Sump pump fails: SonarMote intercepts!

Yesterday the first significant storm of the season moved in the area and it rained heavily into the evening hours. Nice for the grass, I just fertilized it the other day. But bad for sump pumps which work really hard to keep the water out of the house, they usually fail during a big storm. I came back home very late and was very tired, went straight to bed so I didn’t notice anything. This morning when I checked the Moteino Gateway interface (coming soon!), I was alerted that the sump pump SonarMote was reading an unusually low value. The SonarMote sensor that sends the readings was still operational since the data was still coming. So could the sump pump have failed? Here’s the graph that recorded the increasing frequency of the pump operation until the failure ocurred (lower value means water is closer to the sensor and hence fuller well tank):

So I head down to the basement to check and sure enough, the sump well was full of water and the sump pump did not work. So I remove the pump to inspect it and as I was getting ready to head to Home Depot before the new pumps are all gone, I fiddle with it and it turns out the plunger was stuck in a low position so it was not actuating the pump. I could get it mobile again and it seems that fixed it, but it might fail again if there’s debris/sand inside the plunger cylinder, so I will keep an eye on this. Anyway after putting it back in the well here’s the pattern picked up by the SonarMote. Very frequent starts as the stagnant water in the perimeter drains into the sump well and the pump works hard to get the water out as it refills the tank:

Without being aware what’s going on, eventually the water would have overflown into the basement. Sure glad I have that sensor to alert me in time.

7 thoughts on “Sump pump fails: SonarMote intercepts!

  1. Thanks for writing this up. Can’t wait to see your Moteino Gateway interface . Can you give some info on that? Also, how long does you SonarMote run on battery power?

    • Here’s some info: it’s really nice, at least I think so 🙂 Also very contained, it will only require a web stack consisting of the NGINX webserver, nodejs/socketio/node serial/neDb and some other little things. It’s only a handful of files in total.
      The SonarMote has been there for some time, months. If it stops working I will see the low battery warning in the gateway interface and I can recharge it in a few hours and put it back.

  2. Felix,

    I am also using a Moteino to monitor my sump pump. Mine isn’t as cool as yours, I just used a 100k resistor, then put two wires in my sump pit. If the water gets too high, The A/D value goes low, and I get a txt & an alarm sounds.

    One thing I have done though is I have a spare sump pump ready to swap out. No need to run to the store, and worry that they might run out of sump pumps.

    — mike

  3. Hi Felix,

    It seems the sonarmote makes a better job than the mechanical arm of the pump. Couldn’t you just use the mote to activate the pump ?

    • 🙂 .. no, the sonar mote is not wired to the sump pump and it cannot activate the pump, only there to read the water level. If the pump breaks down its pointless anyway.

      • Just a quick comment – I like what you implemented here, nice work. I do something similar, although I use an Arduino (Yun), a capacitive liquid sensor, and a powertail switch.

        With the sump plugged into the powertail switch, – I have now removed the most often failing part of my sump system, the mechanical float. my basement has 2 sumps and this has been the ultimate piece of mind giver. When the level gets to a certain spot – the arduino sends a command to the powertail which turns the pump on. its pretty simple.

        I send the data to Thingspeak to track the levels graphically, and embed in my website.

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