Owning a drain and sewer inspection camera is one of those things that you wonder how you managed without one, once you have it and put it to use. More or less every residential, commercial and industrial building will have drainage and sewer systems which require attention from time to time. If one of these pipes gets blocked, or suffers damage, then finding the cause and extent of the problem in an underground drain or sewer pipe can be a huge challenge. A drain / sewer camera, or CCTV system as they are also known, can save time, money and give you a professional image.
Call outs to drainage problems is a big business and to plumbing and drainage contractors, this type of work is a significant source of income, due to the high associated costs and charges, and probably an area that most if not all plumbers and drainage contractors would want to grow in order to expand their business and increase their turnover. For this reason, purchasing one of our drain and sewer CCTV inspection camera systems makes sense.
Potential issues and problems may exist in sewer systems, which can usually only be accessed and worked on by licenced plumbers, but as well as sewers, most if not all buildings require a storm water management network, which is how rain water, and other waste water, such as swimming pool water is handled. Nevertheless, both sewer and waste water systems will consist of a network of underground pipes and infrastructure and problems will occur from time to time, just as easily in both types of pipes.
Owning a drain / sewer inspection CCTV camera will allow the contractor to look inside these pipes and find the cause and location of the blockage much faster than can be achieved with other methods. Most home owners and business owners will need a fast diagnosis with the minimum amount of fuss and disruption. I know if I was faced with the option of employing one contractor, telling me that my yard had to be dug up and the pipe cut out to find a blockage or a damaged pipe, against another contractor who could simply look in the drain pipe with a CCTV and find the cause and location of my problem, I would engage the services of the contractor with the inspection camera without hesitation, regardless of how much extra (to an extent) he wanted to charge me for his services. It’s all about speed and minimum amounts of disruption and property damage, and it’s no surprise that non-destructive test equipment, such as inspection cameras, thermal imaging cameras, underground cable and pipe locators are our biggest selling category of equipment.
It doesn’t take much to have a flooded property at all, just a good downpour of rain, or a few minutes of backwashing a swimming pool can inundate a yard with water, which backs up in the storm water pipes and floods back up above the ground, swamping everything. Water damage is a serious matter and therefore it is paramount that the network of underground pipes allow free passage of waste water or sewage to where it is intended to go rather than back into someone’s property. Normally it’s an urgent business as most customers will not be prepared to wait for days, just to have someone attend to it. Price as such generally is not an issue – time is, as most service calls will want a fast response and a fast diagnosis.
Once the problem is located, it can be rectified, and this can be a case of removing the blockage with a jetter, although some plumbers and drainage contractors still prefer to use an electric eel. Broken pipes are more of a challenge and usually require excavating around, and the damage will have to be physically repaired. Either way though, it is still a massive help to have the ability to use a drain camera to find the problem. If it is a broken pipe, or a physical problem other than a blockage, finding the location allows for easy digging out with minimized disruption and damage to property. If it is a blockage and needs to be jetted out, then a drain inspection camera is re-inserted into the pipe to verify that the blockage has been removed AND that there are no other blockages or pipe damage.
Quite a few places tend to have a higher risk of issues than others. If there are lots of trees around, it would be very feasible that tree roots can grow into the pipes (drainage or sewer) and block them causing a restriction to the flow of water. Roots will grow towards moisture and are capable of exerting a serious amount of force, which can crack pipes, or sometimes two roots can grow each side of an underground drain or sewer pipe and crush it. The possibilities go on and on. Pipes can be punctured by machinery, joints can crack and cause the pipes to fill with soil, or become very offset at the joint. Regardless of what the problem is, a drain or sewer inspection CCTV camera is the only real efficient method of finding problems and confirming the condition of the pipes.
There are a lot of drain camera systems to choose from, a lot are cheap rubbish which may be OK to an extent, but are not up to the task in hand. Trawling through certain online resources will bring up a multitude of equipment, which ships from overseas and can’t be compared to our drain and sewer inspection CCTV camera systems. With all of these various pieces of equipment and all of the different functions, it may look like one system is similar to another, but that is definitely the case. When buying a drain or sewer CCTV system, what should you look for? And why should you purchase one system over another system? Below we try to explain what the various options mean and what features you should look for, and more to the point, what makes our drain CCTV cameras better than someone else’s.
As far as the equipment goes, you can roughly place the drain cameras into three groups. At the bottom there are the budget systems, then we have the intermediate systems which tend to have upgraded camera heads and more functions, and then at the top end of all of this are the upper end systems, which have high specifications, and high resolution cameras for the best quality imaging.
Choosing the correct drain camera really depends on how often it is put to use and also the type of application it is being used for. The low end systems are fine for simple cctv drain and sewer pipe inspections. Most of them will have a 30 metre long cable reel, which connects the camera head to the control module and allows it to be inserted into the pipe and pushed along it’s length to inspect any potential areas of damage or blockages. However, if the distance along the pipe is longer than 30 metres, then clearly a low end drain camera is not going to suffice as the reel won’t be long enough. Usually the shorter 30 metre long reels will be manufactured from a 5mm thick fiberglass material and the camera head will just screw onto the end, which is useful in one way because it makes the user able to change the camera heads around if they should need to do so, but in general users of the cheaper systems don’t tend to want to interchange the camera heads, unlike users of the more expensive systems who may need to.
