Sewer Line Cleaning

Electric Eel Service

The most common method of sewer cleaning is by electric eel. The eel cables come in a variety of sizes and shapes, but all work the same. A steel spring type cable is turned by an electric motor while the cable is pushed down the sewer either by hand or by the machine. The leading part cable has a head attached to it. There are many different types of heads and cutters used to open blockages.

These heads are used to open blockages, cut through tree roots, cut grease from within the pipe walls, and retrievers used to pull broken eel cables, heads or other objects from a pipe. It is important to use the right size eel for the job. Many times we see a homeowner trying to open a 4 or 6″ sewer with a small electric or hand operated eel that has a 1/4″ diameter cable and is 25-35ft. long. GOOD LUCK! In practice it is best to run as large a diameter cable as you can get down the pipe and not run a small cable because “This is the only one I have”. If you run too small a machine or cable you can spend hours and not get the sewer open.

Many times a small eel head is run through to open the blockage then a larger head is run through to clear the line to its full diameter. With tree roots particularly, a cutter is usually required to cut through the roots. Using a small head and making a small hole through tree roots or grease build up will require a call to your local plumber a short time later. There is a big difference between a sewer being open and being clean. A sewer can appear to be open and flowing fine while the pipe is still 75-90% blocked.

Referred to or by several different names such as, high-pressure sewer cleaning, hydro jet, sewer jet, hydro blaster or water jet. A sewer jet is a machine that has a water pump powered by an electric gasoline or diesel engine that pumps water thru a house that is put into the sewer. The hose has a nozzle on the end that forces water backwards under high pressure, which in turn propels the hose and nozzle forward into the blockage. As the nozzle stops on the blockage, the hose is pulled back a foot or more and quickly released so that it hits the blockage and works its way thru the clog. Once thru, the water volume flushes the debris from the pipe. Water pressure is what propels the nozzle into the clog & water volume is what flushes, debris from the pipe. There are also a multitude of nozzles and attachments for a jet. Some are designed to open a blockage while others are designed to remove soap & grease from a sewer line. Others are designed to remove dirt rocks and other debris. There are also motors fitted to the hose, driven by water pressure that saws & blades can be attached for cutting tree roots, and scraping the grease from pipe sidewalls.

As with any machine jets come in all sizes. The size is determined by the gallons of water per minute (GPM) and pounds of pressure (PSI). small jet will pump 2-5 (GPM at 2,500-4,000 (PSI and a larger jet will pump 20-70 (GPM) at 2,000-2,500 (PSI). Some of the largest jets will produce 200 (GPM) at 2,500-3,000 (PSI). These machines are used for cleaning very large pipes such as 4″ diameter and larger. For a general sewer cleaning, 2,000 (PSI) is more than enough providing there are 25 (GPM to wash the debris out of the pipe. Do not be fooled into thinking that high pressure means a better job. Most of the small jets are low volume and high pressure where as a large jet will be a higher volume and a lower pressure. A small jet of 2-5 (GPM) at 2-4 (PSI) can be electric or gasoline and from 2-10 horsepower, and costs from $1,500.00 to $5,000.00 for the purchase of the machine. While a larger jet as one of ours produces up to 65 (GPM) at 2,000 (PSI) uses a 100 horse power diesel engine and with accessories cost over $60,000 when purchased. A large jet can be fitted with smaller hoses and attachments for doing small jobs as opposed to a small jet that is jet that, small. A jet will not cut tree roots from a sewer line unless a water pressure motor with some type of cutter is used. It will not blow tree roots out using only the pressure of the water. For a sewer that is clogged with soap grease or sludge, a jet is very effective, but for a 4-6″ sewer clogged with tree roots an electric eel is your better bit and more cost effective. There are sewer cleaners that will use an electric eel for a short period of time and then tell the homeowner they cannot get he sewer open due to 1 or more reasons. They will indicate to you that only a jet will do the job to solve your problem. In some cases that could be true, however this could also be a sales pitch for a more expensive job that is not necessary. Also, should water be backed up on the basement floor and a 10 (GPM) jet is run for 20 minutes without getting the sewer open, you now have an additional 200 gallons on the water which could ruin carpet and the drywall. We have both a small gasoline jet and a larger diesel jet. Should you get to the point where you need a sewer jet we will be glad to discuss all the options prior to starting the job.

Some contractors will run a small electric eel for an hour or so and then tell the homeowner that they need to use the sewer jet to open the line. Many times this is only a sales tactic so they can charge more money for the jet service. In almost every case if you can’t open a house sewer with a big electric eel you will not be able to open it with a sewer jet either.

Along with my electric eel equipment, we also have several TV cameras. If a sewer line is backed up running a camera down the line is worthless. All you will be able to see if stuff swirling in front of the lens until it hits the clog and the picture goes black. A sewer pipe needs to open and reasonably clean when using a camera.

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