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Is there a way to detect that a sewer drain pipe has clogged and is in the process of backing up? I'm not looking for a) advice like "don't put grease or tampons down the drain" or b) here are some hints that things may not be right (like a gurgling toilet or strange smells). I've been Googling for products or techniques to know for sure that there's a clog but coming up with nothing.

I'm surprised in 2022 how primitive this is given how critical it is. A clog will essentially shut down your house until it's fixed but I can't find any way to know you're clogged until it's too late and you have sewage on your basement floor. In theory, even a sewage-proof webcam inside the pipe would be ok: I'd rather look at a pic of sewage once a day then have to clean it off the floor.

I know commercial septic systems have high-end monitoring gear. Anyone know of any way to do this for the residential market? I'm in the US and on septic if that matters.

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  • Do you have access to drain pipe, somewhere outside the home, without digging, like the vent ports
    – Ruskes
    May 26 at 21:30
  • Usually a septic tank will be pumped out every few years. Basic clogs in house plumbing is usually easy and fast to unclog(and fast to happen) with a plunger or snake. A septic system usually has more minor maintenance/care by a homeowner than a sewer system(mainly forgotten).
    – crip659
    May 26 at 21:39
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    ...and if the clog is inside your house, this mythical system tells you nothing, and you still get sewage on the floor. Far more practical to simply upsize your pipes (which dramatically lowers the odds of clogging), and install a filter before the drain field so you don't clog that. Either your tank is far too small or you worry too much if you are pumping once a year.
    – Ecnerwal
    May 27 at 0:29
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    @Ecnerwal Mystical system do exists. Google 4" Sewer Cleanout Backup Alarm - Wireless Wi Fi. Without digging out and replacing the sewer pipe ($20,000) or installing filters that would clog anyway
    – Ruskes
    May 28 at 10:34
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    @Ecnerwal You're making assumptions about why I'm asking. The question is simply whether this sort of device that preemptively notifies exists.
    – DaveBurns
    May 31 at 18:20

2 Answers 2

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Normally you would want to detect backup before reaches your home. Find where you main drain exits the home, usually a 4 inch pipe.You should see a cap that unscrews.There are many water sensors on the market, some even report to your smart phone. When you flush it might go on for few minutes as the water drains, but then stops, if you do not have a clog. If it stays on, you have a clog. To detect the clog inside you home, use the same sensor to report any flow after you flushed.

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wifi sensor

Here is one: alarm

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  • There should be no standing water in the drain pipe. If it is you have build up. That is what the water sensor will tell you. As you flush toilet there should be a flow for a while that then stops. If it stays on you have a problem. You want a automated system that alerts you of upcoming problem, before it is a problem. So you will have to build something like a water sensor.
    – Ruskes
    May 28 at 9:42
  • I accepted this as the answer because, although the explanation isn't entirely clear, the link is to the type of product I was thinking of.
    – DaveBurns
    Jun 2 at 18:58
  • @DaveBurns, sorry about that. Question: do you see where the main drain exists your home ? Take a picture and post it. There should be a "Y" connection, with one part having a screw on cap. That is where the sensor goes. The Y purpose is to use the cap for cleaning/unclogging the drain. If the water reaches the sensor (back up) you will be informed.
    – Ruskes
    Jun 2 at 19:51
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    Yes, I know where the clean-out is and this product would replace the screwed-in cap. Thanks for all the effort you've made to respond @Ruskes.
    – DaveBurns
    Jun 2 at 19:54
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Rent a scope from your local home supply store, find your cleanout, and go to town

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    This is not really "proactive" though. I'm looking for something set-and-forget. Text me or ring an alarm when there's an impending issue sort of thing.
    – DaveBurns
    May 26 at 21:04
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    @DaveBurns "proactive" means acting prior to an issue, so scoping then acting is fine. What you really want is a "lazy' solution with no work up front.
    – Solar Mike
    May 27 at 6:10
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    @SolarMike Google this and be amazed- 4" Sewer Cleanout Backup Alarm - Wireless Wi Fi
    – Ruskes
    May 28 at 10:11

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