Our lowest cost drain camera system utilizes a 23mm diameter camera, which is good for using in small pipes as it can get around bends reasonably well, and our camera heads have a flexible spring coupling to allow the camera head to pass through bends without getting stuck or caught inside pipes. Most camera lenses utilise CMOS sensors, which are cheaper to manufacture than the high end CCD sensors. As a general rule, the CMOS sensors are found in all but the high end units, and they work fine for general drain and sewer inspections. In low light applications, they are not as good as the CCD sensors, but on a positive note, they use far less power to operate. All of our cameras have LED lighting around the lens to illuminate whatever is in front of the camera. It sometimes is possible to utilise an infrared night vision camera, but the big disadvantage with that, is that the image from infrared will be in black and white and the details are not as clear as the camera heads with true LED lighting. Our cameras have adjustable LED lighting which allows the user complete control over the lighting levels in the pipe, enhancing details further, and allowing lighting to go further up the drain or sewer pipe if necessary.
Our high end units have a far higher specification camera with a Sony CCD sensor which offers greater image quality, particularly in low light applications such as inside pipes, and generally the image (or video) will not have as much noise in it, making it much smoother and more detailed. The CCD sensors are a little larger than the CMOS sensors and therefore the camera heads have a larger diameter. We offer a straight forward 50mm self-levelling CCD camera, or a 58mm diameter, rotating CCD camera, which can pan and tilt, allowing the operator to “look around” inside drain and sewer pipes. You can look up junctions without trying to manipulate the camera, and see into various other sections of pipe. If you have a damaged pipe, you can even slide the camera up to the area of damage and then rotate the camera head and look precisely at the exact area of concern. Having a larger diameter camera usually poses no problems with the high end drain camera systems, because the majority of drain pipe will be 100mm or much larger. Our self-levelling cameras mean that the image on the sceen will never be upside down, regardless of whether the camera head tilts. Top is top, and bottom is bottom on the display, irrespective of the camera’s orientation.
With all but the cheaper systems, the cable reels will generally be longer, with the standard higher specification reel being 60 metres long, with an option to go as long as 120 metres or 140 metres, should the need arise. Our standard higher end cable reels will be manufactured from a 9mm or thicker fiberglass construction, which gives both long service life and over longer distances, it will not buckle with even a larger camera attached to the end of it, allowing far better control of the camera for even longer drain and sewer pipe inspections. Quite a few of the drain CCTV systems utilise an inferior cable reel, using a rod as thin as 4mm, which will permit too much flexing and which will inevitably prevent drain pipe inspections being conducted over all but shorter distances, plus there may be times when it is necessary to get the camera through the site of a blockage or a damaged pipe to inspect it’s full length, and a thin rod is not going to make it easy as you need the pressure to overcome any resistance, and that is why a thicker, more rigid rod will pay dividends. There is nothing worse than spending thousands of dollars on new equipment, to turn up to an important job and having problems, which could have been avoided by investing in equipment that is fit for purpose, rather than just being guided by price. I am not for one minute suggesting that you should just buy the most expensive system that it available, but I am strongly recommending that the choice should be based on what will work and not what is the cheapest.
As well as the camera heads and the reels, there are certain other features which can be combined to make the user’s life easier, or to make the whole process of conducting a drain or sewer CCTV inspection more efficient, or to ensure that nothing has been missed by the contractor, because after all the one thing that you do want is recommendations and repeat business, and having the right equipment for the job will maximize happy customers and prevent call backs and a poor reputation of not doing a job thoroughly. Also, having proper equipment will help you to do more jobs in the same space of time, and provide a professional image to your customers.
Our intermediate and high end cable reels are housed on a professional stainless steel caddy, which does not rust in the presence of water, is durable and also lightweight. They also usually have a distance counter built into them, which means that the length of cable reel inside the pipe can be automatically displayed on the video image. This is a useful function as it gives the operator a very clear idea of where the camera is located in the pipe. This distance counter can also be reset to zero at any time which even allows distances between multiple problems to be accurately measured. A number of our cameras also have something called a sonde built in to them. Basically, a sonde (sometimes called a mouse) is a small radio frequency emitter, which sends out a signal at a frequency of 512Hz. If you take one of our cable and pipe locators, such as the Radiodetection RD2000, or the RD7100DL, RD8100 or even the RF marker locator models, these all have an active 512Hz locate mode built in, which makes it possible to locate the position of the sonde in the camera and also it’s depth inside the pipe. The benefit of doing this is very clear. For example, I can go to site, insert my drain camera into the pipe, and find a blockage or section of damaged pipe. I can have a quick look at the display monitor and get a distance reading, then quickly measure this, grab my locator and do a quick sweep to find the sonde. I can mark the exact position and get a good depth reading, dig the section of pipe which I already know is the problem, cut out and replace it, or clear the blockage if it is not damaged and minimize the time it takes, remain competitive on price, and keep my customer happy.
