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What even is non-intrusive leak detection?

Updated: May 18, 2022

Plumbing is one of those industries that is crucial to many but is also a confusing and often alienating world. Finding leaks through non-intrusive methods is a prime example of a process that is often required but not really understood. Having a basic understanding of plumbing practices and how repairs and maintenance is done is very important as it reduces the dependence on plumbers for basic fixes and allows you to have more of an idea of what work is being done to your home and why it’s actually necessary.

It’s all too common in the trades world to have that sense of dread, that sense that you’re overpaying and the work being done isn’t that necessary. At the end of the day, skilled labour will carry a decent sized bill and in the industry of finding leaks, this charge often comes at a time of emergency. This article is here to better explain the non-intrusive processes involved in finding a leak, why these techniques are used and why they are reliable.

What is non-intrusive leak detection?

Put simply, non-intrusive or non-invasive leak detection is a way of locating leaks without causing damage to your property or pipe system. This often means a quicker and more efficient result that provides accurate findings. Technicians often work via a process of localise, locate and pinpoint. This essentially means each step should narrow down the area of the location of the leak until the team or plumber is satisfied they have located it fully. These methods use modern technology, such as thermal imaging, to find the leak and these techniques and tools can differ depending on the available access of the pipes and the type of leak that is detected (there’s no point using a moisture reader on a gas leak!).

These methods contain, but are not limited to :

  • Acoustic microphones: When trying to locate pipes in tough to reach areas that traditional or more common techniques can’t access, microphones are an effective solution. Acoustic Microphones are used to detect and amplify the noise created by leaks in pressurised pipes via the use of digital receivers.

  • Moisture meters: These check the moisture levels around your home on the different surfaces and floors. This often means taking multiple readings to find the areas with higher levels of moisture in order to pinpoint the source of the water leak. It must be stated that in some cases, the materials of the surface require this technique to be somewhat intrusive. Tough to test surfaces are best tested from the inside so a small hole is often drilled to get a more accurate reading. The damage caused is very minimal but it does mean that the approach may not be fully non-intrusive. It also goes without saying that this technique is mostly useless for gas leaks.

  • Thermal imaging: Thermal imaging, as the name implies, relies on the temperature changes that a leak provides. Sensitive heat detection equipment can spot changes in the temperature around the pipe, which allows a detection team to trace back the leak. This technology doesn’t need to be right next to your pipes in order to work but it does require at least some access so underground pipe leaks are more difficult to locate with this method but it is still better than smashing up a wall. Thermal imaging can also be used to detect any moisture or areas of dampness, not directly but through subtle readings in the data.

  • Gas tracing: This solution is best suited for a central heating leak. Gas tracing is an ideal, non-invasive way to locate the source of the problem. The suspected pipes are drained of water and then a gas is introduced (this is usually a combination of hydrogen and nitrogen). Gas detecting equipment then allows the team to locate the leak quickly and effectively. This can be used in tandem with thermal imaging to allow for pinpoint accuracy after thermal imaging helps narrow down the area.

This is just a small example of the methods and tools used by leak detection teams to locate leaks and damp areas in your home. In times of emergency, you require speed, accuracy and precision and that’s what modern technology can provide when in the hands of an expert who can read and analyse the data at hand.

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