Omnia Mechanical Group

571 Timpson Place Bronx, NY 10455

Phone: 212-534-2500

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Submersible Pump Won’t Work? Common Problems with Submersible Pumps You Can Fix on Your Own

Multi-unit properties in New York City use many pumps to keep systems working smoothly. Some of the most important are submersible pumps used in the lower levels of buildings. But if your submersible pump won’t work, you could find yourself with disastrous property damage.

The good news is that submersible pumps typically aren’t terribly complicated. Here are some fixes you can try yourself if a submersible pump isn’t working properly. You might be able to save your budget some time and money with a DIY solution. If not, Antler Pumps is always here to help with a repair or replacement.

Common Submersible Pumps in NYC Buildings

Submersible pumps are so named because they operate even when exposed to water and other liquids. There are two kinds of submersible pumps we see most often in New York City properties.

Sump pumps

Sump pumps, sometimes called storm sumps, sit in the floor of a building’s lowest point to catch rising water and pump it elsewhere. This prevents stormwater from entering the interior of a property and causing damage.

Sewage ejector pumps

Most of the time, gravity assists in the removal of waste from New York City condominiums and co-operative buildings. But in low-lying units, your plumbing may need a little extra help. A sewage ejector pump pushes waste from sinks, toilets, clothes washers, and dishwashers into the main sewer line when gravity alone can’t do the job. When it grinds the waste first, like a garbage disposal, this type of pump is known as a sewage grinder pump.

Dealing with Sewage Ejector Pumps

Common problems and solutions

By far the problem we see most frequently with sewage ejector pumps is the pump sensor getting stuck. The float sensor mechanism determines when the basin of the pump is full, which in turn triggers the pump motor to turn on. The pump then pushes the waste in the basin into the sewer line.

How do you know this might be the problem? If the sensor becomes stuck to the side of the basin near the top, usually the pump will run and run, even if the basin is empty. This is because the pump “thinks” the basin is full, so it turns on the motor and has no cue to stop.

If the sensor is stuck near the bottom of the basin, however, the opposite problem will occur. The pump’s motor never becomes triggered to turn on, so the basin fills up and doesn’t empty. Signs of this phenomenon include:

  • Toilets and sinks backing up
  • Dishwashers and clothes washers not fully emptying
  • Waste smells inside the unit
  • No sound of the motor running for a long time

A good cleaning of the basin usually fixes this issue. Sometimes the float sensor may need to be replaced if it continues to stick to the basin sides.

Other issues we see with sewage ejector pumps include:

  • Worn cords, wiring, or other electrical components powering the motor, which should be replaced by a professional
  • Broken switches, which also need expert repair
  • Failing pump components, like gaskets or impellers, that need professional attention

One more problem we see with sewage ejector pumps is clogs. Usually, these need to be cleared by a plumber, like our partners at Sanitary Plumbing. Clogs anywhere in your waste line, whether or not you use a sewage ejector pump, are most often due to improper items being disposed of in sinks, toilets, and dishwashers, such as:

  • Food remains
  • Coffee grounds
  • Cooking oil and grease
  • Diapers
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Antibacterial and personal care wipes
  • Paper towels

To prevent the recurrence of a clog, make sure your building’s occupants know what can go down the drain and what cannot. Regular maintenance can also prevent future problems with your sewage pumps.

Fixing Sump Pumps

Preventing water damage

Sump pumps are also prone to sensor problems, just like sewage ejector pumps. They function much the same way, with a sensor inside a basin telling the pump motor when to turn on. So, checking the side of the basin and maintaining the integrity of the sensor system is important.

You can evaluate the performance of the float sensor by simply adding some water to the basin manually. It should cause the float to rise and the motor to turn on. Then, the water should drain from the basin.

Other common problems we see with sump pumps that you may be able to fix yourself include:

  • Debris in the sump pit — clean this out and consider putting a strainer in place to keep the sump pit free of unwanted material
  • Broken switches (pump runs continually or won’t turn on at all) — you can try jiggling it if it feels stuck, although it may need professional replacement
  • Rust and sediment built up on the pump — can be removed with a good cleaning, usually using something acidic like vinegar or lemon juice and a wire brush
  • Pump not perfectly vertical in its placement — make sure the pump is oriented straight up and down (use a plumb line) or it won’t work correctly
  • Water draining too close to the property — relocate the drain (discharge) line (unless it already goes to the city sewer system) so it’s further from the building and in an area that’s not already oversaturated with rainwater or snowmelt

There are some troubles with sump pumps that require professional assistance. These include:

  • Electrical issues, like worn wires or plugs or shorts that trigger your circuit breaker or make the lights flicker
  • Problems with internal pump components (impeller, valves, seals, etc.)
  • Broken check valve (discharge water keeps coming back into the sump pit)
  • Clog in the discharge pipe (will likely need to be cleared by a plumber unless you have complete access to the line)

Call Antler Pumps When You Can’t Do the Job Yourself

New York City’s pump experts

If you try the solutions above and still have no luck repairing your submersible pump, Antler Pumps is happy to come out to help you. Call us today at 212-534-2500 to schedule an appointment. Don’t wait until your submersible pump won’t work and you have property damage from stormwater or waste!


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