Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Mayan Apocalypse took out one of our basement sump pumps.



(My daughter said this image reminded her of me.)

There was no damage or flooding to the basement; a foul industrial type of smell was the only clue that something was wrong; the house cats told me where the odor was coming from by shoving their noses under the basement door for a sniff.  I shut off all of the basement lights and, via flashlight, was able to trace the source of the haze in the air to the sump pit, which was full of oily, boiling water.  I found that the pump motor had kept running when the impeller failed, grossly overheating and blowing the oil out of the housing.

Eschatology aside, eventually all sump pumps will fail.  The 13-years 14-years that this one lasted is mildly exceptional. We have two sump pits in our basement.  The pump that failed on “Mayan Doomsday” was in the pit that serves the footing tile and window-well drains; as it should, it discharges to the yard, down hill, well away from the house (please don’t connect the discharge from this type of pit to the sanitary sewer; doing so overloads the sewage collection system and the treatment plant).  The other pit is sized for a domestic sewage pump in case we want to put a bathroom in the basement, but currently it only serves light-duty for the floor drains and AC condensate drain; as it should, it discharges to the sanitary sewer and its pump also is 13-years-old 14-years-old and likely to fail soon.  This pit does not serve a “heavy weather” function; I intend to find the time and energy to replace its pump at my leisure rather than waiting for it to fail, but there is always a chance that I will not get to it until motivated by a problem.

Had we been going through a period of heavy wet weather, this project would have been an emergency.  Our recent cold, dry weather made it favorable for me to take my time; things always seemed to jump ahead of it on the priority list but, fortunately, I was able to do it in increments.  Yesterday night I completed the job. 

The nastiest part of the job was using my 16-gallon wet / dry shop-vac to empty the pit; beneath the water, there was a (measured) 7-inch accumulation of sludge, much like the malodorous ooze you would find in a swamp bottom.  Putting a new pump into a dirty pit will shorten its life (if it does not cause it to fail immediately).  Other system components were also due for replacement; there is no sense in trusting a new pump to 13-year-old 14-year-old float controls and a 13-year-old 14-year-old check-valve. 

If money had not been an obstacle, I would have opted to install two pumps in this pit, one being a battery-powered backup.  However, I run a strict “pay as you go” budget and our holiday spending, along with a couple of years of sizable cash outlays to help out desperately needy friends and family, made an enhanced system unaffordable for now (CLICK HERE to read all of our sump pump adventures).


2 comments:

THE FISHING MUSICIAN said...

Although at times I've wished I had a basement for storage or for musical purposes, there's not many basements in my part of Texas. And now I learned a whole passle of reasons why I don't need a basement. I'm a repair guy as well, and as you know, you plan for the worst when repairing.

Happy New Year and glad you didn't need the pump while you were replacing it!

James A. Zachary Jr. said...

Happy New Year, El Fisho!