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Broken sump pump? Tripping the electrics.

Discussion in 'Plumbing and Central Heating' started by Soggy Bottom, 12 May 2019.

  1. Soggy Bottom

    Soggy Bottom

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    I'm not really sure if this should be in the plumbing forum or electrical forum (or elsewhere).

    We have a problem under our living room floor where it fills up with water. It seems the area must've been built on wet land as the water just comes up from below. The span is about 25m2 and if memory serves the 'natural' level is about 6 bricks high on a 9 brick high sleeper wall.

    We had a (newer) sump pump installed December 2015 which cost about £450-£500 at the time. It was called a 'Smart Pump' and apparently has a Zoeller 53 pump inside a bucket. This was wired to a switch which is above the floor level in the event we may want to turn it off (although we never have). The pump would generally kick in every 7-10 minutes which the manufacturer said was perfectly fine.

    All was well until the other day when i got up to find all the downstairs sockets were out. Story short it's the sump pump tripping it.

    We contacted the electrician who installed it not really having any idea as to why it was doing this. He said he's 90% sure that the pump itself will be knackered & has advised on getting a new pump which he can/will wire in on its own separate circuit. He says that this is quite common.

    Annoyingly, to access the pump we need to move out a number of tropical fish tanks, a heavy solid oak sideboard, a bookcase, lift the carpeting up to get to the access hatch.


    I have a few questions here really and am just wondering the best course of action...

    1) Why it likely happened? I'm an electrical dummy so i don't know if there's 1001 possibilities or only a small few.
    The old pump that was in looked like a cheapy screwfix type and it wasn't in its own bucket so it'll have been pulling all sorts of crud out ... yet it worked. This expensive one has gone knackered within 3.5 years.

    2) Who's best to get out for this? It's tripping the electrics so our immediate thought was electrician.
    It's a sump pump - so obviously pumping water, so then do you think plumber?
    But it's installed in the first place because of damp, so do we get the original damp proofers out?
    And then there's a pump engineer (who will probably want to disconnect the thing to check it over - so may then need an electrician, i don't know)?

    3) After doing some browsing i've seen mention of a Zoeller M53 (don't know if the fact it says M53 makes it different to my Zoeller 53 or if M53 is its proper name) which has a plastic propeller but a Zoeller Z57 is cast iron. Am wondering if getting a different pump would be better.


    In short what i know is the pump is tripping the electrics. Whether that's the pump that's faulty or the electrics i don't know. I'm at a loss as to the best course of action here so looking for advice.
     
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  3. Harry Bloomfield

    Harry Bloomfield

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    You need to state what is actually tripping, is it an RCD or an MCB? An RCD will be fitted with a button marked 'test', an MCB will not have one.
     
  4. Soggy Bottom

    Soggy Bottom

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    No problem. As i don't have a clue with this stuff you can expect a bit of that (me not providing info straight away) so just let me know what you need & i'll try my best to find out.

    Anyway as i don't know my RCD from my MCB here's a thumbnail...
    Photo 10-05-2019, 6 26 56 am.jpg

    It's the black switch that's in the down position. It's for the downstairs mains - so everything was turned off & unplugged & the black switch in the photo was then flicked back up (flicking it up straight away just had it going back down again and nothing working still).
    Plugs were put back in one by one to see what the culprit was. The diner & kitchen went without a problem. Started turning things on in the living room - no problem, soon as we got to turning the sump pump on everything went off again (that black switch went down).
     
  5. Harry Bloomfield

    Harry Bloomfield

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    That is an MCB and it suggests that your pump or its wiring is actually faulty, but further investigation needed by someone who knows what they are doing.
     
  6. Soggy Bottom

    Soggy Bottom

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    So you find yourself in my situation, question is - who do you call (or rather what profession)?

    As the electrics aren't working we went for an electrician. For all i know the pump may actually be ok and something may have gone wrong with the electrics for some reason. I could buy in a new £500 pump again only for it to get installed, flick the switch & hey presto that's the electrics out again ... £500 disappeared on a test. That's my concern.

    I know i'm in a plumbing forum and this bit would be better suited in the electrics side - but the spark said about installing it on its own circuit or words to that effect i think (it was my wife who discussed with him & she said he mentioned something about putting it on a new switch 'outside'. At first we couldn't work out why the switch would be placed outside but she said after doing some reading the advice for sump pumps is on their own circuit so they don't cause havoc when they go (for example, we have a lot of money invested in the various tanks which had potential to be lost)).
    So the question there is - how would you put it on its own circuit? I'm just wondering what that entails. Right now i think it's fed off one of the mains sockets.
     
  7. jj4091

    jj4091

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    I think it is time you tried a different electrician, or even several if you can get estimates from them.
     
  8. Harry Bloomfield

    Harry Bloomfield

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    It is an electrical issue, why might you want to call a plumber? Your electrician is making perfect sense in that it needs to be on a separate circuit and is maybe suggesting an outdoor type socket be installed for it due to the damp, rather than actually a new socket out doors. Almost certainly your pump has developed a fault, but the only way to be sure is to take it out and investigate it further, you could do that yourself. Take it out, plug it into another circuit and see if that trips, or take it out and hand it to your electrician to test it for you. The more you do yourself, the less your electrician will need to charge you.

    Looking at your MCB's and the DB, it seems unlikely there will be a spare way in there for a new circuit for the pump. So installing one will probably involve adding an extra small DB to support the extra circuit. I would suggest any new circuit for the pump, uses an RCBO - a combined MCB and RCD.

    Are you sure the water is actually due to the local water table? Do your neighbours have the same issue? Might it be a leaking pipe or a cracked drain? You could get a sample of the water tested to determine the source.
     
