Ejector pumps are vital for just about any home with a bathroom below the sewer main, since they push the waste water up into the line for disposal. Sometimes, however, these pumps can get a little overzealous and continue to run when they shouldn't. This can damage some kinds of ejector pumps and cause most to wear out prematurely -- not to mention the spike you'll see in your electric bill. If your pump just won't quit, here are some possible causes and solutions for the problem.
What's Causing The Problem?
In an ejector pump, the float switch is what determines the pump is full of fluid and needs to be turned on. When this switch or the parts associated with it fail to do their jobs, one potential result is a continuously running pump. Here are a few possible problems you could be having your with float switch:
- The pump isn't plugged in the right way. When an ejector pump is plugged into the wall, its cord should go into a piggyback outlet connected to the float switch. That way, the outlet only has power when the float switch is activated by fluid inside the pump. If the cord is plugged straight into the wall, the pump will continue to run so long as it has current.
- Wiring has been damaged. If the cord to the switch plug is messed up, it can send a false positive to the pump, causing it to continue running dry.
- Debris is pushing the switch up. Solid waste and debris can sometime get stuck in the pump and jam the float switch into a lifted position. As long as the switch is pushed up, it will signal the pump to keep running.
- The float tether is miscalibrated. In order for the float switch to be accurate, it needs to freely drift in the water inside the pump. If its tether is too short, it will register as raised and turn on the pump.
- Debris has broken the float switch. Sometimes, if something solid and hard gets into your pipes that shouldn't be there, the inner workings of your pump can be damaged. If the floating part of the switch has been removed, your pump will act as though it is perpetually full.
How Can You Fix The Pump?
Some of the solutions are very simple. For example, if your pump is plugged directly into the wall, you can just plug it back into the piggyback plug to restore your pump to normal. You can also examine the wiring from the outside to make sure it isn't damaged. If it is, you'll need a professional to put on a good wire for you.
Other solutions are messy, to say the least. To fix or examine any of the float switch elements inside the pump, you'll have to open it up and potentially expose yourself to sewage remnants. DIY work may be popular nowadays, but no one will blame you for having a plumber handle this job if you're worried about the germs and the stink. However, if you decide to soldier through it yourself, make sure you have good rubber gloves and a respirator. Your pump may contain methane and noxious gases, which you don't want to breathe in directly.
Unplug the pump first, then steel yourself and open it up. Have a plan for how you will dispose of solid waste and debris inside, since the pump must be cleaned out. Examine the float switch for signs of damage, and make sure it has enough length to its tether to reach the water line comfortably. Make sure nothing inside the pump is touching the float switch, as well. If nothing appears to be wrong once the pump is cleaned, close it back up and try running it normally. If the problem persists, you'll need to have a whole new float switch installed.
If the problem with your pump is too big or too gross to address on your own, it's a good idea to enlist the help of a licensed plumber for the sewer pump repair. You'll get the repairs you need, and you might also get advice about what you can do to prevent pump problems in the future.