Shopping Cart


Your cart is currently empty.


Method Spotlight: Pipe Inspection Cameras

Underground pipe leaks are often considered the most difficult swimming pool leaks to find, especially because it’s so important to be confident in the location of the leak before beginning costly repairs. Recognizing the benefits and limitations of different pipe leak location methods can help you choose the right method for the situation.

The allure of being able to actually see underground pipe leaks and locate them precisely makes the use of pipe inspection cameras with sondes an appealing option. While other methods may generally be faster or have a higher success rate, when used in the right situations pipe inspection cameras can play a critical role in swimming pool leak detection.

When To Use:

Generally, pipe inspection cameras are used as a backup method when sonic leak location does not work or as a way to confirm the location of a leak found with an alternate method. Cameras tend to be more advantageous when there are large leaks, suction side leaks, or flex pipe with few elbows or T fittings. The one situation where we would recommend using an inspection camera before attempting sonic leak location is if there are air bubbles coming into the pump from a specific suction line.

Additionally, the locator that is used to identify the camera head location via sonde transmitter can be used to trace where plumbing lines run. This feature can be beneficial when used together with sonic leak location to narrow your search area.


The process for using a pipe inspection camera is simple – feed the camera through the line to visually inspect the inside of the pipe. Typically, pipe inspection cameras will feature a small camera on the end of a flexible rod that can be pushed through the plumbing line. The camera will record a live visual of the inside of the pipe that can be viewed on a screen from the deck. Once a leak is identified, a transmitter on the camera head can be located from above ground with a locator to identify the precise location of the camera head and leak.

While feeding the camera through the pipe, watch for:

  • Cracks
  • Punctures
  • Blockages or crushed pipe
  • Air being pulled into the pipe while under suction
  • Movement of leak locating dye


It may not be possible to get the camera to the leak location.

Navigating the many 90-degree elbows and T-fittings in swimming pool plumbing poses a challenge. Fortunately, many of the new smaller inspection cameras can get past several 90-degree elbows with an aggressive push. This is especially the case with elbows close to the camera entry point, but the further down the plumbing line the camera gets, the less likely it is that the camera head will slide past an elbow. One way to help maneuver through bends is to tie a string to the end of the camera and gently tug on it to keep the camera head from getting stuck while pushing past elbows or T’s.

While camera designs and strings can help get a camera further down the line, there are still real limitations to getting a camera to certain points in pool plumbing. Long runs of plumbing, multiple jets on one line, and spa jets can prove difficult or impossible with the inspection camera method.

Swimming pool plumbing is hard on inspection cameras.

Pushing cameras through narrow pool plumbing can be hard on them, but durability has improved over the years and many cameras do a better job of taking the abuse of pool plumbing than they used to. It’s important to be mindful that the connection between the camera head and cable is especially vulnerable to damage when pulling the camera back through plumbing. Additionally, while getting a camera head stuck in the line isn’t common, it can happen.

The leak may not be visible even if the camera can reach it.

Pipe inspection cameras work best in large water loss situations where severed pipe or large cracks are clearly visible. However, sometimes smaller pipe leaks are impossible to see. For instance, a poorly glued fitting looks fine from the inside. Or, a crack on the inside of an elbow often isn’t visible due to the camera head position and angle. It is not uncommon to go right past the leak and not notice. In this case, administering leak locating dye in front of the camera near suspect areas in a option to test for or verify a leak location. This is done by attaching dye tester extension tubing to the camera head and feeding it into the pipe along with the camera. While this can help, it’s best to dye test within about 1/4″ of a suspected leak and dye often can’t be placed that precisely when it is injected this way.

The clearest visual you can get of a leak is when air bubbles get drawn into suction side plumbing through the leak when the pump is running. When this is the case, inspection cameras can be inserted through a skimmer or main drain to identify where the air is coming into the line.

Using pipe inspection cameras is time intensive.

While the pipe inspection camera method has some great benefits, time savings is not one of them. As with any method, you could get lucky and find the leak right away, but could also spend significant time watching the screen while wiggling the camera inch by inch through long plumbing runs. Plus, there are a surprising number of things in pool plumbing that look like leaks but may not actually be causing water loss. So even if you find what you think is a leak, you often have to use a secondary method to verify that it is indeed a source of water loss.

Key Equipment Features:

With many options on the market, there are a few characteristics to consider when purchasing a pipe inspection camera for swimming pools.

