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Thread: sewer back-up alarm

  1. #1
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    Default sewer back-up alarm

    A few months ago my sewer backed up (septic system) for the third time since I bought the home about 7 years ago. This was a surprise since the septic system had been ‘overhauled’ about a month before. The problem was a toilet tissue clog where the horizontal drain connects to the vertical pipe going to the storage tank.

    Long story short, I decided to install a ‘sewer back-up alarm” but a web search for such a device resulted in only two hits. Both devices were inventions of master plumbers and sold by the inventor via his plumbing business. I have not been able to order the device from either, no reply from one and “not available yet” from the other.

    So… I decided to engineer one myself and now have a functional prototype using a strain gauge and some simple electronics.

    Finally the Question:

    I need to connect, via a code compliant method, an 18 inch length of ¼” ID Tygon tubing to the drain near where it exits from the basement (3” PVC with a clean out tee). This will provide a signal to the strain gauge and be the only connection to the drain. Right now I’m using a ¼’ brass nipple epoxied into a hole I drilled in the threaded clean-out cap. The tubing also eases maintenance as the air within isolates the strain gauge from the waste material.

    Any advice on the tubing connection?

    Thanks for reading - Steve

  2. #2

    Default Allen Engineering

    Such a system can be purchased from Allen Engineering in Milwaukee WI. Ask for Gary. 414-353-5070. He services one that one of my clients has in Milwaukee. Just tell him Tony from Tony's Professional Remodeling asked you to call.

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    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    If you have a threaded cleanout, you could put together a series of reducing busings to get down to a 1/2" or 3/4" threaded fitting for your nipple.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tonykarns View Post
    …Such a system can be purchased from Allen Engineering ...
    I wish I’d known that but at this point I’ll stay with mine since it works and will require little maintenance. Last week I put together a calibration stand and set the alarm to trigger at 5 inches of water or 0.2 PSI. I was going to set the trigger at atmospheric pressure but decided that might cause false alarms.
    Quote Originally Posted by jimbo View Post
    …put together a series of reducing busings to get down to a 1/2" or 3/4" threaded fitting for your nipple...
    I had thought that the plumbing codes would be more restrictive. If family history is any guide, in 10 -15 years I'll be visiting the great plumbing store in the sky. I didn’t want the wife or kids to be burdened by code violations when trying to sell the house.

    Steve

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    Master Plumber Dunbar Plumbing's Avatar
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    Thumbs down

    Quote Originally Posted by stephenm@ptd.net View Post

    I had thought that the plumbing codes would be more restrictive. I didn’t want the wife or kids to be burdened by code violations when trying to sell the house.


    You will be burdening the wife/kids with your device that is illegally tapping to a DWV cleanout.

    The device you're building is neither ASSE or NSF approved for the use.

    They make atmospheric pressure switches. A much better design and code approved.
    Read what the end of this sentence means.

  6. #6
    Plumbing Company Owner smellslike$tome's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimbo View Post
    If you have a threaded cleanout, you could put together a series of reducing busings to get down to a 1/2" or 3/4" threaded fitting for your nipple.
    This is completely illegal, do not do it!

  7. #7
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by smellslike$tome View Post
    This is completely illegal, do not do it!
    He already said that he has a nipple epoxied into the cleanout cap. Code is not apparently a concern for him, and a threaded set up will be more reliable than what he has now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RUGGED View Post
    …that is illegally tapping to a DWV cleanout…
    Quote Originally Posted by by smellslike$tome
    ...This is completely illegal, do not do it...
    Something is illegal only if the authority having jurisprudence deems it to be illegal. In my town there are no ordinances regarding plumbing modifications by the homeowner, it is merely necessary to get a permit to allow the work to be done and a subsequent inspection. If my device or its connection to the drain fails inspection, I can work with the inspector to correct the discrepancy and/or apply for a waver. I am quite confident I can get it approved for use.

    Quote Originally Posted by RUGGED View Post
    … The device you're building is neither ASSE or NSF approved for the use…
    That may be true but if the local authority permits a device to be used it does not matter. Wavers are often granted.

