Make Your Pipes Sing
Pinpointing problems in your pipes has become progressively easier in the past few years. “The big thing right now is not only collecting data but being able to analyze that data and project the lifespan of your pipe,” says Mike Russin account manager with Pipeline Analytics. “By combining collection software with your camera in the field, you can analyze that data and get a clearer assessment.”
Depending on what type of system you use will determine what the pipe will tell you. Straight line push cameras, pan and tilt cameras, zoom cameras, and CCTV Systems continue to be your choices for inspecting septic, but with some new twists. With mainlines, you can use digital sidewall scanning, laser scanning, sonar collection, zoom camera technology, and push camera. Electrical scanning and acoustical technologies are also in the pipeline for mainline viewing.
Using a camera can sell a homeowner on the need for maintenance. You can push a camera down a pipe to show build up, blockage, or root intrusion. Then after you clean it out, show them the pipe again. Giving them that visual before and after has helped many septic professionals to not only show their value, but also show the importance of maintenance.
Straight Line Push Camera
“As the most economical, the straight line push camera is the most prevalent,” says Russin. “What’s great about the camera is that it is self leveling.” This method will save you digging up the pipes and give you a more comprehensive view.
The camera allows you to produce a black and white or color video of the point allowing you to pinpoint where cracks and roots are growing into the pipe. The push camera is attached to a stiff cable and pushed through the pipe. A straight line camera can also be attached to some mainline CCTV systems that allow you to minimize your investment. The push cameras usually start at $7,000-$10,000 dollars with embedded software platforms.
Pan and Tilt
The pan and tilt push camera is similar to the straight line in that is mounted on a sturdy cable and pushed through the line. It also produces a high resolution color video. A septic professional can control it with a joystick to stop and move the camera around or zoom in on a spot to clearly pick up a crack, hole, or roots in the pipe. The benefit to the pan and tilt is that if the crack is to the right of the camera, you can turn the camera and look directly at it. A pan and tilt camera can also be mounted on a rover. The push camera starts at $25,000 and up with embedded software platforms.
If you are opening up the septic tank and looking at it with a flashlight, this is a great way to get a closer look at the tank. With zoom camera technology, you have a camera on a pole that can zoom in excess of 500 feet. These start around $10,000-$15,000.
With data collection software, a septic professional has a variety of options. It can be integrated into a new camera or added to existing equipment. “You can take live video from your camera and put it on a DVD to show the homeowner,” says Russin. “You can also have a customized platform to record video, take still images, produce a 3D image, and produce electronic reports complete with company logo and contact information. You can also upload it to a cloud at your office and email the customer so that they can view it online with free viewer software.”
With the 3D image of the pipe, you can see all of the pipes in one glance and export this into CAD for integration with GIS and As Builts of the property.”We can measure the bend and defects of the pipes with this technology,” says Russin.
What Should I Get If I’m Starting Out?
If you don’t already have TV inspection equipment, Russin advises on getting a standard push system, which is lower in cost than buying a full blown inspection vehicle. “Look for something that is portable and simple to use,” says Russin. “A push camera will give you what you need 99 percent of the time for small diameter lines and septic lines. You also want to be able to grab it see how it works. Make sure that what you purchase has the ability to grow with your company. You don’t want to have to buy all new equipment every couple of years.”
Of course, you want to choose equipment with quality construction to minimize breakdown and that can be supported locally by the company you purchase it from. If you decide on a mainline CCTV System, then Russin suggests the stainless steel versions with stainless steel gears. You may want to look at a can bus system. It has one wire and microprocessors that control function allowing you to add more features without having to add a wire for each function.
With TV inspection, there is wide variety of cost. Systems range from $7,000 up to $90,000. As with any major purchase, it pays to do your homework and see what will work best for your needs.
TV inspection can make your life easier. If your customers are wailing their own version from the movie “Christmas Eve”, “[Our] pipes are corroded, the water won’t drain, [Our] toilet exploded, you’re flushing in vain!”, then a more exhaustive inspection of their pipes might be your best bet. That way, their pipes are singing instead of wailing.
Story by Jennifer Taylor