My sump pump has been going off about every 3 minutes in the last 2 days. I need to open the pit to see why it is doing that. I'm unable to open the lid as I see another big pipe going into it. Please see the picture below (click for full size):

sump pump hole

1) Does anyone know what is that larger pipe on the right going into the hole? I know the smaller one takes the water outside.

2) Also, how can I open the lid with that larger pipe in there? Do I just slide it up? I don't want to damage it and this is the reason for this question.

3) Finally, does the power plug look fine or do I need like another adapter before plugging it into the outlet?

  • Is that outlet protected by GFCI? It could be on the circuit breaker, in which case, the breaker would have a test button. – BMitch Sep 11 '11 at 1:08
  • I don't know if it is protected by GFCI.. how do I find that out.. also, is that test button on the main circuit board? sorry i have very limited knowledge about this. – coder net Sep 11 '11 at 2:58
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    @coder A GFCI is "sort of" like an ultra-sensitive circuit breaker, but not exactly the same... they work differently (a breaker opens the circuit if too much power is being used; a GFCI does not care how much power is being used, but rather if any power is unaccounted for, e.g. electrocuting someone.) GFCI does not replace the circuit breaker, it merely augments it, with the goal of preventing deaths via electrocution. A breaker, OTOH, provides fire-protection, but hardly any protection from death by electrocution. GFCI have test/reset buttons, commonly seen in bathroom outlets. – Michael Sep 11 '11 at 3:25
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    (cont.) See goldmedalservice.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/… for an example of a GFCI receptacle (outlet.) A GFCI breaker is quite similar... it is a breaker with a few extra doodads. They're pretty easy to spot since test button is almost always red. – Michael Sep 11 '11 at 3:27

You have two questions here, First, I think the larger of the two pipes could be a vent pipe connected to a radon exhaust system. Does this pipe connect to any other pipes or a box with a radon sensor?

Second item, the receptacle shown is a single use type. Sump pumps will often nuisance-trip GFCI receptacles. Much the same as a refrigerator is put on a single non-GFCI receptacle to prevent nuisance tripping, a sump pump or other motor loads are also put on non-GFCI circuits. This is OK if the receptacle is a single use dedicated to the specific appliance.

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  • I've had problems with GFCIs tripping when using a motor (specifically a portable band saw,) but code says a submersible pump requires GFCI. See 650.51(A). New in NEC2008 is a requirement for GFCI protection for 120/240V pool pumps (680.22(B)). I'm sure quite a few new pool owners are happy about that one, as 240V GFCI breakers are rather expensive. – Michael Sep 11 '11 at 22:58
  • sumps are included??? I don't have a copy of NEC here, is there a link? – shirlock homes Sep 11 '11 at 23:03
  • Presumably. There is an extensive discussion here: forums.mikeholt.com/showthread.php?t=86562 . It's a pretty interesting issue, but I'd have to agree that the consequences of the GFCI tripping and the sump pump not running might very well be worse than using no GFCI, even if you ignore the water damage to the basement...just in terms of safety alone. – Michael Sep 11 '11 at 23:17
  • The pipe goes to the ceiling. I don't see any box. Also I don't think I saw any screws on the pipe as someone mentioned in their answer. – coder net Sep 13 '11 at 0:47
  • could it be a roof drain? – shirlock homes Sep 13 '11 at 3:13

1) I know very little about sump pits, but I suspect it might be a vent. Why it would need a vent when the smaller pipe penetration of the lid is beyond me (redundant if it's there to prevent a vacuum, ineffective if it is intended to vent dangerous gasses,) but it might be a code requirement. Alternatively, it might be something that drains from another area, possibly a french drain.

2) Those are sleeve clamp connections. There should be some small screws/bolts that you can loosen, and then you can just slide the sleeves up. The pipes are already cut underneath the sleeve clamps. Retighten the screws/bolts them on the upper segment of pipe to make sure nothing falls into the pit, then simply remove the lid once the sleeves are moved. Turn the pump off before doing this (i.e. pull the plug out,) otherwise you might get very wet (or electrocuted).

3) The receptacle (outlet) looks fine, but there are no indications that it is GFCI protection and therefore does not meet current code requirements. Receptacles below grade (i.e. in basements,) in garages, and in areas near water are required to be GFCI-protected. GFCI protection can be provided by a GFCI breaker, an upstream GFCI receptacle, or by installing a GFCI receptacle at this location.

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  • Thank you for your answer. just to confirm for #2, are you saying that there are small screws on the large pipe closer to the lid..i'll take a look at that. for #3, is it easy for me to install the GFCI myself or do I need help. is it okay not to have one or is it a must? – coder net Sep 11 '11 at 3:03
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    Looks like they're on the opposite side of the pipe, hidden from view. Installing a GFCI receptacle is very easy, but only if the power is off. Turn the breaker off, then pull the pump's plug out and test the receptacle with a lamp (that you know works) or a multimeter to make sure it's dead. Remove a few screws, pull the old receptacle out, hook up the new GFCI one by attaching the black wire to the gold screw, the white to the silver screw, and the green wire to the green/bare screw. Push it in the box, secure with screw, reattach cover. (Needlenose pliers & screwdriver required.) – Michael Sep 11 '11 at 3:42
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    (cont.) Oh, and make sure when you attach each wire to its proper screw, you use hooks like this: ask-the-electrician.com/images/… , and make them point in a clockwise direction before tightening the screw, otherwise the connection might not be very secure. Give the wires a little tug to make sure the screw has a good hold of them. – Michael Sep 11 '11 at 3:42
  • Oops... here's the link to the image: ask-the-electrician.com/images/… – Michael Sep 11 '11 at 22:43

These are the kind of things you want to ask the previous owners about, BEFORE you move in. They know all of that information. When we left our last house, I gave the new owners a complete owner's manual to the house, with all of the things they would need to know to maintain it.

My first guess is this is a drain INTO the sump, possibly coming from a french drain somewhere near the foundation that had no place to go otherwise. To be more sure, trace it back to its source.

The second possibility lies in the fact that your sump lid is covered over, and appears to be sealed. That pipe may well be part of a radon mitigation system, sucking air (with radon in it) that comes into the sump from under the floor slab.

To know which of these it is, you need to check to see where that line goes to. If it exhausts somewhere, with a powered fan in the line, then it is radon mitigation. If it goes into a cellar wall, it is probably a part of a french drain.

That the pump was running frequently simply means there is a lot of water coming in.

The power line seems fine. Best is if it goes to a GFI breaker, but many older homes do not have these things.

If this IS part of a radon mitigation system, then you need to be careful when you open up the sump. These things work by creating a region of negative pressure. If you damage the seals, then it will work poorly, leaving you are more risk if there is indeed radon coming into your basement.

Find out what you have, what these lines do, BEFORE you mess around down there.

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