If you’d like to add a bathroom to your basement or simply do some remodeling to an existing but non-functional half or full bath, you’re probably going to need a sewage pump (either an ejector pump or a grinder pump, depending on your specific needs). However, depending on your plumbing needs, you might also be able to get away with a macerating toilet system. A standalone sewage pump will allow you to pump sewage to much greater heights, at much greater pressures, and to much farther distances while processing larger solids and more wastewater. However, you’ll also spend significantly more on one, both to buy it and to install it–not to mention the additional time necessary for the installation. And if you’re adding a bathroom or working on a remodeling project or addition, you’ll be spending enough money already.
A macerating pump, in contrast, can potentially be installed without breaking up concrete floors or tearing into your foundation and walls. To put it simply, it’s a faster, cheaper, and more convenient job for either you or your plumber, which means more money left in your bank account. While you can buy a macerator pump independently and connect it to most toilets, we typically recommend buying a macerating pump and toilet system simultaneously to eliminate compatibility issues. We recently reviewed the Saniflo Saniaccess 2 Upflush macerator pump and toilet kit; today we’re going to look at a similar system, the Liberty Pumps Ascent II ESW 1/2 HP Macerating Toilet. It’s similarly priced and similarly featured, but is different enough to be worth considering carefully. Our full review is below, and you can buy the ASCENTII-ESW here.
Key Features of the Liberty Pumps Ascent II Macerating Toilet (60 Second Summary)
The Liberty Pumps Ascent II Macerating Toilet is basically a toilet connected to a miniature sewage grinder pump. Engineered for indoor use in remodeling projects such as basement toilet or bathroom additions as well as for business environments in commercial buildings, the system can pump sewage to existing sewer lines up to 25 feet vertically and 150 feet horizontally. The pump has a 1/2 horsepower, 115 volt motor that runs on 60 Hz AC while drawing 7.9 amps. The thermally protected motor turns at 3,450 RPM and includes an automatic reset feature. The power cord is 8 feet long and the pump can handle fluids up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
While shutoff doesn’t occur until a maximum head of 36 feet, the usable maximum head through a 1 inch pipe is 25 feet, presuming the lateral discharge is 150 feet. The ASCENTII-ESW is the macerator and elongated toilet; the complete system with a round front toilet is the ASCENTII-RSW. The ASCENTII-ESW weighs 121 pounds. The macerator unit by itself, the ASCENTII-MUW weighs 22 pounds.
Per Liberty Pumps, the system also accepts additional bathtub, shower, and sink connections, allowing you to form a full bathroom in any environment. This is achieved through a pair of auxiliary inlets; the macerator can use 1-1/2″ or 2″ pipe. It also includes a built in alarm and a 9 volt battery backup, as well as LEDs to provide power status, alarm condition, and alarm battery condition. The discharge and vent connectors can be oriented vertically or horizontally for varying pipe connections. The discharge is 1″ and includes a check valve; it can be adapted down to 3/4.” The vent is 1-1/2.” The toilet is ADA compliant and is a high efficiency toilet that uses 1.28 gallons per flush (gpf). It includes an insulated tank.
The system includes the standard 3 year warranty from Liberty Pumps.
Liberty Pumps Ascent II Macerating Toilet and Saniflo Saniaccess 2 Comparison
On the surface, the Ascent II and Saniaccess 2 systems are similar; they’re both systems integrating macerating pumps and toilets for residential and commercial applications where sewage can’t be gravity drained into a sewer line. The Ascent II, however, has a number of on paper advantages. the max usable head is much greater at 25 ft vs 15 feet; it also includes an alarm and battery backup to the alarm on the macerating pump. It’s also explicitly described by Liberty Pumps as capable of draining bathtubs and showers in addition to toilets and sinks while the Saniaccess 2 only mentions toilets and sinks. It also includes a high efficiency toilet.
That said, when it comes to reliability, we’d put our money on the Saniaccess 2. It consistently has stronger reviews from clients and appears to have greater long term reliability and a more thorough design. We’ll go into this in the next section.
Our Long and Short Term Experiences Installing and Using the Liberty Pumps Ascent II Macerating Toilet
The amount of work it takes to install the Ascent II will vary with your plumbing experience and plumbing environment. If you have prior experience either with sewage pump installation or macerating toilets, there aren’t any surprises here. If not, you’ll want to consider hiring a professional.
The basic installation steps involve connecting the pump to the toilet, connecting the toilet tank to a water inlet, connecting the pump to both a discharge pipe and vent system, and finally powering it up. We recommend a Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI) circuit. While the process will be easier if your plumbing is roughed in, the overall installation is rather straightforward, and you’ll be able to plumb a variety of fixtures into the unit, including sinks, bath tubs, and showers. When working, it’s a bit louder than a regular toilet but not significantly louder. Every now and then you might need to double flush to get everything out of the bowl.
The main problems with the Ascent II have to do with its engineering; as noted earlier, the Ascent II appears to potentially suffer from a poor design involving the conduction of the effluent through the electrical probes of the control unit in the macerator. In simple English, poop pushes around the electrical parts, potentially leading to malfunctioning and early failure of the control unit. This doesn’t always happen, but it happens more often than we’d like to hear about it.
It’s also worth noting that the warranty is voided if a range of artificial waste products (e.g., feminine hygiene products like tampons and pads) are flushed down the toilet.
Troubleshooting and Installation Tips to Get Your Liberty Pumps Ascent II Macerating Toilet Working Sooner
The main issues to watch out for with the Ascent II include circuit board failure in the control unit. Clients have also reported problems with constantly activating alarms. Unfortunately, there aren’t really any workarounds for control unit malfunctions besides replacing the unit, which can fail again if the initial issue (exposed circuitry) is still present. The toilet itself is likely to last a long time; toilets are very simple and reliable technology and rarely fail. The vulnerabilities in the macerating pump, however, are much more significant. Generally, if you don’t have any issues in the first year, you’ll probably be fine for additional years. However, if you start having problems within this time-frame, it’s likely you’ll continue to have them unless you replace the entire macerating unit.
A frequently-tried and often successful tip is to flush the unit several times to clear the alarm system; this isn’t a long term solution but it can temporarily clear waste and calm the alarm for anywhere from several days to weeks.
Liberty Pumps Ascent II Macerating Toilet Pros, Cons, and Value Comparison
In conclusion, if you’re looking for a way to add a bathroom or toilet to your below-grade basement, you’ll either have to put in a sewage pump or pair a toilet with a macerating pump and run any additional fixtures through the pump. If you choose the former option and choose a suitable sewage pump, it’ll be powerful enough to handle any residential or commercial application. However, you’ll pay for it through purchase and installation costs. A macerating pump and toilet kit like the Ascent II can get you there for much less money under the right circumstances, but it comes with potential reliability issues. Unless you have a specific need for the Ascent II, we’d recommend the Saniaccess 2 instead. It costs the same but has a much better reputation.
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