If you’d told people 100 years ago we’d one day have camera technology so small and so smart we could map the linings of our veins they’d have laughed. Today CCTV cameras are everywhere; from tracking down tummy tumours to fighting crime on our streets. And even in the murky, underground world of pipes and drains, homeowners and landlords can save themselves significant headache and hassle just by knowing:
- what CCTV pipe inspections are
- the advantage of using CCTV pipe inspections to assess pipe conditions
- when a CCTV pipe inspection is needed
- how to select the right CCTV pipe technician.
CCTV pipe inspections: what they are and how they work
What is a CCTV pipe inspection?
When we settle in to watch the footy finals with mates or snuggle up with our partner for the season finale of MAFS (Married at First Sight) we’re tuning in along with millions of other Aussies through the miracle of open broadcast television; one image, broadcast to millions. On the other hand closed circuit television (CCTV) uses video cameras to transmit signals to just one specific place, or to a limited number of monitors. The system is called ‘closed circuit’ because the cameras, monitors and/or video recorders communicate across a proprietary coaxial cable run or a wireless communication link meaning access to data transmissions is limited by design.
A CCTV pipe inspection inserts an attached camera into a pipe to shed light on any little nasties hiding way in the dark. Images are then transmitted back to a monitor where a trained technician interprets and advises on what they see. And whilst the vision produced may never win a Gold Logie, the secrets it reveals can certainly be worth their weight in gold for property owners looking save themselves time, money and heartache in terms of maintaining healthy pipes.
How does a CCTV pipe inspection work?
There are a few different systems used for conveying the camera equipment along the pipe. Tractor cameras are self-propelled (moving in a similar manner as a tractor) and used mainly for larger pipes (over 100mm diameter). They usually have pan and tilt facilities to enable full image capture.
Push cameras are more commonly used for sewer, storm water and house pipes (less than 100mm). A small camera lens and bright LED lights on the end of a push rod enable inspections through bends and junctions. Good quality CCTV equipment can provide 360° colour vision of pipe interiors including through transitions in diameter, along changing angles and bends, and into joins and junctions. Even when travelling through vegetation, liquids and sludge, high quality equipment is designed to continue providing clear and accurate data and images.
The vision is sent to the monitor enabling properly trained technicians to accurately diagnose and sometimes even repair any issues This means problems which would have previously required excavation can be managed without any digging at all. Basically it removes the guesswork from what was once a highly invasive and disruptive area of property maintenance and repair and provides more environmentally friendly and sustainable solutions.
What information can a CCTV pipe inspection provide?
A CCTV pipe inspection can provide a range of useful information for drain inspectors, repairers, engineers, planners and property owners themselves. The report can include information such as:
- the condition of subsurface interior and infrastructure wall surface of the pipe
- the exact location of cracks, breaks or blockages
- the cause of any issues
- the location of junctions/bends etc. in the network
- the location of access points (manholes etc.) that will be needed in a trenchless repair
- the layout (various depths, directions, angles and diameters) of the pipes (laser profiling).
The advantages of using CCTV inspections to assess or repair pipes
CCTV pipe inspections are:
1. Accurate – Giving a clear picture of what’s going on with your pipes and taking the guesswork out of planning and budgeting for repairs.
2. Fast – Most companies supplying CCTV pipe inspections in Brisbane and other major cities will be able to have someone carry out the work within 24 hours (some offer same-day service). Check below, however, before you jump at the first tradesperson offering to beat a path to your door in twenty minutes.
3. Comprehensive – The whole pipe can be assessed in the one CCTV pipe inspection, meaning that if there are numerous areas of damage (or impending damage) they can be addressed in the one repair strategy rather than having similar problems six months down the track.
4. Cost-effective – reducing the need for excavation, demolition and reconstruction when assessing the cause of underground pipe problems.
5. Convenient – No mess or disruption to services, lifestyle or access.
6. Safe – Because there is no digging involved, CCTV pipe inspections are a much safer option when it comes to pipe assessment and management. They are safer for:
Inspection and repair personnel – all of which lead to additional cost-savings in the long term.
7. A Permanent record – which can be used for insurance or bond claims, to give to potential repairers for quotes, to help prepare maintenance and management programs or for warranty claims.
8. Clean. Given that there is no digging required, there is no mud or dust as a result of an inspection. There is no mess created in the process of carrying out a CCTV inspection, and if drain clearing or cleaning is required a competent professional should remove any debris.
9. Proactive. Whether they’re done as part of a proactive pipe maintenance strategy, or as the first important step in a reline or repair project, having a CCTV pipe inspection prior to carrying out work on or around pipes is money well spent.
10. Able to help you take the guess-work out of pipe repairs.
When should you get a CCTV pipe inspection?
You should get a CCTV pipe inspection if you are:
- Having any sort of trouble with the water and waste functions of your home (blocked toilets, smelly pipes, pooling and puddles).
- A landlord with new tenants
- A tenant commencing residency in a new property (with troublesome pipes)
- Buying a new home (as a condition of purchase and prior to settlement)
- About to take ownership of a new build (prior to final payment)
- Renovating or building additions to your existing home
- Living next door to someone who is renovating or building (including building a boundary fence or installing a swimming pool)
- Wanting to understand the pipe configurations of your property
Who should you call when you need a CCTV inspection?
There are countless plumbers, drain inspection services and pipe relining companies offering CCTV pipe inspections to the market today. But before deciding which operator is right for you, you need to ask them about:
- Their inspection equipment (quality and how recently it was purchased)
- Their qualifications
- Their service offerings (what else they can provide)
- Their prices
- Their reputation
- The quality of their final report
- Their warranty or guarantees
- Their insurance
- Their competitors
Finally, don’t be afraid to trust your instincts and if you’d like more detailed information about what you need to know before deciding on your CCTV provider, see our companion article, ‘Who to call when you need a CCTV pipe inspection: 10 top tips’.