How Does Acoustic Leak Detection Work?

There are several warning signs for plumbing leaks, ranging from sudden puddles in your backyard to a drop in your water pressure, or a build-up of water in your walls or ceilings, all with potentially disastrous consequences. One thing is for certain, it needs to be fixed fast, but how?

The process of leak detection can be lengthy, costly, and can even lead to plumbers tearing up your walls in search of the issue – but what if you could avoid all that? This is where the acoustic leak detection method comes in.

Home Leak Detection Methods

Before we get into that the technical aspects of acoustic leak detection, let us first review some simple ways you can detect leaks yourself. After all, if you can do so on your own, it can save you a call to your plumber, saving them time and your money.

As mentioned above, there are many signs of a plumbing leak, and while we will discuss the acoustic leak detection methods , there are still plenty of things for you to check first.

For one thing, you could take that same acoustic approach but in a more “low-tech” manner. While we breakdown on how acoustic leak detection machines work below, your ears have their own “acoustic” leak detection method in their own way. Knowing how and where to listen for plumbing leaks can drastically increase your chances of spotting them. For example, if you suddenly start hearing running water in places or at times you did not before.

One of the first signs of a plumbing problem can be damaged wallpaper and paint, specifically if they start to peel or suddenly appear contaminated with mould. Of course, there could be several different reasons why your wallpaper might become torn, and chipping and flaking is inevitable with the paint aging process. That said, if your wallpaper or paint are relatively new but are already displaying these flaws, or have only recently begun to do so, water damage causing the paint or sticky side of the wallpaper to lose their bonding with the wall may be the culprit.

Wall damage itself may be a clue that you have a plumbing problem. For example, if you have a plumbing leak, the water can start to eat away at the wall’s strength, causing cracks and discoloration. This can also breed mould, which can also eat away at your walls, leave a nasty odour and, left unchecked, can produce a toxic environment in your home. If you feel your wall’s plaster has become soft, especially at a spot where the plumbing pipes come into contact with or are adjacent to the wall, water damage is likely the main cause.

The same holds true for floors. Sudden puddles, discoloration, and grout build up can be a sign of leaks.

Mould and mildew are of particular concern. Both tend to flourish in dark, moist areas – all of which fit the bill for a plumbing leak. These black and brown odious spots are not only sure to leave your guests wrinkling their noses, but can severely damage your property value, not to mention the structural integrity of the walls and ceilings in which they take residence.

If you are able to detect a leak via any of these clues, or simply see or hear one, you will want to call a professional plumber straightaway to fix it as soon as possible, which is where acoustic leak detection comes in.

What Is it?

As the name would imply, this method focuses on detecting leaks by identifying waterflow through sound, but how does that work?

If you have ever heard the distinct gurgle of a plumbing problem in progress, you might have a guess. More often than not, when there is a plumbing problem, this may cause the “sound” of your plumbing to be different than normal.

While you may not be able to pick up on normal plumbing sounds, let alone aberrations in them, plumbing professionals and their acoustic leak detection equipment often can. This is what forms the core of the approach. It not only makes leak detection faster and more accurate, but it also avoids the problem of plumbers smashing into your walls to inspect pipes only to find the leak is elsewhere.

While traditional plumbing methods try to solve methods with a sledgehammer (literally), acoustic leak detection approaches and resolves the plumbing problem with surgical precision.

Toscano Plumbing can do this by using echo detection and imaging technology. Think of how bats find their way in the dark. They are blind, but they emit sounds which then bounce off objects and are picked up by their highly sensitive ears, allowing them to “see” where they are going via the acoustic information they receive.

That is part of how acoustic leak detection technology works as well. Audio components work in conjunction with imaging software to show plumbers where the leak is coming from.

Different Sounds

That is not the only way that this technology is able to pick up on where a leak may be coming from. There is also the fact that different water flows sound different. There are several factors that can impact how a water leak sounds, from how far it is from the wall to the water pressure to any soil or other materials present and so on. Plumbing experts can notice that difference and use it to help find the probable source of the leak, and then use their acoustic technology to confirm their suspicions before they proceed.

Pipe and Cable Technology

This method makes use of electromagnetic transmission to map out the location of a potential water leak amidst the other water lines in your home. Because your other water lines will naturally make noise and register on the electromagnetic sensors in their own way, these machines are quite sensitive and are calibrated to pick up even the slightest deviation. Likewise, the specialists operating the machine need to be able to recognise those deviations for the signs of the leak.

Plumbing specialists will then place a transmitter close to the ground, which will then induce a frequency which it can detect as it radiates off the pipes or cables nearby.

This also makes it easier for the acoustic leak detector itself to do its work.

