now standard, and can size up from there. I'm guessing when this house was built in this planned neighborhood on quarter acre lots, they didn't expect as much water to collect around my property as has become the norm.

My Zoeller M53 pump has automatic turn on/off with set float travel length that is only 5 inches. Given pit width of 16 inches that translates to 4.3 gallons (yes, I had to look up how to calculate volume of a cylinder) being pumped each cycle with 0.87 returning immediately, for a net discharge of roughly 3.5 gallons per cycle.

I would like to do something about the short-cycling during rain events. My pit is not deep enough for the Zoeller long-cycle kit, but willift's recommendation on the pump controller switch from HydroCheck looks promising for my scenario. Instead of triggering at 8 inches, I could bump it up to 12 inches which would be just below the foundation tile emptying in the pit, and that would effectively allow me double the amount of water pumped out per cycle.

Beyond that, I probably should get myself a battery backup to avoid water in my basement in the event of sump failure or extended power loss. Not much of value in the basement, but there are finished walls and I don't want to deal with resulting mess water would leave.

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FrugalInvestor
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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by FrugalInvestor » Sun Mar 11, 2018 10:05 pm

Try replacing you check valve. They're cheap. It sounds like it may not be working correctly.
IGNORE the noise! | Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify. - Henry David Thoreau

Uniballer
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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by Uniballer » Sun Mar 11, 2018 10:19 pm

jimmo wrote:
Sun Mar 11, 2018 8:51 pm
Beyond that, I probably should get myself a battery backup to avoid water in my basement in the event of sump failure or extended power loss.
These do work, but the battery might be depleted in an extended power outage. If you have city water pressure, and you expect it can be maintained during a widespread power outage, then you might consider one of those water-driven backup sump pumps (e.g. Basepump, Sumpjet, Water Commander, no endorsement intended). This Old House Video on water powered backup sump pump.

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Epsilon Delta
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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by Epsilon Delta » Mon Mar 12, 2018 4:17 am

If I understand you correctly the check valve is about 1.5 feet above the top of the pit and the lower water level is 21 inches below the top of the pit. Thus the valve is about 39 inches above the lower water level. 39 inches of 2.5 inch pipe contains about 0.8 gallons. 39 inches of 1.5 inch pipe contains about 0.3 gallons. The water below the check valve will flow back into the pit when the pump shuts off so depending on the size of the pipe this explains part or all of the rise. The simplest solution is to lower the check valve. There are some that screw directly to the pump, which minimizes the back flow.

Reducing the backflow will not increase the "on" time of the pump but it will increase the "off" time and decrease the total number of cycles.

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Fletch
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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by Fletch » Mon Mar 12, 2018 6:48 am

I have had a Zoeller (Model 98 I think) sump pump with a Base Products battery back system up for many years. I noticed early on that the rubber flapper type check valve in the discharge piping failed after a few years (excessive leak back); replaced once in kind - lasted another few years. Then I replaced the check valve with a bronze model about 15 or 20 years ago (cost about $20 vs the $5 rubber model); still works flawlessly. I replace the battery every 4 years or so (automotive type battery).
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Doug E. Dee
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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by Doug E. Dee » Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:18 am

I would try the blocks under the pump. You may be pumping much more water than required to have a dry basement.

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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by TrustButVerifying » Wed Mar 14, 2018 12:17 am

Doug E. Dee wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:18 am
I would try the blocks under the pump. You may be pumping much more water than required to have a dry basement.
I think this (along with replacing the Check Valves) have merit. The plumber installed a battery backup sump pump for me and after listening to my problems with sump pumps failing regularly because of short cycling, he raised the level of the pump by putting a layer of bricks in the bottom of the pit. Magically, my pump has stopped the short cycling.

I am surmising that there is a natural water level and that the pump was set below that level causing it to constantly go off. By raising the pump, it put it above that "natural" level and now should only go off when there is excess water.

I would suggest that next dry spell, you turn off your sump pump and monitor the water level in the pit. See if it reaches a steady state or if it continues to rise and over flow the pit. If it does reach a steady level, that may indicate that you should raise the level of your pump.

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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by jimmo » Fri Aug 17, 2018 8:10 am

Just getting back to this thread to close the loop and hopefully someone else can learn from it if in a similar situation.

I replaced the check valve, but this had little if any impact in my case. I put the sump on some blocks and raised it up about 3-4 inches hoping it would help with the short-cycling, but again little if any impact.

What finally led me on the right path was a discussion with the neighbor. He asked if I had tested my downspouts to see if they were draining properly to the curb. Duh. And if someone suggested it on here, I guess I missed it. Anyhow, the water from the downspouts, like the sump pump, are drained out at the street curb via pvc tile pipe. So on the side of the house where the sump pit is, I disconnected the fitting from the downspout to the underground pvc pipe, shoved a hose in there and turned it on. In theory, that water should all end up out at the curb and then runs along the curb to the city sewer drains a few houses down. Well, after a few minutes, nothing more then a trickle of water was coming out at the curb, and then all of a sudden the sump pit kicked on, not once but twice. Well, shoot, somehow the downspout water is all basically ending up at my sump pit, which explains why my sump pump would kick on within minutes of a rain storm starting.

