Septic Alarm

Septic Alarm

Aquaworxs Controller
Aquaworxs Timed Controller

I truly hope this page finds everyone well. Chances are if you are looking at this page, you are getting a septic alarm.

Now for the big questions:

What does this septic alarm mean?

It can mean a couple of things:

1. It means your septic system is experiencing a “high-water” event and is unable to get the water out, or process the waste.

2. If you have a timer then you may have given your septic system too much water to process and it simply needs more time to catch up.

3. You could have a leak and are taking on ground water, and the system is just simply unable to keep up.

So, What do I do?

First and foremost, stop running all water; no laundry, dishwashing, showers, toilet flushing, or anything else that requires water as all drains lead to the septic system. When this alarm goes off it means a pump may have stopped working and septic backup into the house is eminent.

At this time you will need to call an onsite septic maintenance technician to determine what type of system you own. The most important information we will need is the type of panel that is alarming. Your local septic maintenance technician will know all the types of panels and if you need to access it then don’t worry, it’s on the side of the house or in the garage and has never seen sewage or septage.

Scenario Number 1, assuming you “Don’t” have a timer and are strictly “On-Demand” dosing, please stop running all water. In most cases this type of system will not clear itself, instead there are be 4 things that could be

  1. It can be as simple as a tripped circuit breaker, or a tripped GFI.  This will save you the most money: un-trip it and if it happens again there is something wrong that requires further inspection. A service call runs $125.00
  2. It can be a dead “on/off” float switch. This is what tells the pump to come on and if it fails to turn the pump on the sewage level will set off the high water event alarm. The repair is usually $150 dollars to replace.
  3. It can be just a bad pump.  Pumps only last in a septic system for about 10 -15 years, so do not let this one throw you completely off guard. A repair will usually run anywhere from $400-$600 dollars.
  4. It could be plugged transport lines to next components or plugged components. Unplugging the next component can range anywhere from $325 and up, depending on the system. This can be avoided if the system is flushed out annually by someone certified. Our annual inspection, which will include flushing of components as long as proper equipment was installed during installation, is $125.00

Scenario Number 2 involves a timer controlling how much waste water your system is allowed to handle.  With this system you will have to work closely with your Onsite Septic Maintenance Provider.

  1. You could have simply fed your septic system too much water. Stop running all water inside the house, wait for 6-8 hours, and if your alarm does not clear itself then follow Scenario Number 1 for troubleshooting.

Scenario Number 3 involves a ground water intrusion leak.  Rain or surface water is getting into your system causing it to hydraulically overload. How do you find out if your taking on ground water? This is a bit complicated to explain, but I’ll do my best.

  1. Your Onsite Septic Maintenance Provider will have a dissolved oxygen kit. At this point we start to look like lab-technicians instead of septic maintenance providers. We pull samples from all over your septic system to find out where ground or surface water is getting in. For example, your septic system should have zero dissolved oxygen in the water. Septic means no dissolved oxygen in the water. If we take samples from the system and get zero dissolved oxygen everywhere until as certain point then, just like that, we found the area of the intrusion.  Leaks for the most part are easy to fix but hard to find.

I truly hope this helps everyone in understanding the Septic Alarm.  If you have a question that I may have not answered please go to the upper right hand corner of the screen and submit a message to me.  You don’t need to provide me with any personal information and email is optional, but if you need immediate assistance please include a phone number or an email address to ensure speedy service.

127 thoughts on “Septic Alarm

  1. My alarm went off and the circuit breaker tripped for my pump. I called the septic service. There is a pipe broken on the top of my septic. They told me that would cost about $800 and then when they are finished fixing it I would have to buy a new pump. I asked them to pump me for now. It has been one week and the alarm went off and my circuit breaker tripped. It won’t reset. I don’t understand if I was pumped out and the pump was working why is it being tripped again.

    1. Hi Cheryl,

      Unfortunately the circuit breaker tripping may not have been the pump at all. Circuit breakers tripping CAN mean your pump is bad, but not all of the time. It can mean there is an electrical short between the circuit breaker panel and the pump. And a circuit breaker tripping will never mean your septic tank needs pumped. It may have been coincidental that your tank needed pumped too, but was not the cause.

      This is a simple test that we can run, but if your septic provider didn’t run these test, then they are just throwing parts at the problem, not knowing what they are doing.

      If this problem still hasn’t been resolved, and you’re in the Clark, Skamania, or Cowlitz County area, I would give us a call and we could send out a technician to diagnose the problem.

