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Diagnosing Problems With The Ejector Pump

UPDATED: July 5, 2017

After 5 years I think it’s about time we talk about troubleshooting an ejector pump. So many people rely on the functionality and durability of a sewage ejector that knowing how to do some minor diagnostics and repairs are a must for the homeowner.

Ejector pumps come in many shapes and sizes from the simple submersible ejector pump that you see in millions of homes across America, to a small point of use ejector pumps that are fairly complicated with duplex/triplex sewage ejectors that can grind up a small bike. Zoeller ejector pumps, Hydromatic, Ion Pumps, Liberty Pumps, Myers ejector pumps and Blue Angle Pumps are all pumps you can trust in. You can find reviews and descriptions online to help find out which one will fit your needs. 

All About Plumbing Traps

Plumbers always talk about plumbing traps. It seems grease traps, p-traps, s-traps, drum traps, etc. come up in almost every discussion among professionals. How many times has a plumbing tech stopped to explain what a plumbing trap actually does? Are the installation, products, and supplies a secret of the trade? Well, it certainly shouldn’t remain a mystery.

Ejector pumps are used when a bathroom, laundry room fixture, floor drain or condensate drain line is located below the grade of the main sewer or the septic line. They allow for the flow of solids and liquid to work against gravity and be pumped from the basement up to a drain line  like a house sewer. The sizing determines the cost of the package system and basin. They range from around $400-$1000 because they differ in size and functionality. Replacement and maintenance can be expensive, so we’ve come up with tips on installation, and tips on how to keep your simple or complex systems running.

Ejector pumps move the waste “up” and out of the home through the plumbing system’s sewer piping; it works like a vacuum. They all work on simple concepts. Wastewater and suspended solids flow to an ejector pit below the elevation of the main sewer that flows out to the city sewer. As the wastewater flows into the pit the water level rises and actuates a switch which cycles the pump. An ejector pump is designed to pass small solids so those solids are broken down into smaller particles and they are pumped up and out to the house sewer. The ejector pit is installed below grade with a special pit which liquid and solids collect. You can find a great diagram on the web like this one, to help map out your ejector pump. The system is pneumatic meaning it is operated by air or gas under pressure.

The Ejector Pump

A grinder pump is another term for an ejector pump. In fact there are several brands that make self contained point of use ejectors pump systems that are made to be installed above grade so no digging is necessary. You have to install your waste lines a bit higher so they have the proper pitch. There are special upflow back outlet toilets built with an ejector pump integrated into the package. These systems can usually handle a lavatory and shower as well. You usually have to build the shower on a platform so you can achieve proper drain pitch.  Because these systems are built for use above ground the smell of waste is not noticeable. Check out Amazon for more books of helpful tips and facts about ejector pumps. Here are the most popular units on the market Saniflo and Zoeller’s Qwik Jon

Usually, people don’t think too much about their ejector until it fails and when it fails it’s usually a pretty traumatic event. Things don’t go too well. And deep down you’re thinking “how in the world am I going to fix this?” Don’t make me paint a picture for you, being in the plumbing business for over two decades has given me the power to describe plumbing mishaps in great detail. Lucky for you, we have some solutions for you that’ll make all the difference! And don’t you want the liberty of having a working ejector pump? (The answer: yes.)

Below are the most common ejector pump problems and their solutions:

PROBLEM: The pump isn’t cycling at all. Troubleshooting an ejector pump can be easier than you think. Don’t set off the “oh no” alarm in your head just yet.

Solution #1:

The best thing you can do is check that the outlet that the ejector pump is getting power from. You can install and plug in a light or another electrical device. If it is not receiving power check your fuse box to see that you haven’t tripped a fuse if that doesn’t solve the problem, call in a qualified electrician.

Solution #2:

Solution 1 vs. Solution 2 may make a difference in troubleshooting your ejector pump. If your sewage ejector pump has a float style switch, take a wire coat hanger and straighten it out so that you have a hook on the end of the hanger. Manipulate the float so that it engages the switch. If the pump doesn’t cycle you either need a new pump or you can attempt to buy a piggyback type switch which bypasses the onboard switch. You can buy them retail for between $20 and $30 dollars. This could save you some serious dough.

Solution #3:

If you use the makeshift remote ejector pump actuator and lift the float and the pump cycles you know that for some reason the float isn’t lifting properly. You may have debris on the float or the float rod is impeding its movement. Clean off the float and rod and fill the pit to see if that takes care of the problem.

Solution #4:

Please see above. If the switch actuates and cycles the pump and there is nothing impeding the float and rod from moving it could be that the float is water logged and it’s too heavy to float. In this case, go and purchase a piggyback ejector switch and you should be good to go.

PROBLEM: You can hear the pump cycling but it isn’t evacuating the pit properly.

Solution #1:

This is sort of rare but it does happen. It’s possible that the float rod is out of adjustment or alignment and it’s short cycling. So it is possible to repair. Spend the extra money for a clear silent check valve. The pump is working but the pit isn’t being fully evacuated. Adjust float or rod to ensure proper pump cycle. If this doesn’t solve the problem buy a piggyback switch.

Campbell CHECK VALVE

Solution #2:

This is a much more common issue. You hear the pump cycle but all you see is some slight movement of water in the pit. In most cases, the impeller has become clogged. Remove pump and clean inlet screen.

Solution #3:

If you’ve done the above and the pump is still humming but the wastewater isn’t being evacuated the impeller or shaft is damaged. You’re going to need to purchase a new ejector.

Zoeller 30-0043 - 2" Clear Quiet Check Valve

PROBLEM: Ejector continues to cycle but no water is being removed from the pit.

Solution:

This is a very common issue. Your check valve on the discharge line isn’t indestructible. Often times over the years, debris gets caught on the flapper and it gets hung up. Sometimes the flapper can shear off and become lodged inside the discharge piping. The pump either pumps against itself because the discharge line is clogged or some of the wastewater is coming back into the pit because the flapper isn’t closing properly. Either way, go out and purchase a new 2” ejector check valve, you can find them below or at Home Depot or Lowes or you can get from our friends at Amazon.

Two Pipes Leading Out of The Ejector Cover

This is a common issue we see. Some people say “my ejector pump is bad” and when we ask them how many pipe are coming out of the cover they say one. If there is one discharge pipe coming out from the pit cover it’s a sump pump. An ejector pit will have a gas tight cover with both a discharge line and a vent line to remove any gases from the pit. There are many home builders that will install a dedicated sump pump and an “ejector” to remove condensate waste from the furnace/AC unit. However, they won’t install a real ejector. Since condensate waste doesn’t really have any waste in the discharge the homebuilder doesn’t feel it’s necessary to install an ejector. Make sure you know your equipment. 

I’d like everyone to know I had a lot of fun treading lightly around what debris’ may hang up floats and materials that clog impellers. I will give you one last tip, don’t flush baby wipes/butt wipes, paper towels or feminine hygiene products down a toilet that drains into an ejector pit. No residential ejector pump can grind up those products, so be cautious and hopefully your ejector pump will be fixed in no time!

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