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It's getting Too Deep For Me


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Hey, does anyone have a home automation solution for my 30-year old septic tank pump chamber alarm. After a pump failure last fall and replacement, it appears my pump has failed again. Except last year, the alarm system in my garage went off, I knew I had a problem. This time, there was no alarm. Hmmmm.



Yesterday I noticed my 20 Amp breaker supplying power to the outlet for my pump was thrown, so I flipped it back on. After a brief buzz, it stayed on. This morning I checked the breaker, it was fine, then I pulled the lid on the pump chamber and whoa, the water was high. But the too high alarm was not sounding, so I assumed things were normal and the pump was about to cycle.


Last year when the pump failed, the breaker did not trip.


Later in the morning, I noticed a GFCI between the breaker panel and pump outlet had tripped. Probably happened when I turned the breaker back on yesterday. So I pressed the GFCI reset and it tripped immediately. I threw the breaker, reset the GFCI and swithced the breaker back on. This time nothing happened. The GFCI didn't trip, no alarm nor did the pump go on either.


Bottomline is my septic pump and 30-year old alarm system located in the garage are not connected to my home monitoring systems. Futher, it appears the pump and alarm are on the same circuit, so if the pump trips the breaker, the warning system goes down too. The service guys are not aware of a 'modern' alarm system that can connect to the Internet. I think there should be one.


Request for Solution

Does anyone have any ideas what I might need to set up a pump alarm system to my ELK or ISY?

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The high water alarm on mine is simply a separate float switch that turns on a alarm that is loud enough to wake the dead. Also has a light which always comes on. The buzzer can be turned Off. The alarm itself plugs into a standard 120v socket. If the alarm and pump are powered from the same breaker I would say the electrician got lazy.


The high water float is a simple on/off switch which could be connected to an I/O Linc Sensor. Of course the I/O Linc would have the same issue if plugged into the same outlet as the alarm which is on the same breaker as the pump.


First change is to get the alarm on a breaker independent of the pump. The float switch is designed to switch either 120v or 240v. Not sure how it would do switching 5v DC (actually GND) to control the I/O Linc sensor. Another approach would be to plug the alarm into a SynchroLinc. That would allow the alarm system to function without change. The SynchroLinc would signal the ISY when the alarm draws power. My alarm box draws nothing until the high water float turns the alarm on so the SynchroLinc has a good shift in watts used when the alarm is activated.


Either way power from a separate breaker is a must.

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My septic holding tank is exactly the same as described by LeeG.


To make your life simpler, you might consider just buying a new float switch and strap it on to the pipe coming off your pump at the appropriate level. The float switch is just an open/closed circuit which could be wired directly to a security panel or to an IO linc as Lee mentioned. While the float switches are rated for 120vac they still open/close a 5 or 12vdc current just fine. It requires no power, but you would have to hard wire it (using LV) to the I/O linc or security panel. You might consider fusing it or otherwise trying to isolate it just in case of lightening strike.

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Thanks guys, your suggestions were along the line that I was thinking. My crawl space sump pump has a cheap float switch that is hard wired to my ELK.


My tank septic alarm may be set up as yours and may be on a separate circuit from the pump. I just don't know. It makes a lot of noise and has a light on it when it has gone off in the past. Just not this time for some reason. If it is on a separate circuit, then it (or the high water float switch itself) has failed as well. So I think a redunant high water float switch in the tank may be the way to go, hard wired to my ELK. It would be cool to add a red strobe light and siren that goes off (like the one in the movie Alien when Ripley triggered the self distruct button in her space ship).


The pump truck is due soon so hopefully, I'll be out of this sh*t soon and I'll have some help diagnosing what is with my alarm.


Epilogue: Well, it turns out both the pump and alarm float switch were bad. The pump was installed 11 months ago and will be covered by the 1 year warranty (whew). But I will need to replace the original mercury float switch on my alarm.


This lesson teaches me a second float switch, wired to my ELK, should be the way to go.

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  • 1 month later...

This post may be a bit late but I just joined. You might want to consider using a GRI Liquid Detection Sensor (Model #2600 is 12v functioning as NC – normally closed loop – avail. on eBay and Amazon). There is also a NO version and the value to this sensor is there are no moving parts to foul-up or wear out. If you have power outage concerns you can rig a small 12v battery, trickle charger and 12v alarm to this sensor and have the additional security of a cheap UPS.

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Thanks for the note woodchip. For now, I was able to find an alarm system that restored what I had (before my mysterious 'burnout'). I tested the unused spare wire from my house to the tank and discovered it was not good. So in order to do anything more I would have to bury a new wire from the house out to my tank. That is way more than I am interested in doing this year so will go with what I got.


At least my replacement alarm has a test switch so I can verify the monitoring system is good. There is no way to test the float switch that I can think of short of pulling the tank lid and reaching down in there, then raising the switch. And that is a yucky proposition even with a stiff breeze and long handled garden tool.

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