Please help me negotiate with my sump pump
January 28, 2013 8:33 AM   Subscribe

My sump pump currently has different ideas of when and how it should work than I do. I have a couple of questions about plumbing for the sump, and a question about whether there is something I can fix that will allow me to not replace it.

1) Re fixing: twice in the past two months my pump has stopped working, associated with an electric burning smell, but has worked just fine when plugged in again. According to a sticker on the body, the pump is from sometime in the '80s, and it's solid. The cover is bolted on. Were I to take it off, what might I be looking for if I wanted to try to fix it? I understand that the switches sometimes go on these things, but this switch seems to work fine when the pump is working. It would not be the worst thing in the world to replace this non-submersible pump with a submersible one, so I'm willing to take my chances with not actually fixing it if I monkey with it.

2) Re plumbing: The pump is not submersible, and is plumbed in an annoying fashion. The sump is in the middle of the floor, and the well it pumps into is also in the middle of the floor, but some distance away. This means there is a pipe leading from the pump (which sticks up), across the floor (close to the foot of the stairs) to the well. What I would like to do is take the water up to just below the floor joists, and then use gravity to feed it across the room and drop it into the well. There is plenty of height in the basement to do this, and the pump should handle the rise, BUT...what I would really like to do is pump the water out of the sump (2 foot rise), along the floor to the wall (8 foot horizontal), and then up to the ceiling (8 foot rise). I have no idea how adding the horizontal section will affect things. Would that work? If I were to do that, where should I put the one-way valves, at the top of the first rise pipe, after the water comes out of the sump? Or at the top of the final rise pipe? Both?
posted by OmieWise to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
Best answer: On the electrical issue, it sounds as if your pump's motor may be failing. It could be happening because the switch got stuck and the motor ran longer than it should have (pedestal pumps are not typically rated for continuous duty). Or maybe some foreign object jammed the impeller? Regardless, once you've got the smell of toasted armature, the motor is compromised and is on its way out in a decidedly non-fixable way. I'd replace the pump.
posted by jon1270 at 8:44 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: As a volunteer firefighter with hundreds of flooded basements in my time, a pump from the 80's is just a disaster waiting to happen. Most pumps have a thermal cutout that is supposed to shut the pump off if it runs too long, sounds like the one on yours isn't working quite right. Just replace the pump. You'll never regret doing so.

I'm not a plumber, but your plan sounds like it could work. You'll have to consider the friction loss in the horizontal section in addition to the loss due to gravity in the vertical sections. If it were me, I'd move the sump since I like having as little pipe between the pump and the outside of the house as possible.
posted by tommasz at 9:20 AM on January 28, 2013

Regarding the pump repair, we have been told by plumbers that sump pumps are more or less expendable maintenance items. Our rich plumber neighbor actually advised us to replace ours every year just to be on the safe side. You say yours is from the 80s? And it smells like burning?
posted by mindsound at 9:23 AM on January 28, 2013

Best answer: that pump is 30 years old and has lived a pretty hard life. Chances are it needs replacement, seals are worn, rubber gets old, wiring corrodes, impellers get pitted and on and on. Your pumping scheme seems plausible with the right pump. I would recommend using a grundfos pump (I am a civil engineer and these seem to have the best rep among the contractors I work with-but that is in the commercial/municipal world not the private house world and those two lines may not be the same quality). I would contact a firm that specializes in private water wells and get their recommendation-and maybe hire them for the work if you are not up to it. I would do it with PEX piping and make very sure I could access ALL of the piping easy and quickly and install cutoff valves that would allow me change out the pump easy and quickly. As to the calculations for sizing that pump correctly, it is the kind of thing that engineers go to school for and not really explainable in this format. However your well contractor and/or the pump salesman can do this for you (a LOT of engineers go into the sales business if they are extrovert types cause it pays better than design work usually). I would buy two pumps and keep on in reserve ready to go and then send out the broken one for repair or rebuild when it fails, but then in my world when a pump fails either the sewer overflows or you lose pressure in water mains and people get pretty upset either way.
posted by bartonlong at 9:25 AM on January 28, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks. I'm fine with replacing the pump,which seems to be the consensus.
posted by OmieWise at 9:28 AM on January 28, 2013

You can still purchase non-submersible pumps. My sump setup has the one-way check valve screwed into the pump, then a corrugated (bendy) tube that goes up to the ceiling joists and connects (with an adapter) to a solid black abs pipe. It travels about 30' across the ceiling to empty on the downhill side of the house. I don't have it vented, so the horizontal portion makes a lot of gurgling sounds as the water drains out of it. It's been working well for about 6 years.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:14 PM on January 28, 2013

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