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Gene D asked Why are my sump pump switches failing?
I have gone through four diaphragm switches on my sump pump in seven years. I have a pretty wet footer drain that empties into the sump pit, so my pump runs about 5-10 times an hour during the rainy days, and maybe once or twice an hour when it's dry out (my lot is the lowest in the development.) My first sump pump died within a couple months and the builder replaced it with what he called a heavy duty pump by Hydromatic. Instead of a ball float type switch, it has a sealed diaphragm switch that sits on the bottom of the well next to the pump, and triggers it when the water pressure builds up as the sump well fills. The pump has lasted me seven years and is running strong. But the switch seems to malfunction after about two years. It seems like once the switch closes from the pressure of a full sump well, it doesn't open any more when the well is drained. I don't know what could cause this. There are no springs or "moving" parts inside... it's just a cavity with a double layer of rubber-type diaphragm that trips a depression contact. I've got to think these switches should last more than two years. Any ideas what might be wrong? These switches aren't cheap, and the worst thing would be running the motor dry and burn out the pump! Opened the switch which is the newer redesigned version that has four screws on the bottom to remove the outer diaphragm. The new design also includes a package of silicone desiccant in the air chamber. There was condensation on the inner housing, which I wiped off. i also blew compressed air through the vent tube in the chord. On reassembly it was working o.k. Will see what it looks like after a few days....
And got the following answer:
Hi There, Inside the diaphram switch there is a Microswitch or a Unimax spring loaded switch that is activated whenever the diaphram presses against the depression. The better of the two switches is made by Microswitch (but you probably are not able to just change out the small switch. Honeywell makes the Microswitches and they are rated from 0.1 to 25 amps. The current rating should be listed on the level switching device nameplate and it should be well above the rating of your sump pump. Probably 1/3 to 1/2 H.P. at 120 VAC. What happens is that every time this switch opens there is a spark and a small amount of material is burned off the contacts. That means the switch can only operate for a finite number of cycles. Your sump pump cycles many times in a day and two years is very good service for this switch. You might not be able to improve much form this. But I know you would rather it last for several years however these float switches are guaranteed for one to three years (for an electronic level controller). If it were me I would shop around for a different type of sump controller. The kind that use a float with a mercury switch should last longer than the mechanical switches. The mecury is only about one teaspoon and is enclosed in a sealed glass pellet. Also check the horsepower of your sump pump and if possible get a system with a higher rating. They are rated 1/3 to 1/2 horsepower ( 120 volts AC) so I would get the higher rated one. The best thing you can do is to try to adjust whatever type of float so the sump pump does not cycle on/off as often (that's the root of the problem). Also I would check to find out where the pump discharges the water. I have seen systems that discharged the water just a couple of feet from the foundation....it simply soaked right back into the basement. Hope this gives youu some ideas for extending the life of your float switch, Al