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OT - Sump pump trouble

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  • OT - Sump pump trouble

    Hi Everyone,

    My basement flooded this morning and the sump pump won't turn on by itself. It is the kind with a float attached to a wire that triggers it. The pump still works, but you have to lift the float to get it going. For some reason it just sits about 2 inches below the surface of the water. I've tried adjusting the length of the wire to try to get it to trigger, but nothing helps. Any ideas? I'm thinking of getting a styrofoam ring from the craft store and putting it on the float to increase its bouyancy.

    Stuart de Haro

  • #2
    I don't know what the float is made of, but it may have a crack and took on water which is why it is sitting below the surface of the water.
    Jonathan P.


    • #3
      Check your hardware store, I think you can buy the float kits separately. I didn't think they could 'go bad' but sounds like your's has for some reason. By your description, it sounds like it's a column pump, with them I prefer the newer style switch that has a rod/float, they seem to have less problems with the float getting messed up.


      • #4
        Some of them pumps are sealed..

        Be forewarned, the fluid inside the pump is non-conductive mineral oil. If you pour it out, it dies from heat exhaustion.

        (I did the first one about thirty years ago.)

        The ones that run with rod,float are a little more expensive but troublefree.

        Do you have a high water alarm? you should.
        Excuse me, I farted.


        • #5
          Cant help with your problem but... I bought a battery backup for mine. It is a seperate pump that runs on 12v. It sits lower than the current pump, it is always plugged in and it runs on a magnetic float. The battery is supposed to run it intermittently for days.

          Just a thought. Good luck.
          Civil engineers build targets, Mechanical engineers build weapons.


          • #6
            I'm not really sure what kind of float you are describing when you say "a float attached to a wire". Sump pumps I am familiar with are two types. The pedestal type, where the motor is far above the water, using a float attached to a rod that raises vertically to activate the switch on the side of the motor. If that type of float is underwater it probably has a leak and isnt "floating". Can probably be replaced with the toilet tank type of float. The other type of pump would be a "submersible". The whole thing is under water, and the float is connected to the pump by an electrical cord (wire???). This type have what I believe is a "mercury switch" inside the float. When the float tips on end (because the other end is held down with the "wire") the internal switch turns the pump on. If it's not working the switch is more that likely to blame, and can be replaced with the same type of "mercury switch". Any decent plunbing place should have what you need to get either one working.


            • #7
              The mercury switch type, per my one experience with them, can be very fussy about how teh wire trails away from them.

              The thing about it working if you grab and lift it sounds familiar.

              IIRC, there was a clip that held the wire, and adjusted it, and I also had to be certain nothing fouled the float or wire, because it had no "guide", just the tether.

              I thought it was a stupid design, as it seemed there were 100 ways for it NOT to work, and only 1 or 2 ways it would.

              Thinking more, on one like I had teh fight with there might be a problem with the electric wires in the float cord... like a broken wire from all the flexing.... if you wiggle wire and it suddenly works (or stops), that is a decent diagnostic sign.

              Replacement would be in order...

              [This message has been edited by J Tiers (edited 01-29-2006).]

              Keep eye on ball.
              Hashim Khan


              • #8
                My sump crapped out once too. Didn't do much expect get all the carpet wet. So I bought a plastic barbage can and cut the top of it off and stuck it in the sump hole. Then I got a bunch of cement and sealed the edge on the outside. I then cut a hole at ground level in the garbage can and the sewer drain pipe that was about 3 feet away and put a big piece of tubing between the 2. That way if it ever happens again, the water will rise, and drain through the pipe over into the sewer drain. I know it's not code, but it's cheaper. If I ever move I'll just get a piece of 1 size larger for the sewer PVC and glue it on to close the hole.


                • #9
                  Bigdipper: It is the submersible kind. The switch is in the float, just as you said and it is tethered to the pump by the electrical cord. The switch isn't bad though because it works fine if I just lift it up another inch or so.
                  I wrapped some bubble wrap around it and secured it with bailing wire to increase bouyancy. It's working OK now, but I'm definitely going to get a new one. It is always something with this thing. Just like J Tiers said, there are so many things that can go wrong with it. If the tether is too short the float can't tip high enough to turn on. If it is too long it catches on the side of the well and won't tip up. If you add very much stuff to the float to actually make it float, it won't shut off and the pump runs dry!!! It definitely has to go.

                  Thanks for all the replies,
                  Stuart de Haro


                  • #10
                    I have a water powered back-up pump. It requires city water to operate in the event of a power failure. In regard to the float switch problem I have installed a electomic switch that controls the pump. It has a wire that senses the water level and turns the pump on. No moving parts, and no trouble to date It also has another wire set to a higher level that sounds an alarm.I bought it at a True Value or an Ace hardware store. They don't carry it in stock but can order it from thier catalog. It was about $ 60


                    • #11
                      Again, proves my point: A basement is a hole in the ground that you throw junk into and pump water out of.

                      Short of building high on a hillside where you can get natural drainage, most basements are disasters waiting to happen.

                      I just built a house, very near a floodplain, but high enough, and I resisted all advice to add a few more courses of block to the foundation and have a basement rather than a crawlspace. Appears to have been a good idea as I built in a sump hole for foundation drainage and with the recent warm weather and lots of rain here in Michigan, the pump has been moving maybe 40-50 gal/hr. at the peak.

                      I still need to add gutters to the house so the situation should improve.

                      Weston Bye - Author, The Mechatronist column, Digital Machinist magazine
                      ~Practitioner of the Electromechanical Arts~


                      • #12
                        How do the high water alarms work and how high is high water? Is it just in the sump well or above floor level?
                        Stuart de Haro