    Quote Originally Posted by RUGGED View Post
    … They make atmospheric pressure switches.
    True but I cannot find a source for a sewer backflow alarm, Allen Engineering recommended by Tony does not advertise such a device so if you know of one, please provide a link.

    Quote Originally Posted by RUGGED View Post
    …A much better design
    Why would you think a mechanical device would be superior to a device having no moving parts? The pressure switch could use a solid state switch but it would be more expensive with little benefit. The strain gauge can be made immune to temperature variations and harsh environments. Its output can be digitized and the data sent to a computer. Software could be written to predict backups before they occur. But your circuit design skills may be better than mine, I don’t know.

    How are these better designed and code approved devices connected to the waste line?

    Quote Originally Posted by RUGGED View Post
    …and code approved.
    It would be a great help if you could provide the relevant text from the code book

    What in this quote from my first post ...
    Quote Originally Posted by stephenm View Post
    ...I need to connect, via a code compliant method, an 18 inch…
    could possibly lead you to think this?
    Quote Originally Posted by jimbo View Post
    …Code is not apparently a concern for him…

  9. #9
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    "...Something is illegal only if the authority having jurisprudence deems it to be illegal. In my town there are no ordinances regarding plumbing modifications by the homeowner"

    I doubt that is accurate. As far as I know, every state has a plumbing code. Generally, state law allows local authorities to insert MORE strict, but not LESS strict regulations. Maybe your state is different.


    "What in this quote from my first post ...
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by stephenm
    ...I need to connect, via a code compliant method, an 18 inch…

    could possibly lead you to think this?

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jimbo
    …Code is not apparently a concern for him…



    Maybe the fact that you connected something to a cleanout plug. Lets get by that, as inspectors have been known to bend that rule. You said that you glues a fitting into a cleanout cover. No code in the country approves that as a method of attaching fittings to drain pipes.


    In general, every code that I am aware of requires all devices, pipes, fittings, etc. to be approved by an accepted accrediting agency. This approval might be an IAPMO listing, and ANSI spec, or AGA/GAMA/UL etc etc. But the piece will be approved by somebody. If it is not listed, it is not approved.

    I don't think anyone told you you shouldn't do this. Nothing you have proposed is dangerous. The only potential is that like any other plumbing fitting or device, it could leak. Some suggestions have been offered, but we can't encourage you to think this actually will be code compliant.

  10. #10
    In the Trades Bob NH's Avatar
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    A simple mechanical switch is used in every washing machine that has a water level adjustment. It has a dip tube that picks up the fill water level and turns off the fill valve when it gets to the right level. It works based on the air pressure that rises when the water rises against a sealed tube so the switch is not immersed.

  11. #11
    Master Plumber Dunbar Plumbing's Avatar
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    Default Time to understand

    Quote Originally Posted by stephenm View Post
    Something is illegal only if the authority having jurisprudence deems it to be illegal. In my town there are no ordinances regarding plumbing modifications by the homeowner, it is merely necessary to get a permit to allow the work to be done and a subsequent inspection. If my device or its connection to the drain fails inspection, I can work with the inspector to correct the discrepancy and/or apply for a waver. I am quite confident I can get it approved for use.
    Quit using big words, at least learn how to spell waiver if you're going to approach me with any sympathy logic to your mouse trap antics.

    Quote Originally Posted by stephnm View Post

    That may be true but if the local authority permits a device to be used it does not matter. Wavers are often granted.
    Great. Now you feel that you can change the plumbing codes and allow provisions to fit your personal needs. Who's time are you going to waste (besides anyone else) on this magnificent idea.

