Trying to decide between the 550BP and 550Q open inflatable plugs? These plugs both provide a versatile solution for inducing pressure into 1-1/2″plumbing, but it can be hard to know which style is the right choice for your application. Each plug includes a tire valve attachment for inflating the plug itself and a male quick connect attachment for inducing pressure into the plumbing with your pressure tester, but the way they’re structured is different. Read on to learn about the key differentiating features.
The most prominent feature of this plug is that the inflation and induction attachments are on the end of 2’ hoses, which allows the plug to be lodged farther into plumbing. It can be pushed past valves, through pumps, or past threads on return fittings. Also, the bypass tube that runs through the plug for inducing pressure is made of flexible rubber, so the plug can be bent in order to move around 90 degree elbows or other tight spaces.
The bypass tube on this plug is small, which means it takes a longer time to pressure up lines when using it. Since it’s also flexible it can be pinched when the plug is over-inflated and prevent air/water from flowing freely.
The biggest benefit of this plug is that the bypass tube is made of metal instead of rubber. This allows water or air to pass through the plug at a higher volume, which saves time and produces clearer pressure testing results. The induction attachment is an “L” shaped quick connect right off of the top of the plug, which works especially well in pump bowls and valves. Both the flexible inflation hose and quick connect are attached to threads on the top of the plug, so they can be replaced with longer air or inducer hoses for added versatility.
The connections between the rubber and metal bypass tube on this plug are slightly weaker, so these plugs are more susceptible to wear and tear.
In general, inflatable plugs are more delicate than their mechanical, wing nut expanded counterparts. Their versatility and convenience make them an attractive option, but if you’re looking for a more durable, less-expensive solution, mechanical plugs are preferred. For 1-1/2” pipe the O45 Standard Open Plug or O45E Open Extender Plug can be used.
Water loss is the most obvious sign of a leaking pool, but are you able to recognize the other common symptoms? Watching out for these signs at your customers’ pools can help them get ahead of further damage and puts you in the position to he the hero that can solve the problem!
1. Water Level Changes
Dropping water level is the clearest sign a pool is leaking, but it’s important to determine if the water loss is due to evaporation or a leak. Evaporation rates vary depending on wind, air and water temperature, humidity, and other factors. Use our Evaporation Calculator to see the evaporation rate in your area based current weather data. Water loss in excess of that amount indicates that the pool is leaking.
2. Cracks or Falling Tile
Because the surrounding ground is becoming unsettled by the presence of excess water, cracks and tile movement are more likely to occur when a pool is leaking. Cracks or gaps in the bond beam may occur as the pool settles farther into the softened ground.
3. Wet Spots in Yard
Soft, mushy spots or uneven grass growth around the pool area may indicate a plumbing leak. Erosion due to water movement underground can cause landscaping to shift and sink.
4. High Water Bills
Automatic fill devices can hide leaks by keeping the pool filled. If you notice the autofill running constantly or increased water bills it’s time to start investigating for a leak.
5. Water Under Equipment
Standing water or corrosion at the pump or around pipes is a sure sign of a leak. Equipment leaks can often be found with just visual inspection.
6. Air or Dirt Blown Into Pool
If air or dirt is being pulled into the plumbing system through a leak, you may see that air or dirt being blown into the pool from the returns. This may also cause mysterious gurgling sounds.
7. Algae Growth
Continually adding new, untreated water to a leaking pool often leads to fluctuating chemical consumption and algae growth or discoloration. Instead of continuing to treat the water, finding and repairing a leak may be the solution.
We recently hosted Tyler and Kyle from the Pool Chasers podcast at our headquarters in St. Paul, MN to share a glimpse into our business and teach them about leak detection. After a day of training, they sat down with Lance (Owner) and Brad (Technical Sales Manager) to have a conversation about the history and values of our company as well as more tactical information about how to succeed in swimming pool leak detection. As a sponsor of the podcast we’re happy to be supporting Pool Chasers on their mission to educate and inspire the pool industry.
You can listen to the podcast on their website here or on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, YouTube, Soundcloud or Stitcher.
Customer reported that pool was losing water and suspected the skimmer line.
Based on the customer’s suspicion we started out leak job by running a dye test of the skimmer lines right away using the dye testing cones. The deep end skimmer was plugged while the shallow end skimmer was tested and vice versa. Both skimmers pulled dye. Since each skimmer had its own run from the pump, and since we had isolated each line by closing valves we thought that both lines had a leak.
In order to start pinpointing those leaks, we first pressurized the line with air from the deep end skimmer back to a closed valve at the equipment. We could immediately hear the bubbling noise of air escaping into water saturated soil right below the skimmer bowl.
Then, we checked the shallow end skimmer line by switching to inducing pressure from that skimmer bowl. There was no noise and a much slower pressure drop. After listening for a while but still not finding a noise and not seeing a significant pressure drop, we switched to inducing pressure from the valves to isolate each line individually. Using this approach the shallow end skimmer line held pressure and the deep end line made noise in the same spot we had heard before.