    Last edited: 13 May 2019
  9. bernardgreen

    bernardgreen

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    You need to have an electrician install a new circuit for the pump with both an RCD ( Earth Leakage Trip ) to turn OFF the power to the pump if there is damp in the pumps electrics and and MCB to turn OFF the power to the pump if it does become faulty and overloads the supply. The functions of the MCB and RCD can be combined in a single unit called an RCBO

    The thing that tripped in the fuse box is an MCB ( Miniature Circuit Breaker ) which trips if too much current is flowing on that circuit. As that MCB supplies sockets as well as the pump the reason it tripped may be that the items plugged into those sockets togethr with the pump have overloaded the circuit. The pump may not be faulty.

    Given the need for a pump and the difficulty of accessing it where it is now you should consider relocating the pump to a more accessible location and arrange for the water to drain to the pump's new location.

    Also as Harry said check for the source of the water. The water supply company will ( or should ) offer a free test to see if it is "their" water leaking from one of their pipes.
     
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  11. just pumps

    just pumps

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    It should have been wired to it`s own trip circuit outside of the "well" from the start and I would be surprised if the pump was knackered unless it was the wrong pump for the application as they are good pumps. It operates via a float so have the wiring altered then you can test the float operation using a coathanger attached to a wooden pole to gently lift the float.
     
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  12. just pumps

    just pumps

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    Easier said than done now the brick well has been built.
    Going back to the first post, did the op really mean the pump is in a bucket!? If so on no account let the installer back.
     
  13. bernardgreen

    bernardgreen

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    It isn't clear if there is a sump ( "well" ) or if the pump is standing on the "floor" of the crawl space. There is a sleeper wall mentioned.

    Or did the installer sink a bucket inthe "floor" to create a sump ?
     
  14. just pumps

    just pumps

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    Fair point, as often we need the op to enlighten us.
     
  15. Hugh Jaleak

    Hugh Jaleak

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    That's a hell of a lot of water if the pump is kicking in that often! I'd also recommend you check the source, is it simply a high water table or have you got a leak? :eek:

    To be honest, if it is pumping just water, I'd expect it to last a lot longer than it has, these look a quality piece of kit. I presume it's working within it's designed specification, i.e. not pumping against a higher head than its designed for? Other possibility could be it has jammed. Unfortunately, it'll need lifting to see what has happened.
     
  16. Harry Bloomfield

    Harry Bloomfield

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    Yes, it is an awful lot of water to kick in that often. As Bernard said, I also assumed the bucket was sunk into ground to form a sump to avoid dragging in rubble. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
     
  17. Soggy Bottom

    Soggy Bottom

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    Fair few replies while i've been at work. I'll run through them...
    I'm happy enough with the electrician. We've had him out for a couple jobs and i've been happy with his work & pricing so far. We've suffered from corner-cutting tradesmen in the past more than once, so i'd prefer to stick to those who i'm happy with.
    Plus he could've fobbed me off as it's not a glamorous job. It'll involve getting dirty and crawling around in the crap (which reminds me, i'll need plenty of cover sheets!) ... but he didn't.

    Because it involves water was my thinking behind not being 100% on who to call.

    You'll have to forgive me but what's a DB? And is this all a big job? Are we talking about needing to cut in to walls to run wiring kind of thing?

    I'll cover this when i reply to the chap who mentioned moving the pump as hopefully that should cover everything...

    Again i'll show my cluelessness here...
    Everything that's plugged in has been plugged in for the duration of the pump install. So to my uneducated mind my instant question would be - if it's been ok for x-years then why all of a sudden is it a problem?
    But that's the thing - can it just happen at any time? Is that a possibility? We didn't add anything new to the sockets, so it wasn't like we plugged in a new stereo for example and then the sump pump went but could it just be a case of over time whatever is plugged in became too much?

    Could it be worth unplugging everything & then instead of plugging everything back in with the sump pump being one of the final things (as before) instead this time the sump pump is the only thing to be plugged in?

    I don't actually see how it's possible to relocate the sump pump. If the water originated from above ground or from the side then i could understand but the water originates from the ground the house is built on. I've been on my hands and knees down there & you can see it just coming up through the sludge.
    It isn't a cracked pipe or anything. We did all the looking in to it after we bought the house & have been in touch with drainage engineers who've worked on the area. To quote their email to me...

    Code (Text):

    As a drainage engineer I investigated a similar situation to the one you describe in your area.
     
    [Area I live in] has many naturally occurring 'water issues' (springs) and you should not restrict them.
     
    Since there is a pump and sump this obviously has been occurring for some time .
     
    My suggestion would be to make sure the ventilation under your house is clear and functioning correctly, I would suggest the pump was installed as 'piece of mind'. This water would only become a problem if it regularly came into contact with the floor joist.
     
    My contact details are below if you wish to discuss.
    From talking to a neighbour who's lived here many many years our neighbours are affected too as are houses on the street behind. There's a stream/brook/culvert (have been given many names from different people telling us) that runs under the houses in the area.

    One chaps 'solution' was to go solid floor, but at £12k-£15k we couldn't come close to affording it. Then you've got to trust they'll do the job properly (& we'd already been hit by cowboy tradesmen by that point so our faith was low) because what if they don't & then it starts pushing up the walls (have read that was one possibility) as it has to go somewhere. Regardless - we just didn't have £15k.

    So there's the ground our house is built on. The water flows from the rear of the house to the front of the house at which point the ground has been dug down further to create a point where the water can collect - which is where the sump pump is located. I'll attach pictures later.
    All this is below the road level and also below our drive which slopes back to the front of the house.

    Hopefully this has painted a better picture than earlier?
     
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