Plumbing Test Plugs are a fundamental requirement in plumbing tests. The integrity of testing plugs determines the success of the process while ensuring the safety of plumbers.

New methods using modern testing plugs have been developed, improving time and cost efficiency, and enhancing safety. Traditional testing plugs have many drawbacks, making them undesirable to contractors and building owners.

This article gives a comprehensive overview of the types of testing, problems encountered during testing, and possible solutions.

Types of Testing
Various Plumbing Test Plugs are used to test the integrity of pipes, such as inflatable test balls, hydraulic test plugs, plastic test plugs, etc. However, there are two main types of testing, namely

Hydrostatic testing
Hydrostatic testing is a type of testing where a liquid, usually water, is pumped into the pipes before being pressurised with air or gas. Water can’t be compressed, unlike air or gas solely used in pneumatic testing. It has fewer hazards making it the most recommended method.

There are instances where hydrostatic testing may not be applicable, such as

  • High purity piping systems where traces of liquids are unacceptable.
  • Design of the piping system. Some designs don’t allow a system to be pumped with a liquid testing medium.
  • When the owner demands their system be tested pneumatically.

Pneumatic testing
Pneumatic testing/pressure testing is the use of compressed air or gas, often nitrogen/helium, as a test medium. Air or gas is easily compressed in the system in the absence of a liquid. However, this method creates potentially dangerous stored energy making the procedure risky for the workers involved.

The dangers of pressure testing arise from the sudden accidental escape of stored energy which in some cases has been considered categorically equivalent to the strength that causes bomb explosions.

Problems Encountered During Testing
Whatever the method used, a plumber may encounter various problems.

Issues with hydrostatic testing:

  • On-the-job showers

Depending on the plumbing testing plug a plumber uses, especially for test tees, the water may go back and douse the workers. This can be uncomfortable and hazardous, especially if the water is polluted.

  • Losing testing plugs

If a residential plumber isn’t cautious, some types of test plugs can be pushed down the pipe by the force of the moving water. For instance, a plumber may have to bring down a concrete basement floor to retrieve a deflated ball that the water has pushed in.

  • Time wastage

Some testing plugs, such as inflatable balls, make the process tedious and time-consuming. They also require various tools and are non-repairable if they fail or develop a leak. Most contractors claim that an inflatable ball lasts for a maximum of five uses.

  • Safety concerns

A traditional plumbing testing plug, often an inflatable ball, can expose a plumber to various safety issues such as

  • When a test ball ruptures, the installer and floors get wet, creating a slip-and-fall hazard.
  • Spilled water could interact with power cords on the site, causing an electrocution risk.
  • Stuck hand. When a plumber deflates a test ball after completing the test, the water may push it abruptly past the tee opening. The rushing water’s force can pull a plumber’s hand, and their fingers get stuck between the ball and the pipe.
  • Flying objects. Sometimes a test ball may over-inflate and burst, sending flying shrapnel toward the installer.

Hazards of pneumatic testing
The pressure exerted during pneumatic testing is massive. It sends flying objects such as fittings, gauges, valves, and flanges toward the plumber. It can also send flying shrapnel (elements that shatter into small pieces due to the pressure).

The most common injuries from flying objects include eye damage, bruises, broken bones, lacerations, puncture wounds, mild brain traumatic injuries, and other internal injuries.

The inert testing gases may also escape and accumulate, causing asphyxiation to plumbers working in confined places.

There are various reasons why pneumatic/pressure tests backfire and cause injuries. They include

  • Poor quality testing equipment
  • Over pressurising the system
  • Lack of proper isolation of parts being tested for the other sections of the system
  • Placing equipment on the piping system under test
  • Poor system design
  • Inadequate repairs to the system
  • A plumber’s error

Possible Solutions
Although plenty of dangers are encountered during testing, plumbers can observe various measures to minimize hazards and ensure the work is completed efficiently. Such measures include

  • Proper training. All installers should be well-trained before being deployed to their respective working sites. Training equips them with knowledge about potential hazards and how to protect themselves.
  • High-quality testing equipment like the K-Valve System. Inferior equipment can be disastrous during a test. Plumbers should use high-quality equipment created by reputable manufacturers.
  • Using appropriate testing plugs, such as a sewer test plug, pressure test plug, or stormwater test plug for respective tests.
  • Establishing a communication system and an emergency response plan.
  • Consulting the system engineer to confirm the test and design pressures.
  • Ensuring that all test gauges are calibrated.
  • All personnel should wear protective gear such as safety glasses, hardhats, gloves, face shields, and hearing protection as required.
  • To avoid errors, plumbers should focus on the manufacturer’s guidelines and be well-prepared to prevent distractions.
  • Using the most current information given by the manufacturer.
  • Surrounding the test area to keep off non-essential personnel.
  • Ensuring a secure connection of test equipment to the system.
  • Informing the participating team when the process is beginning.

Best plumbing testing plug
K-Valve is a safe and highly efficient testing plug designed to test sewer and stormwater systems in residential, commercial, and industrial environments. Its unique design makes it time and cost-efficient and prevents plumbers from injuring their hands, wrists, and fingers.

Conclusion
A plumber may encounter various problems during plumbing tests with current plumbing test plugs. This can lead to property and equipment damage, injury to personnel, and added costs to property owners. Some of these problems arise due to inappropriate or substandard testing plugs, among other factors.

Whether you need a stormwater test plug, a pneumatic test plug, or a sewer test plug, ensure you get it from a reputable manufacturer for time and cost efficiency and safety to plumbers.