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4  FM quick reads on drain cleaning

1. Minimizing the Need for Drain Cleaning


I'm Steve Schuster, associate editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic discusses drain cleaning.

Drain cleaning in institutional and commercial facilities presents maintenance and engineering managers with challenges that are especially tough in health care and education. The challenges in health care facilities include the need for preventive maintenance to head off clogged drains, as well as ensuring a sterile environment for patient health and safety.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in education facilities is the need to stay one step ahead of students who create major headaches for departments' efforts to keep sinks, urinals and toilets clog-free and operational.

By understanding the most pressing drain-cleaning challenges related to both equipment and processes, managers and front-line technicians can develop solutions to prevent and detect these problems.

Using correct, measured amounts and types of chemical cleaners, along with effective methods, ensures health and safety while minimizing product use. Experts warn against using acid-based cleaners because, in addition to eating away iron pipes, they dissolve the grease but simply move it farther into the drain, where it re-solidifies and can cause a worse clog. Bleach cleaners turn grease into carbon dioxide and water, and are much safer.

Discussing drain cleaners with several vendors helps managers get the right combination for their drains, as well as advice on application training. Education courses offered by vendors ensure that supervisors know problems to watch for and that custodians know proper amounts for dilution rates to achieve the desired strength, and application methods.


2.  Plumbing: Drain-Cleaning Strategies

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, drain-cleaning strategies.

Keeping plumbing systems flowing is essential for safe, smooth operations in institutional and commercial facilities. Essential for success in achieving this goal are drain-cleaning strategies that involve the right equipment for the job.

For light drain cleaning, such as sinks clogged with hair, a technician can aim a flashlight down the drain to see if inserting a wire hook will remove the hair. But for sinks, toilets, and small floor drains with traps blocked by solid objects, mechanical cleaning is the first line of defense.

The technician's first step is to check if the trap is in good condition. If not, the technician should place a bucket under the trap, disassemble it, and replace it with a new trap, taking care not to damage the tailpipe from the sink to the trap or the drainpipe extension in the lateral. If the trap is in good condition but blocked, the most appropriate tools are manual plungers, snakes, and air rams.

Managers also can specify a range of power drain cleaners sized for three categories of drains: sink lines, floor and secondary drains, and laterals and mains. Considerable overlap exists among pipe diameters, so depending on the range of diameters in a drain system, one tool might cover everything.

The options for drain-cleaning equipment include sectional machines — with separate coils of 10- or 15-foot cables — and drum machines with longer cables for long lines. Augers, cutters, and chain-knocker accessories attach to the end of cable, which is fed into the drain first. Depending on configuration, technicians can use these attachments for initial clearing, exploratory inspection, and removing heavy blockages. Technicians also can use the same cable sequentially to do all three tasks on the same job.

Besides drain-cleaning equipment, managers can specify video cameras with monitors and recorders, as well as 325 feet of cable to inspect 2- to 12-inch drain lines and locate blockages.

3.  Locators Streamline Drain-Cleaning Operations

This is Chris Matt, Managing Editor of Print & E-Media, with Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's tip is using electronic locators during drain-cleaning operations.

The technology behind drain-cleaning equipment has come a long way in recent years. Now, front-line technicians have even greater diagnostic power when facing clogged or slow piping systems.

By understanding the technology advances and the wider array of inspection functions today's drain-cleaning systems offer, maintenance and engineering managers can improve department productivity and piping-system performance.

One key component of an inspection system is equipment to locate a problem under a floor or underground from a remote, above-ground inspection point. This component is especially important if workers need to excavate to reach the problem. It helps them avoid guessing where to excavate and doing unnecessary digging or, even worse, damaging a buried cable.

The conventional method for locating a clog is to use the sound of the auger to approximate its location. Now, technicians have a better option. Separate from the camera system, units feature a sensitive electronic locator that can help technicians accomplish the task faster and more accurately. The locator's display shows line direction, changes in direction, left-right guidance to aid in centering over the line, and a digital depth indicator showing the line's depth at a particular point.

The locator shows the camera's progress through the drain by tracking a beacon from the transmitter. It also can spot the location technicians need to start digging in the event of a collapsed pipe they need to excavate for repair.

4.  Drain-Cleaning: Training Ensures Safe Operations

This is Chris Matt, Associate Editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today’s tip is key safety considerations during drain-cleaning operations.

Making sure operators follow key safety features is important for any drain-cleaning job, but safety concerns become even more prevalent when renting. When operators use the equipment for the first time or only a couple times throughout the year, they do not have a chance to become familiar with the way the machines function. Regardless of comfort level, operators should read the owner’s and instructions manuals and possibly consider more in-depth training.

Manufacturers of drain-cleaning equipment can be the ones that provide that training. Even if someone is properly trained and comfortable with the equipment, operators need to follow a handful of basic safety measures when cleaning drains, including the following:

• Make sure electric drain-cleaning machines come with an electrical cord that features an equipment-grounding conductor and a grounding plug.

• Ensure the machines have a ground-fault circuit interrupter.

• Use only a three-wire extension cord that has a three-pronged, grounding-type plug.

• Keep loose-fitting clothing away from the cable.

• When using cutter blades, make sure they are securely attached to the cable.

• Do not turn on the machine until the cable is inserted about 5 or 6 feet into the drain line.

When it comes to personal protective equipment, manufacturers recommend using leather gloves — not cloth or rubber, due to the risk of getting caught in the cable — safety glasses, and rubber-soled shoes or boots.


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drain cleaning , plumbing upgrades

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