Oh, I guess you could say that winter is already here and it brings with it some challenges that we must take seriously in our industry. But let’s focus on just one for now…how should we care for our test kit?
As a Backflow assembly tester, your test kit is your lifeblood and the results of the tests that you perform are only as good as your equipment. Attention must be paid to maintaining the highest level of quality by respecting the limitations of your test kit at all times of the year. Test kits are delicate instruments which are not meant to be dropped. You should take care when charging up your kit to make sure you don’t water hammer it.
Do not over-tighten the needle valves on your kit. If the needle on your kit hitches or does not “zero out” with no pressure on it, it should be taken to be examined and re-calibrated. These are all useful tips no matter what time of the year it is.
As we enter the winter, we must factor in Cold Weather. Water that remains inside the test kit after a test is completed is just waiting for an opportunity to freeze and halt your productivity. Draining your test kit after every test is the best way to limit the potential damage caused by freezing. After every test, open all needle valves and allow water to drain. In some cases it may be helpful to loosen or even remove the hoses and tip the gauge forward and backward / side to side to make sure that you have drained the kit fully.
Even after draining, small amounts of water may be inside the test kit which will expand during freezing conditions and may (at best) knock the gauge out of calibration or (at worst) crack manifolds, rubbers or other damage which will render it useless. We all know that these kits are not cheap and we should be taking care of them. A properly cared for test kit should last for many years, but freeze damage is the most likely cause of needing an entirely new kit.
Another good habit to adopt is removing your test kit from your vehicle at the end of the day or when temperatures inside the vehicle are liable to drop to below freezing. I bring my test kit into the house at the end of every day and “remind myself” to put it back into my vehicle each morning by placing the lid from the bucket that I use on the seat. I do the same thing when my vehicle will be at the office for a period of time and freezing could occur.
Testing in an extremely cold or drafty environment should also be discouraged and of course the property owner or manager should be made aware of the danger that these temperatures pose to their plumbing.
As a final note, one of the services that Backflow Consulting provides is Gauge Accuracy Certification and we often see problems with test kits which are shipped to us during the winter months. Often, these kits are not drained properly and freezing conditions occur during the transit in shipping causing damage to the test kit.
We are never happy informing a customer that the kit they have sent us has frozen during the shipping process. Take special care when preparing to ship your test kit to us or anyone else because you do not know what conditions it will be exposed to along the way.
Have a great winter and stay warm!