      360-686-0505

      Thanks for writing, we look forward to hearing from you soon,

      Ronnie

  2. Hello
    We have had bad storms already this spring. This morning our power went out & the electric company came out & fixed the problem. Once they got to power back on our septic alarm was buzzing & light on. I tried flipping the breaker off inside alarm box but when turned it back on the alarm & light stays on. Any suggestions?

    1. You need to wait at least 24 hours and see if the alarm goes out. If it doesn’t, call a septic technician near you. There’s a real problem. And as always, as long as the light is on, do not run any water.

  3. We have had septic pumped 2 times in the last year. Ordered a new pump and made sure our draining was working properly. My husband said the water never gets high but alarm goes off. He put electrical tape on outlet to see if it was getting wet and tripping it. The alarm still goes off. No one seems to know when I call septic service. I’m lost at what to do now. Please help!!!!

    1. It means run no water until the problem is fixed. Or else the repair will get more expensive the water is run

      1. Hello.
        My red alarm is going off staying high water level. 8 just bought this. Rand new construction home 2 months ago. But also hurricane Matthew just passed through (im in Jacksonville Florida) and I am clueless as what I need to do. What is going on? There is a pvc pipe near my skeptic that is full of water…

  4. Ronnie, We moved into a new build. The power to our septic was never turned on. We lived here for 90 days without knowing. We have a septic tech that comes four times a year. He told us the power was never turned on, the tank is full and was seeping into the ground.  No harm done,  he said it’s made to do that in the event it’s full but if he didn’t come for a couple more months we could have had a back up in our house. I’m scared to put any water down the drain thinking it will never empty. The sprinklers only run once a day for 40 minutes. That doesn’t seem long enough. Should I wait a few days before letting water down the drain? Please let me know. Thank you,

  5. Our septic alarm went off for the first time tonight, it was a loud continuous sound, not a beeping sound. The system was pumped less than 2 years ago. We pressed Silence, my husband changed the battery (just in case) and the alarm light stayed on. An hour and a half later, now only the power light is lit up, the alarm light is no longer lit. Does this mean all is ok?

  6. Ronnie,
    I just bought my house in April. The previous owners supposedly had the tank replaced. I woke up this morning to a loud buzzing noise. Rhombus technology is my alarm system, which is outside. The big red light wasn’t blinking. A green light was lit. I pushed the silence button, now no lights are lit. I called one company and they said they can’t come out until Fri, 3 days from now. How do I get someone here sooner? Do I have a reason to be alarmed?
    Please help. We only have a select few Septic companies. Only one is BBB accredited.

    1. We are all pretty booked up with summertime being our busy time and the alarms that go off on holidays. We may be able to respond sooner, but depends entirely on your location.

      For now, I would trip the circuit breaker in your circuit breaker panel off, and then back to on. See if the alarm sounds again. If it does press the silence button and don’t run water until someone can get there. If you flood the system out, repairs can get even more expensive

      Thanks

      Ronnie

    1. I’d call the company back out. That really can’t happen. Unless you filled your tanks up overnight and the pump didn’t come on, and in either case, the company needs to turn the pump on, and have a talk to you about running too much water. 🙂

  7. We’ve lived in the house for 4 yrs. it was the first vaccume job we have had. He cleaned them all the way out. I haven’t yet opened the lid but it seems impossible to fill it overnight. They are huge. It wouldn’t pump till the water hits the last tank right?

    1. Hi David,

      I think I understand your question. You just had the tanks cleaned out and overnight the tanks are full again to the top with water? If I am understanding that correctly, you are running way too much water, or there’s a plumbing issue that’s running too much water, or you have ground water getting into your tanks. Either way, you should have someone diagnose this problem as soon as possible as your drainfield won’t take it for long.

      Thanks for writing,

      Ronnie

  8. This morning an alarm went off in our basement utility room. It is loud and we don’t know what it is from. Any help? I checked the wiring and it all goes down to a pump. We have unplugged the alarm because we couldn’t stand the noise. No, circuit breaker is tripped to the pump.

    1. Hi Bruno,

      It could be many things. It can be an alarm malfunction. It could be a short in the wiring. Either way, you should get it fixed as it needs to be working for you and warn you if pump failure occurs.

      Thanks for writing,

      Ronnie

  9. I ran across your website when searching info on septic alarms and I just want to say how impressed I am of your selflessness to help so many by responding to their questions. It’s very time consuming & you do so without making a dime for your time.

    I would think you are a Christian.

