A critical part of a plumber’s arsenal, a sewer camera can make short work of isolating a blockage, but what are the major mistakes everyone makes with them?
A sewer camera is an essential part of many plumbers’ arsenal and is a critical part of their tool kit for a number of reasons. Let’s highlight the benefits of sewer cameras and show the most common mistakes, so if you are using a sewer camera or want to add it to your toolkit, looking after it and using it with the right etiquette does not just guarantee it a long and healthy life, but allows you to understand how you can get the most out of it in a technical sense while also benefiting your customers and your business at the same time.
How a Sewer Camera Works
A sewer camera setup typically consists of a high-tech camera on a cable with a wire running through it and links back to a monitor near the drainage operator.
The sewer pipe inspection camera is inserted into a sewer line via the cleanout, and as the technician feeds the cable down the sewer line, they can manipulate it with a remote control to maneuver the small motors within the cable.
Powerful lights on the camera illuminate the interior, which allows the technician to see every detail inside the pipe and can note any visible blockages.
When Should You Use a Sewer Camera?
Camera inspections are becoming more commonplace on any plumbing job where blockages are found. A plumbing camera is not just an amazing tool to improve the vision inside pipes or openings, but many contractors use sewer cameras as an “insurance policy” of sorts to make sure they are not causing extra damage.
When we cannot see a blockage, a pipe inspection camera will prevent the likelihood of extra damage as opening a floor or tearing up a lawn in domestic situations will result in extra damage which can be costly to both customer and contractor. While contractors may find it necessary to make a temporary opening, using a sewer camera gets to the root of the issue quickly with minimal fallout.
Camera inspections can also help a home inspector or plumber determine the best approach to fixing the problem quickly. For example, if tree roots have permeated the pipe and are determined to be the likely cause, a visual inspection will give the contractors more of an understanding to not just remove those tree roots, but how to seal the fractures and leaks.
A sewer camera provides a comprehensive picture of the problem, which will benefit both the contractor and the customer, as the customer will feel happier that the problem is dealt with as quickly as possible, and the contractor can minimize damage.
The Common Mistakes People Make When Using a Sewer Camera
Not Examining the Equipment Before Use
The key to using a pipe inspection camera effectively is about making sure the device is ready before use. Examining the equipment thoroughly before you use it will help contractors identify any minor camera issues so they can be repaired quicker.
It is essential to get into the habit of performing several essential checks before use, as this habit does not just make sure plumbers look after it, but any smaller issues that are repaired quickly will save a lot of time and money for costly repairs.
Sewer snake cameras can be prone to some of the following issues:
● Lighting problems.
● Cracked lens.
● Damage to the pushrods.
● Reeling issues, such as wear and tear.
● Faulty switches and buttons.
● Damage inside the power supply line.
● Missing pieces.
Before each use, you should give it a complete wash to make sure that nothing gets into the cable that could damage the internal structures. Keeping the pipe camera clean does not ensure it is ready for use, but it can help when it comes to avoiding contamination. If a plumber is performing several jobs in quick succession, thorough cleaning before and after every use will not accidentally contaminate someone else’s drain line with bacteria from a previous job.
Getting into the preventative mindset is critical. The problem many contractors have when they find themselves inundated with an influx of customers, is they use the sewer camera without taking note of any problems that could get worse very quickly.
Examining for any of the above issues ensures you maintain the device but you are not paying out for a replacement for a major issue. Addressing minor issues will be far less costly than being unable to complete the inspection.
While time is of the essence when it comes to fixing any blockage, and if the sewer snake camera is not working, this does not just mean you cannot perform the inspection, but your customer will think twice about contacting you again because you have not done everything you can to fix the problem.
Not Using It for Its Intended Purpose
A sewer snake camera is a camera, and this is why it is pivotal to use the device with the appropriate etiquette. A sewer camera is a very delicate piece of equipment, and although the piping is sturdy and built to navigate around bends, it must only be used for observation.
