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  • Smoke Testing What do you use?

    I have a place that has intermittent sewer odor issues. I have dropped 3 minute (40,000 cubic feet) of smoke in to the inspection manhole in front of the building. I put a test plug down stream of the manhole so the smoke will force itself back into the building. Never detected any smoke during this test. Also did the peppermint oil down the vent stacks (which re PVC so putting smoke bombs in them is not an option) We did find a 2" revent disconnected from its socket in the overhead ceiling tiles. Also found that the vent to the roof for the bar was clogged. After fixing these two issues, it seemed the odors where gone.

    Now I get a call early this morning from them telling me they did not seem to have anymore odors since I was there last till yesterday. Now the days before yesterday it was nice and cool, yesterday we did have a warmer than normal temperature and that is when they noticed the smell was back.

    So now to the reason for this post. I am trying to track down a smoke machine, something to help pressurize the system with smoke, which I think is the only way I am going to see where these odors are coming from. So what machines do you recommend. I was hoping something that has a hose that I can attach to a clean out, vent stack, or inlet pipe in a manhole. So far only two machines that I can see would fit that bill a liquid smoker by Hurco called the Power Smoker 2 http://www.gethurco.com/powersmoker2.html or an electric unit by Superior Signal that you use a standard smoke bomb near the intake of the blower and it blows the smoke into the system. http://www.superiorsignal.com/superior035.htm I do know of a Hurco Original Ripcord Power smoker for sale http://www.gethurco.com/smoketest.html but this unit goes over a manhole which will work for me in this case, but its a rarity for me to have manhole access for a building.

    So what do you guys use out in the field?
    Ron Hasil Lic #058-160417
    A-Archer Sewer & Plumbing specializing in:
    Tankless Water Heaters | Drain and Sewer Cleaning
    Sump and Ejector Pumps | Backflow RPZ Testing

  • #2
    Re: Smoke Testing What do you use?

    Ron, I looked into this awhile back because one of my customers was having the dreaded mystery intermittent smell....

    Found that several people just made there own "smoke box". Something reasonably fireproof for the smoke bombs with and inlet to connect to a hairdryer and the outlet 3" with adapters to connect wherever you might have too.

    Flexible hose or whatever you can come up with within reason. The hairdryer seemed to provide low enough pressure to work properly.

    I did not have to do this in my situation. I FINALLY was able to smell what they were talking about. Much more a musty or moldy smell than sewer gas and it was coming from certain HVAC vents. Told them to get the HVAC guy there and do a complete checkup and cleaning of everything.

    Haven't checked back with them yet.

    P.S. You state you had a temperature change. Wonder if they changed from heat to A/C for a few hours and this surfaced? Could be HVAC too...


    J.C.

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    • #3
      Re: Smoke Testing What do you use?

      I am heading there in the morning to drop a pair of smoke bombs in the grease trap to see if its something on that side of the system. If I do not get any smoke again I will suggest they have their HVAC systems looked at.
      Ron Hasil Lic #058-160417
      A-Archer Sewer & Plumbing specializing in:
      Tankless Water Heaters | Drain and Sewer Cleaning
      Sump and Ejector Pumps | Backflow RPZ Testing

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Smoke Testing What do you use?

        Originally posted by JCsPlumbing View Post
        Ron, I looked into this awhile back because one of my customers was having the dreaded mystery intermittent smell....

        Found that several people just made there own "smoke box". Something reasonably fireproof for the smoke bombs with and inlet to connect to a hairdryer and the outlet 3" with adapters to connect wherever you might have too.

        Flexible hose or whatever you can come up with within reason. The hairdryer seemed to provide low enough pressure to work properly.

        I did not have to do this in my situation. I FINALLY was able to smell what they were talking about. Much more a musty or moldy smell than sewer gas and it was coming from certain HVAC vents. Told them to get the HVAC guy there and do a complete checkup and cleaning of everything.

        Haven't checked back with them yet.

        P.S. You state you had a temperature change. Wonder if they changed from heat to A/C for a few hours and this surfaced? Could be HVAC too...


        J.C.
        If you look at the Superior Signal unit its just a squirrel cage blower box with a hose attached, and they tell you to light the smoke bomb near the inlet of the box to blow the smoke into the system. I was think of mounting a squirrel cage blower to an old ammo can to do the same thing.
        Ron Hasil Lic #058-160417
        A-Archer Sewer & Plumbing specializing in:
        Tankless Water Heaters | Drain and Sewer Cleaning
        Sump and Ejector Pumps | Backflow RPZ Testing

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Smoke Testing What do you use?

          Originally posted by SewerRatz View Post
          If you look at the Superior Signal unit its just a squirrel cage blower box with a hose attached, and they tell you to light the smoke bomb near the inlet of the box to blow the smoke into the system. I was think of mounting a squirrel cage blower to an old ammo can to do the same thing.
          I was worried about not getting enough pressure. I can't remember where I found the info (sorry) but I recall too much pressure is more of an issue. They kept the hairdryer on low more often with their homemade device.


          J.C.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Smoke Testing What do you use?

            Ron, What kind (how much) of positive pressure are you looking for? Are you planning on pulling all of the traps and capping everything so you can juice the system up with Nitrogen and bubble check it OR use some nefarious vapor that can be detected with an electronic detector *CoughR134A*

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Smoke Testing What do you use?

              A couple of Superior 90 second bombs using a multi speed leaf blower set to low works well. Light the bomb outside then use the suction side to blow it in through a roof vent or cleanout. Careful or you'll blow it into the neighbors house

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Smoke Testing What do you use?

