Bronx contractor quickly busts up drain clogs, and ratchets up productivity, with some help from an air force.


In the never-ending battle against plugged-up drainlines, master plumber Sylvan Tieger relies on a secret weapon of sorts: The Kinetic Water Ram from General Pipe Cleaners.

The lightweight, compact device can unclog drainlines significantly faster than a cable drain cleaning machine, thus increasing productivity and revenue. Moreover, it does so with less mess and can be used in places where it’s difficult to take a cable machine, says Tieger, 70, the owner of S. Tieger Plumbing Co. Inc. in the Bronx, New York City, New York.

Furthermore, the Water Ram can clear slow-draining tubs, for example, when the stoppage is on the far side of a P-trap or beyond a series of tight bends that a cable machine might have difficulty negotiating.

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CLEARING THE TOUGH CLOGS

The Water Ram generates a powerful burst of compressed air that drives a shockwave through water at 4,700 feet per second. The shockwave travels so fast that it bypasses vents, so 98 percent of the force slams into the clog head-on. It’s capable of clearing hair, rust, grease, sediment and scale from lines ranging from 1 1/4 to 4 inches in diameter.

“It’s almost like a water hammer,” Tieger explains. “When most stoppages get hit by that kind of force, it breaks right through without harming the pipes.”

Tieger says that on average, the Water Ram can unclog a drain in about 10 minutes. If he uses a small cable machine, like one of his I-95 machines from General (a division of General Wire Spring Co.), it may take at least an hour because he has to remove the trap. That, in turn, can create bigger problems if the pipes are old and difficult to take apart.

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“Plus, when you take off the 3/4-inch plug on the bottom of the trap and run in the snake, you then don’t know where it’s headed. It’ll go either up the vent or down the waste line,” he notes. “But the Water Ram’s shock wave goes right to the stoppage, not to the vent.

“And if you put the snake in and catch a big glob of hair, sometimes you can’t pull the snake back through the 3/4-inch-diameter hole,” he continues. “So now you’re trying to unscrew the trap with the snake still in it.”

Tieger primarily uses the Water Ram on bathroom and kitchen sinks, bathtubs, toilets and floor drains. He usually tries it first on roof drains because it weighs only around 15 pounds, which makes it much easier to lug around than a larger drain cleaning machine. “It definitely allows me to do more jobs per week,” says Tieger, who started his business in 1982 and primarily does service work for residential, commercial, industrial and institutional customers. “It helps me work faster and work smarter.”

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WORKING THE WATER RAM

The Water Ram is easy to use. Just plug the overflow hole (if applicable) with a rag and fill the tub or sink with a couple inches of water. After using the built-in air compressor to manually pump air into the device up to the desired pressure, seal one of the appropriately sized rubber heads snugly into the drain and pull the trigger.

General starts at 5 psi and ramps up in 5-pound increments if the initial blast doesn’t do the job. A 100-pound gearless pressure gauge provides pinpoint pressure control. In most cases, 20 to 40 psi should be adequate. Plumbers should also wear protective glasses or goggles during operation.

It’s important to emphasize the start-low-and-ramp-up-from-there protocol to employees, who otherwise might think that if 10 psi is good, 30 psi is even better and will do the job that much faster, he notes. General recommends that contractors not exceed 80 psi.

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Tieger recalls one job where the Water Ram really proved its mettle. A 4-inch-diameter soil line was clogged below a large stainless steel sink in a cafeteria kitchen, located on the main floor of a church. Because of its location, the sink backed up every time people used the fixtures on the five floors above. Figuring he had nothing to lose, Tieger decided to give the device a shot.

“It was a severe blockage,” he says. “And I didn’t want to have to take things apart (to snake it) because the sink was half full of waste and it would’ve been a real mess. It took a couple dozen tries, but I finally heard that ‘whooshing’ noise and saw a vortex of water as it drained out of the sink. It was music to my ears.”

After nearly 50 years in the trade, Tieger says he still believes in trying new technology, as long as it pays for itself. He says the Water Ram, which costs several hundred dollars, paid for itself after two service calls.

“Anything that pays for itself right away is well worth the investment,” Tieger says. “All I know is that my Water Rams are continually making money.” And winning the war against clogged drains.


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