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Smoke Testing Questions You Never Thought To Ask

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October 2016

Why is Smoke Testing of Sanitary Sewers So Important?
One of the largest causes of Sanitary Sewer Overflows is wet weather peak flows. These peak flows are primarily caused by surface water inflows, where rain water goes into the sanitary sewer systems. Smoke Testing is the fastest and most cost effective method to find these sources of surface water inflow.

Virtually all sanitary sewer systems have wet weather peak flows and all these systems can achieve major reductions in these peak flows and the damaging (and costly) SSO’s that result by simply performing an inexpensive smoke test. Smoke Testing not only saves money – it is essential to protecting the environment. Every year up to 75,000 SSO’s dump billions of gallon of raw sewage into our most sensitive environments. Reducing surface water inflow is often the fastest and most inexpensive way to reduce SSO’s and the pollution they cause.

How Does Smoke Testing help to find sources of inflow?

Common sources of surface water inflow can be traced to roof downspouts, leaking manholes, broken sewer lines or laterals, sump pumps, and cross connected storm sewer lines. Smoke testing allows you to quickly and easily find these sources of inflow by observing plumes of smoke escaping from the sewer system and areas adjacent to where the smoke test is being performed. A Smoke Blower is placed on top of an open manhole and blows smoke directly into the sanitary sewer system. Smoke flows throughout the waste drain system and should only come out the roof vents of houses and buildings connected to the section you are testing. When smoke escapes from any location other than a proper roof vent, this signals a problem or fault that needs to be addressed.

During smoke test, a crew will walk the neighborhood, take pictures of these faults, and mark locations for repair. A two to three person crew can typically test more than 10,000 line feet of sewer main in one 8-hour shift. The total cost of smoke testing – including all labor, equipment and consumables – is typically only 15 to 20 cents per linear foot of sewer main. This is why Smoke Testing is the fastest and most cost effective method to find sources of inflow. Even the initial equipment investment to smoke test is typically less than $3,000.

What type of Products are used in smoke testing?
Superior Signal manufactures a complete smoke testing product line including smoke blowers, smoke candles and smoke fluid. All Superior Smoke products and blowers are engineered and built specifically for smoke testing. With 12 models of smoke blowers available, Superior® smoke blowers meet every possible need and can be configured to work with both smoke candles and smoke fluid systems.

Superior Signal Smoke Candles create a dense, white smoke which is the most visible type of smoke available. This highly visible smoke makes it possible to find more faults in the sewer system more quickly and at greater distances. Superior® Smoke Candles are available in 3 different sizes, with the largest size also available in a versatile 2-wick configuration. The size and type of smoke candle chosen depends the particular testing situation, and the type of smoke test you are doing, but all Superior smoke candles produce the same highly-visible, non-toxic white smoke.

The 3C and W3C smoke candles are our most popular items; both produce 40,000 cubic feet of smoke in about 3 minutes. These high-output smoke candles are typically used for testing mainline sewers, and are ideally suited to that application. If more than 3 minutes of smoke is required, you can easily join together 2 or more of the double wick W3C smoke candles to multiply the time that smoke is generated. For smaller jobs like testing only building plumbing or laterals for faults and leaks, the 1A and 2B smoke candles typically used. These make 4,000 and 8,000 cubic feet of smoke in about a half minute or one minute respectively.

What is the benefit of using Smoke Fluid and How Does a Smoke Fluid System Work?
An alternative method to produce smoke is to use a fluid that smokes when properly heated. Some customers find that liquid based smoke is more convenient to use, and a well-designed fluid system works very efficiently. Superior® Smoke Fluid Systems are engineered to produce the driest and most visible fluid-based smoke. Economical, safe, and easy to use – our Smoke Fluid System will quickly find faults and sources of surface water inflow in collection systems. Some unique features of our fluid system include:

The custom made smoke chamber, specially engineered with baffles and two layers of insulation to retain the heat and maximize the volume of dry smoke.

A custom stainless steel injector nozzle that atomizes the smoke fluid and injects it into a location with maximum heat and turbulence, to maximize the smoke volume and dryness.

A micro-control valve allows the user to fine-tune the fluid flow and avoid wet smoke, while the heavy copper tube pre-heats the liquid on the way to the injector.

Superior® Smoke Fluid is a proprietary blend, specially formulated for optimum performance in Sewer Testing. Superior SL fluid is available in 1-gallon, 5-gallon and 55-gallon sizes, and also works well in most competitive liquid blowers.

The Superior® 20-L Smoke Fluid Blower uses an efficient squirrel-cage design, and is available in standard or high output versions. This blower also offers a feature unique in the industry – an auxiliary outlet. With a quick pull of the lever, the smoke flow changes from the usual bottom manhole outlet to this side outlet, allowing the user to easily blow smoke into a pipe, culvert, chamber, or nearly anything. Like all of our liquid-based blowers, this model can also be used with smoke candles instead of fluid.

This Superior® 30-L Smoke Blower has a large 5 horsepower engine, which combined with its 10-blade propeller, puts out a tremendous 4,300 cubic feet of dry smoke per minute for larger systems where more smoke is required. The Smoke Fluid System here is the same as on our other blower models, but has an even greater output.

Is there any way to test laterals and commercial or residential building plumbing as well?
The smaller, light weight Superior® 5-E Blower is used for smaller jobs, such as finding odors, leaks and other faults in commercial and residential building plumbing, and laterals. Simple to use, and economical to buy, this versatile smoke blower requires no maintenance, is durable yet light-weight, and will last for years. This electric-powered 5-E is designed to work with the 1A and 2B Superior Smoke Candles, and comes with this industrial-strength 8 foot flexible hose.

For over 60 years, Superior Signal Company has been an industry leader committed to helping reduce wet weather peak flows and the sanitary sewer overflows they cause. Our complete line of quality products facilitate smoke testing of sanitary sewer lines, laterals and building plumbing to quickly and easily find all sources of surface water inflow, and many other faults. For more information on smoke testing and our complete product line, please visit our website at:


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