looking to upgrade sump pump

coengMay 9, 2007

Hi, newbie here. Don't know much about sump pumps but I'm a very quick learner. Purchased my house in 2002 with a sump pump installed by the previous owner. Since then the pump has gone on maybe twice. This past weekend (the Nor'easter) it was running for over 36 hours. On Monday morning 10:30am it was turning on every 32 seconds. At 14 hours later at 12:30am it was running every 2.5 minutes before I went to bed. I calculated that it approximately went thru 1200 cycles.

Being that my sump pump (Myers S25V1) was manufactured in 1998, and the fact that it really got a work out this time around, I'm thinking about retiring it and getting a battery backup system. My biggest fear during that 36 hours was a power outage due to the high winds. The sump pump easily did the job (considering my property is 2/3 of an acre and has steep hills that pitch toward the foundation) even though we got over 6 inches of rain.

After doing a little homework, I realized that my pit may not be suitable for a battery backup system because its not wide enough (16" diameter) and deep enough (13.5" deep).

See photos below and tell me what you think would work best for me. These were taken tonight when I decided to clean the pit and pump out and to see what was under the pit. Notice how close the pit got to the sewer line. Imagine the guy that make the hole in the slab when he realized how close he got!

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You must live in an area with good drainage. For the ground to be very dry a few days after a major rain that's pretty amazing. It wouldn't be a bad idea for you to replace the pump since it is 9 years old. Match the hp since it has done the job in the past (usually 1/4 or 1/3 hp). The sump pit seems a little odd. 13.5" deep is pretty shallow. I guess that is all you need though. You could try to look for a deeper pit. You would just need to dig out some dirt and rock. I don't know if you could find the same diameter.
I would not go for a battery backup, especially for your primary.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 3:34PM
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The RH800 would work in your pit as a backup pump, and you can still keep your primary, It just need a pipe to hang down the edge of the pit and sucks water out.

I'm thinking about getting one, but haven't been able to find any first hand experience from anyone online. My pit is smaller than yours and pump runs more frequent when it rains, so if I lose power, i get water pretty quickly in the basement. I have a generator, but if I'm not home, then it does me no good.

Here is a link that might be useful: RH800

    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 8:39PM
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Today I received an estimate to install a new Zoeller primary pump and a Glentronic Pro Series backup with maintenance alarms and battery, a new pit liner and cover, and the complete installation, all for $3675. Does this sound reasonable?

First off, the pit would have to be made deeper (from the current 13.5 inches to a whopping 30 inches deep).

Secondly, the diameter of the pit would have to be made wider by 2 inches to accomodate for an 18" liner, which as you can see in the photos means that the hole will no longer be circular. It would be more oval-shaped to avoid the sewer pipe. When I asked about filling in the cavity that will be left, the plumber told me that it would be filled in with cement. How is that possible considering the sewer pipe is there? Is the sewer pipe normally encased in cement? In the photos it looks like its not. I don't know that much about floor slabs. Almost sounds like the sump pump liner will be permanently cemented in place as well.

Sounds like a messy and costly job but unfortunately I see no other alternative.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 8:49AM
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that sounds REALLY expensive, IMO.
I never really priced one out, but you could rent a jack hammer, buy some bags of cement, a pit liner, the 2 pumps for way less than that.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 9:54PM
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Yeah, that's what I thought too. I need to get another estimate. I'm usually a do-it-yourselfer but with something like this I ain't taking a chance by not doing it right. Too risky. Also, I just can't see myself using a jack hammer.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 2:21PM
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That is outrageous!

Do it yourself and same big bucks!

