Septic Alarm LIGHT is on - No beeping - and smell

Old 08-08-18, 06:49 PM
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Septic Alarm LIGHT is on - No beeping - and smell

My septic "red light" stays on, but the alarm isn't going off.

I'm 55, live alone until a few months ago when one of my boys moved home temporarily.
The weekend of July 4, I went on a "spring" cleaning bender and plowed through 5 loads of bedding and regular laundry in one day + shower and dishes (hand wash) - shampoo'd carpets for the entire house. That night, the alarm went off after my son showered. I hit the reset, set the pump to manual, and pumped down the tank a little (10 minutes). It went off again in the night (multiple toilet flushes) - lather/rinse/repeat. The pump worked fine, I was very cautious about water usage for the next few weeks (typically I'm always cautious) however, the red light on teh box stays on, like a beacon in the night, steadfast and true.
Oh, I've also noticed a septic odor outside here lately, whenever the washer or shower is going.

Both tanks were pumped in February of 2015 (I was out of the home from Jan 2015 to late July 2016 due to a tree falling on my house and ensuing repairs). I have an annual maint. contract, and had the septic inspected upon moving back into the house in late July of 2016. No problems were found during the inspection.
The house is 20 years old this year.

In early September 2017, the pump wasn't running as I expected, I'm used to hearing it kick on/off (on the outside wall of the family room). The pump ran if set to manual. A short was found in the switch, switch replaced in September of '17 and 389.00 later, all was well.
October 2017 - pump began to fail, so it was replaced. 1300.00 later - all was well. (Tank was fine, no need for pumping - very low).

When the pump was replaced, they installed a 3 float, instead of a 4 float, saying four floats was overkill, especially since I was the only one living here at the time. Also, the alarm level was set differently (can't remember) due to the house having one/two folks in it, thus less water usage. My son is here off/on - so he's not a major contributor to the septic system...

I have a two tank, low pressure system for a 4bdrm drainfield/home, and average a load of laundry every 2-3 days. I telecommute/work from my home, so I'm OCD about dripping faucets/running toilets/etc. (of which there are none). My dishwasher is RARELY used (not enough dishes to warrant usage), so the few dishes dirtied are done by hand. I don't use the garden tub, and each of us shower quickly (10-15 min max). Nothing of real note when it comes to water usage.

As of late (last couple of weeks), I've also noticed when I'm sitting on the back deck, if the washer runs (drains) or my son takes a shower, I smell "septic". If the patio doors or fam room windows are open, the smell wafts into the house. It smells stinky for 5-10 minutes, and goes away. Don't smell it again until someone showers/does laundry.
All drains work fine, toilets all flush appropriately, sinks drain great. No mushy places in the yard, no overflow/goo around the septic lids (they're just off the end of the deck) - no extra green places in the yard.
I will note - my yard went to poo when I was out of the house - died, dandelions took over. Most of the grass in the back (drainfield area) is almost all dirt. I plan to cover the yard w/a couple of inches of compost and re-seed to get the lawn re-established next month. It's been VERY dry here in Western WA (typical summer, high fire season) - so if there were mushy spots, they'd be SUPER obvious.

The pump kicks on when I do laundry/shower.

Last Saturday, over the course of the day, I mopped (dumped the water), did three loads of laundry, took a shower, and noticed that red light is STILL ON. Nary a peep from the alarm since my "clean-a-thon" about a month ago.

In spite of a maint. contract, I'm hesitant to call my septic company b/c they hit me for 89.00 for a "technician" fee anytime they come look at anything. Diagnosis = 89.00 + repairs. (I'm in the wrong business...)
Our "maint. contracts are required by the county health department @ 250.00 a year." Some guy comes out, looks in the tank, checks a few of the drain field caps, and 20 minutes later, leaves a status report on the door, heads back to the office to file electronic paperwork with the county so I don't get a 500(min.) fine.
I'd really like to keep the 89.00 "technician visit" fee in my pocket if possible, and NOT have to call these guys out.
ANY/ALL suggestions/comments/etc. are welcome!

Thank you!
Old 08-08-18, 07:14 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

The problem is we don't know your system. We don't know what the red light is telling you. If I had to guess.... I'd say the tank level is high but not high enough to set off the alarm. The company that installed your system should have either explained to you how it worked and/or left you a manual for it.

With a four float system you have pump start, pump stop, high level, alarm.
With a three float system you have pump start, pump stop and high level.
You may no longer have an alarm.... just the red light.
Old 08-09-18, 04:48 AM
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That's a very long post which I honestly didn't read past the first sentence.

Alarms are usually installed on systems that have a pump. The alarm indicates when the pump has failed and the liquid level has risen high enough to trigger the alarm.

Have you tested the alarm beeper? For some reason I often find the beepers fail while the light continues to work. My guess is that your system is in alarm but the beeper is broken.
Old 08-09-18, 10:00 AM
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Thanks for the reply. I assume the alarm is functioning properly since it went off a couple of times after my binge-wash/clean a month ago (prior to pumping down). I did find in my notes that he'd set the high level warning lower since we don't use a lot of water. I guess I'm stuck calling the septic guy. Lifted the tank lid this morning - the level is definitely NOT high.
I'm the original owner, never had a manual or instructions for the system.

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