Preventing Piping Problems Through Drain Cleaning

  April 13, 2015

Performing effective maintenance on plumbing and piping systems in institutional and commercial facilities requires an array of must-have equipment, as well as nice-to-have accessories. The issue for maintenance and engineering managers is determining which products fall into each category.

The answer ultimately depends on a series of factors, from initial and life-cycle costs to user training and plumbing-system condition. The least understood factor is troubleshooting. Much of this process is done with blinders on because, since piping systems are often hidden from view or difficult to access, technicians need to visualize the whole infrastructure.

The first requirement for this phase is a good set of as-built prints showing drain layout, pipe diameters and materials, and lengths of laterals, risers, and collectors. Unreliable or out of date prints often hamper technicians trying to visualize the size and direction of piping, offsets, and fittings. Yet understanding the layout is essential to predicting the likely location of clogs.

Technicians can remedy this problem with a drain cleaning unit featuring a video camera, in addition to appropriate cable reel, cable length, video pickup, monitor screen, and data backup capability. This inspection equipment can save a great deal of money in the long run, and it can reveal the blockage more quickly, shortening repair time. If the piping system is complicated and hidden within walls and above ceilings, an inspection camera and accessories can shift easily from the nice-to-have category to must-have.

Skipping the troubleshooting step leads to misunderstanding the causes and locations of clogs, as well as the conditions that create them. As a result, it sets up the conditions that result in simply moving blockages between locations, repeated blockages, and higher costs, as well as operational disruption and flooding that damages equipment and facilities.

To avoid these inconveniences, managers can include drain cleaning in an annual preventive maintenance program. Based on the frequency of past clogs and on condition monitoring with a camera, managers can set a frequency and location for cleaning drains before they clog, which is the lowest-cost way to maintain them.

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