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Vagitarian
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Septic tank alarms *UPDATE-FIXED*

On a few septic systems we have installed over the past couple years, the high level alarm comes on inside the HO's home. Take the lid off the tank and the water level is normal and pump works fine. Take a rake and pick up the alarm float and set it back down and alarm shuts off. Water was never up high enough to activate the switch in the float. Seems to only be a problem in the winter and not the summer which leads me to believe it is a moisture problem where we spliced the wires. Inside the tank we join the wires with wire nuts and place inside a waterproof junction box and mount the box on the risers way above the water. Now there is alot of condensation inside the tanks. Also, we use 14/2 direct burial wire and we run it inside conduit and run the wire into the basement and the electrician takes it from there.

Here is the kicker, we have install prolly a hundred systems for many different contractors and homeowners. The HO's that are having the problem are the systems that we installed through the same (1) contractor which is leaving us to believe that he may not be wiring the alarm float properly.

I know nothing about electrical, but is it possible it could be wired wrong to cause this problem ??
 

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Capra Aegagrus
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The HO's that are having the problem are the systems that we installed through the same (1) contractor which is leaving us to believe that he may not be wiring the alarm float properly.
Are you saying this contractor did the wiring in the tank, or are you talking about the electrician's work inside the house?

It would help to know just how the circuit works. Though I've seen them in place, I've never worked on them. Anyone?

Moving the float wouldn't change the amount of condensation sitting on any surfaces. But it might polish up oxidized switch contacts a bit, allowing them to conduct when they weren't before. If the alarm goes off when a switch is opened, that could explain it.
 

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Baltimore Electrician
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1,249 Posts
On a few septic systems we have installed over the past couple years, the high level alarm comes on inside the HO's home. Take the lid off the tank and the water level is normal and pump works fine. Take a rake and pick up the alarm float and set it back down and alarm shuts off. Water was never up high enough to activate the switch in the float. Seems to only be a problem in the winter and not the summer which leads me to believe it is a moisture problem where we spliced the wires. Inside the tank we join the wires with wire nuts and place inside a waterproof junction box and mount the box on the risers way above the water. Now there is alot of condensation inside the tanks. Also, we use 14/2 direct burial wire and we run it inside conduit and run the wire into the basement and the electrician takes it from there.

Here is the kicker, we have install prolly a hundred systems for many different contractors and homeowners. The HO's that are having the problem are the systems that we installed through the same (1) contractor which is leaving us to believe that he may not be wiring the alarm float properly.

I know nothing about electrical, but is it possible it could be wired wrong to cause this problem ??
Sounds like the problem has nothing to do with the wiring at all. Moving the float would only affect the factory switch and wiring internal to the float, not anything the contractor connected. Moving the float should do nothing to the splices in the box if proper connectors are used.

Are all the systems you install the same brand? Perhaps this contractor is using a different brand than you are used to, of a lower quality.
 

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Contractor of the Month
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Did you buy the sh!t Amseco brand ones?

I've have their reed switches go bad on my sump alarms. Really weird intermittent problems like you are describing.
 

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Baltimore Electrician
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1,249 Posts
On a few septic systems we have installed over the past couple years, the high level alarm comes on inside the HO's home. Take the lid off the tank and the water level is normal and pump works fine. Take a rake and pick up the alarm float and set it back down and alarm shuts off. Water was never up high enough to activate the switch in the float. Seems to only be a problem in the winter and not the summer which leads me to believe it is a moisture problem where we spliced the wires. Inside the tank we join the wires with wire nuts and place inside a waterproof junction box and mount the box on the risers way above the water. Now there is alot of condensation inside the tanks. Also, we use 14/2 direct burial wire and we run it inside conduit and run the wire into the basement and the electrician takes it from there.

Here is the kicker, we have install prolly a hundred systems for many different contractors and homeowners. The HO's that are having the problem are the systems that we installed through the same (1) contractor which is leaving us to believe that he may not be wiring the alarm float properly.

I know nothing about electrical, but is it possible it could be wired wrong to cause this problem ??
Also, IMO that is the worst place for the junction box. I've had nothing but problems with boxes placed inside the tank, no matter how far above the waterline.
 

