The drain camera buyers' guide

Updated: 3 days ago

A drain inspection camera is an essential tool for any drainage professional. They're used to survey underground infrastructure, to find blockages in or damage to pipes, to prepare reports and much more. Driving more efficient practices and allowing companies to offer more varied and advanced services, the right drain camera can easily transform a company for the better. With there being so many different models and features to choose from, however, picking the right drain camera for your business can be difficult.


A selection of drain cameras

Having repaired, hired out and sold thousands upon thousands of drain cameras over the last 15 years, though, DCR Inspection Systems are here to help you choose one that’ll meet your immediate, medium and long-term objectives. We’ll do this by breaking down key considerations and features below. Here goes:





Consider reel length


Anyone that’s thinking about buying a drain camera needs to consider the length of the system’s reel. The longer the reel, the larger the areas you’ll be able to observe without removing the system, finding an alternative entry point and starting again.


A longer reel therefore makes it easier to survey large areas quickly. Whilst this may make it seem like getting the longest reel available is always the best decision, this isn’t necessarily the case.


If, for example, you’ve never surveyed an area of more than 100m and don’t plan to then there’s little point in buying a 500m cable on the off chance you’ll need it in the future.


Do you need the best camera head?


Just as getting the longest reel possible would seem to make sense, buying an inspection camera capable of delivering the best possible picture seems sensible. Again, though, it’s worth thinking about the type of work you do and any that you could realistically undertake in the future before choosing a camera head.


Whilst you’ll need a camera head capable of delivering a video feed of reasonable quality, you won’t necessarily need one that can deliver a crystal-clear image. If you’re undertaking surveys that need to outline the current state of a sewerage system, for example, then investing in a better camera makes sense. On the other hand, a camera that’ll be used for locating blockages, root damage or anything else likely to be visible to the naked eye doesn’t need to have the most expensive head.


Different camera heads also feature advanced technology such as laser mapping, optical zoom and 360◦ rotation. These features are typically designed to make it easier to create reports by automatically measuring the diameter of pipes or cracks, marking locations, etc. Promising greater efficiency, camera heads with these features can be very tempting. They can also add considerable cost to a system, so consider how often you’ll use their more advanced features and just how much time they’ll save you and your operators before shelling out.


You can find a more in-depth article discussing camera heads for drain cameras here.


What about pipe diameter?


Some systems will need additional accessories to operate in certain pipe sizes. Others will simply be too small or too large to use in various diameters.


Before purchasing a drain camera, be sure that it can operate in the right sizes of pipe (i.e. those you work with regularly) or that it can do with the addition of accessories such as a cradle or skid.


We'd also advise you to look at which accessories would allow you to use your camera in pipes that you work with less regularly. Accessories are typically much cheaper than a new camera, so knowing what's available and the additional work it'll allow you to undertake will allow you to plan ahead more effectively.


With a huge selection of drain cameras available to hire and purchase, DCR can provide equipment that can operate in pipes as small as DN12 and as large as DN2200.


How will you power your drain camera?


You’ll often find yourself using your drain camera in areas without access to mains power so it’s important that you consider how you’re going to power it. Cameras can be powered by a portable battery pack, a fuel-powered generator or via a vehicle’s battery combined with an inverter. Battery packs are included with most models, buy they’ll typically only be able to power a unit for a few hours. If you’re going to need your camera to be operational for longer, you’ll need an alternative power source such as those we’ve discussed above.


Don’t forget about mobility


There are two things to consider when it comes to moving your drain camera from one place to another: the short trips that you’ll be undertaking on foot and the longer ones you’ll be doing in a vehicle.


For short trips, it’s worth checking that the camera you’re purchasing comes with fitted wheels, that they can either be fitted directly to it or that the camera can be used with an accessory such as a trolley. Operatives may be able to carry smaller cameras safely over short distances, but it’s highly advisable that mobility aids are included when the camera weighs more than a few kilograms, if the operator will be transporting it for more than a few hundred yards or both.


As far as transporting your camera over longer distances is concerned, you’re probably going to use a van. It’s essential that you check the dimensions of any camera and its accessories to ensure that it’ll fit into your vehicle comfortably and safely. For the ultimate in mobility and functionality, you could have either your current or a new van fully customised for your business. This can be expensive, but it can also make your business much more efficient by ensuring everything you need is in one place and fully secured. Of course, you’ll need to think carefully about your budget, how quickly the item will help you to turn a profit, etc. but a bespoke van setup is certainly worth considering.


DCR offer a van kit out service, and you can find out more about this here.


Will you be working in hazardous environments?


If you regularly survey or inspect hazardous environments with explosive atmospheres you’re going to need an ATEX-approved inspection camera. As these cameras have a variety of features and design differences, they’re more expensive than cameras not designed for use in such environments.


Determining whether or not it’s worth paying more and getting an ATEX drain camera will depend on how often you work in hazardous environments. If you rarely do, then there may be a better option – and this brings us to our final point.


Purchase or hire?


Drain cameras are expensive. If you use them regularly, then they’ll quickly pay for themselves. Paying for a more expensive model that has features you’ll rarely use makes no financial sense, though. Luckily, there is an alternative.


DCR maintains a hire fleet of the very latest drain cameras. More importantly, our extensive hire fleet is comprised of everything a drainage professional needs to get the job done! You don’t need to purchase an expensive piece of equipment that you’ll rarely use to fulfil a job, nor do you need to turn the job down. It doesn’t matter where in the UK you are, either – we offer next-day delivery nationwide!


Our hire service can even be used as a try-before-you-buy service. If you’re unsure of whether or not a particular drain camera is right for you, simply hire it for a few days and try it out. Go ahead with a purchase, and we’ll deduct your hire fee from the cost of the unit.


Conclusion


With there being so many different models of drain camera and a variety of different camera heads, feature, etc. to choose from, selecting one can become very confusing, very quickly.

Before looking at different models, consider what type of work you do and what you could practicably begin offering in the short term. You’ll then be able to determine which features will benefit your business, meaning that you’ll be able to buy a camera that helps you achieve your objectives without overspending.


Finally, don’t be afraid to contact manufacturers and retailers directly to ask them questions and ensure you understand any kit you’re considering purchasing inside out. They should be happy to answer any questions you may have, to discuss your requirements with you and to make recommendations.


If you’d like to discuss DCR’s range of drain cameras with one of our experts, simply call 01443 841540 or email sales@draincamerarepairs.co.uk.