Replace the sump pump w/ a newer one. You can get a Rigid brand at Home Depot for about $150. It has a LIFETIME warranty. Then buy a battery backup for security. Watchdog at Home Depot. I went w/ the most expensive one as it is battery plus ac/dc. I figured if my main goes out, I don't need to replace it assap. I can use the backup off the current. I didn't have to make my hole bigger but I did both of these installs myself. Good luck.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2007 at 12:23AM
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A common pit size is 18" diameter and 24" deep. I see no reason to go to 30" deep. You will have to make the hole 18" round. If you would cheat and make the pit a little oval you won't be able to get the round lid on. When the hole is big enough then you drop the plastic pit in. Then you fill the gap between the pit and the dirt with clean stone up to 4" from the floor. Then you pour in some concrete to make it level with the floor.
It is a fair amount of work and usually you need to carry the dirt and rock out of the basement in 5 gallon buckets and carry clean stone down.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2007 at 9:23AM
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I have a plumber that specializes in sump pumps coming to look at it this weekend. He says there is no reason to made the pit wider by 2", 16" is plenty. However, he says it has to be made deeper (24") to allow for the primary and the backup to sit inside the pit in an inline configuration. Will post a followup next week.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2007 at 11:04AM
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You have a Myers sump pump that went through and estimated 1200 cycles without so much as a hint of failure so what is the likelihood that it will fail any time soon? It could fail on the next cycle or it could go on for another 20 years without a problem, who's to know? On the other hand you could assume the worst, spend a couple hundred for a new pump and the next time it rains you find out the hard way that you got a bad pump out of the box. Primary rule of thumb here,,,,",If it ain't broke,,don't fix it."

Your underlying problem is not the pump but rather a sump that was originally designed by an idiot. Consider the facts. The sump pit is 16" in diameter and 13.5" deep.

Area equals Pi x the Radius squared
R = .5 x the diameter therefore R= .5 x 16" = 8"

A= 3.1416 x (8 x 8)
A= 3.1416 x 64
A= 201sq.in

Volume equals cross sectional area x depth
Volume = 201sq.in x 13.5" = 2713.5cu.in

One gallon of water occupies 231cu.in therefore the maximum volume of the pit is 2713.5 / 231 = 11.75gallon

This is the total volume of the sump pit however the effective volume would be the area of the pit x the maximum depth of water in the pit when the pump starts, which is determined by the pump float switch setting. From the photos I would estimate that the pump is starting when the pit is approximately 3/4full which means the working volume is 11.75gal x .75 = 8.81gal less the actual displacement of the pump assembly.

From this we can conclude that the pump is starting every time there is approximately 5 gallon of water in the sump. And to make matters even worse you are now contemplating putting second pump in the pit, which would further reduce the volume by about 1.5 to 2 gallons.

Typically a sump pump is designed to discharge about 2200gal/hr, which then breaks down to 36gal min. or .6gal.second.

Now consider the physical characteristics of an electric motor. Upon initial startup an electric motor draws approximately 3 times its rated amperage momentarily until actual rotation begins. While this influx of energy is almost instantaneous, nonetheless, the increased amperage produces a tremendous amount of heat. Once the motor is started the excess heat is normally dissipated into the motor body and passed off to the air or water surrounding the motor, but in this case the motor is starting then it only runs 3 or 4 seconds before the sump is empty and the motor stops, thus the motor never gets a chance to properly cool between cycles.

Rather than worry about another pump the smart money would be to increase the size of the sump by 3 to 4 times to reduce the short cycling effect and thereby prolong motor life.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2007 at 9:30AM
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Lazypup, you make an excellent point. I too went thru the volume calculation a few weeks ago.

I got the second estimate yesterday for $3100. This installer doesn't want to widen the pit, only deepen it.

I still think its a lot of money.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 2:47PM
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You didn't mention where you live but your reference to a "Nor'Easter" would lead me to believe you are in Massachusetts or one of the New England states. Having lived and worked in Massachusetts myself I know first hand that professional services of all sorts are considerably more expensive than other ports of the country, so with that in mind, I don't think the prices quoted are too far out of line for your region however I am not convinced that making the change would be economically practical either. Let us consider the facts:

1.You have lived in this house for 5 years and in that time the pump only ran two or three times with the exception of this recent "Nor'Easter". This tells me that fundamentally you have no real water problem that would justify a sophisticated sump pump system.
2. Although they are rare, when they do come a Nor'Easter produces gail force winds and extremely heavy rains that often rival hurricane level rainfalls.
3.Although the existing sump seems adequate to handle the water the downside is that its limited size is causing the pump to short cycle.