So, I started doing some digging. Turns out the pvc connection where the water from the downspout (which drains the entire back side of the roof) meets up with the pvc pipe pumping out the sump pit, that connection had come loose. So the downspout water was mostly all escaping there and then gravity taking it on a path down around the sump pit. This connection is about 5 feet from the house and 18 inches down. The sump pump was still "working" since it pushes the water out with a lot more force and most would get past the loose connection. I'd say in retrospect about 60-70% of the pumped water from pit was actually making it all the way to the curb and city sewage drain and the rest escaping at the loose connection and then ending up back around sump pit to be pumped again. That along with nearly all of the downspout water from that portion of the roof made for a very over-worked sump pump.

Long story short, if it seems your sump pump is over-worked and kicking on too often, a good start would be to put some color dye in your sump pit water and see how much if any is making it back in your pit after pumping. Had I done that first, which I do think was suggested here at some point, that would have been my first clue. Also, check the drainage of your downspouts to make sure that water is actually getting away from your house. And, in general, living in the north with the annual freeze/thaw cycle, the ground does a decent amount of shifting causing things like drainage connections to break free over time.

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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by Boglegrappler » Mon Aug 20, 2018 10:05 am

And if someone suggested it on here, I guess I missed it.
And, the gutter downspouts will be set up so that their outflow does the same. Note: I was told that some years ago, the downspouts were routinely attached to the footing drains at the foundation!!!! In cases where this was done (probably only where the footing drains could run to daylight), it would do an excellent job of putting the water directly where you don't want it. I'd make sure I knew where that water from the downspouts went. If you're on a hill with footing drains from years ago that are clogged, it means more water at your foundation floor.
Glad you figured it out. It is always such a terrific relief to understand and solve problems like that. :)

PS, if you're saying that the gutter drain to the curb is shared with the sump pump drain to the curb, maybe it would be better if the gutter drain was moved to the surface (just let it go on top of the ground if the grade is right) and let the sump have its own isolated exit path. Lots of other stuff can come down that gutter path, which could impede the sump exit path.

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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by jimmo » Mon Aug 20, 2018 11:43 am

Boglegrappler wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 10:05 am

Glad you figured it out. It is always such a terrific relief to understand and solve problems like that. :)

PS, if you're saying that the gutter drain to the curb is shared with the sump pump drain to the curb, maybe it would be better if the gutter drain was moved to the surface (just let it go on top of the ground if the grade is right) and let the sump have its own isolated exit path. Lots of other stuff can come down that gutter path, which could impede the sump exit path.
Thanks, Boglegrappler. I went back and re-read your initial post on the topic, and seems you had mostly identified my issue regarding surface water (downspout) drainage. I think I had initially checked all the connections at the gutters/downspouts to make sure water was going down and not clogged, but hadn't done the final step of making sure it was all actually getting away from the house via the underground tile.

After fixing the problem I identified with the downspout drainage, I got a major test this weekend when a t-storm dropped 2 inches of rain on us in just under one hour time. It took about an hour after the rain started for the sump pump to really start kicking on, and then was running every few minutes for at least a couple hours. So, while it's a major improvement over what I had before with it kicking up within minutes of rain starting and running upwards of every minute in heavy rain, it is obviously still getting quite a workout. I'm wondering if there's something further I should be looking into beyond what I've done.

Re your discussion of the sump pit itself, I do have two tiles that drain into there, and also bottom of pit is perforated and water will come up from there. I noticed after the heavy rain had ended that there was a steady flow of water coming in from one of the tiles into pit, while nothing more than a drip from the other. Once we're well past a rain event, the only water that enters the pit, comes from the bottom up, nothing out of the two tiles.

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Re: Sump Pump Issues - What can I do, if anything?

Post by Boglegrappler » Mon Aug 20, 2018 12:57 pm

Sounds like your sump pump is doing its job, although there may still be some issues for you.

Heavy rainfall (sustained downpours) creates different patterns of surface water flows than normal light to moderate rain. I would say that if your sump began to run within an hour of the rain beginning, that the water entering the sump pit is "surface water" that has found a short cut to the pit rather than percolating down through the soil and migrating to the area under your foundation.

This could be from gutter overflow being directed back toward the foundation, where it moves down the "crack" between the basement wall and the backfill dirt, or there could be water coming from uphill (moving on the surface) that reaches your foundation wall and does the same thing. I also wonder where the gutters from the other part of your roof drain to.

The "water table" type of water that the sump might drain usually wouldn't begin to create much of an inflow to a sump until more than a few hours after a rain, and usually would require a series of rains to get the soil deeply saturated. So I'm thinking that the best investigation might be directed at other surface water sources.

Given that you already have a sump, you might be able to take some of the load off of it by replacing the pit with one of the more modern ones, and ensuring the perforations are not too low in the pit. You only need to keep the "water table" that underlies the foundation maybe 6-12" below your floor. If your sump handles water that would reside more than 6" under your basement floor, you are asking it to drain a much much greater volume of water, and it will work more often and longer in wet periods. Good luck.

Edit: it might be worth your while to stick a hose into the gutter drain on the other side of the house and see if that causes your sump to start to fill in some short period of time. That would be a clue.

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