Gurgling drains are a warning sign
Gurgling drains or gurgling toilets should never be ignored. A gurgling drain or gurgling toilet is giving you a friendly early warning sign that you are possibly about to experience blocked sewer drains.
Generally, the sounds of gurgling drains will be coming from your toilet or the bathroom floor waste drainage trap when you are using other plumbing fixtures. Simplistically, gurgling drains are similar to you experiencing an asthma attack because the drain is struggling to breathe.
Gurgling drains are trying to breath
When you experience gurgling drains or a gurgling toilet what has occurred in your underground sewer drains is that the drains are full of wastewater that is blocking or partially blocking the drains vent pipe that connects from your drain and extends up above your roof.
Therefore when you use any of your plumbing because the vent is not letting the drain breath, the drain creates a vacuum. The vacuum affects the trapping system in the toilet pan or floor waste trap or occasionally a laundry tub or overflow relief gully in an attempt to get air. Usually, only part of the water in the fixture trap is sucked out leaving the remainder of the water in the trap and it this water movement that causes the gurgling drains as air is sucked into the drain.
The interconnecting plumbing and sewer drainage system in your home is a straightforward system, but it must be able to breathe and get air into the system through your vent pipes. Many people believe that the vent pipe is a stink pipe to remove smelly sewer odours from the sewer drain. This is partially correct but the vent pipes other job is to equalise air pressures within your sewer drains and give you a balanced system that allows wastewater to flow.
Very simply whenever you flush the toilet or have a shower or turn your washing machine on the wastewater immediately runs into your sewer drains. Instantly in the drain, you get water and air displacement with a vacuum being created behind the flowing water that sucks air into the drain to equalise the pressure in your drain and allows the water to flow.
Gurgling drains should never ever be ignored as they seldom go away and should be investigated immediately by calling Whywait Plumbing now on (07) 5580 4311.
Traditionally toilets flushed 11 litres or 3 gallons of water every time they were flushed with the water all flowing along through a drainage system that was designed for large flows of water. Unless a drain was broken or roots entered the drain it was not common for a drain to block. That was of course until the advent of reduced flow dual flush toilets.
Now that toilet only flushes 4.5 litres of water on a full flush and 3 litres of water on a half flush into the drainage system. Coupled with reduced flows from every other tap this has produced a situation where drains designed for large flows of water have had the water flow reduced by 60% in most cases.
The increase in blocked drains due to the reduced water flows has been a big boost for plumbing companies such as Whywait Plumbing with drains clogging up for no other reason than lack of water flow. Often there is a dual problem of incorrect fall on the drain which creates high spots in the pipe leading to the drain becoming clogged at that point.
In Singapore scientists at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have invented a new toilet system that will reduce the amount of water needed for flushing by up to 90 per cent compared to current toilet systems. Dubbed the No-Mix Vacuum Toilet, it has two chambers that separate the liquid and solid wastes. Using vacuum suction technology, similar to those used in aircraft toilets it uses 0.2 litres of water for urine and 1.0 litres of water for solids.
The No-Mix Vacuum Toilet installed in a standard public toilet which is flushed 100 times a day, is expected to save 160000 litres of water a year. The NTU scientists are now looking to carry out trials by installing the toilet prototypes in two NTU public toilet facilities. This trial is important due to the issues that plumbers are already aware of with the drains blocking at 4.5/3 litre flushes so a 1.0/0.2 litre flush is expected to exacerbate this problem in existing buildings.
The No-Mix Vacuum Toilet with it’s two chambers that separate the liquid and solid wastes also will turn human waste into electricity and fertilisers. The No-Mix Vacuum Toilet will divert the liquid waste to a processing facility where components used for fertilisers such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium can be recovered. At the same time, the solid waste will be sent to a bioreactor where it will be digested to release bio-gas which contains methane. Methane is odourless and can be used to replace natural gas used in stoves for cooking. Methane can also be converted to electricity if used to fuel power plants or fuel cells. ‘Grey water’ (used water from the laundry, shower and kitchen sink) can be released back into the drainage systems without further need for complex waste water treatment, while leftover food wastes can be sent either to the bioreactors or turned into compost and mixed with soil, resulting in a complete recovery of resources.
The No-Mix Vacuum Toilet uses will be limited in traditional buildings but will be useful for eco resorts, new housing estates, hotels, resorts, and especially communities not linked to the main sewerage system or unable to be connected and so require their own sewerage facilities.
Associate Professor Wang Jing-Yuan, Director of the Residues and Resource Reclamation Centre (R3C) at NTU who is leading the research project, said that their ultimate aim is not only for the new toilet system to save water, but to have a complete recovery of resources so that none will be wasted in resource-scarce Singapore. “Having the human waste separated at source and processed on-site would lower costs needed in recovering resources, as treating mixed waste is energy intensive and not cost-effective,” Prof Wang said. “With our innovative toilet system, we can use simpler and cheaper methods of harvesting the useful chemicals and even produce fuel and energy from waste.”
The development of a No-Mix Vacuum Toilet has great potential for use on the Gold Coast in the development of tourist facilities in environmentally sensative areas where traditional sewerage systems cannot be installed.
Whywait Plumbing have noted the upward trend of annual increases in the amount of blocked drains occurrences that require clearing with high-pressure water jetting equipment since 2005, with even sharper increases since 2008.
This has generally been attributed to the advent of low flow dual flush toilets especially the 4.5/3 litre toilet suites.
Your house drain that connects to the sewer was designed when water flows were much more substantial than they are now. Traditionally a toilet flush was 11 litres and this flow was supplemented by inflows from the bathroom, kitchen and laundry. Prior to legislative changes in 2007 a shower deluged you with a flow of 25 litres per minute now that is 9 litres. Taps in the remainder of the house all had substantial flow rates of 20 – 25 litres per minute but now that is 6 litres per minute.
Consequently, it made sense that the 70% reduction in water flows was the cause of this rapid increase in blocked drains. Naturally, this made complete sense in homes and business premises that were new or had upgraded their taps and toilets. But why were we seeing an increase where no such upgrades had occurred. Over the last year, Whywait Plumbing Services like many other plumbing companies began noticing when undertaking a CCTV survey of a drain, large clumps of toilet paper that had not broken down in the water.
This issue with toilet paper has now reached a point where the National Plumbing Regulators have had a NATA laboratory undertaking research on the varying degrees of toilet paper quality and its influence on flow performance down a drain. Results to date are concerning as over 20 commercially available toilet paper brands were evaluated in full performance testing. There were an excessive number of these toilet papers whose performance in poor break down in water can potentially cause more blockages than others.
It’s interesting to note that none of the toilet paper culprits that have an increased potential to cause blockages are locally manufactured. Its even more interesting that the Federal Government has a committee investigating the dumping of commodities by China into Australia and one of these commodities is toilet paper. It is doubtful whether Coles and Woolworths are too concerned about what happens to this cheap toilet they import once its passed through their checkouts. Who knows what these toilet papers are really manufactured from?
These cheap toilet papers are dominant in commercial buildings where contract cleaning companies install the cheapest toilet paper they can purchase. This has resulted in alarming increases in blockages in commercial buildings.
So next time when you pick up that packet of toilet paper that is on special in the supermarket just have a look to see where it is manufactured or you may unknowingly be purchasing a blocked drain at the same time.
By Gary Mays