  10. We moved into a house two days ago. The previous owner had to put in a new system because old one failed inspection. System never used as previous owner moved out before septic system was put in. Alarm was going off tonight. We found one of the toilets running in the house. I’m surprised that just the toilet running would cause alarm to go off?

    1. Hi Carren,

      A septic pump can only pump so many gallons per minute. Along with your normal usage, a leaking fixture can cause a high water alarm. Always fix leaking fixtures on septic systems. I am just glad your new system has an alarm. As an older system did not and you simply had to wait for it to back up.

      Thanks for writing,

      Ronnie

  11. Just bought my house about 6 months ago. All was fine until about 3 weeks ago when the alarm on my pump was going off and the red light was lit up. I called the septic company in my area and they came out and said my tank needed to be pumped and that the float on my pump was hung up or not functioning properly, but he fixed it and everything was working fine until this weekend. The alarm started going off again. I pushed the button to silence the alarm, and called but he couldn’t come until the next morning. When he showed up there were no lights on the pump at all and he said that it had tripped the breaker. After messing with it for a little while he said my whole pump was bad and needed replaced. He replaced it and all was working fine all day yesterday after he installed the new pump. Then today the alarm went off again and the red light is lit up. It has been a few hours now and it is still on. But we did have some heavy rain for a few hours today. And I have a mound system ( I don’t know if that changes anything ). Any help you can give me is appreciated. I am kind of torn on if I should call him back or try to find another company to see if they can figure out what’s wrong. Thanks!

    1. Hi Faith,

      I would need more information on your septic system. Is it timed dose, or demand dose? Also, this could be a sign your have ground water intrusion and/or the orfices in your sandmound need cleaned/jetted. More onsite tests need run. When the pump is pumping, how many inches per minute is the water dropping. Should be at least 1 inch per minute or more, or replacing your pump is a waste of time and money.

      I hope this helps you in some way. Thanks for writing.

      Ronnie

  12. Hello today I was doing laundry and a alarm went off in my garage.come to find out I trip the septic pump breaker. What would cuz that to happin .I flip the breaker back on and the alarm went off

    1. Hi Shaun,
      Anytime a circuit breaker senses a circuit drawing amps greater than what it was supposed to, I trips. Now it could be a fluke thing, but when you turned your breaker back on, your alarm went off, telling you to stop running water, there’s a problem with the pump. If the alarm doesn’t clear itself, with you running no water, within 6 hours, call someone out. You’re going to back up inside your home.
      Let me know if this answers your question, and thanks so much for writing

      Ronnie

  13. Hi,
    We have been living in a house on the farm for just over a year and half. For the first time a couple of weeks ago the sewage system in the garden started beeping loudly enough for me to hear it from inside the house. I went looking for the noise and videod it to show my partner. When I showed him he shrugged and wasn’t sure what it meant. I am now worried after reading this forum as right now I’m listening to the beeping for the third time since the first time it was heard (that we know of). Since we don’t own the home I’ll have to tell the owner in the morning however do you think since the alarm doesn’t seem to still be going in the morning that it is indeed something to do with the water level? I can’t remember if I was using water the other times it was going – I’m sure we at least flushed the toilet several times and ran the taps….

    1. Hi there,

      Sorry about the problems you are experiencing with your alarms. Your alarm means that your system is experiencing a high water event and you need to stop running water. We set the high water alarms at a level in which we are still able to work on your pumps and electrical without needing a vacuum truck.

      If you ignore your high water alarm, and keep running water, you’ll flood the system out, and we cannot go diving for your pump or work on the electrical under water. Some systems have UV disinfection and blowers, if those flood out the bill can run into the thousands very quickly. Your alarm is designed to save you money in the event of a pump or electrical problem.

      Sometimes the switch that turns the pump on/off fails, and that’s pretty easy to fix total cost about $160 including labor and service call. Pump goes out, you’re looking at about $500 and on up depending on the pump model. But if you wait for the system to flood out, you can be looking at an additional cost of anywhere from $350 on up for pumping of the tanks, not including the thousands that will need to be spent to replace UV ballasts and blower motors.

      I hope this makes sense. Don’t ignore your alarm, the repairs can get more expensive. Oh, and contact your local health department for a list of contractors certified to work on your system. Don’t call someone that isn’t certified, that can be expensive too. 🙂

      Best of luck, and thanks for writing,

      Ronnie

  14. Bought a new construction home 30 days ago. Noticed tonight the red light and alarm going off on the side of the house. Breaker is not tripped. Any suggestions? I am new to the septic system and have no idea what to do.

