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Old October 14th, 2009, 01:56 PM   #1
Sliver
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way OT: Proper installation of effluent pump in septic system advice needed.

I apologize in advance for such an off topic post but I know there are some very savy pump specialists here and I have a couple of very specific questions.

The backstory is, 5 years ago my neighbor called with the dreaded question, "you are an electrician right?". Turned out she heard a buzzer from her basement that was labelled septic alarm that she turned off then she had a breaker trip in the panel. I found she had a septic tile bed located higher than the septic tank and was using an "effluent" pump to pump from the tank up to the tile bed. The pump was open circuit on the windings and the high level float switch was shorted out. I, being the good neighbor agreed to help. In the end we had a new "effluent pump" a new high level float (of a very similar quality to those we use every day in my workplace) a control system including a GFI circuit monitoring, pump run-on timer, and high level switch tied into the original buzzer alarm.

Well two days ago the buzzer went off again and I got the call again. Using the hastely penned print in the junction box I determined that the pump run-on timer had caused the alarm. I disconnected the timer, unplugged the pump and had her do her business as usual to see if the alarm would eventually go off on the emergency high level float. It did last night while she was in the shower. I had her plug the pump back in to see if the alarm would cancel and it did not indicating that the pump is definately the problem.

Today the whole thing is getting pumped out and another neighbor has advised that the original 1/2 h.p 120V effluent pump should actually have been a "sewage" pump. Being an electrician I couldn't argue the point until today at work I talked to a cooworker with some experience with a similar system and he recommended NOT to use a sewage pump as it could pump solids into the tile bed making for a costly problem.

Question 1. If a pump is rated as an effluent pump is it designed to work with liquid waste as is my case and should a sewage pump not be used in my case.

Question 2. I found a diagram of a sewage pump installation that showed a 1/8" hole drilled in the pipe a couple of inches from the pump outlet "to prevent airlocking". Would this be recommended in an effluent pump installation as well.


Thanks for the time reading and look forward to some responses,

Brian.
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People always fear change. People feared electricity when it was invented didn't they? People Feared coal, they feared gas-powered engines... There will always be ignorance, and ignorance leads to fear. But with time, people will come to accept their silicon masters. Bill Gates

Last edited by Sliver; October 14th, 2009 at 02:20 PM.
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Old October 14th, 2009, 02:20 PM   #2
James Mcquade
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you should try to post this question on www.mikeholt.com -
its an electrical website.

regards,
james.
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Old October 14th, 2009, 02:47 PM   #3
kamenges
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This is easy for me to say since i don't have to dig my hands in it but someone may want to do a quick failure analysis on the pump. Determining what is failing will go a long way toward figuring out how to keep it from failing.

Keith
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Old October 14th, 2009, 03:00 PM   #4
leitmotif
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I am not a sewage expert mostly cause it is a XXXXXX job. Have worked on one system where pumped uphill. How it was setup was
1. House drained to a 30? gal tank.
2. Pump pumped 30 gallon to the septic tank
3. Septic tank settles solids ie dirt and does anaerobic digestion
4. water only should go from septic tank to the drain field.

SOLIDS IN DRAIN FIELD WILL PLUG IT. If that happens (WHEN if you are too cheap to pump solids from septic tank) you will get to know your friendly Public Health folk very well. Great guys to sit down with at coffee - you NEVER want to see them with a failed drain field - especially if it is yours.

Septic tank should have solids pumped every 3 years for the "average" (whatever that is) family. Double that if they use a garbage grinder.

Pump in 30 gal tank should be sewage designed pump with cutters in it to chop fiber.

the 1/8" hole in discharge piping is to prevent air lock - it will bypass some of the pumped back to the tank but probably not enough to matter - the other thing it will do is prevent overheating of the impeller and more important the seals if it is running at shutoff head - but if you get into that problem I think the cause is going to be expensive enough that you are not going to be worrying about a $200 pump.

While you are tinkering with it put in a manual switch to override all the automated stuff. This is one piece of equipment where when the XXXX hits the fan you must have it operable. Depending on family size I might consider a backup pump maybe even battery backup if you suffer from frequent or worse yet long power outage.

Five years service with no maintenance inspection on the pump does not sound too unreasonable to me.

One other thing to check is that the check valve is free to actuate and will hold against the head imposed by the hill. If tank level stays low after pump out and only goes up maybe 1/4 or 1/2" then check should be pretty good.

Dan Bentler

Last edited by leitmotif; October 14th, 2009 at 03:31 PM.
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Old October 14th, 2009, 03:19 PM   #5
Sliver
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James Mcquade View Post
you should try to post this question on www.mikeholt.com -
its an electrical website.

regards,
james.
Thanks James, checked Mike's site, not exactly what I'm looking for I think but if I run out of options I may have another look.
Brian.
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Old October 14th, 2009, 03:22 PM   #6
Sliver
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kamenges View Post
This is easy for me to say since i don't have to dig my hands in it but someone may want to do a quick failure analysis on the pump. Determining what is failing will go a long way toward figuring out how to keep it from failing.

Keith
I'll have a look tonight when I crawl in there. I'm thinking I'll find the impeller(probably plastic) worn because it wasn't tripping but not pumping and the windings ohmed out good. I'll report back tommorrow.
Brian.
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Old October 14th, 2009, 03:32 PM   #7
Sliver
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leitmotif View Post
1. House drained to a 30? gal tank.
2. Pump pumped 30 gallon to the septic tank
3. Septic tank settles solids ie dirt and does anaerobic digestion
4. water only should go from septic tank to the drain field.

