Make A Smoke Pump for Leak Testing by Converting A Shop Vac or Commercial Type Vacuum Cleaner

Safe Smoke Testing for Leaks in Sewer, Plumbing and Storage Tanks

IMPORTANT: Do not put a lit device into or even near, an open drain line that is connected to the sewer line or septic system. Methane is a result of or a by-product of, the waste disposal process. Yes, it is the same methane used to heat homes, cook meals etc, otherwise called Natural Gas. It is very explosive and stays low to the ground where you are working since it is heavier than air. Just a spark could ignite the leaked gas and have catastrophic results. For better and safer results use a Smoke Pump. With this method, one would burn the smoke emitter in a contained area and then pump the smoke into the duct, tank, pipe or any enclosed space to find leaks. The smoke itself is not flammable or dangerous to deliver via this method.

To make your own smoke pump most shop vacs will work, however a metal one would be my recommendation for added safety. If you want to control the pressure via the fan speed you will want to use a rheostat on the line so you can control the speed of the motor.

I get this question many times per week. Can we drop the smoke emitter in the plumbing line and locate leaks. The long and short answer is, “No”. Many sewer lines have methane in them which is extremely flammable and explosive.

There are many models of smoke pumps available on the market, however they are all rather expensive and decent ones start in the thousands. For a tool that you may only use once in a while, it just may not be the right investment for you at this time. Good news is that with a little ingenuity and imagination you can build your own. I believe that if you are a person that will smoke test a plumbing stack than you must be a person that would have the ability to put something like this together, with a bit of thought. Here a few ideas to help stimulate your own plan. Build your own smoke pump from what you may have around the house or shop.

This concept works around a shop vacuum cleaner or otherwise called a shop-vac and a few other items. Basic steps to prepare the vacuum to be used as a smoke pump.

Supplies needed:

  • A clean or new metal can with lid (just like a paint can). Be careful some of the newer cans have plastic bottoms, select a 100% metal can. I prefer a 128 ounce (gallon) can, which typically measures about 10″ tall x 9″ diameter. However this size may not fit in your vacuum. In that instance and really only for the S103 and S102 size smoke bombs, one could use a 64 ounce (half gallon) can, which typically measures about 6″ tall by 5.5″ in diameter.
  • 2″ gaffers tape (or duct tape if you do not mind the tacky residue it leaves behind)
  • A Fernco (rubber coupling) to attach the hose to your plumbing stack

Basic Instructions

  1. Empty the debris and remove any potentially flammable dust or fragments left behind.
    1. Drill or punch many 1/8″ holes around the circumference of the can and lid. This will allow the smoke to go through the can without the ash residue.
  2. Remove the filter from the shop vac since it would filter out the smoke we are trying to deliver.
  3. Place the perforated can into the shop vac.
  4. Following the instructions; light a smoke emitter, place it into the metal can and replace the lid back on the can.
  5. Close the shop vac lid.
  6. Move the hose from the suction side onto the exhaust side.

You now have an air pump. With a few additional items and steps we can turn this into a smoke pump.

Optional: Rheostat on the line so you can control the speed of the motor (when testing a drain line with a sink in it is important to monitor the motor speed because too much pressure will compromise the fluid in the traps allowing the smoke to escape and result in a failed test).

Use white or FP smoke to avoid residue .

Radon Gas Myths and Facts

Radon Gas Myths and Facts

Scientists are not sure that radon is really a problem
Radon testing devices are not reliable and are difficult to find
Radon testing is difficult and time-consuming
Homes with radon problems cannot be fixed
Radon affects only certain types of homes
Radon is only a problem in certain parts of the country
A neighbor’s test result is a good indication of whether your home has a radon problem
Everyone should test his or her water for radon
It is difficult to sell a home where radon problems have been discovered
I have lived in my home for so long, it does not make sense to take action now
Short-term tests cannot be used for making a decision about whether to reduce the home’s high radon levels
MYTH #1: Scientists are not sure that radon really is a problem.

FACT: Although some scientists dispute the precise number of deaths due to radon, all the major health organizations (like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Lung Association and the American Medical Association) agree with estimates that radon causes thousands of preventable lung cancer deaths every year. This is especially true among smokers, since the risk to smokers is much greater than to non-smokers.

MYTH #2: Radon testing devices are not reliable and are difficult to find.

FACT: Reliable radon tests are available from qualified radon testers and companies. Active radon devices can continuously gather and periodically record radon levels to reveal any unusual swings in the radon level during the test. Reliable testing devices are also available from Inspect USA, 877-424-3600 or email to [email protected]

MYTH #3: Radon testing is difficult and time-consuming.

FACT: Radon testing is easy. You can test your home yourself or hire a qualified radon test company. Either approach takes only a small amount of time and effort.

MYTH #4: Homes with radon problems cannot be fixed.