Some contractors are tempted to push a sewer camera probe further into the pipe to dislodge the blockage as it is more convenient, but you must never use it to break through a clog, no matter how small the blockage might be.
Some of the most common damages to your camera can include:
● Broken or kinked rods.
● The reel experiencing wear and tear.
● Dented or cracked screens.
● Blurry camera vision caused by debris permeating the camera lens.
Using it as an insertion probe is one of the worst things you can do when inspecting for blockages or obstructions as this won’t just damage the lens, but it will result in time-consuming repairs that you could have avoided.
We must also have the appropriate etiquette when near the drain opening. It is critical that you kneel beside the drain opening because if you stand up and forcefully push the cable through the line, this can cause the camera to break. When you are feeding the camera through, ensure your hand is near the drain opening to minimize any kinks in the reeling. The camera head is the most vulnerable part of your drain camera, so when a clog appears on the monitor, you should stop immediately and decide on the appropriate course of action
While a sewer camera is an incredible observation tool, it is essential that you observe everything carefully. There could be a number of obstructions that can cause problems with your sewer camera and damage the equipment. As an inspector, keenly observing every aspect of the environment will not just help you anticipate problems, but will potentially save your camera from any additional damage.
Mishandling the Equipment
Using the equipment properly is about knowing how to physically handle it. When you are handling equipment, give consideration to the following:
Not Bending the Tube
While a sewer snake camera can navigate around corners if you bend the tube, it can damage the fiber optics inside, resulting in a poor-quality image so you are not able to see any potential blockages or drainage, could miss something vital, and damage the articulation cables can result in costly repairs. You can prevent these issues by reeling the camera back with care after inspecting the blockage.
Moving Slow and Controlled
Conducting a plumbing inspection is about making sure that you avoid fast and short movement when threading the camera through, which can cause damage to the lens. To avoid these types of problems you should move the sewer camera slowly around the inside of the drain which allows you to observe everything as you progress and will minimize damage.
Have a Steady Grip
Ensuring you move the camera slowly is about how you grip the rod. Using short and controlled motions from the moment the camera enters the site, while also keeping your hands and eyes near the equipment to prevent any unforeseen problems, will guarantee you can maneuver the camera appropriately. Without a steady grip, you lose control of the rod, which can cause:
● Damaged cords.
● A cracked camera lens.
● Issues with the pushrod, such as kinks and knots.
● Ongoing wear and tear.
When using this equipment, you should be particularly attentive to any blockages that can cause harm to your camera. If you notice anything unusual in the monitor, it’s critical to stop and decide what you will do next, as moving a camera too quickly through the pipeline can cause damage.
Not Using It in the Right Environments
It is essential to keep your sewer camera out of direct sunlight when not using it for an inspection as this can cause significant damage to the camera lens and the supporting adhesives, and sewer cameras can experience damage when left out in high temperatures.
The golden rule is that temperatures of or exceeding 80 degrees Celsius or 176 degrees Fahrenheit can damage the pipe and the fiber optics inside. Proper care and attention is essential, and consulting the manual will avoid any defects.
Another potential impact on the camera is when it is inserted into copious amounts of liquid. It can be an oversight to think that a sewer camera is purpose-built to be submerged in liquid, this is not true. While the tubing is waterproof, if it is continuously submerged in water, it can cause tubing defects over time. Wherever possible, leave the equipment out to dry after being submerged in liquid, ensuring it doesn’t exceed 80 degrees Celsius or 176 degrees Fahrenheit.
Not Providing Adequate Post-Job Care
As snake cameras can encounter many unhygienic areas, understanding the best ways to look after them after a job has finished is just as important as preparation. Sewer cameras can emerge from a pipe covered in grease, residue, grit, or biological waste, which can form a layer on push rod equipment and the camera lens.
After every job, keeping the camera clean and observing any problems that may build up over time is essential. When it comes to cleaning snake cameras, you should do the following:
● Clean the camera and lens with an isopropyl alcohol solution to prevent residue buildup.