  • Clear and Well-lit Screen – Since most swimming pools are outside, a bright screen is important. Adjustable light settings on the camera head are also helpful.
  • Sonde Transmitter – Make sure the camera head is equipped with a transmitter than can be picked up with a locator.
  • Push Rod Length – Since most leaks are generally close to the pool or close to the equipment, you might be able to get by with a shorter camera rod length of 65′, but in order to inspect as much plumbing as possible, a 100′ length is desirable. You can enter from both ends of the pipe if needed.
  • Camera Head Size – Due to the prevalence of 1.5″ plumbing in swimming pools, you will want a smaller camera head that fits in that size pipe.
  • Push Rod Strength – The push rod should be more flexible for smaller piping (0.75 – 2″ piping) and stiffer for larger piping (2.5″ and up). Flexibility is often signified by cable diameter.
  • Durability and Reparability – Pool plumbing is hard on cameras – quality matters and so does the ability to repair the camera if you have issues.

Bottom Line:

While pipe inspection cameras are not needed to locate most underground pipe leaks, they can provide great value to the swimming pool leak detection process. The ability to locate the precise location of a leak through the use of a sonde and locator is unique, and providing pictures and videos of the leak can increase your professionalism. Plus, these images are great additions to a report. While inspection cameras may not be the go-to method in many situations, their inclusion in your toolbox is justified.

Case Study: Persistence Pays Off


Type of Pool:

Gunite Spa/Pool

Equipment Used:

LeakalyzerXLT30H, Hydrophone ,Dye, Ridgid Inspection Scope,  Ridgid Micro Drain Reel, Pressure Testing Equipment, Dye Testing Cones


The customer called because their pool would leak down to the tile line and stop, so they wanted us to locate the leak and asses the tile line to determine if a full renovation was needed. When we got to the pool the water level was filled to the normal level as we requested, but the customer pointed out where it would typically leak down to which was an inch below the skimmer, but a couple inches above the jets. It seemed as though we were in for a quick tile line crack location and putty repair.


We ran a Leakalyzer test to get a better understanding of how fast the pool was losing water and while doing so started listening with a hydrophone to the suspected tile line. A quick trip around the pool with the hydrophone didn’t uncover any suspect areas. We moved on to dye testing because sometimes small leaks don’t make enough noise for the hydrophone. After dye testing the whole tile line we were able to confirm that there were no leaks in the shell of the pool at the level where the water drained down to. It turns out this job was going to be a little more complicated than we thought!

We checked our ongoing Leakalyzer test which was showing a current rate of over 20” per day of water loss (small pool, big leak). To do a quick check of the plumbing lines we used the Dye Tester Cones and learned that the jet returns drew dye like crazy. Because the water level stopped higher than the jets we began to suspect the blower line instead of the jet return line. A pressure test confirmed the suspected line was leaking as we couldn’t even build any pressure. A Leakalyzer test with the jet returns plugged confirmed the rest of the pool was not losing water, so we knew we could be done with any further testing in the shell of the pool.

Since the equipment pad was positioned lower than the pool, in order to induce air from the high side of the plumbing we had to use one of the jet returns. When we started listening with the XLT30H there was a loud noise right above where we were inducing pressure that actually seemed to echo throughout the pool. There were two places that seemed louder and more distinct than the other areas though: the jet fitting and a place where the pipes presumably ran underneath the pool. We deduced that even though we were inducing from the high side of the plumbing, since the leak was in the blower line the air had to travel through remaining water in the jet line, creating some of and perhaps all the noise we were hearing. To confirm this suspicion, we switched and induced pressure from the other side of the plumbing. After this switch the sound in those two locations went silent. This confirmed we were hearing the sound of air traveling through remaining water in the pipe and not air escaping out of the leak into water saturated soil.

The lack of noise around the pool forced us to look closer to the equipment which would mean that the leak had to be well below where the water level stopped.  It turned out there was a Hartford Loop for the blower line, but it wasn’t high enough and thus didn’t stop water from draining back through until the water level reached the familiar point on the tile.  We suspect someone made a modification to the blower plumbing at some point for aesthetic reasons and buried the loop without understanding its purpose.

Building enough pressure for a quick sonic location was difficult and since we had easy access to the flexpipe  we used a Ridgid Micro Drain Scope and a line locator to pinpoint the exact location. About 15 feet in we saw what appeared to be a cracked pipe due to freeze damage.

To verify the crack we saw was our leak, water was induced into the blower line from the high side of the plumbing and we pulled that camera back towards the low side of the plumbing watching for the water flow to stop.  Sure enough the water was flowing into this crack.  The crack was dye tested with extension tubing from Anderson Manufacturing affixed to the end of the camera. The dye was drawn into the crack a well. The crack was about 8’ long and on both sides of the pipe – so no wonder we couldn’t build pressure!


  1. Just because water stops at the tile line doesn’t mean it’s the tile line that’s leaking!
  2. Inducing pressure from both ends of plumbing can be a way to verify if you’re hearing a leak noise vs air traveling through water in pipe. If noise is only audible when you induce from one end it may be standing water in the pipe not air escaping into water saturated soil.
  3. Dye Tester Extension Tubing can be taped to inspection cameras for leak verification or location.
  4. Persistence paid off, but this one was a bit misleading and ended up being time consuming. Some leaks are more tricky than others!


