Although many people have never heard of them, pipe bladders (also known as “pipe plugs”) are used throughout countless industries. If you’ve ever visited a scientific research facility, sewage treatment plant or chemical factory, chances are pipe bladders were hard at work in those locales. Even plumbers, contractors and other home repair experts make extensive use of smaller-scale pipe plugs. However, pipe bladders are far from a “one size fits all” affair. So the next time you find yourself in need of one, take the following factors into account when making your decision.
As is the case with most piping equipment, size matters when choosing inflatable pipe bladders. Not surprisingly, the size of the plug varies depending on the size of the pipe(s) you’re working with, as well as the industry you’re serving. For example, sewage treatment plants and industrial waste facilities are often rife with thick, heavy pipes. Conversely, residential homes and commercial buildings tend to be outfitted with thin, standard-grade piping. Before committing to purchase a particular type of plug, take detailed measurements of the piping on which it will be placed. Attaching an ill-fitting plug to an active pipe can have costly consequences and, in some cases, pave the way for safety hazards.
It practically goes without saying that you want any pipe bladder you purchase to be resilient. Resiliency is particularly important for bladders used to plug pipes in manufacturing facilities and sewage treatment plants. Since these pipes are subjected to a fair amount of pressure 24/7, it’s only fitting that their corresponding bladders be up to the job. With this in mind, look for plugs that boast proven resiliency and can hold their own against consistently high pressures. Certain plugs, particularly the heavy-duty variety, even come with convenient manufacturer’s warranties. If a company is confident enough in its plugs to offer such a warranty, it’s generally a good sign.
Occasional plug leaks are unavoidable. If a bladder is attached to an active pipe for months – or years – on end, a leak is almost certain to occur. However, if you don’t have a replacement plug on hand, things are liable to get tricky. For this reason, it’s recommended that you always keep a steady supply of pipe bandages and leak sealing bags within easy reach. These handy tools will enable you to temporarily remedy leakage issues before a replacement bladder can be obtained. Keep in mind that this is a two-way street. Any pipe bladder you invest in should be amenable to bandages and sealing bags. Suffice to say, certain types of plugs are difficult to bandage and nearly impossible to fit with bags. In many cases, a plug’s packaging will indicate whether or not it can be used in tandem with the aforementioned tools.
You’d be hard-pressed to think of an industry in which pipe plugs don’t play an important role. Both large-scale facilities and independent contractors use pipe bladders on a daily basis. Still, depending on your field, selecting a plug that suits your purposes may prove difficult. If you need helping choosing the perfect pipe plug, remember to consider the previously-discussed criteria.