Under those conditions your desire to have an emergency power backup are certainly justified. The question now becomes what is the most cost effective method of achieving the desired goal?

If I really thought there was any reason to worry about the condition of your existing pump I would strongly suggest replacing it, however I would consider replacing it with a much smaller pump, one of perhaps 1/2 the output of the existing pump. By reducing the size of the pump it would extend the operating time on each cycle therefore canceling out the short cycling problem you have now and based upon the minimal volume of water you are dealing with even a smaller pump would be more than adequate.

Now, what do we do about emergency backup power?

Rather than spend $3100 on enlarging the sump and installing a battery backup pump you could go to any local marina and purchase a 12v portable "Bilge Pump" for a boat that could easily handle 600 to 800GPH for a fraction of the cost. You could then get a marine deep cycle battery and a trickle charger and have the problem solved.

In my honest opinion up to this point we are approaching the whole problem from the wrong perspective. Rather that spend $3100 for a sump pump system why not spend $1500 to $2000 and purchase a fairly large portable generator that could not only power your sump pump but keep your refrigerator, minimal general lighting and a radio or TV going during the power outage? The generator could even supply sufficient power to run a gas furnace during a power outage in mid winter.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 8:41PM
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Again thanks for the advice. All excellent points that I have considered as well. A power generator was and still is a possibility. I just don't know that much about them.

I'm starting to have mixed feelings about the battery backup. First off, I hear that you only get about 4 hours of power out of the battery. Then I hear about chargers being recalled by Sta-Rite because they may explode. Since the sump pump pit is in an enclosed area of my basement that hides the sump pit, gas furnace, and water heater out of site, that might not be a good place for the battery casing and charger.

Since you seem to be quite knowledgeable, can you suggest a particular power generator? My only concern with a power generator is that you always need to have it ready to fire up when a big rain event is expected, which is fine because I am always on my toes. How do you protect it from rain ?Are they designed to operate in the rain? If so, then all I have to do is have it parked out on the patio, run the extension wire in the basement, and if the power goes out, run outside, crank it up, unplug the pump from the wall outlet and connect it to the extension cord.

There is another reason I want this upgrade done, even if I don't get a battery backup system. The previous owner hired a handyman to create the pit and did a second-rate job. The flower pot says it all. I want a real sump pit liner covered air tight and the floor around it cemented. I had a radon test performed when I purchased the house. It was 3.7 pL, just under the NJ EPA recommended number for remediation. Currently only a piece of plywood covers the pit.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 8:48AM
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I am in the same boat as you with small sump pits...I got two in opposite corners of the basement.

It sounds to me like spending $3k on this issue is very questionable. I like lazypup's idea of buying a generator...and if you are in the NE (I am outside Philly)...then the chances of also needing it in the winter is a good bet.

The issue is how often is no one in the home to operate a genator...go on long vacations in the summer? If so...then you will need some sort of automated back up system.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 8:53AM
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Would the Honda EU1000i generator be enough for a sump pump?

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 2:11PM
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I think we have all come to the same conclusion that we must consider increasing the volume of the pit. How we accomplish the task is irrelavant. On the one hand you could break out more concrete and widen the pit, but on the other hand you could deepen the pit and get the same end result. With this in mind I would consider deepening the pit too. You could easily use a post hole digger to deepen the existing pit then pour a bit of concrete in the bottom to form a base. While that concrete is still wet you could drop a Soni-tube concrete form in the hole (the same soni-tubes that are used to form foundation pilings for a deck). Cut a hole near the top of the soni-tube and pour concete through that hole to fill the cavity between the outer wall of the soni-tube and the dirt to form the sidewalls of your pit. (This could be done fairly easily as a DIY project.)

Once you have the pit deepened you could set your submersible pump in the bottom of the pit and extend the length of the float control to adjust for the increased volume.