Acoustic Leak Detection Technology

This can also be done with the acoustic leak detector itself. Once this transmitter and electromagnetic resonance work has given the plumbing team a more precise idea of the basic layout of the water pipes in your plumbing setup, or once experts have identified the plumbing issue with the acoustic leak detector, it’s time to get to work with the main issue.

Experts will connect a stopper to the line they believe to be the source of the leak. This stopper will open and close the valves in such a way as to create rhythmic pulsations. These pulsations are what is required to accurately track the location of a leak. This is done via a listening stick.

The closer the listening stick and other detection equipment are to the pipes, the stronger the feedback and the louder the sound will be. Plumbing experts are essentially able to play a game of “Hot and Cold” to find the location of the pipes and, ultimately, the leak. The fainter the sound and the weaker the feedback, the “Colder” they are, and as it starts to get louder and the feedback stronger, they get “Hotter” and hotter until they find the location of the leak.

That point is then marked, and the process is continued down the entire pipeline, allowing the imaging equipment to create a full map of the pipes as well as where the leaks are likely to be.

Now the true acoustic detection procedure can begin.

Headphones and a touchscreen are utilised to help pinpoint the exact location of the leak. (If you are worried about the wires of all these electronics being a hazard amidst potentially leaking water, do not worry – Toscano Plumbing use a wireless setup).

To identify leaks that are coming from beneath the surface, advanced ground microphones are utilised. There can be several potential issues with using these microphones for example the wind interfering with the resonance. However, the units feature a special fitting for protection against the wind to preserve the integrity of their imaging and are built to withstand the elements.

From there, things proceed as they would with an indoor leak, with the acoustic technology working to find and map loud sounds and using that information to find the likely location of the leaks.

Depending on whether your leak is indoors or outdoors as well as the nature of the leak itself, there are many specialised types of microphones that can be used for the acoustic detection and imaging task.

Tracer Gas Leak Detection Technology

Some locations can be in particularly noisy area, or there is a lot of noise clustered in a single spot. This can make it difficult to separate where the pipes and plumbing are located.

In this case, Toscano Plumbing’s leak detection specialists have another acoustic trick up their sleeve – tracer gas leak detection.

This method involves injecting a safe mixture of hydrogen and nitrogen into a pipeline where a leak is suspected to be taking place. Nitrogen works as a carrier gas to help deliver the mixture, while the hydrogen itself is used to help detect the leak due to how light it is.

As the light hydrogen atoms try to escape the enclosed area, they can permeate covered surfaces. At that point, specialised probes can be used to detect abnormal activity which can help determine where the leak is, how deep it is, and the way it is flowing.

This technique can be used for gas as well as water leaks.

Benefits of the Tracer Method

In addition to the benefits of the acoustic detection method, there is also plenty to be said for the tracer method as well.

It is highly accurate. This can be said for both methods, but the fact that this method can work for water as well as gas and is quite accurate with both is nothing short of impressive.

This method also works fast, allowing you to receive the results of your detection efforts far sooner than you would be able to with conventional methods. Given the importance of resolving leaks as quickly as possible, the importance of this cannot be overstated.

Finally, there is the fact that this method is completely safe. It is not toxic, combustible, corrosive, and when administered properly should not endanger your pipes or your home in any way.

Benefits of the Acoustic Leak Detection Method

There are many benefits to working with the acoustic leak detection method, not the least of which being that their imaging technology can work on big and small leaks alike. If the differences can be registered on the touchscreen tracking and mapping, there is a good chance that the plumbers will be able to find the leak.

That is because acoustic leak detection is, a resilient and adaptable system. While the sensors are quite sensitive, the equipment and methodology are very versatile and can be used in a variety of different settings. Whether you are looking to map a vast corporate plumbing system or your own backyard, have a large leak or a tiny one, this system can be of immense help in tracking down the problem and resolving it once and for all.

This, in turn, means that you can mitigate the amount of damage a leak can do to your property. Left unchecked, leaks can do massive amounts of damage, much of which can potentially be irreparable if left alone for long enough, including the damage that can result from a mould or mildew infestation, as mentioned above. You cannot afford plumbing fixes to drag on for weeks. With the help of Toscano Plumbing’s acoustic leak detection method, the plumbers can locate, isolate, and resolve your leak issues in a quick, timely, and effective fashion.

Experience on Your Side

When it comes to something as essential to the future of your home or place of business as detecting a leak and fixing your plumbing issues, you naturally want to turn to a team you can trust. That is especially true when such highly advanced leak detection methods as acoustic and tracer systems are being employed.

That’s why the professional and experienced team at Toscano Plumbing are proud to be able to point to more than six decades of dedicated service. With a blend of new technology and old hands on the job, the team will work to locate your leak as quickly as possible, strive to find the best solution for the problem, and put their expertise to work for you in solving it.

Contact the best plumbing experts in the Melbourne area for acoustic and tracer detection as well as general plumbing inspections and repairs today.

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