When Ferguson encountered extensive plumbing-system backups at one of its branches, it decided to turn to one of the product lines it offers customers — Saniflo grinder pumps — as a practical and cost-effective solution.
Ferguson’s Raleigh, North Carolina branch had been experiencing a gradual worsening of the backup problem. As a result, Branch Manager Nathan Smith called certified plumber Dale Nichols of PipeTechs Plumbing Technologies, which offers rapid-response plumbing service to Raleigh and the surrounding areas.
“There was insufficient grade in the piping system, likely due to a design flaw,” Nichols explains. “It may very well have worked fine for years after the original construction, but during that time the system was acting as a grease trap that finally backed up and began causing problems.”
After assessing the situation, Nichols, a 30-year plumbing industry veteran, presented two solutions to Smith. The first was financially unrealistic in that it would have involved tearing up the building’s entire foundation to install a proper piping slope across 200 ft. The costs would have been astronomical.
The second option was to install a duplex grinder plumbing system at a far lower cost that would grind and pump waste to the drain line. When presented with both options, Smith quickly chose the latter. “Installing a duplex grinder pump would save us roughly 90% on installation costs,” Smith remarks. “Plus, we already had a reliable line of pumps that we had been carrying for more than 12 years.”
Smith was referring to Saniflo’s plumbing systems, which can macerate, grind and/or pump both wastewater and solids from multiple fixtures to a drain line.
Nichols also was very familiar with Saniflo, having installed the company’s products for 20 years in various applications. “I like the ability to put a bathroom anywhere, especially in large commercial applications,” he says. “In Ferguson’s case, that ability was crucial. No one was going to want to make the sacrifices in time, money and effort necessary to rip up the foundation.”
Grinding away the problem
Nichols ended up recommending the Sanicubic 2 duplex grinder system. Designed for heavy-duty commercial applications, the unit is equipped with two grinder pumps for handling multiple waste fixtures. This, as well as its ability to effectively grind tightly woven sanitary articles, such as feminine products, baby wipes and dental floss, were the deciding factors to go with the product.
“I use this product in my own shop because its heavy-duty capabilities offer peace of mind that it won’t clog,” Nichols explains. “The simple controls, connections and accessibility make it a desirable product for me to install and my customers to use.”
The two grinder pumps also are designed to operate alternately so neither is more heavily used over time than the other. However, if either ceases to operate, the other will run full-time until servicing can eliminate the problem, Nichols adds.
The pumps also are “smart” in that both do not operate simultaneously unless the rate of incoming water is high enough, in which case one signals the other to turn on. When both pumps are in operation, the discharge rate increases roughly 80%.
Nichols installed the pump to handle wastewater from two bathrooms and a kitchen sink at the showroom. The pump was placed inside a specially made 3-ft. pit in the floor near the bathroom applications, which Nichols covered with an aluminum hatch for easy access. From there, it pumps wastewater up and across a horizontal distance of roughly 40 ft. to the drain line. (The unit can pump a maximum of 36 ft. vertically and/or 328 ft. horizontally.) Although the grinder was installed below the floor in this application, it also can be installed above the floor to avoid drilling altogether.
A worthwhile decision
The installation progressed without major complications, with Nichols taking extra care to make the project look professional.
“Like on all my jobs, I wanted the installation to look like it ‘belonged’ there so I did my due diligence in the planning and execution stages,” he says. “From creating the pit, to running the lines, to connecting the pump, everything was completed with great care and neatness.”
Even with this attention to detail, the entire installation took only two days. This was another important advantage for Smith and the Ferguson branch. “Having to gut the foundation would have taken up to two weeks and impacted our business,” he notes. “Choosing a duplex grinding system therefore saved Ferguson not only money, but also time.”
The duplex grinding system has given Smith no reason to complain. “It has worked phenomenally and done exactly what it’s supposed to do,” he says. Last year, Smith was able to easily perform some routine maintenance thanks to the product’s accessibility and simple assembly.
“This type of plumbing is by far the most effective option when a customer desires a bathroom in an unconventional location — from an attic, to a bathroom, to an outdoor area,” Smith states. “As a distributor, I have found the market has recognized this technology as a viable solution in recent years and it continues to grow more popular with time.”
With the duplex grinder, Ferguson was able to bypass what would have otherwise become a foundational “gutting” of the entire facility. “Without this solution, fixing this serious problem was, for all intents and purposes, impossible,” he says.
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