Sewer jetters are powerful machines whose purpose is to clear commercial and residential drain pipes using high-pressure water jets. It’s common for many homeowners to find their piping systems flowing sluggishly or completely clogged. If you have obstructions in your pipes, you’re likely looking for a solution to clear them quickly and efficiently.
If you don’t own a sewer jetter machine, your first thought may be to hire a professional contractor. However, those who own a pressure washer are in luck, as you can convert it into a fully functioning sewer jetter. By following a few steps, you can successfully avoid buying a sewer jetter or spending money on professional assistance.
Table of Contents
What is a Sewer Jetter and How Does it Work?
Blockages in piping systems are typically simple issues. Whether it’s tree roots, hair, grease, sludge, or even a big chunk of paper material, these can completely block drainage pipes. In some cases, the debris has built up over time and is now sticking to the pipe walls, gradually limiting the free passage space. Conversely, a significantly large piece of reside can obstruct nearly the entire space at once.
When blockages like this occur, professional plumbers usually implement sewer snaking first. This involves a reel of long cable that is inserted into the pipe to open the line. However, sewer jetting can both open and clean out the line, offering better, long-lasting results.
If you’ve ever used a pressure washer to clean your driveway, patio, or siding, you know how powerful pressurized water can be as a cleaning tool. Put simply, a sewer jetter is a type of machine that uses the same type of high-pressure water to blast debris and clogs in your piping system down to your septic tank. These machines have a long hose with a nozzle that expels three to six super-pressurized water streams through your drainage pipes.
As the sewer jetter hose is run through your pipes, the powerful force of the water breaks down and frees any debris inside. These incredibly powerful water streams are what make clearing sewer blockages a breeze.
Can a Pressure Washer Be Used as a Sewer Jetter?
A sewer jetter is basically a high-pressure pump and a long hose with the appropriate nozzle design. In short, yes, a pressure washer can be sued as a sewer jetter, so long as you obtain the right attachments. However, it’s important to note that professional sewer jetters come outfitted with incredibly powerful high-pressure pumps. In many cases, domestic pressure washer simply do not match up to the large, trailer-mounted sewer jetters.
These machines are usually operated by a pressure pump that provides a staggering 25 gallons of water per minute. Conversely, your at-home pressure washer machine is considerably weaker. Although, this does not mean that it cannot be used to perform regular maintenance or to free small obstructions in your drainage pipes.
In fact, to avoid ever needing to call a professional to clean your pipelines, you can use your pressure washer as a regular maintenance tool. Depending on a number of factors, some domestic pressure washers may not be fit for the job. So, what exactly sets a pressure washer apart from a sewer jetter?
What are the Differences Between Pressure Washers and Sewer Jetters?
Although sewer jetters and pressure washers are entirely different machines, one can be converted into the other. Once converted, the pressure washer will still never completely size up to a conventional sewer jetter. This has to do with the following differences and similarities:
- PSI (pounds per square inch): The PSI, or pressure, ratings of sewer jetters are generally with the reach of at-home pressure washers. This also applies to the smaller, electric models. A sewer jetter pumps pressurized water between 1500 and 4000 PSI. You can use your gas pressure washer to clean any pipe that is between 3” and 12”.
- GPM (gallons of water per minute): The GPM, or flow measurement, ratings of sewer jetters are considerably higher than pressure washers. While gas-powered pressure washers usually have a GPM rating between 2 and 4 GPM, jetters generally start at 4 GPM for small, portable models. The larger, trailer-mounted sewer jetters can go up to as much as 30 GPM.
Quick Tip: As a general rule of thumb, 1 GPM is needed per every inch of pipe diameter. However, even if your pipes are vaguely wider than your pressure washer’s GPM rating, unless you’re dealing with heavy grease build-up or tree roots, it’s worth a shot to clean your pipe system with an attachment.
The hose and nozzles are what makes a sewer jetter the machine it is.
- Hose: A jetter hose is typically very long and can reach far down into your pipes for efficient cleaning. They are light, flexible, slippery, and resist abrasion. These hoses can manage a maximum of 3000 or 4000 PSI.
- Nozzle attachments: The hose is pulled by the nozzle design and the jets that flow out of it. There are a variety of nozzles available on the market, with the main difference being the angle of the backward-facing jet holes. Whether the nose of the nozzle is a pointed ‘jet’ type or round ‘button’ type, it can pierce buildup, making way for the rest of the jetter to enter.
How to Convert a Pressure Washer into a Sewer Jetter?
To successfully convert your pressure washer into a functioning sewer jetter, you need to obtain a conversion kit that comes with a specialized hose and nozzle. These kits can be purchase from your local home improvement center, hardware store, or various online retailers.
The conversion kit that you need should come with: ball valves, nozzles, jetter hose, jumper hose, and a hose reel. With all of these components, you can begin the conversion process. Follow these steps to easily convert your home-use pressure washer into a sewer jetter to clean your piping system.
- First, connect the hose of your pressure washer to the main water pressure source. Make sure that this source has high-pressure. This is absolutely necessary to produce enough pressure that will free clogs and debris from the pipelines and flush them down the drain.
- Locate the spray gun on your pressure washer hose. Disconnect, remove, and set it aside.
- Replace the spray gun with the ball valve found in your conversion kit.
- Join one end of the ball valve to the jumper hose. Make sure that you are correctly identifying the IN and OUT sides of the ball valve.
- Connect one end of the jetter hose to the jumper hose’s alternate end. For easy maneuvering, keep the jetter hose wrapped around the hose reel.
- Continue by attaching the correct nozzle to the opposite end of the jetter hose. Work carefully to ensure that each connection is precise and done correctly to avoid water splashing or loss of pressure.
- Locate the entry point into the pipe that you want to clean.
- Once you have identified the spot, insert the installed jetter hose into the pipe. At this point, your pressure washer should still be in the OFF position.
- When the jetter hose is safely tucked into the pipe that you intend on cleaning, turn on the pressure washer to clear out debris and clogs from your piping system.
- To achieve a thorough cleaning, continue pushing the jetter hose back and forth. Work until you’ve achieved a free flow of water in your drainage pipes.
- When you’re done cleaning, turn off the pressure washer and remove the hose.
Do not remove the jetter hose from the pipe until you have completely switched off the pressure washer. Otherwise, you risk being hit with high-pressure jets that can be up to 4000 PSI.
Wrapping It Up
Contrary to popular opinion, performing regular maintenance on your pipes and keeping your piping system clean is not necessarily a task that requires a professional plumber. With the assistance of simple attachment kits, you can easily convert your domestic pressure washer into a fully operational sewer jetter. Although it may not be as powerful, it can keep your drains and sewers free of small clogs, allow you to perform frequent maintenance, and save you money on costly unclogging services.