Sense clued me in to a clogged septic drain field!


#1

The day after Christmas my septic alarm went off. Septic company came out and diagnosed a failed float switch. My Sense had been in for five months and up until that point I hadn’t correlated my septic pump to any device sense had identified. Well, while they were there I noticed that when they switched the pump back on, a ‘pump’ device bubbled up. Viola! Then I had seen a smoking gun: In the four days leading up to the failure, the usage of that pump spiked drastically. Apparently the switch had stuck open and caused the pump to run almost constantly. The septic guys also noticed some backflow into the tank from the field so they installed a check valve to prevent that reverse flow.

About three months later I noticed that my “Septic Pump” was bubbled up a LOT. So using the monthly graphs I was able to see steadily increasing runtimes for the pump. Watching the power consumption of the pump also was odd- it would kick in around 900 watts, then steadily decrease until 650 watts. A sign that the pump was encountering increasing head pressure (i.e. blocked flow somewhere downstream). The runtimes were really increasing until it got to the point where it didn’t shut off. I called the septic company for a ‘pump evaluation’. They said the pump was fine and suspected clogged leach field pipes (there’s 18 3/8" holes in my leach field pipes which transmit the effluent to the ground). They scheduled a time the following week to come and install cleanouts on each of my laterals. I got by by manually cycling the pump off for long periods- I guess there were still a few clear drain holes but the area around those was quickly flooded and unable to take on any more water.

So finally the very day before they were scheduled to arrive, the system was unable to keep up enough and I got the high water alarm. They came out the next day, installed cleanouts and ‘jet’ cleaned my lines, and ever since then it seems like things are running OK. I’m using the IFTTT interface to chart the pumpout times. Lack of a real good baseline doesn’t allow me to 100% say this is ‘fixed’ (there still could be a drainfield problem- either a clogged ‘biomat’ or ‘deadpan’ soil)- but evidence is pointing in a positive direction.

So, bottom line- what could’ve been a panic situation, sending us to a hotel while we waited for the septic company to diagnose and effect the repair- turned into a scheduled event thanks to Sense!


#2

Awesome story!