Willey & Co’s advice on when your septic alarm is going off
A little more than half the residential Delaware septic systems Willey & Co installs have alarm systems on them. They can be located inside the house, but are usually installed out by the septic tanks. These alarm systems will make a loud siren sound and have a light that comes on when there is an issue. What do you do when that alarm comes on?
To best deal with an alarm event, you must know what the alarm means. Most septic alarms are making you aware that the water level inside the pump tank has risen to a height that is close to causing a backup. Alarms systems have a float sensors inside the pump tank. When the water level rises to the level of the float it will trigger the alarm box to sound an alarm event.
What could cause the water level in the pump tank to rise to the level of the alarm float?
The alarm float has gone bad.
- There is no electric going to the pump. Maybe a breaker has tripped. Check your breakers. Breakers can trip for many reasons. If the pump isn’t on a isolated breaker by itself and some other device tried to use electric on the same circuit when the pump tried to come on, it may trip. If there’s moisture infiltration, a breaker may trip. Done any digging in the yard? You may have hit the wire causing it to trip. In rare cases you may just have a bad wire somewhere causing a tripped breaker.
- The pump has a float also that tells it when it can come on pending a timer approval (see number 4). The float may have gone bad. These floats have a lifespan of 4-8 years. If the float has gone bad the pump won’t know it needs to come on.
- The timer has gone bad or has gone out of adjustment. A lot of septic systems have a timer that tells the pump float and pump when the system is aloud to have electric. Timers are installed to protect the drainfield from being over used during peak demand time periods.
- Overuse of water. This can come from many ways. Did you have a party, company over, or take a large bath or long shower while doing two loads of laundry? All of these things can cause extra water to be stored in the pump tank between pump cycles. Look outside by the septic tanks. Is there water puddle over or around the tanks. The surface and/or rain water could be infiltrating into the pump tank. These become obvious when the alarm tends to go off everytime it rains.
- The worst case scenario is that the drainfield is having trouble accepting water, this could happen for a variety of reasons. This could be due to a damaged pipe, broken fitting, or the drainfield is saturated with water and can’t take anymore.
What do you do?
- Wait about 24 hours from the time the alarm starting going off and reduce water usage dramatically. This will allow the system to catch up if it is experiencing extra water from usage.
- Check the septic breakers, especially the one for the pump. If it is tripped turn it back on. You will want to contact a septic contractor to see why the breaker tripped.
- If it has just rained or is raining, look for water to be around the septic tanks. Are any gutters pointed towards to septic tanks? Are there any puddles around the tanks? If so take measures to fix these issues as they will reduce the lifespan of your septic system.
- After 1,2, and 3 are complete and the alarm is still going off then contact a septic contractor. If your system is in warranty make sure you call the installer.