It turns out that the shallow end skimmer line was not leaking, but it had drawn dye through the pipes to the other skimmer break due valves that didn’t seal off properly. Pressure testing helped us determine that there was just the one leak, not two.
We also ran a Leakalyzer test on the shell of the pool while the lines were plugged. The results confirmed that the pool shell wasn’t losing water. We left the job having given the customer a clear leak location and the assurance that their pool would no longer be leaking once the plumbing repair was made.
Leaks can siphon through bad valves, which produces unclear results when dye testing. It’s important to understand how your tests may give deceptive information and perform secondary tests if you are left with any uncertainty. Pressure testing was able to verify the line was good despite drawing dye.
Opening the pump lid would have been an effective method of isolating the skimmers by creating an air break. Since the dye test was done early in our Initial Assessment we hadn’t yet opened the pump.
While Leakalyzer tests that show water loss are extremely valuable for more efficiently locating leaks, using the Leakalyzer to identify when no water loss is happening is just as valuable. One of the biggest wastes of time for a leak detector is trying to find a leak that doesn’t exist. But, leaks aren’t the only factors that cause a change in water level, and homeowners can be quick to call for help without considering the other factors that may be at play. In these situations the Leakalyzer can help confirm if in fact the pool is leaking before starting work. Or, once a leak has been found and repaired, a no water loss test can confirm that your repair is holding and that no other leaks are present.
Even though it seems like reading these tests should be straight forward, the Leakalyzer is so sensitive that minuscule changes in water level that are smoothed out during a water loss test show up more significantly on a no water loss test, making the trend harder to identify. The spikes that show up on the graph in these situations don’t mean it’s a bad test, they just show that the Leakalyzer is being extremely accurate. Because of the movement in pools, the water level is constantly going up and down slightly. Remember, the Leakalyzer is able to measure water level changes down to the 10,000th of an inch (the size of a red blood cell!), so you’ll see these tiny changes on your graph.
When looking at the graph, the ability to identify trends is the key to effective use and interpretation. You’re trying to look past the up and down spikes to identify if as a whole they are trending flat or downward. For instance, if you are 10 or 15 minutes into the test and still consistently spiking on either side of zero or the evaporation mark it is most likely a no water loss situation. However, if the test is going up and down but both the highs and the lows are consistently getting lower there is most likely a leak.
Another aspect to watch is the scale of the graph. The scale automatically adjusts based on the measurements that the Leakalyzer is recording. Sometimes when the pool isn’t losing water, the ups and downs on the graph can look drastic, but the scale of the graph is still at 0 to 30. This makes for very dramatic spikes with very little actual change in the water level. Zooming out to a 120 or 240 scale causes those spikes to look more realistic, and will help identify a flat line trend. Remember, a measurement of 100 on the scale is only equal to the thickness of a sheet of paper! Take a look at the below graphs to understand how the scale affects no water loss tests.
We were called to help out with an outstate pool that had a pesky leak causing between 1 and 2 inches of water loss per week. This pool had an auto cover which needs to be supported for the winter so it was important that the pool shell was leak free before winterizing the pool.
When we showed up the pool was very cold and had wrinkles everywhere, making it tough to identify suspect leak areas… the whole liner was a suspect! Once we got our initial Leakalyzer test going we immediately pulled out the LeakTrac 2400 to start scanning the liner from the deck. We quickly found a leak in the center of the pool – a place that would have taken hours and hours of cold water diving to find without the LeakTrac. The LeakTrac didn’t pick up any other leaks, so we knew the rest of the liner was good. We suited up in a dry suit and quickly patched the leak.
Once the leak was patched we ran a final Leakalyzer test to confirm the water loss had stopped. The pool owner was grateful for the peace of mind of going into the winter leak free with a supported auto cover.
The LeakTrac 2400 has made locating vinyl liner leaks so easy that these jobs tend to get overlooked as we are looking at case study content. As the water got colder this fall we were reminded how valuable this tool really is!
The LeakTrac 2400 is an invaluable tool for locating vinyl liner leaks, especially when dealing with a wrinkled liner and cold water.
Since auto covers can collapse if a pool loses water during the winter, the Leakalyzer is a great tool to give customers peace of mind that their pool is not leaking before closing it for the season.
As a leak detector, you’re always looking for ways to creatively isolate and test different pool elements to make your jobs more efficient. So, if you’ve already got a pool light covered to run the LeakTrac, try this tip to determine if the light is leaking using the Leakalyzer.
Once you arrive to the job and before setting up your LeakTrac, run a Leakalyzer test to establish what the baseline leak is. Then, once your LeakTrac is set up and the light cover is on, run a second test while you’re doing a scan with the LeakTrac. If the test shows less of a loss or no loss, you know to remove the light cover and investigate the light further.