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Chief outhouse engineer
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Disconnected mine years ago. I don't know what the problems were, but every time we had a power outage, the alarm went off.

At first I thought I had a problem, but after months of checking the tank etc. I finally disconnected the power to the alarm. Now I sleep peacefully at night. :thumbsup:
 

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Vagitarian
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3,589 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Are you saying this contractor did the wiring in the tank, or are you talking about the electrician's work inside the house?

It would help to know just how the circuit works. Though I've seen them in place, I've never worked on them. Anyone?

Moving the float wouldn't change the amount of condensation sitting on any surfaces. But it might polish up oxidized switch contacts a bit, allowing them to conduct when they weren't before. If the alarm goes off when a switch is opened, that could explain it.

I am talking about the wiring inside the house performed by the electrican.
We, do the wiring inside the tank.
 

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Vagitarian
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3,589 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Sounds like the problem has nothing to do with the wiring at all. Moving the float would only affect the factory switch and wiring internal to the float, not anything the contractor connected. Moving the float should do nothing to the splices in the box if proper connectors are used.

Are all the systems you install the same brand? Perhaps this contractor is using a different brand than you are used to, of a lower quality.
Yes, same brand. We purchase the pump, alarm. We install the pump and floats and run the wires inside the house and then the GC's electrician wires them in the box and wires the alarm.
 

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Vagitarian
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Also, IMO that is the worst place for the junction box. I've had nothing but problems with boxes placed inside the tank, no matter how far above the waterline.
Where do you recommend placing the junction box ??

The floats only have 6ft cords. It is either mount on the inside of the riser, or on the outside of the tank. Personally, I would rather not mount on the outside because some ppl get careless with lawnmowers and weedwackers. Also, you would have moisture problems with rain and snow.
 

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Contractor of the Month
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Its not the wires, its the reed on the amsecos, they are rubbish and they die after 1-3 years.
 

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Baltimore Electrician
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Where do you recommend placing the junction box ??

The floats only have 6ft cords. It is either mount on the inside of the riser, or on the outside of the tank. Personally, I would rather not mount on the outside because some ppl get careless with lawnmowers and weedwackers. Also, you would have moisture problems with rain and snow.
You will have to deal with moisture no matter where you put the jbox. Your OP mentioned condensation when it is inside the tank.

Several jurisdictions around here require them outside the tank, and if I have the choice, that is where I put it. To be honest, I have never had a weedwacker or mower issue. I DO have an issue with working on that junction if I have to get that cover off the tank, and gag the entire time.

I have never had a problem with length of cord when placing the box outside.
 

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Baltimore Electrician
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1,249 Posts
As far as the problem - have you opened the Jbox to check if anything is loose? Or if there is excessive moisture?
 

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Registered
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If it's not a wire problem in the juction box, then it is probably a bad float.

What kind of floats are you using, we only use SJE Rhombus floats. And SJE alarms, timers, control boxes, etc. Also is it mechanical or mercury float?

Also SJE floats have a 3 year warranty.

http://www.sjerhombus.com/

As for a external junction box which we have to use in some jurisdictions as long as explosion proof is not required. We use these from Orenco.

http://www.orenco.com/catalog/product_detail.cfm?FamilyID=2&ProductID=99


Also bad floats can be hard to diagnose. It may not be working and then most people will do what you did get something and move the float, and it works now that you moved it around. Until the ball or switch inside sticks again.

The best thing to do is to not disturb the float, open up the junction box and disconnect the float leads, get a meter and check for continuity, and if the float is down and you have continuity the float ball or switch is stuck.



As to whether the electrician is wiring the alarm wrong. If it is just a simple alarm, no timers, etc. Then it is just about impossible to wire wrong as there are only the 2 float wires and the plug for power.

Here is typical wiring for a septic alarm, this is for a SJE Tank Alert I.

Also you are testing the alarm after it is first wired, using the test button on the alarm and going out and lifting the float.



We don't use basic alarms around here anymore, have to use a control box with timer, contactor, alarm, etc. built in.
 

