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Sewage pumps: this article explains the differences between and gives installation and maintenance advice for Sump Pumps, Sewage Ejector Pumps, Septic Grinder Pumps, Sewage Pumping Stations, & Septic Pump Alarms. We discuss sewage grinder pump types, sizes, voltages, horsepower, installation and maintenance. We also give piping size recommendations for sewage pumps and effluent pumps based on the ejector pump rate in gpm. And we include a list of manufacturers of sewage pumps, septic pumps, effluent pumps, and grinder pumps. An Environment One Corporation grinder pump schematic sketch is shown at the top of this article.
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How to buy, install, inspect, & maintain Septic tank pumps, septic grinder pumps, septic effluent pumps
What is a Sewage Ejector? Sewage ejector pumps & What's the difference between an effluent pump, sewage ejector pump, and grinder pump? Recommended pipe diameters for sewage pump installations
Advice is given for septic tank effluent or sewage pump selection, installation, maintenance, inspection, and use. Septic pumps used for pumping air in aeration systems and septic pumps used to move effluent in a drip dispersion system are discussed under the appropriate septic system type which are outlined at SEPTIC SYSTEM DESIGN ALTERNATIVES.
Technical review by industry experts has been performed and is ongoing - reviewers welcomed and are listed at "References." This article is part of our series: Inspecting, Testing, & Maintaining Residential Septic Systems an online book on septic systems. Sketches are from the Environment One Low Pressure Sewer Systems Grinder Pump catalog.
Sewage ejector pumps, or sewage grinder pumps, are designed to pump residential or household sewage or blackwater to a destination such as an elevated septic tank or to a city sewer (for homes whose lower baths are at a depth below the level of their sewer line).
Even if a building is nearly at the same level as its septic tank or sewer line, if the geography of the site prevents sewage from flowing fast enough on its own (two-feet per second) then a sewage grinder or sewage ejector pump is needed.
Shown at left is an older model packaged sewage ejector pump provided by Environment One Corporation.
A typical application of a sewage ejector pump is in a home where a basement bathroom is located lower than the height of the sewer line which leaves the home. The sewage ejector pump lifts waste from the basement bathroom up to the sewer line where it flows out to a septic tank or community sewer.
A sewage or septic grinder pump, (there is more than one grinding method) reduces sewage to a finely ground slurry of waste and water which can then be pumped or forced to its destination. In the sewage grinder pump photo shown at above left, the number of wires and pipes at the tank tells us that this is a duplexed or two-pump system with two grinder pumps, two drains, and a tank alarm as well (the center wires).
If your building's drain system is at a level below a municipal sewer line, or if your septic drainfield or tank and fields are uphill from the building, you need a sewage grinder pump and a forced-main sewer system.
If your home is connected to a community sewer line which itself uses a pumping station to move wastewater and sewage from the community sewer to a public sewage main, see our discussion of commercial-type sewage grinder and pumping systems found at at Septic Pumping Stations.
What Does a Sewage Ejector Pump Look Like?
The sewage ejector pump photograph at above left shows a typical plug-in sewage ejector pump used in a home basement. The photo at above right is a small pre-packaged wastewater ejector pump suitable for serving a sink or clothes washer; it's not a grinder pump.
In the right hand photo at lower left you'll see a small white plastic water alarm that the office manager left on the floor in this area in order to detect a plumbing supply or drain leak.
Frankly, a consumer unfamiliar with these products may have trouble telling the difference by a simple exterior inspection - it's reliable to observe the product name and number and then inquire of the manufacturer about the pump's intended application and its installation requirements. But in the cases above, the overall size, location, and nearby plumbing fixtures defined the probable application of each pump even for a novice inspector and where view of the septic pump was limited.
In their most common usage, packaged septic pump systems are sold in a plastic "can" which contains the grinder pump, a float control to turn the pump on and off, and watertight fittings that permit connection of the system to the building electrical system (to supply power to the pump) and to the building drain waste vent system.
The pump manufacturer will provide a table of pumping capacity needed to overcome specific head or lift requirements and length or pipe run from the pumping station to its destination.
An Environment One Corporation grinder pump outdoor installation is shown at left while a sewage grinder pump schematic sketch is shown at page top. Separately at SEPTIC PUMP ALARM SYSTEMS we illustrate an outdoor-mounted sewage pump alarm system provided by the same manufacturer.
Sewage Ejector Pump Maintenance
Not much maintenance is required for these pumps other than clearing a blockage if you ignore our "Don't Flush" list given below. While at least some ejector pump models can tolerate being run "dry" for some time without damage, the manufacturer(s) recommend adjusting the pump float so that the liquid level in the receiving chamber never drops below the body of the pump motor.