                I can plug the inlet to the manhole to prevent the smoke leaving the building to provide a good positive pressure.
                Ron Hasil Lic #058-160417
                A-Archer Sewer & Plumbing specializing in:
                Tankless Water Heaters | Drain and Sewer Cleaning
                Sump and Ejector Pumps | Backflow RPZ Testing

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Smoke Testing What do you use?

                  Years (many) ago we made our own smoke generators from a 55 gal drum and used a shop vac pushing air into the drum with the outlet of the drum connected with a hose to the system. with all openings (roof vents,etc.) closed off and plugs installed in the main as it left the building we smoke tested an 6 story hotel. We found two toilets missing wax rings and one vent that didn't get connected. We used two 10 minute smoke bombs at a time int he drum. Don't remember the make but they were about 1.5" dia. x 6" long.

                  This building was a modular, each hotel room came to us on a flatbed truck 90% complete with paint and wallpaper on the walls, tub set, carpet installed, etc. We set the toilets (shipped loose in original packaging because they would not survive the trip installed), installed misc accessories in the bathroom, and made all the connections between the module sections as well as the mechanical room work, running mains through common areas, and site work, etc. This was the first building I worked on where I remember fire sprinklers connected to domestic water system, it was 1983 I believe.
                  ---------------
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                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Smoke Testing What do you use?

                    4" pvc san t, dryer flex duct taped to two ends, threaded cap on third end, blower at one flex, other to c/o or vent, smokey goes in and cap goes on and turn blower on.

                    don't need much pressure at all; a cheap fart fan blower does fine. I saw somewhere where a guy had it all nice and neat in a toolbox... I'll try to find the link. I've been too lazy to make it nice like that.

                    the few I've done have had septics, so I just blew in a c/o and blocked the tank inlet with a rag to force it to the house. on a sewer I'd blow in a vent to push it out to the street, or in a c/o and verify smoke at the vent(s).

                    Edit: here's the link: http://upfrontprice.com/galleryimg/smoker_intro.htm
                    Last edited by Ace Sewer; 11-11-2010, 08:36 PM.
                    This is my reminder to myself that no good will ever come from discussing politics or religion with anyone, ever.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Smoke Testing What do you use?

                      We always tell the local fire brigade before we use our Hurlcon smoker. We used to have a jet fired smoker but it was really hard to start up.
                      Regards, Bill

                      The definition of Insanity: "Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result."
                      Albert Einstein

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Smoke Testing What do you use?

                        Rat before you go through all of that. If this building is running RTU climb on the roof and check the location of the DWV vents. They could be running the air conditioning in the economizer mode. If the vent is near the inlet of the economizer it could be as simple as raising the vent. Just something that I have encountered before.
                        Last edited by Chauncey; 11-13-2010, 08:49 AM.
                        WE LIVE IN THE LAND OF THE FREE,
                        ONLY BECAUSE OF THE BRAVE

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Smoke Testing What do you use?

                          I made my own smoke pusher out of some duct work I had around and a 8" inline duct fan. I will post some pictures later today.


                          Originally posted by Chauncey View Post
                          Rat before you go through all of that. If this building is running RTU climb on the roof and check the location of the DWV vents. They could be running the air conditioning in the economizer mode. If the vent is near the inlet of the economizer it could be as simple as raising the vent. Just something that I have encountered before.
                          That was the first thing I checked. I also ran into something like that once. It was a sewer vent and a water heater vent right next to each other. Who ever installed the gas water heater only set the vent 6" above the finished roov with a rain cap. When the doors in the building where closed the negitive pressure was just enough to pull in the not so fresh air from outside down the flue pipe. So we raised the flue pipe up 6' and it solved the problem right away. And for those you thinking the following, yes I checked when the water heater fired the flue had proper draw.
                          Ron Hasil Lic #058-160417
                          A-Archer Sewer & Plumbing specializing in:
                          Tankless Water Heaters | Drain and Sewer Cleaning
                          Sump and Ejector Pumps | Backflow RPZ Testing

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Smoke Testing What do you use?

                            Originally posted by SewerRatz View Post
                            I made my own smoke pusher out of some duct work I had around and a 8" inline duct fan. I will post some pictures later today.




                            That was the first thing I checked. I also ran into something like that once. It was a sewer vent and a water heater vent right next to each other. Who ever installed the gas water heater only set the vent 6" above the finished roov with a rain cap. When the doors in the building where closed the negitive pressure was just enough to pull in the not so fresh air from outside down the flue pipe. So we raised the flue pipe up 6' and it solved the problem right away. And for those you thinking the following, yes I checked when the water heater fired the flue had proper draw.
                            Ron, if it's an old building it may not even be worth trying, but since you mentioned PVC it strikes me that you might be able to put a manometer test on the building to see if the system is tight to begin with. If it is then you know the root cause is something external.
                            Time flies like an arrow.

                            Fruit flies like a banana.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Smoke Testing What do you use?

                              Originally posted by Ace Sewer View Post
                              4" pvc san t, dryer flex duct taped to two ends, threaded cap on third end, blower at one flex, other to c/o or vent, smokey goes in and cap goes on and turn blower on.

                              don't need much pressure at all; a cheap fart fan blower does fine. I saw somewhere where a guy had it all nice and neat in a toolbox... I'll try to find the link. I've been too lazy to make it nice like that.

                              the few I've done have had septics, so I just blew in a c/o and blocked the tank inlet with a rag to force it to the house. on a sewer I'd blow in a vent to push it out to the street, or in a c/o and verify smoke at the vent(s).

                              Edit: here's the link: http://upfrontprice.com/galleryimg/smoker_intro.htm
                              Thanks for the nifty link! Cool device.
                              Time flies like an arrow.

                              Fruit flies like a banana.

                              Comment

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