Sewer jetters are machines that are utilized to clean pipes and drains of sewage systems. They use a pressurized jet of water, similar to that of a pressure washer, to clear obstructions that may be blocking sewage pipes.
They are used in commercial, residential, and municipal sewage systems and are commonly used by plumbers.
If you do not wish to pay for a plumber, there are ways that you can construct your own sewer jetter from a pressure washer. Many households already own one of these, making it a cheap and easy way to fix your plumbing.
Regularly cleaning out your sewer pipes will keep them in a good condition and hopefully eliminate the need for hiring professional plumbers.
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How does a sewer jetter work?
A highly pressurized hose is wrapped many times around a mechanical wheel. This can rotate to drop the hose into the pipes and pull it back out. It has a nozzle at the tip to direct the pressurized jet of water with a high level of accuracy. This nozzle has between 3 and 6 openings to allow multiple streams of water to escape at once.
This pressurized water is then aimed at the blockage. This could be anything from a clump of toilet paper, a large hairball, grease and sludge, and sometimes even the roots of trees!
This obstruction could slowly be building over time as debris begins to stick to the sides of the pipes. This will then gradually narrow the aperture of the pipes until the water can no longer pass through.
This is commonly fixed by snaking the sewers – running a long cable down the pipes to dislodge major blockages. The advantage of using a sewer jetter is that it not only dislodges the obstruction, but it cleans the interior of your pipes at the same time.
Top range sewer jetters can reach water pressure of up to 4,000 PSI and have up to 18 gallons of water running through every minute. The higher the pressure of the water, the more effective the sewer jetter.
Can you use a pressure washer as a sewer jetter?
Yes, you can. That being said, they are likely to be much less powerful meaning that the stream of water is weaker.
This does not mean that they are ineffective, but they are unlikely to be able to handle large obstructions as well as a real sewer jetter.
What do you need to consider before doing it?
PSI and GPM
These stand for pounds per square inch and gallons of water per minute, respectively. Generally speaking, pressure washers and sewer jetters will have roughly similar PSI ratings. Sewer jetters have a PSI of from 1,500 – 4,000.
Depending on the type of pressure washer you own, the PSI ratings range from 1,300 – 2,800. Gas-powered pressure washers tend to be towards the upper end of this range, whereas electric pressure washers fall at the lower end.
The GPM is where home pressure washers really fall down when compared to sewer jetters. Sewer jetters have a GPM anywhere from 4 – 30 GPM. The smaller ones tend to fall between 4 and 9 GPM and the trailer-mounted ones are higher. In contrast, pressure washers tend to be between 2.2 and 10 GPM.
As a general rule, you will need 1 GPM for every inch of your pipe’s diameter. If your GPM rating is only slightly below what you need we suggest trying it out anyway.
Hose and nozzle attachments
The hose of a sewer jetter is long, light, flexible, slippery, and resistant to abrasion. This allows it to travel down the pipes with ease. The hose is dragged through the pipe due to the design of the nozzle.
There are many different sewer jetter nozzle types available. The main point of difference is the angle of the jet holes which face backward. This is what drives the motion of the hose through the sewage pipes.
If the holes’ angles are 15 – 20 degrees then the hose will have a lot of momentum to move through the pipes. They will not clean the walls of the pipes thoroughly.
If the angles are 30 – 35 degrees, this is the optimum nozzle for regular usage. They have a good balance of wall cleaning and momentum. Nozzles with an angle over 40 degrees are known as flushing nozzles. These will clean the walls brilliantly, but they have very little thrusting power and are only really used on short sections of pipe.
They also have different noses – either a pointed jet or a rounded button.
How to turn your pressure washer into a sewer jetter
To do this, you will need to purchase a sewer jetter conversion kit. This usually consists of a jumper and jetter hose, ball valves, a hose reel, and nozzles to stick onto your spray gun.
They are very simplistic kits and differ mainly in the nozzle design and hose length.
To begin the conversion process, connect the pressure washer hose to the pressure. Remove the spray gun from the hose of the pressure washer.
Install the ball valves where the spray gun used to be. Fasten this to the jumper hose.
Attach the exposed end of the jumper hose to the jetter hose, which should be wrapped around the hose reel at this point.
On the exposed end of the jetter hose, attach your chosen nozzle. Insert this hose into the pipe that you are attempting to clean.
Now you’re all set. All you need to do at this point is to turn on the pressure washer and begin cleaning.
Pull the hose up and out of the pipe by wrapping it around the hose wheel.
You should check over the nozzle for any signs of damage. These could include worn threads, blockages, or cracks.
It is vital to depressurize the system before you take off the nozzle. Make marks along the hose with gaps of 3 inches between them. This will indicate how close the nozzle is to coming out.