If your sewage grinder pump or sump pump is not turning on and off correctly, check the holding tank for clogging debris and check the operation of the sewage pump float control switch - see details at the Q&A section of Sewage Pump Clog Damage and at Septic Pump Installation Guide.
Watch out: even a sewage grinder pump is not immune from becoming blocked or damaged by mineral debris, septic tank or holding tank debris, or solids that people may flush down a drain such as condoms, wipes, even cotton swabs or perhaps dental floss. We elaborate these trouble sources at SEWAGE PUMP CLOG DAMAGE. Quoting Weinman 
Sewage Ejector Pump Piping Recommendations
Most of the sewage ejector pump installations we've inspected in residential properties use 2-inch waste piping to connect the pump outlet to the building sewer line. However the pipe diameter selection is guided by the anticipated flow rate - a figure that you can find in your ejector pump's installation and operations manual. Below we quote from Hyromatic .
Ejector Pump Preventive Maintenance
Watch out: when removing a grinder pump of sewage ejector pump from its station, do not lift the pump by its electrical wiring. Doing so risks damaging the wiring and voiding the pump warranty. Lift the pump by the steel handle or attachment intended for that purpose.
Septic & Sewage Pump Manufacturers class their pumps into these categories
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: Options for battery backup for a sewage grinder pump
For a grinding pump (zoeller 1/2hp)... What options for a battery backup? Computer UPS maybe?? Something more serious? - Rob 8/30/11
Nice question, Rob. I'd look at the data for the Zoeller pump model (data from your installation manual should be enough as the pump itself would need to be pulled to look at its data tags). I am not sure that a typical home computer UPS will have enough ampacity at 120V to handle the pump operation but it might. If not, take a look at battery-operated backups for basement sump pumps.
Or even a second, auxiliary 12-V pump itself, added into the same pumping station (if there's room for both pump and floats). A second pump (common installation practice) has its float control set to turn on the pump at a higher level than the main pump, so it will operate automagically if/when the main pump stops working for any reason.
Question: Clunking noise coming from the grinder pump when it shuts off
I have lived through a few sump/grinders in the past 6years. HUGE pet peeve is the giant clunk the check valve makes when the grinder shuts off. I have a new house and the plumbers installed a ejector system and everything and looks good. The main drain outlet pipe is secured to the concrete foundation wall with foam padding between the pipe an the "U" bracket. near the top (12" from the ceiling joist) is the check valve. We are still getting a very large "Clunk" when the grinder stops that shakes main floor.
Matt there should be no clunking when your sewage pump turns on and off. It sounds as if the pump is not secured, or as if a mount has broken or come loose.
Question: Chirping sound coming from sewage ejector pump
I woke up today to a chirping sound coming from my sewage ejector pump.....it seems evenly spaced (about every thirty seconds), not very loud, but annoying....the pump is only one and a half years old.....the pump is near my bedroom and interfering with my sleep ......please help me figure out what that noise is. - Barbara
Barbara, a chirping sewage ejector pump - sound as if either the pump motor was unable to start and run or there was a problem with a float control - perhaps setting off an alarm? I'd track the sound directly to the source. Does your system include an alarm?
Question: Sewage pump runs all the time - when should the grinder pump cycle on and off?
Are these pumps supposed to run all the time or just when water is being used? - Charlene 5/1/12
Charlene, most grinder pumps do not run every time the water is being used but rather are turned on and off by a float control inside the receiving tank. If your pump is running constantly the float switch needs repair or replacement.
Question: is it possible to repair a leaky sewage grinder pump holding tank?
I have a crack in the bottom of my grinder pump holding tank which is allowing some dirt and debris into the tank. Other than complete removal and replacement of the tank from my concrete basement floor, do I have any other options to seal or repair this crack/leak? - R.H. 1/14/13
It may be possible to empty the sewage grinder pump tank, clean and dry it, and repair the crack using an epoxy crack repair product or for plastic tanks, using a fiberglass patch - depending on tank material, but
Watch out: leaning over any septic tank or cesspool, even a small grinder pump tank that has contained sewage can result in death by asphyxiation; also if there are sparks or a nearby flame, the result can be a methane gas explosion;
Don't work alone, never enter a tank without special training and protective gear/apparatus, &c. - stay safe .
Questions & answers or comments about sewage ejector pumps and sewage grinder pumps
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Technical Reviewers & References
Related Topics, found near the top of this page suggest articles closely related to this one.
Design Manuals for Septic Systems
Onsite Wastewater Disposal Books