Pipe Inspection Camera Use and Selection

Pipe Inspection Cameras for Swimming Pool Use

The digitalization and resulting miniaturization of cameras over the past years has led to a proliferation of inspection cameras for all types of uses.  There is great benefit to being able to “get into” and see areas that have previously been inaccessible. Pipe inspection has been a major area of application and product development for this technology.

Naturally, because of the prevalence of underground plumbing, there is great interest and intrigue in applying this technology to the swimming pool industry.  Indeed, an inspection camera may prove to be an important part of your equipment arsenal for finding leaks and other related problems.   As you consider an investment in the wide range of options available, it’s important to consider the unique characteristics of pool plumbing and the types of problems you’re looking for, as well as establish a clear expectation of the real benefit and usefulness they will provide to your business.

One Length Does Not Fit All

Many leak problems can be identified within the first several feet on an access point. In these situations, affordable fiber optic technology can be applied to the problem.  The Rigid Inspection Scope comes with a 3 foot flexible extension that allows you to get into easy to access small openings.  Range can be extended with optional 3 foot extension (providing up to 6 feet of reach).  Inspection Scopes are great for looking inside return fittings, skimmer throats, and light niches without having to get into the pool.  Extension tubing for dye testers can be taped to the side of the extension with the tip extending in front of the camera in order to dye test in these hard to reach spots.

If you want to go further than the first several feet into a pipe you will have to add a Camera/Push Rod system to the Inspection Scope.  These robust systems have become a staple item in the plumbing, sewer, and municipal industries.  Their use on swimming pool plumbing, however, offers certain challenges.

Pool Plumbing: A World of Small Pipes and Lots of Corners

The first thing to consider about pool plumbing is that relatively speaking (at least in terms of where most pipe inspection cameras are used),  it is on the very smallest end of range most cameras can be used on. Pushing a camera into this small pipe, especially around elbows and T’s presents problems.  Bruce Roache of CT says that in 1 1/2″ plumbing his Rigid Micro Camera is “great on straight runs and can reliably get through the first 90 degree bend, but it has been so difficult to get past a second 90 degree corner that I don’t do it anymore for fear of getting it stuck or damaging it as I pull it out.”  Christine Pearson of Excaliber Leak Detection in MD uses her Rigid Nano extensively and can get it through more than one elbow.  But she admits that even this device can be damaged when pushed too far.  “If you are hoping a pipe camera will enable you to quickly inspect an entire plumbing system you will be disappointed. A camera won’t replace other methods of detecting and locating leaks in the plumbing.  But, if you want clear evidence of problems in the areas it can reach, the images and video it provides can’t be beat.”  Actually being able to see things like big leaks, obstructions in the line, and crushed pipe can help determine the cause and repairability of the problem, and communicate clearly with the customer.

Bubbles are clearly visible from this suction side leak while the pump is running.

While small PVC pipes with elbows and T’s can pose problems, straight runs and flex-pipe are prime applications for a Camera/Push rod system.  “It is awesome in flex-pipe,” says Roache.  “Although I think flex-pipe is terrible, it is very common in my area.  Nothing is more convincing to a customer, pool builder, or building inspector than a live video image of the leak, the problem, or the building code pass/ fail issue!”

“We use it extensively on flex-pipe,” says Christine.  “It’s especially useful on skimmer lines where we can show evidence of the damage chlorine tablets in the skimmer basket produce, or even see bubbles being pulled through a leak while the pump is on.”

Chlorine damage on flex pipe

You Found the Leak, Now Where is the Camera?

Once a problem has been found with a camera, determining its location on the deck so a repair can be made is the next step.  Depending on how far in you’ve pushed the camera, and your knowledge of where the lines run, you may be able to estimate the location.  Otherwise, you’re going to need to invest in one more piece of equipment.  A line locator detects a radio frequency signal emitted by a transmitter built into the camera head.  The line locator will enable you to determine location, direction of run, and depth of the pipe.  These devices can also detect signals in conductive pipes, tracer wires, electrical lines, or battery operated transmitters that aren’t incorporated with the cameras.  For many pool leak specialists, adding a camera and line locator to their tool arsenal has been the catalyst to expanding their business into other lucrative location/inspection markets.

A Note on Purchasing Equipment

Once you have decided whether an inspection camera and scope system is a worthwhile investment, there are a lot of options out there for purchasing .  A quick search on the internet will reveal a multitude of devices at all levels of sophistication, quality and country of manufacture.  Because swimming pool use can be hard on cameras (pushing and pulling them through sharp 90’s) don’t compromise on quality.  We distribute Ridgid products because we feel most comfortable with their experience and knowledge of the swimming pool industry.  Ridgid has also proven to be responsive when repairs are needed.  Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Visa, Discover, MasterCard, American Express, & PayPal