Next to the sump pump in your basement, one of the most important pumps you might have is the ejector pump that is used to remove sewage waste. When this pump stops working, you could have one nasty mess to clean up.
The most common reason why an ejector pump would stop working is because of the float switch. The float switch is used to control the height of the sewage waste within the basin (or pit which people often call it). Often these switches will wear out long before the ejector pump does.
Most ejector pumps have an alarm that will sound if there is a problem with the pump that needs your immediate attention. As a homeowner with an ejector pump, I can say that it is never fun when you hear this alarm go off.
Most Common Reasons Why An Ejector Pump Stops Working
There are a few reasons why an ejector pump would stop working, and luckily most of the problems can be troubleshot yourself without having to call a plumber. A plumber would typically charge you anywhere from $200 to $250 to solve the same problem you can figure out easy on your own.
Below are some of the most common reasons for your ejector pump to stop working.
No Power – Sometimes the outlet could have tripped a breaker, and this is why the ejector pump is not working.
To verify if the plug is working, you will need to follow the power cord from the ejector pump and see where it is plugged in. Pull the plug out and plug in something such as a light that you know should work. If the light doesn’t turn on, there is no power going to that outlet.
Clog – If your ejector pump is running, but it is not pumping out any sewage waste from the basin, then this could mean that you have a clog in the impeller of the ejector pump. A clog typically happens when objects such as baby wipes or feminine products get flushed down the toilet. The ejector pump has a hard time breaking those up, so they normally tend to get caught and block the sewage from being pumped out.
To find out if your pump is clogged, you will need to raise the ejector pump out of the basin and check the bottom impellor area to see if anything got caught inside. Before you remove the pump always make sure that your pump is unplugged and doesn’t have power going to the unit.
Float Switch – If you have two cables coming out of the basin, then you have a float switch. The float switch is a ball that will float on top of the sewage, and once the sewage level reaches a specific height, the ball triggers a sensor, and that makes your pump startup.
For some reason, the float switch doesn’t seem to last as long as the life of the ejector pump. That is even something that the manufactures will warn buyers about. Because the float switch tends to stop working, this is often something that will need to be changed at least once or twice during the time you have your ejector pump.
To check if the float switch is working or not, follow the electrical cords to the outlet. You should see two plugs connected and plugged into the same electrical outlet using what is called a “piggyback connection.” Unplug these from the electrical outlet, and try plugging in light to confirm that there is power going to the outlet.
If there is power going to the outlet, unplug the pump from the piggyback plug and plug the pump directly into the outlet. If the pump starts up, then you know that the float switch is bad. If the pump doesn’t start then, you know the pump is bad.
Now if the pump did start while directly plugged into the outlet, then there is one more thing that you could try checking before you go out to buy a new float switch.
Plug the pump back into the piggyback plug of the float switch and plug those into an electrical outlet that has power. Now, stretch out a metal coat hanger and reach down and hook on the float and manually raise the ball.
If the pump starts then perhaps there is some debris that is weighing the float down. Clearing that off should allow it to function correctly again. But if the pump doesn’t start after manually lifting the float, then you know the switch is bad and will need to be replaced. The good news is, a new float switch will only end up costing you about $20 to $30.
To replace the float switch, you will need to disconnect all power to the pump and lift it out of the basin.
How To Change a Sewage Pump Float Switch
Changing a float switch on an ejector pump is a fairly simply and straight forward procedure.
Step 1 – Disconnect the piggyback plug and the pump plug to make sure there is no power going to the unit. If your pump is hardwired in, you will need to shut off the power within the fuse box.
Step 2 – Remove the cover to the basin. Disconnect the vent pipe from the top, and then loosen the coupling that connects the waste line.
Step 3 – Lift the ejector pump out of the basin and lay it on a tarp or plastic sheet (there will be some mess). Next, take a look at where the float switch cord is attached to the pump and mark this spot. Remove the old switch and attach the new one, making sure that you attach the new switch to the same spot. This is important so that your pump starts and stops at the same level as it has always been.
Step 4 – Lower the pump back into the basin. Check to make sure that the float is floating freely and it won’t be caught up on anything. Next, insert the vent pipe and ensure it’s secure. Re-assemble the coupling and make sure that it is tight from leaks.
At this time you can plug the pump back into the piggyback plug and plug those into a GFCI outlet. Take a bucket of water and fill the basin to ensure that the float switch is working. Once satisfied, put the top back on the basin and reconnect power.
How Long Does An Ejector Pump Last?
A well-maintained ejector pump could last anywhere from 8 to 12 years. And depending on the make and model, some homeowners have seen 18 to 30 years out of their ejector pump.
How Much Does It Cost To Replace An Ejector Pump?
There are many different styles, models and sizes of ejector pump to choose from and depending on how much power you need for your home plays a factor in price.
For an average home, you could look at spending anywhere from $150 to $500. Again this depends on the type of pump you buy. For a good reliable pump, you can pick one up around $250 to $300. Amazon has a great selection of ejector pumps, and of course on Amazon, you can read other customers reviews before you decide to buy.
To help determine what size of ejector pump that you need for your home you can refer to this very helpful Sizing Guidelines For New or Replacement Sewage Pumps chart.
How Often Should a Sewage Ejector Pump Run?
The ejector pump should only run when the float switch rises to the point where the sensor gets tripped. Now depending on how frequently the basin fills up depends on when the pump runs.
The way the float switch works is that upon installing the ejector pump you can set at which level the sewage will reach before tripping the pump to start, and when the pump is to shut off. These sensors are called High and Low sensors.
On most models, there will even be an additional set of sensors called High-High and Low-Low sensors. The High-High sensor is located above the High sensor, and this is used to sound an alarm if the sewage level rises higher then it should. It’s a warning for the homeowner that there is something wrong and you might have a nasty mess on your hands if you don’t take action soon.
The Low-Low senor is located at the bottom, and this too sounds an alarm but only when the basin level drops very low. You do not want the pump to start if there is nothing in the basin pit or else you could burn out your pump.
So if you notice that your pump is starting and stopping more frequently, you can adjust the positions of the sensors to where you want.