● When cleaning the equipment, use a dry microfiber cloth to remove dirt and grit from the sewer camera head, and scrub the equipment gently to prevent external damage.
● Do not use harsh chemicals as this can damage the lens, only use water with mild detergent where possible.
● When cleaning the piping, apply lubricant to maximize maneuverability.
● Store the equipment in a clean and dry place.
Not Maintaining the Device Properly
The most important component of maintaining the shelf life of your sewer camera is in maintaining the device. As long as you have an adequate pre and post-job maintenance schedule, this should ensure your camera lasts as long as possible.
A sewer camera may not be used for some time and then, depending on the nature of the callout, it may be used for a number of jobs in quick succession. Adequate maintenance is an essential habit, and servicing your video camera and inspecting it properly by include conducting some of the following will keep your sewer snake camera in peak condition:
● Check the pipe camera cords by looking for any missing ground prongs, damaged switches, and inspect the cable for any type of damage.
● Using the right cleaning materials by avoiding harsh chemicals and using a soft linen cloth or lens cleaning paper. You can use a blower to remove dust from the lens, but make sure it does not poke inside the camera.
● Look after the batteries properly by making sure they are charged fully before every use. You should never expose the batteries to high temperatures and keep them in a cool, dry place, remove the battery from the device when not in use to prevent chemicals from leaking from the battery, and never overcharge the battery to minimize the risk of a battery explosion.
Why Sewer Cameras Are So Effective
It Minimizes Customer Frustration
From the perspective of a customer, the sooner drainage problems are fixed, the better. A clog that is backed up all the way into their house will cause ongoing concern about potential damage to the home. A blockage that will benefit from a sewer snake camera can identify the root cause, the best way to deal with it, and give the plumber an idea of a suitable time frame.
Customer satisfaction is even more important in the modern day, and while contractors were not always able to give an accurate time frame for repairs because they could not visualize the problem, a sewer camera allows the contractor to provide a reasonable solution so the customer is in the know.
It Can Locate More Than the Immediate Issue
A camera inspection can isolate the real root cause of the problem. If a customer is experiencing repeated blockages and has attempted to remove these themselves, this does not deal with the underlying cause. While everyday problems like soap scum, hair, and unsuitable objects can be easily removed when they are regularly dealt with, when there are issues with wear and tear, pipes or tree roots penetrating the drainage pipe, or not understanding what can and cannot go down the drain, can eventually result in a buildup.
A drainage camera can reveal the underlying cause and give a customer a better idea of how weak those sewer pipes really are. For most people, if they can’t see something, it isn’t there, but when there are drainage issues, regular sewer inspections can help people understand if there are issues now and if there’s the potential for problems further down the line.
If drain lines are less than 10 years old, a yearly inspection would be adequate and anything older would need a thorough inspection every 6 months, which can give a better insight into if there is anything that can compromise the integrity of the pipes or drainage in the future.
It Can Highlight the Best Solution
Depending on the nature of the problem, a more conventional approach to fixing drainage problems may be necessary. For example, if blockages are caused by food waste like grease or hardened fat or a combination of factors, a solution like drain jetting may help, but if the problems relate to old age or wear and tear in the pipes, a camera inspection can showcase the best long-term solution.
There are many reasons to use a sewer camera, but it’s about making sure that, as contractors, we have a greater understanding of the underlying causes. It can be difficult to spot the signs of a cracked sewer pipe when it is buried underground. In these instances, the best approach is to use a sewer camera so we are gaining a complete picture, but this is why the right etiquette, techniques, and ensuring we avoid some of the most common mistakes will not just get the job done but will result in happier customers and makes your service more efficient.
If you have any questions on Sewer Cameras or Snake Cameras, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Sales@USABorescopes.com or call 931-362-3304. You can also visit some of our other Sewer Camera Blogs on our website.