    1. Also wanted to add our electric was turned off a couple of days ago for a few hours. Would that have anything to do with the alarm?

      1. I would stop running water and call your builder, they will know who installed it. Maybe even your Real Estate Agent may know. They probably forgot to turn something on, or you’re running too much water, either way, it should be checked out.

        Best of luck,

        Ronnie

  15. Getting ready for bed and noticed a “thumping” sound from the basement. Outside on the basement wall is a system the inspector(bought the house 6 months ago) told me was for septic system. The alarm on the top is not flashing but a green light on the front of the panel for the pump is flashing. is this supposed to happen and If so how long does it run and for how long?

    1. It seems like your pump is turning on and off. This is very bad for the pump and could be “rapid cycling” I would turn it off, advise everyone in the house to stop running water. Call for service.

  16. Hi, My pump control box has 2 switches, one for the pump – auto / off / hand and one for the alarm – on / off. Purchased the home 3 years ago. A month ago, the alarm went off for the first time in the middle of the night, we had no idea what is was and ended up switching the pump to hand (accidentally) which immediately turned off the alarm and left it that way until the morning. I called a septic company and he said to just watch it since it was not alarming anymore. About a week later it alarmed again. Called him and he said to switch it to hand for 5 minutes then back to auto and he would be out to look at it. Upon inspection he said he couldn’t really tell what was wrong but the floats don’t look like they are in the right spot, and the electrical box is down inside instead of near the opening. Either way, it’s $500 just for him to go in to the tank to investigate. He said to keep an eye on it and he would stop by when he’s in the area to have another look and see if he noticed anything. Well, since then the system has been alarming about every 5 days. I switch it to hand for a few minutes and all is well again for another 5 days. I’m just wondering your thoughts on what this could be? The pump is obviously working, but it seems like it only works when it is switched to hand.

    Thanks,
    Christy

    1. Sorry for the problems you’re having.

      It seems like you need to schedule a second opinion on the diagnosis of your panel.

      Let me know if you’d like us to schedule that appointment.

      Thanks a million and God Bless,

      Ronnie

  17. Hi, my husband and I have been living in our new house for about a month now and have had to deal with our pump alarm going off on occasion. When we purchased our house, the previous owners had a new septic system installed since the old one was noncompliant. The new system is a mound septic system. We have noticed that there are times when we can run multiple things with water at once, but then sometimes when we only take a shower or only have the washing machine running the alarm will start beeping at us saying there is a pump failure. We silence the alarm, and within a couple of minutes the lights stop flashing and it clears. We are worried that there could be something wrong or maybe there’s a faulty part. We are new to this and don’t quite understand the septic system. It is confusing to us as to why sometimes it goes off and other times it doesnt regardless of how much water is being used. To me, it’s odd that it goes off when it does, any advice would be appreciated.

    1. I would call for a service call and see why this keeps doing this. A septic system, for the most part, just works without you knowing it. Periodic alarms mean something bigger maybe happening underground.

      Let me know if you’d like to schedule service

  18. I hope you can give me advice for this. Recently during a cold weather spell, we noticed our aerator pump was not working. We called a septic company out who said the breaker was tripped and the pump needed to be replaced. They replaced the pump. One day later the breaker is tripped and nothing is running again. We called back. They came and looked at a box under ground that had wires. It was full of water from the pump not working. They dumped the water and said the wires were fine but the water was making the breaker trip. So they got it back running and once again one day later the breaker is tripped AGAIN. I am at a lost. Are they idiots? Do I call someone else now? What could this be tripping the breaker?

    1. Hi Cristina,

      First and foremost, sorry about this issues you are having. But your instincts are correct. Water should not be getting into the blower housing. If your system is new, under 2 years, it’s still under warranty. I would call the installer and have them fix the housing. As you know, having electrical connections go under water is dangerous, and these connections in this housing were not designed for it. Now there are a couple of different blowers available on the market today. Some are just a few hundred dollars and the range goes on up depending on your ATU requirements. But one thing is for certain, warranties are void if the blower goes under water.

      Oh, I forgot to answer your question about what is tripping the breaker. Imagine taking an electrical extension cord. Imagine plugging it in to your house, and dipping the other end into a pool of water. That’s an electrical short, and is what is tripping your breaker. I hope that makes sense. I would call the company that installed the blower, have them take it out of the housing, and have it dry off in the garage. It’s probably going to be okay. But do not reinstall it without solving the water intrusion problem first.

