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How are residential and commercial water pipe leaks detected?

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Since the invention of plumbing systems, professional plumbers have been tasked with detecting, pinpointing, and repairing water leaks from water main lines outside of the home and water supply lines inside the home. In the past, locating a leak required digging up your yard or removing drywall and flooring to visually inspect the water lines. With the use of modern technology, it may not be necessary to dig up and visually inspect the water main or remove drywall in your home to pinpoint a leak. Let’s explore some modern leak detection methods that make diagnosis and repair faster.

Endoscopic leak detection uses a small, flexible, extendable camera to visually identify and record cracks, breaks, or imperfections in plumbing lines and pipes. It is sometimes referred to as “scoping” a leak. The camera has an independent light source and can be used in void spaces like under suspended floors, behind studs, in wall cavities, and above ceiling light fixtures. This method is unique as it also allows for visual inspection inside drain pipes and plumbing fixtures where clogs and backups can have similar symptoms to a leak.

Ultrasonic leak detection works by using sound and a signal processor to translate the noise a water leak makes into a digital roadmap for the plumber to follow. The signal is either transmitted through headphones or displayed electronically through an LED display. The more pressure behind the leak, the louder the ultrasonic noise will be, and the closer the leak is, the more you will want to decrease the sensor’s sensitivity. This method is usually used if the water leak is in the slab or foundation of your home, as it is not possible to get a scope or camera between the concrete and the water pipe that is leaking. When there is a concern of excess moisture in your basement, this is the first diagnostic tool used.

Thermography leak detection uses infrared imaging and measurement cameras to measure and record thermal energy that cannot be seen but can be detected as heat. These cameras are very sensitive and can notice the slightest temperature difference between objects. It is excellent for leak detection because it displays the energy emitted from the leaking water or sewer line and compares it to the area surrounding them. Using specialized equipment, plumbers use these thermal images to determine the source of the plumbing leak, even if it is behind the wall or under the floor. This detection method is usually used when there is discoloration or dampness in the walls or ceilings.

To summarize, plumbing systems have not changed a lot over the years, but how leaks and failures are diagnosed and repaired certainly have. Thermography, endoscopy, and ultrasonic are just a few of the latest non-invasive breakthroughs in water leak detection and repair, which can save on unnecessary excavating and interior demolition.
If you think you have a burst pipe, you should take action right away. The leaking water can damage drywall, create sinkholes and severely damage your home. Contact your fast and friendly plumber serving the Seattle and Mukilteo area since 1976.