Quite a few of our customers ask why we use a frequency of 512Hz for the transmitter in the camera head, and the answer is two-fold, but also very simple. First of all a 512Hz signal does not couple onto adjacent services as readily as a higher frequency signal such as 33kHz, so it reduces the risk of you trying to locate the position of the camera and having a load of responses from signal coupling to other conductive services, such as cables, metallic pipes, telecoms cables etc. Secondly 33kHz and the higher frequency signals are masked by materials such as cast iron and ductile steel, so if you were to use a different frequency, and want to find a camera in a cast iron or ductile steel pipe, it won’t work. A 512Hz signal can travel though this material and therefore allow you to locate the camera position in a far wider range of materials.
Our intermediate and higher level systems all have a built-in keyboard which can be used for adding text overlays and giving more information, which is something that can be added to customized reports for clients and stakeholders. Sometimes this extra information can point out or clarify the contents of the video or image, which can be saved to an included SD card (which can be expanded). To get the images to a PC, you simply just need to remove the SD card and transfer the image or video files to a PC or laptop, and these can be inserted into inspection reports if the need arises, or just sent to clients through either email, cloud or saved to USB. With our newer control boxes we even added a USB port to allow support for USB devices, such as memory sticks. Not only does this allow for easy media storage, but it also allows us to let you upgrade the unit firmware, if there are new releases over the years, without you having to ship the head unit back to us.
One of the advantages of our units is that they are fully modular, so if you wanted to, you could buy a decent head unit and couple that with any reel, then later upgrade the reel, or for example, you may need a small reel and camera to go over much shorter distances though a narrow diameter pipe. With our systems, it is just a case of having a shorter reel (our smallest camera is 6mm in diameter and tends to be popular for looking inside walls or very restricted spaces, then for standard drain or sewer CCTV inspections, you just change the reel over and away you go. You don’t need multiple systems.
Our drain and sewer cameras are not something that can be compared to the low end equipment flooding some parts of the market. We have particular firmware, which makes the units operate in a certain way, particularly with regard to user friendliness. We have designed our inspection systems so that the operator can adjust settings very easily through the control box, with all of the information being displayed on the colour TFT monitor, much like a computer, or a GPS system. This gives easy control over key features and makes the whole set up procedure simple. Our cameras are manufactured from aluminium housings, and not plastic which is painted to look like a metallic structure. The lens covers are made from sapphire glass. Only diamond is harder, and this gives our cameras durability, long service life and protects the device from harsher environments. Our cameras are IP68 rated, or in other words they are weatherproof and waterproof. We house or systems in tough, hard ABS cases with locking clamps and everything inside laid out in a logical order.
We offer various sizes of colour monitor. For the lower end system where customers are more inclined not to demand lots of features, we offer a 7 inch display, but nevertheless, these lower end units are still good for contractors who may not want to do drain and sewer cctv inspections regularly. They still have a built in DVR function to record images and videos, powerful LED lights and a compact reel which fits in the case. As the equipment gets more expensive, we start to offer the 9 inch monitor, which gives a good high resolution image. You tend to want to keep the screen size from being too large with the lower end cameras, which maintains a sharper image. As we get up to the higher end equipment, with the self-levelling cameras and the CCD sensors, the image quality improves a lot and justifies the use of a larger screen, so we fit our new 15 inch screen to these camera systems, making the screen easier to see due to the much larger size.
We option all of our cameras – particularly the high-end units with various accessories to make them as versatile as we possibly can. We have a range of camera skids for different pipe sizes. Our CCD cameras can utilise the adjustable skid which can expand to fit a range of different pipes. It even has a spring-loaded mechanism, keeping the camera centred in the pipe and not allowing it to scrape along the bottom.
Apart from all of the custom improvements we make to the drain and sewer camera systems, we also stock a full range of spares here in Brisbane, so in the rare event of a problem, most of the time we will just ship you out a replacement part, which means that you don’t have to ship back a complete system for any warranty issues. If a component in one of our drain cameras systems fails, we will replace it for you in most cases very easily and very simply, meaning you have minimum down time and minimum inconvenience. We offer a full range of technical support, our equipment is stocked here in Australia, and it is built for Australian conditions.
If you are still confused by the range of available equipment, or you need some help in choosing the most appropriate drain /sewer inspection CCTV cameras system, give us a call on 1800 837 837 and speak to the manufacturer directly, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org If you want a custom build, then call us and we will in most cases build it for you. We ship or equipment all over Australia and New Zealand from here, we also offer training and full product support, and pride ourselves on being a fully owned Australian company, with innovative ideas and time served, qualified staff, all of whom have a wide range of experience.