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Vagitarian
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thank kgmz. Not sure on the brand of floats or alarm. As far as testing goes, we never do that. Reason being, SEO comes and inspects system and we fill tank with water and test the pump and system to prove that it will work. After he signs off, we cover with dirt, grade it up and turn a bill in. I am sure that we should prolly go back later after electrician wires up the alarm, but you know how that is. I am gonna check what you said above......when we get time. lol.
 

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Vagitarian
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
You will have to deal with moisture no matter where you put the jbox. Your OP mentioned condensation when it is inside the tank.

Several jurisdictions around here require them outside the tank, and if I have the choice, that is where I put it. To be honest, I have never had a weedwacker or mower issue. I DO have an issue with working on that junction if I have to get that cover off the tank, and gag the entire time.

I have never had a problem with length of cord when placing the box outside.

I believe that most SEO's prefer them on the inside of the riser. Not sure, but that is the way we have been doing it for years. Just something that I never thought about.

I found this when doing some googling. Does it make sense ??

One of the greatest failures of reed switches is caused by over current conditions. Most electrically listed products are rated for the "Steady State" operating power. This is the time when normal operation occurs and does not take into account the "turn-on" or "shut-down" loads associated with capacitive or inductive devices. The power created by these devices at "turn-on" or "shut-down" can be 5 to 10 times the "Steady State" current given as part of the power rating. The power spikes created at these moments can cause arcing which can weld or completely burn open the reed contacts. SMD reed switches list the UL resistive power ratings for the reed switches, and maximum currents and voltages to be switched. In most high power applications an inexpensive relay can be used to isolate you switch from heavier loads. Improper wiring is often the cause of switch failure. When wiring you switch and relay combination (as shown in figure 6) remember to tie the load and the switch as close as possible to the ground source to reduce any load spikes from traveling through the switch.

On a side note. Had a GC call us the other day and said that water was spraying up in the air from one of the sandmounds that we had done for his spec house a couple years ago (just sold and is closing end of month). I go and check it out at 6:15 AM in 12 degree weather and someone knocked the top off of the 1.5" cleanout. The GC was cutting the grass with a zero turn. :whistling
 

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Chief outhouse engineer
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I go and check it out at 6:15 AM in 12 degree weather and someone knocked the top off of the 1.5" cleanout. The GC was cutting the grass with a zero turn. :whistling


That right there is funny. Mow the lawn when it is 12 degrees out. :w00t::w00t::w00t:
 

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Registered
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I have seen this problem and 90% of the time the home owners kids turn the pump switch off, the high water alarm will still work.
Most times I think that they find this while you are on the way there and don't tell you because they are too embarrassed.
 

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Around here we have to do our trench cleanouts like this.

A 6" pipe vertically in the trench to bottom and slotted so water can flow, the 1.5" pipe in trench is swept up into the 6" pipe for access with cleanout plug in end. The 6" pipe is so you can check the trench later for ponding, etc. Some guys just put a 6" plug on top of the pipe so it is covered and to allow access to check for ponding and to get access to the lateral pipe cleanout.

And there have been problems like you described with a lawnmower chopping off the top of pipe, plug, etc. What I do is set the top of the 6" pipe lower, and then use a Carson 7" valve box set flush to grade. This allows access and they can drive right over it with the mower.

http://www.carsonind.com/PDF/Rescom/708.pdf
 

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It sounds like a bad switch. I would call up the manufacturer and tell him what's going on. I installed one of those on my own house once, I had no idea how to wire it, but I called the manufacturer and their electrical engineer explained to me how to wire it in. So I think they would be the best ones to ask.

I can't imagine how mis-wiring would cause the alarm to just come on at random. But I can see how a bad switch would do that, maybe the contacts in the switch are too close together.
 

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Vagitarian
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
UPDATE

Went yesterday to look at it. The light on the box in the basement was dim. Pulled the lid of the tank and where the wires were spliced, we used butt connectors and a heat shrink. Cut the heat shrink and we pulled the butt connectors away from each other and the alarm shut off. Place them close together again and alarms comes on. Evidently they are drawing some slight voltage from each other to cause the alarm to go off. We cut them off and staggered the splices which is what we usually do, but for some reason this one wasn't.
 
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