    Quote Originally Posted by stephnm View Post
    True but I cannot find a source for a sewer backflow alarm, Allen Engineering recommended by Tony does not advertise such a device so if you know of one, please provide a link.
    Try E-ONE systems and ask if they'll sell you one.
    Quote Originally Posted by stephnm View Post
    Why would you think a mechanical device would be superior to a device having no moving parts? The pressure switch could use a solid state switch but it would be more expensive with little benefit. The strain gauge can be made immune to temperature variations and harsh environments. Its output can be digitized and the data sent to a computer. Software could be written to predict backups before they occur. But your circuit design skills may be better than mine, I don’t know.
    Nope, no background in creative temperature variations or digitized data, harsh circuit superior output device. strain switch. backup. Why should I? I'm a plumber, one who works on systems and constantly correct these contraptions that homeowners build into thier plumbing systems, possibly leaving a burden on thier family and kids. Name:  lol.gif
Views: 247
Size:  3.7 KB

    In my years as a plumber, I've come to understand why plumbing codes exist, why they're enforced, and why they were designed. CASE HISTORIES Everyone wants to do things to thier home and that's fine. But when I see plumbing installed incorrectly or backwards, at a danger to innocent who have no idea what the **** is going on in the basement with dad and his soldering iron and a few tubes running into the toilet drain. Who knows. ???


    Quote Originally Posted by stephnm View Post
    How are these better designed and code approved devices connected to the waste line?
    Most are submersible and either built-in to the pump system or incorporated into the operation to prevent damage or provide awareness of malfunction. I'm dealing with an E-ONE system that has just this device. Look it up as you have more time than me.


    Quote Originally Posted by stephnm View Post
    It would be a great help if you could provide the relevant text from the code book
    Here, here's a start, when you're done there, read this and let us know if your homemade device satisfies the standards afforded to you for your personal agenda. Do you're own footwork to get the knowledge.

    Choose to do whatever you like in your home, doesn't mean one iotta to me. But next time you say this

    Quote Originally Posted by stephnm View Post
    I had thought that the plumbing codes would be more restrictive. If family history is any guide, in 10 -15 years I'll be visiting the great plumbing store in the sky. I didn’t want the wife or kids to be burdened by code violations when trying to sell the house.
    to a very simple stated reply from someone trying to help, expect the obvious and clearly stated fact that your idea is non-logical on many levels. With the possibility of failure being great. Plumbing systems run error-free for a long time when they are correctly functioning properly. Yours has problems you're not attempting to resolve. Proof: Property owners with septic systems that run literally without failure, years.


    Here's the bottom line

    A few months ago my sewer backed up (septic system) for the third time since I bought the home about 7 years ago. This was a surprise since the septic system had been ‘overhauled’ about a month before. The problem was a toilet tissue clog where the horizontal drain connects to the vertical pipe going to the storage tank.

    3 times, overhauled. You know what that means to a plumber? That means you don't want to spend money to fix the problem, you're band-aiding it and total replacement which you feel is beneath you to do, to REMOVE that burden of future responsibility is what I made mention of.

    You want to build a little gadget that no one will know how to operate but you in the basement so you can possibly avoid the obvious much needed resolution from the word contrast of

    OVERHAULED
    &
    REPLACED

    Take your spirited knowledge and invest it in a properly working plumbing system so when we meet up there someday in the plumbing supply house in the sky,

    You'll walk up to me, shake my hand and thank me for the knowledgeable instruction to do it right and relieve the burden of what should of been resolved before you left this fine world made for you and I.


    Find me 1/4" Tygon tubing in any plumbing code book in the united states, including PA with the associated ASTM# in accordance to such codes and applications. Code statute number would be helpful, but not required.
    Last edited by Dunbar Plumbing; 11-30-2007 at 04:34 PM.
    Read what the end of this sentence means.

  12. #12
    DIY Senior Member construct30's Avatar
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    I live in one of the most backward places, I think on the planet, no license, but inspectors and they do not leave any room for how a home owner wants to look at things. They go to school and take classes and learn the code and you do what they say or you can no longer live in your own house. Most states and local governments have given into the idea that even in licensed areas, a home owner has the right to work in his own home, but and a very big BUT, the work must be done according to certain standards, if not tear it out and try again if you want. It has to do with public safety. Have a party on a non-code compliant deck, it falls in and unsuspecting people get hurt or killed. You don't live in the world alone. Do the work yourself, have fun, but research, learn what you are doing, do it right and cut the BS, or hire it done.

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