Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Now that the storm has passed and everything is back to normal, I can finally sit down for a post.  The last week has been hectic to say the least.  Spent multiple days preparing for the storm to hit.  Normally I wouldn't spend that much time preparing, but being that we haven't been in the house two months, I wanted to make sure we were prepared for anything.  So aside from the usual stocking up on water, canned food, batteries, etc., we had to make sure that the sump pumps were working, (they weren't), the chainsaw was ready to go (it wasn't), and we would be prepared to leave if we had to.

The sump pumps are a perfect example as to why you need to hire a good home inspector before you purchase a home.  The inspector we wanted was unavailable at the time, but one of his assistants was, so we took him.  Big mistake.  There were countless things that he missed.  One of which was the sump pumps.  This is where my background as a mechanic with plenty of hydraulic experience came in very handy.  Upon doing my own inspection of the sump pump system, I found numerous problems.  Our system has two sump holes, one on either side of the utility room.  The hole closest to the door, we'll call that Hole A, has one 110 vac pump connected to an evacuation tube to the outside.  The other hole, we'll call Hole B, is on the other side of the room behind the washing machine, and has one 110 vac pump, one 12 vdc back up pump, with both connected to an evacuation tube to the outside.  Both holes are connected with a section of corrugated tube underneath the concrete slab, so if one pump fails, it will overflow to the other hole.  This will also happen if you lose power and are running on the back up system.  The back up system runs off of a 12 vdc Deep Cycle Marine Battery.  The system has its own trickle charger with built in alarm.  The idea is that you plug the charger in, it charges the battery, then shuts itself off.  If the battery charge drops, the charger will automatically charge it back up as needed.  The float for the back up sits higher in the hole than the main pump, so you're back up isn't running all of the time.  That is, as long as your main pump works, but I will get to that shortly. 

When I started my inspection, the first problem I found was numerous broken wires.  Being that the system is designed for operation where there is moisture present, there should be silicone on every connection, plus routine cleaning and inspection to remove any corrosion.  None of this had been done, from what I could tell, ever.  So off I went to the garage to fetch my terminal end kit and my wire strippers.  A half hour later, I finally found everything I needed and proceeded to install new terminals on almost every wire.  Double checked all of my connections.  Good to go.  Lift up the float: nothing.  Doublecheck everything again.  Grab my meter and check the battery charge: good.  Lift the float: nothing.  Back to the garage for tools.  Spent the next half hour pulling the pump, which was only held in place by the 1 inch outlet tube.  Should be simple, right?  Not when the genius who connected it had the clamp turned so the screw was facing straight down.  Pulled the pump out and inspected.  Dirty.  Very Dirty.  (SAFETY NOTE:  ELECTRICITY + WATER= DANGER!  MAKE SURE TO DISCONNECT POWER TO YOUR PUMPS BEFORE WORKING ON THEM!!)  Cleaned up the pump and spun the impeller with my finger a few times to make sure it was spinning freely.  Felt a little gritty, but after spinning a few times, felt okay.  Hooked everything back up, lifted the float, SUCCESS!  Back up pump fixed.

The next problem was with the main pump in Hole B.  Every time I had checked the hole, the water level was above the float, which means that the float was not engaging the switch.  (If my jargon is confusing you, there is a good diagram here.)  I worked the float up and down a bit, and it now seems to be working intermittently.  As a precaution because of the storm, I grabbed the butchers twine and tied a 5 foot length to the float and ran it up through the lid.  During the storm I periodically checked on it and lightly pulled the string to turn the pump on.  This was purely out of my paranoia of our basement flooding.

The storm hit Sunday night.  All was well until about 9 PM.  The wife and I were about a half an hour into a good horror flick, when BOOM!  Lights go out.  Sparks flying everywhere up at the end of our driveway.  Transformer blew.  Throughout the night we were woken up about every 45 minutes by the alarm on the backup system sounding.  The alarm goes off every time the pump turns on.  Spall price to pay for a dry basement!  The system worked beautifully.  The transformer was replaced in the morning and I walked the property to make sure all was well.  Went to the basement a little later and found that the pump in hole A was running.  Pulled the lid and found no water.  Hmmm.  Moved the float up and down: still running.  Unplugged the pump.  Plugged it back in a minute later.  All good.  Looks like I may have a couple of pumps to replace soon.

Over all, the storm wasn't too bad to us.  It gave us some much needed family time at home.  And it gave me some time to finally start working on the garage and getting my toos organized.  The picture below is what I've finished so far on my pegboard over the workbench.  Really, the picture is me gloating to myself!  But I think I deserve it, right?

Okay, so it still needs a little work.  But it will get there eventually. 


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