Smoking out a leaky answer

Smoking out a leaky answer

Kohl Cassell of Tillett Plumbing & Heating in Palmyra, Pennsylvania, sets up a Hurco Power Smoker to find the source of sewer odors.

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When most people hear Smoke on the Water, the '70s Deep Purple rock classic comes to mind. However, smoke on water, or in this case water and wastewater piping, can have a practical application. Jeffrey Tillett Jr. can readily attest to that whenever he uses a Power Smoker 2 to track down the source of sewer odors.

Tillett – who co-owns Tillett Plumbing & Heating in Palmyra, Pennsylvania, along with his mother, Betty – has been using the smoke machine for a couple years to help pinpoint the location of minuscule leaks. When customers report mysterious odors and Tillett checks the usual suspects to no avail, he fires up the Power Smoker 2, made by Hurco Technologies.

“First I check things like toilet flange seals and trap seals — anything that might be the cause of the odor,” he explains. “If there’s nothing apparent, the smoker is my next step.”

The Power Smoker 2 essentially consists of four components: A 2 1/2 hp, four-stroke Honda gasoline engine; a 6-foot-long 4-inch-diameter, heavy-duty piece of flexible duct; a high-pressure, cast aluminum fan that disperses the smoke at up to 700 cfm; and a canister filled with LiquiSmoke, a laboratory-tested, nontoxic and non-staining fluid that produces the smoke.

The fan can be adjusted to a cfm level that best suits the size of the system being tested. The unit measures 14 1/2 inches long, 15 inches wide and 20 inches tall. It weighs 47 pounds (not including the canister) and features a built-in handle for easy portability.

A typical smoke test takes about 15 to 20 minutes and setting up the machine doesn’t take very long, Tillett says. First, securely fasten the open end of the duct to any clean-out or building trap vent riser. “A building trap vent rise is usually a good access point because the trap prevents the smoke from traveling through a city sewer main,” Tillett says. Then attach the hose from the canister to the power pack using a quick-connect valve.

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