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Contractor Spencer Bell Finds Safer DWV Testing System with TestRite

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A System for Safer Drain, Waste and Vent Tests Worker safety has always been one of Spencer Bell’s biggest
concerns when it came to drain, waste and vent (DWV) testing. The plumbing shop manager for a large mechanical contractor based in Colorado stays on the lookout for products and processes that can increase safety and productivity in their operations.

“We’ll bring certain products into our shop and test against them and understand how they work,” he says. So, when Spencer learned about a new DWV testing device that could substantially reduce the risk of injuries and water leaks while making the testing process easier, he shared it with the company’s superintendents, who are responsible for choosing and ordering DWV supplies for their jobs.

“How we used to test back in the day was with a rubber blowup ball, and you would pump that up and hope it would hold,” Spencer says, describing how 400 gallons of water suspended in a 6-inch pipe is likely to react when a foreman reaches in to release the seal on the inflatable test ball.

“You’ve got to be able to let the air out and pull the ball out of the tee, and probably nine times out of 10 it doesn’t turn into the right situation,” he says, explaining how head pressure on the device can injure workers if their hands or fingers get caught, and often leads to water spillage inside of structures. “This is a pretty dangerous ordeal,” he says. “I never wanted to be that guy that went in there and let the test balls out.”

Water leaks also damage structures and lead to ice in cold temperatures, Spencer adds, not to mention the likelihood that foremen will get drenched in the process. Another worry is that test balls or plugs could be pushed down into the sewer system, requiring costly remediation measures. Spencer also points to the risk of user error as yet another concern. “Someone could easily overinflate a test ball and then if there’s any kind of burr in the system, it will pop.” Many of these issues were resolved a few years ago when the company began using HoldRite’s new TestRite DWV Inline Testing system for a majority of its DWV projects. The lab-tested, multi-component system lets workers fill or drain the water test pressure from a valve on the outside of the plumbing system, without reaching inside to adjust the device. Alternatively, water in the system can be flushed down the drain, without having to remove the device. This prevents water spillage related to releasing the seal and allows for easier filling as well as partial drainage.

With TestRite, pipes are filled from the bottom up, at the point of the test, which eliminates the need for technicians to climb stairs and ladders to fill pipe systems. Filling from the bottom also means fewer air pockets in the testing system, Spencer says, which makes for more accurate and speedier tests. All told, Spencer says, TestRite means faster drainage as well as faster retests. “Say I have a leaky fitting or Tee somewhere up in the ceiling and it needs to be repaired and retested. You simply hook the hose up to TestRite,” he says. “You can let off the test for whatever amount you need to and then make the repair and fill it back up from that point.”

With test balls and test plugs, on the other hand, there is no partial drainage. All of these features result in significant time savings per job, he says. Spencer says running the numbers on the TestRite Test Tees and Test Wedge showed the product to be no more expensive than cast iron tees and inflatable test balls, while also reducing the time it takes for the DWV testing process. You can let off the test for whatever amount you need to and then make the repair and fill it back up from that point.

“The test balls are very expensive and they don’t last forever,” he adds, noting that the TestRite components can be purchased separately and the test wedges are reusable. Now he says, TestRite is preferred by just about all of the company’s superintendents, and its use has been written into the company’s list of best practices. “We’ve probably used every type of product out there,” he says. “It’s definitely innovative, it’s lightweight and it’s not a cumbersome testing apparatus to use,” Spencer says. “To me, it’s a no-brainer.”