Check out the below Leakalyzer reports to see how this technique worked on a recent job. Even if you don’t have a LeakTrac, the light cover can be purchased individually.
We were called to examine a new build that was losing 4” of water per day. It hadn’t been leaking for the first four days that it was filled but recently started rapidly losing water. When we arrived to the pool the water level was down below the skimmers, but the skimmer bowls were still full of water – indicating that those lines were not leaking.
Suspecting that the problem was in a plumbing line, we did a quick dye test of the returns and cleaner line with the dye testing cones, but they also were not drawing water. Our Leakalyzer test had been running during these initial observations, and indicated a loss of 3.5 inches per day. A quick scan with the LeakTrac showed no leaks in the liner, so it was time to dive down to the main drain. A dye test with the dye testing cones showed that line was the source of our water loss.
We then plugged the main drain lines while we were diving and ran a pressure test from the equipment back to the pool. The water pressure test confirmed the line was leaking, so we then started inducing air for sonic location. It took a while for the air to reach the leak, indicating that the leak wasn’t close to the equipment where the air was being induced. So, we used a hydrophone attached to our XLT30H listening device to start listening along the main drain lines where they ran close to the shell of the pool. We could hear the loud bubbling/gurgling noise of air escaping into water saturated soil near the base of the wall in the middle of the deep end.
Since the main drains were plugged we ran another Leakalyzer test to verify that the rest of the pool shell was not losing water and the main drain line was the only issue.
A main drain leak at the base of the wall is not a repair anyone wants to make, so to verify the sonic leak location we used a tube level. We attached a clear plastic tube to the end of a standard open plug in the main drain. Now, instead the leak draining water from the pool it drained the water in the tube. The tube leaked down to the level of the leak and then stopped. We colored the water in the tube with Leakmaster Fluorescent Dye to be able to clearly see the water level. The water level stopped right at the level that we had identified with the hydrophone.
The crew dug up the leaking plumbing line and found a stake had been driven through the pipe!?!
A hydrophone with digital sound graph is helpful when listening for main drain plumbing leaks through the shell of the pool.
The Leakalyzer helps verify the rest of pool isn’t leaking while pressure testing and pinpointing leaks in plumbing.
A simple tube level can help verify the depth of the leak before digging. Be creative with the materials you have on hand!
As the popularity of no-drain winterizing grows, it’s no surprise that there are new plugs to facilitate this process on the market. To help you understand how to evaluate these options, we set up a simulated pool plumbing system and tested the Duck Plug against our primary competitor’s blow-through plug. The tests were designed to imitate three key elements of the blow-out process and each test was performed using the Big Blue Blower. Check out our findings!
Water Purge Rate
At the initial stages of the line purging process 2-5 lbs of pressure is required to push water from the lines. During this phase Duck Plugs purge lines more than twice as fast as competitor’s plugs because the duck billed valve opens to a much larger unobstructed aperture. The competitor’s plug does not even open at lower pressures. This is especially a problem if using a lower performing blower and/or when some lines start blowing air and back pressure is reduced for the remaining filled lines.
Because Duck Plugs open to a larger aperture, and do so at lower pressures, they also allow substantially more air flow as lines begin blowing air. Air flow is important to clear all water from lines even in low spots. As more lines begin blowing air, the flow rate increases at the main line (trunk) but decreases at each spur (branch). To increase flow at spur lines, Duck Plug valves can be easily blocked with simple paper clasps whereas competitor plugs have no way of being blocked.
The lower flow rate of the competitor’s plug creates a higher back pressure during the clearing stages of the process for a longer period of time. The blower therefore labors harder and longer to clear lines. This will cause the blower to heat up faster and wear out sooner.
A final important difference was noted consistently during testing. The competitor’s plug slowly leaked water back into the purged line after the blower was turned off. This resulted from the conical seal being pulled back into the funnel shaped opening at a slight angle. Duck Plugs, on the other hand, have been tested in thousands of pools over the toughest of winters without any known case of valve failure.
Want to see the Duck Plug in action? Check out this video to see for yourself how Duck Plugs and the Big Blue Blower work together to clear plumbing lines quickly and effectively.
Wrinkles in vinyl liners are a common place to find leaks, but are much more challenging to repair than flat tears or holes. There are several products and techniques that can be used depending on conditions of the leak and wrinkle.
If the wrinkle can’t be pulled out, Flexible Sealer works well on its own. Once you squeeze it out onto the hole, it can be pushed down and spread with your finger to fill in the cavity of the wrinkle. Flexible Sealer will stretch and move with the liner so it lasts longer than more rigid repair materials.
If the liner has become thin or frail and it seems as though the hole or cut will continue to spread, Leakmaster Pool Glue provides an aggressive bond to vinyl and is strong enough to keep the vinyl from pulling farther apart. Pool Glue is only available in white, so it is best used with lighter liners or when aesthetics aren’t as important.