      One solution maybe to elevate this housing up. That way groundwater can never get into it. That’s usually our solution here if we just can’t seem to find a way to keep it out.
      Another solution is to dig up the blower housing, seal all connections going into it and out of it. Electrical and air lines. RTV sealant needs to be used on the electrical pass through. This one is time consuming, but can spring a leak in the future. Which is why we usually just elevate the blower housing out of the ground. Yes, it’s a bit of an eyesore, but water cannot go up, and then back down into it.

      Sorry if I rambled.

      Let me know if there is anything else I can do for you.

      Thanks for writing,

      Ronnie

  19. Can freezing temperatures for several days prevent the “sprinklers” from dispersing water and trigger the alarm? Will this fix its self?

    1. Hi Dana,

      Sorry about your alarm. I don’t know where you live, weather wise, but here in Battle Ground Wa, freezing temperatures can cause “low air” alarms and not high water alarm.

      But if you think it’s the freeze, don’t run any water until it thaws for a few days, if still in alarm, something broke or plugged up.

      For ease of mind and ability to keep running water, I’d schedule a service van to come out and have a look. Contact your local health department and ask them for a list of providers certified to work on your system.

      If you’re in Clark, Cowlitz, or Skamania Counties, in Washington State, we are certified to work on anything under ground.

      Let me know if we can be of further assistance.

      Thanks for writing

      Ronnie

  20. I have a H-two-O water system. It’s 4 years old. December 2015 it was pumped out. The pump is underneath my house and sometimes I hear it making a light buzzing sound, like a low water buzz. It’s not bad, just annoying. Usually that means the pump is vibrating on my pipes underneath. The last few weeks though it’s been doing that and after I flush the toilet or run water it quits. Is this anything to worry about? I believe my sprinklers are all fine.

  21. Every time we flush a toilet or run water I believe it’s the septic alarm makes a buzzing noise once shut water off it shuts off flush the toilet it buzzes and clicks is that normal

          1. Yeah. I’m sorry to say this, but I’m sure your gut is telling you. But either the pump is wearing out. Or the intake is plugged, or whatever it’s pushing too is plugged up and needs cleaned.

            Either way, it’s costing you pump life, as the pump is running longer than designed. And costing you electricity, running at 15 amps is expensive. It is true, something is wrong. 🙁

  22. We have a Meyers SA-1 alarm on our septic pump tank. The pump tank gets overflow water from the septic tank and pumps it to a conventional tile field uphill from the tank. The system and alarm have operated without issue for over 15 years. Recently about twice a day we hear a chirping noise ftom the alarm. Power to ghe alarm is hard wired. Meyers says this alarm can be hard wired (through 9V transformer), operate off a 9V battery, or be hard wired with a 9V battery back-up. I pulled the cover off the alarm case and there is a space for a battery, but no battery. The system seems to be pumping OK and a constant alarm sound is not heard nor does the red warning light com on. Any idea as to what might be happening? By the way, the septic tank was pumped out last year and was not even close to being full.

    1. Hi Leonard,

      This sounds like a connection going bad inside the pump chamber. It happens all of the time, simply clean up the connections inside the tank and use silicone filled wire nuts. If you need further assistance on the electrical connections please contact your local electrician.

      Thanks for writing,

      Ronnie

  23. Hi Ronnie! My septic alarm went off of the first time st the lovely hour of 1am. I placed my hand to silence it and it did for a about 10 minutes. Then started beeping again. I checked circuit breakers, turn off and on, and still beeps. My question is… Is it safe to turn the whole circuit breaker off so my neighbors don’t murder me until I get a repair guy out in next couple of days? Or will I do more damage than good?

    1. Hi Andrea,

      I would stop running water inside the home and turn the system off.

      But don’t run any water until a technician shows up to see what’s going on.

      Thanks for writing,

      Ronnie

    1. Hi Kim,

      Sorry about the alarm you are having. It sounds like you have an aerobic treatment plant. Orange is usually an indicator for “Low Air” alarm. Your blower housing may have taken on some ground water and is completely submerged and is going to burn up. Blower’s are not to be submerged and will void the warranty.

      If you are located in Clark, Cowlitz, or Skamania County’s please call in to schedule an appointment to see what can be done to fix this. 360-686-0505

  24. Hi my system for the past three days goes off like clockwork at 1 am. Stays on 5 or 10 minutes flashing red light and goes off. Everything is still functioning fine. I called and they stated I should not have a problem. I still feel the need to schedule a service call.