FACT: There are solutions to radon problems in homes. Thousands of home owners have already lowered elevated radon levels in their homes. Radon levels can be readily lowered for approximately $800 to $2,500. Call your state radon office for a list of qualified mitigation contractors.

MYTH #5: Radon affects only certain types of homes.

FACT: Radon can be a problem in all types of homes, including old homes, new homes, drafty homes, insulated homes, homes with basements and homes without basements. Local geology, construction materials, and how the home was built are among the factors that can affect radon levels in homes.

MYTH #6: Radon is only a problem in certain parts of the country.

FACT: High radon levels have been found in every state. Radon problems do vary from area to area, but the only way to know the home’s radon level is to test.

MYTH #7: A neighbor’s test result is a good indication of whether your home has a radon gas problem.

FACT: It is not. Radon levels vary from home to home. The level can even vary in the same home. The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test it.

MYTH #8: Everyone should test their water for radon.

FACT: While radon gets into some homes through the water, it is important to first test the air in the home for radon. If your water comes from a public water system that uses ground water, call your water supplier. If high radon levels are found and the home has a private well, you should test your water.

MYTH #9: It is difficult to sell a home where radon problems have been discovered.

FACT: Where radon problems have been fixed, home sales have not been blocked. The added protection could be a good selling point.

MYTH #10: I have lived in my home for so long, it does not make sense to take action now.

FACT: You will reduce your risk of lung cancer when you reduce radon levels, even if you have lived with an elevated radon level for a long time.

MYTH #11: Short-term tests cannot be used for making a decision about whether to reduce the home’s high radon levels.

FACT: Short-term tests can be used to decide whether to reduce the home’s high radon levels. However, the closer the short-term testing result is to 4 pCi/L, the less certainty there is about whether the home’s year-round average is above or below that level. Keep in mind that radon levels below 4 pCi/L still pose some risk and that radon levels can be reduced to 2 pCi/L or below in most homes.

Created: October 30, 1996, Modified: September 24, 2011, Last Modified: September 11, 2017.

How to Test Your Home for Radon Gas

How to test your home

Radon testing is a quick & easy way to ensure your family’s safety.

Not to mention, it’s a responsible choice! Educating yourself on the adverse effects of high Radon levels, along with testing your home enables you to take the proper steps to resolve a potential health hazard.

3 Ways to test your home for Radon

Short-term Testing (air): Short-term Radon testing is done for a 48 to 96 hour period. This is the fastest way to test for Radon levels. It is recommended that you perform two short-term tests, since Radon levels may vary daily or seasonally. If you test for two days on the weekend, your reading levels may be lower as you will most likely be in and out of your home more frequently than during the weekdays. On the weekdays, while you and your family are at school or work, Radon levels will build since your home’s doors and windows will most likely be shut tightly.

Long-term Testing (air): Tests lasting for 90 days to one year can give you the most accurate readings by revealing the average Radon level in your home over a long period of time. Long-Term Testing Instructions

Radon in Water Testing: Radon in water testing is a very easy procedure. Let the water run for approximately 3-5 minutes. Fill the test vials with a sample of the water to be tested. Send them into our lab. Radon in Water Test Kit Instructions

How to Use Your short-term Test Kit: Below are the dos & don’ts of conducting your short-term Radon test:


  • Follow the instructions that come with your Radon test kit.
  • Close your windows and outside doors at least 12 hours before you begin your test.
  • Place your test kit in the lowest living area of your home.
  • Put the testing device in a frequently used room like a bedroom or den.
  • Leave the test kit in place for the full length of time that the package instructs.
  • Enter the time & date that you re-sealed the test units.
  • Send your test kit to the lab specified on the package immediately after the test period is complete.


  • Leave doors or windows open in any part of the house during the test period.
  • Conduct your test during periods of severe storms or high winds.
  • Place your test kit in a bathroom or kitchen.
  • Disturb the test kit once it has been placed.
  • Place near furnace, water heater or other air moving units.
  • Place in high humidity areas.
  • Place near exterior doors or windows.
  • Place in crawl space or other area that is not inhabitable without renovations.
  • Leave kitchen or bath exhaust fan or whole house fan running during the test period.
  • Procrastinate sending the kit back to our Lab.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency of the USA) recommends the following considerations in ensuring your safety against Radon:

  • Step 1: Conduct a short-term test. If your returned results read 4 pCi/L* or higher, take a second, follow-up test.
  • Step 2: The follow up test should be taken immediately if your short-term test is 10 pCi/L* or higher. If not, you may follow-up with a second short or long term test.
  • Step 3: If you followed up with a long-term test, fix your home if your reading result is 4 pCi/L* or more. If you followed up with a short-term test, the higher the results, the more certain you can be, that you should fix your home. It is recommended that you fix your home if your average between the two tests is 4 pCi/L*or more.

* pCi/L: Radon levels in the air are measured in “Pico Curies per liter of air” or “pCi/L”.