At this point you are only out the cost of a short section of soni-tube, a few bags of sackrete and your labor.

Mow before I would expend a lot of money on a battery backup system I would do a bit of "Risk Assesment". You have been in this house for 5 years and only once in that time have you encountered a major storm that really put your sump pump to the test. Statisticaly, what is the risk of that occuring any time soon when you are not at home? In my estimation you have about the same risk of being hit by lightning. In my opinion the smart money here would be to get some federal flood insurance and not be overly worried about the sump pump.

On the other hand, let us consider a battery backup.

1. Battery powered sump pumps are relatively expensive.
2. You must have a dedicated battery and a charging system to maintain the battery during periods of non-use.
3.Deep cycle batteries are expensive and have a limited shelf life of about 5 years.

Based upon your previous history statistically the battery will probably be on its last legs the first time you need to rely on it.

Now let us consider a generator.

If we lived in a region where we commonly got storms that knocks the power out for days at a time we would certainly want to consider a permanent mount whole house generator with an auto start feature.

In my region here in the midwest we commonly get storms which cause a power outage however I cannot say enough for those people who maintain our power system. Regardless of whether it is severe wind and rain in summer or ice and snow in winter it is very seldom that a power outage lasts more than two or three hours. In fact, i can't rmember the last time our power was actually out for a full day, and we have had numerous storms and even a couple tornados in that time. IN fact, we have had far more power outages that were a result of drunk drivers hitting a pole than weather related problems.

Over the years I have had a number of different portable generators that we primarily use for power on a jobsite, but which function very well as backup power for the house in a pinch.

Of all the generators that I have owned or used my personal favorite is a Honda 4KVA. This generator has been in almost daily service for nearly ten years and it is still going strong. One of the features that i really like about it is the easy of starting. You turn the ignition switch on, press the primer bulb twice then gently pull the starter cord and off it goes. Notice, i said, gently pull the cord. No need to give that super macho yank that is common to most small motors. This Honda seems to start every time with even a light pull on the cord. In fact, I have seen guys on the job joking about it and actually testing it by seeing how lightly they can pull the cord and still start the motor. It is a rare day when it takes a second pull to get it going.

One word of caution especially about your generator but which is true of all small gas motors such as those on our mowers, snowblowers etc. Never leave them set for an extended period of time with gas in the tank. The gas will evaporate and leave a gummy film which stops up the fuel system. Whenever you are preparing a small motor for long term storage let it burn all the fuel out until the engine stops from lack of fuel.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 2:29PM
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lazypup, unless I am reading your post wrong I have to disagree with your recommendation of using concrete to form a pit. I'm not sure how you expect the ground water to enter the pit. What I am familar with is a pit (usually plastic) with holes drilled in it to allow the ground water to enter and get pumped away. The pit is usually surrounded by stone.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2007 at 9:58AM
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Idealy there should be a perforated pipe perimeter drain laid around the footer wall and layer of trap rock and a system of perforated pipes laid under the slab. These pipes are then discharged into a sump crock where the water collects by gravity flow and is then pumped out by a sump pump.

In a worst case scenario the ground water problem is not discovered until after the footer wall and slab are completed and they resort to installing a perforated crock such as you describe.

Not only is the single point perforated crock highly inefficient in a worst case it can introduce additional problems by causing water currents in the subsoil under the slab which can lead to serious subsoil erosion.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 9:19AM
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I just found a sump pit basin that might work for me without having to make my pit wider (only deeper). See the PDF file below. Its on the second page. Any thoughts?


    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 1:57PM
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lazypup- I agree with your last post. According to to coeng's pictures he does not have any perforated pipe under slab so this means that concrete should not be used.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 8:23AM
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The estimate you have to install a new pump is insane.I just installed a sump. The pump 1/3 H.P. cost $180.00. I rented a small but powerful HILTI drill/hammer $60.00. The pipe and pit liner cost me $120.00. If this is what they are charging I'm going to get into the business.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 10:27AM
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