Septic tank should have solids pumped every 3 years for the "average" (whatever that is) family. Double that if they use a garbage grinder.

Pump in 30 gal tank should be sewage designed pump with cutters in it to chop fiber.

the 1/8" hole in discharge piping is to prevent air lock - it will bypass some of the pumped back to the tank but probably not enough to matter - the other thing it will do is prevent overheating of the impeller and more important the seals if it is running at shutoff head

While you are tinkering with it put in a manual switch to override all the automated stuff.

One other thing to check is that the check valve is free to actuate and will hold against the head imposed by the hill. If tank level stays low after pump out and only goes up maybe 1/4 or 1/2" then check should be pretty good.

Dan Bentler
Dan,
This setup goes from house to double chamber settling tank. Sinkers and floaters stay in the first chamber and connecting pipe about halfway up connects to second chamber where less settling (sludge) occurs, then overflow from this chamber goes to the effluent pit where the effluent pump pumps it up to the tile bed header. In this pit is the high level float to operate the pump and the emergency high level float to sound the alarm. There is a check valve after the pump to prevent pump cycling. (this was a controversial checkvalve as some advised to allow the pump to cycle thereby draining line to tilebed preventing freezing, but no freezeup in 5 years tells me that is not an issue here.)

This is a single person household so I don't think that the 5 year interval between pumpouts was excessive.

I think I'll drill a 1/8" hole in it this time, can't hurt right?

There is a GFI receptacle in a junction box above the pump pit, so it can be plugged in directly bypassing the high level float.

I'll check the checkvalve as recommended,

Brian.
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People always fear change. People feared electricity when it was invented didn't they? People Feared coal, they feared gas-powered engines... There will always be ignorance, and ignorance leads to fear. But with time, people will come to accept their silicon masters. Bill Gates

Last edited by Sliver; October 14th, 2009 at 03:35 PM.
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Old October 14th, 2009, 03:44 PM   #8
leitmotif
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Sounds like you got it under control. Before you tear down pump put it in a 5 gallon bucket and run it. If it does not create a whirlpool in 3 to 5 second then start considering teardown. I would think that a 2 bay settling setup would settle out everything including hair so you should be pumping just water. The septic tanks will create hydrogen sulfide or other sulfides which will be acidic thus eating out metal components of pump.

Yeah a 1/8 hole in pump discharge pipe will not hurt a thing. It will just take a little longer to pump tank since you are bypassing just a little bit. It will add to motor load since pump is pumping more but I do not think it significant.

Dan
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Old October 14th, 2009, 04:04 PM   #9
Sliver
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so anyone weigh in on the effluent vs sewage pump issue.
I'm leaning toward effluent pump and not sewage pump for reasons explained in original post.

Brian.
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Old October 14th, 2009, 04:19 PM   #10
leitmotif
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What is definition of effluent pump? What are its design parameters?

Sewage pump I understand - until I have more info re effluent pump I would go with a sewage pump or if you want heavy duty a manure pump (probably way too much overkill). Granted it is SUPPOSED to be just water but you can bet if you put in a non solids designed pump something solid will get in it.

Dan Bentler
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Old October 14th, 2009, 04:25 PM   #11
Sliver
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But I think the point made was a good one, if the effluent pump fails because of solids then at least you didn't pump solids into the tile bed. I may be wrong but I'm off with disposable coverals , rubber gloves rubber boots and a confined space gas monitor that includes O2, CMB and H2S,
Its a sh#tty job but somebodies got to do it!

Brian.
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Old October 14th, 2009, 04:31 PM   #12
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The only thing you forgot was a ventilation blower. sounds like under control.

Dan Bentler
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Old October 16th, 2009, 04:18 PM   #13
Sliver
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Just thought I'd follow up on this so no-one thought I had died in that hole.
The pump had died, would just hum. New "sewage pump" is 3 times the price of the old "effluent" pump and I am told it will last longer.
thanks for the replies,
Brian.
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Old October 16th, 2009, 04:57 PM   #14
Eric Nelson
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Yes, in that application, you definitely want a "sewage" pump. My brother-in law's a plumber, and he calls it a sewer ejector. I have one for my basement bathroom. Went through 2 in the first 2 years, so I decided to try a different brand. The latest one's been in there probably close to 10 years with zero problems (crosses fingers).

Sorry, I don't remember what brand, and I sure ain't gonna go look at the nameplate on it!...



-Eric
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Old October 16th, 2009, 05:36 PM   #15
David_Emmerich
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Talking

From my "vast...sic." efforts in this area with trying to pump manure, there are really four types of pumps that you can get to pump effluent, not all will work worth a dang....

# 1 is the common, wet basement variety of SUMP PUMP...just great for clean water, not worth a hoot if there is straw or hair or solids included.

# 2 is the EFFLUENT PUMP, it will handle little bitty chunks and sand, but not straw or hair or paper.

# 3 is the SEWAGE PUMP, it will handle some solids up to about 1/2 the size of the discharge pipe diameter, which should be at least the size of the discharge fitting if not bigger. It does not like hair or straw.

# 4 is the GRINDER PUMP, this beast will handle whole raw potatoes if you ask it to, and spit out mush. It does not like hair or straw or rocks, rocks make it very unhappy. Also VERY costly.

If all of these fail to move your 'stuff' there is always the big MUD SUCKER
diaphram pump,



or a pail....



Have fun.

David
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