Septic alarms / septic or sewage pump alarm systems:
This article describes alarm systems used on septic pumps, grinder pumps, and septic tank pumping stations and pumping systems.
This article series explains the differences between Sump Pumps, Sewage Ejector Pumps, Septic Grinder Pumps, Sewage Pumping Stations, & Septic Pump Alarms.
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Our video at right demonstrates the operation of a septic tank pump system alarm.
Septic alarms indicate when the septic tank pump is not operating. Repair is needed promptly.
Advice is given for septic tank effluent or sewage pump selection and use.
Septic pumps used for pumping air in aeration systems and septic pumps used to move effluent in a drip dispersion system are discussed under the appropriate septic system type which are outlined at SEPTIC SYSTEM DESIGN ALTERNATIVES.
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Use & Operation of Single septic pump alarm system details
It is important to be able to distinguish between blocked building drains, failing septic systems, and lost function of a septic pump.
Otherwise you will soon be unable to run plumbing fixtures and you may not know why.
In a single-pump septic system (shown in the photograph at left and at page top) if you hear the septic alarm buzzer or bell it means that you have very little septic capacity before repairs are made, since there is no working pump.
Use & Operation of Duplex septic pump alarm system details
In a duplex septic tank pump system, (shown in photo at left) sounding of the septic alarm indicates that you're running on the backup pump.
You need to repair the failed septic pump but you can continue to use the building's plumbing fixtures as the backup pump should be working.
There are two different philosophies for designing duplex backup systems - alternating septic pump cycles and reserve septic pump installations.
We discuss simplex and duplex septic pump installations and the different methods of designing a duplex septic pump system in more detail at SEWAGE EJECTOR / GRINDER PUMPS
See the septic alarm test demonstration video at the top of this page for an example of testing the septic tank pump alarm system.
The control panel for a sewage grinder pump system includes pump power switches, alarm, and alarm reset switch or button. The Environment One Corporation grinder pump control panel shown here should be part of any sewage grinder pump system.
Reader Question: what are the common causes for a pump alarm to go off
What are the most common causes a pump tank alarm would go off? My grinder pump is only 4 yrs old and we are still building, so it does not get that much use. C.S. 8/5/12
A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem with a sewage pump such as a defective check valve or a running toilet that keeps filling the reservoir tank. That said, the alarm sounds when the level in the reservoir reaches a level that means that the primary pump is not working, or in a single pump system, that no pump is working.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: why is the septic alarm going off in our new home?
What happens with a new home less then 6 months old and the alarm keeps going off? - Carol 8/18/11
Carol, septic pump alarm systems operate on a sensor or float control that monitors wastewater level in the septic tank or pumping chamber. The idea is that if the level rises above some point, the alarm warns the homeowners that the single pump has failed to start, or if it's a duplex pump system (two pumps) that the first pump didn't work and the second pump has started (the backup pump is doing all the work).
Question: Our septic alarm gose off if the system loses power.
Checked all the floats, everything working fine. Pump ok, high level alarm ok, Q: the alarm goes off if the power goes off to the system. It has never done this before. If I turn off the breaker, and back on, the alarm sounds until I silence and reset. - Mike 10/13/11
Mike in the past when we heard about alarm sounding problems the problem was usually traced to a float that had slipped out of position. As you've checked the floats and wastewater levels I'm afraid it sounds as if there may be as shorted wire. The float is basically a switch that closes to sound the alarm. So I'd check the float switch or the actual wiring. If you use an ohmmeter and see zero resistance across the wires that are supposed to trigger the alarm, the wires are probably shorted or the switch is stuck.
Also check for a battery-backup alarm system that is intended to warn of loss of power - basically we can't keep using a septic grinder pump very long if there is no electrical power. The usage time buffer depends on the size of the holding tank.
Thanks. I will disc. the float wires and troubleshoot from there.
Sounds right, Mike. In fact if you can disconnect the wires at both ends that's another way to check for a short between them enroute.
Question: why does a grinder pump alarm go off on a seldom used system?
What are the most common causes a pump tank alarm would go off? My grinder pump is only 4 yrs old and we are still building, so it does not get that much use,. C.S. 8/5/12
A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem with a sewage pump such as a defective check valve or a running toilet that keeps filling the reservoir tank.
That said, the grinder pump alarm sounds when the level in the reservoir reaches a level that in turn signifies that the primary pump is not working, or in a single-pump system, that the pump is working and the level of wastewater has reached the level at which the alarm will sound.
So check your plumbing system for:
Questions & answers or comments about warning alarms on septic tanks and septic pump systems
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