What Are Common Problems with Hydrants?

Interviewer: When you talk about potential customers, what are some of their biggest concerns that you hear over and over again?

David Munoz: One of the main concerns that I always get from them is they’ll get a hydrant that was faulty and it didn’t work. They did an inspection by a fire protection company and one of their hydrants might have failed the inspection. It might be hard to turn or whatever it might be.

Then all of a sudden they’ll say, “Give me a price for the repairs.” They’ll get the estimate from the fire protection company and all they see is they’re going to replace the hydrant.

Hydra Contracting Promotes the Repair over the Replacement of a Malfunctioning Hydrant and Offers a Guarantee on Their Work

They can go for about $4, 000 all the way to $11,000. At that point, they’ll start searching around for a better deal just like they should. We get the call and I go out there. They tell me what the hydrants doing and as soon as they tell me I already know what’s wrong with that hydrant. I tell them, “I already know. This is what’s wrong with this hydrant,” for example.

I give them a price and they say, “There’s no way you’re going to fix this hydrant for this price.” I always tell them, “If I can’t fix it, don’t pay me.” They always take me up on it because, “This is my cost and if I can’t fix it just the way I’m telling you, then I’m not going to charge you.”

Interviewer: It’s a guarantee. That’s great. You just said about 95% of the time you can fix the hydrant.

David Munoz: I’ve fixed every hydrant that I told people I can fix. There hasn’t been one I have not fixed.

Interviewer: How many hydrants you think you worked on in your whole career? Just out of curiosity.

David Munoz: Hundreds of hydrants, maybe even thousands.

Interviewer: Is there anything else that customers worry about?

David Munoz: They just have concerns. They want to make sure that they hydrant is repaired and is reliable at the time of use. I always assure them that once I get done that it is. That’s one of their main concerns. I’ll do the repairs. Some of them have a loyalty to their inspection companies, like their fire protection companies, which is fine. I understand that.

Most Repairs Performed by Hydra Contracting Last 10 to 15 Years

Then next year they’ll come around, they’ll get it inspect it, and they will never have a discrepancy in that hydrant again. They won’t until probably 10 or 15 years after I repair it. As long as they keep doing the maintenance, things go smoothly. But if they don’t’ do it, then 5 or 6 years they’re going to be having another problem with a hydrant.

Because like I said, most of the time is lack of maintenance. Lack of maintenance is grease and making sure that everything works properly before you leave that day. That’s the key component and they’ll save thousands of thousands of dollars if they did a routine maintenance on the hydrant.

The Cost to Repair a Hydrant That Was Not Maintained Can Average up to $1,600

Interviewer: How much have you seen hydrant repair cost on average in a year that wasn’t maintained? What are your numbers?

David Munoz: I’ve seen the repairs on somebody who didn’t maintain a hydrant up to about $1,600 to $1,500 for a repair on a hydrant and higher than that depending on which make and model and which component of the hydrant is faulty on the inside of the hydrant.

With the maintenance, sometimes he issue is with worn parts, but most of the time it’s going to be the main valve rubber. It’s not going to be the components that hold the main valve rubber 90% of the time. It’s going to be the component that opens and shuts the water off at the very bottom of the hydrant.

Interviewer: How much is the maintenance contract?

David Munoz: Well, it depends on the hydrants. I charge per hydrant in the system. For an example, if they had 10 hydrants in the system, I can probably do 10 hydrants on an annual contract. If they want to do it once a year minimum, you’re looking at, probably, give or take, probably about $800 to $1,000 to test them all every year.

Hydra Contracting Also Performs Valve Maintenance, Which Is Essential to Proper Hydrant Operation

Interviewer: Are there any other misconceptions that customers have or questions they have we haven’t covered?

David Munoz: Hydra also does valve maintenance. Part of the hydrant maintenance is they have a control valve that’s below ground. That gate valve actually controls the flow to that hydrant. If you ever have to work on that hydrant, that valve has to be operational as well. It’s part of that hydrant. It’s part of the component.

What we do as part of our hydrant maintenance, which nobody in the Valley does because they don’t understand the concept, we exercise those valves. Based on the sizes of the valves, not only for hydrant valves, we do it for the distribution as well.

Exercising the Valves Ensures the Flow of Water to the Hydrant Can Be Controlled

We do it for any domestic waterline, or any fire line or anything else that controls waterline, any gate valve, and we exercise those valves to make sure that we’re getting the proper turns to be able to control the flow of that line or that fire hydrant at all times.

That’s part of one of the other inspections we do as well. That’s a very critical component. For example, if I go into a commercial building and I had a fire hydrant that was leaking below ground. If I went to shut the control valve to the hydrant, which is normally within 15, 20 feet from that hydrant, but I might find for some reason that control valve didn’t work because of the lack of exercise.

I have to go further back to the distribution line where the hydrant is tied in. I would have to start trying to shut those valves off to make sure I can shut that hydrant off. Part of my assessment, as well, that I offer is also valve maintenance.

Interviewer: It sounds like very few people, maybe almost nobody, does valve maintenance on the hydrants.

Private Sector Facilities Are Typically Unaware of the Necessity of Valve Maintenance

David Munoz: Nobody does valve maintenance. The only one that I know that do valve maintenance today is municipalities. The only reason they do it is because they control the flow because they get a lot of water main breaks nowadays. Part of their assessment and their maintenance program is a lot of valve maintenance.

But in the private sector, they don’t even know what valve maintenance is. They don’t even know what it’s done for. Until that time comes when that fire line breaks and they don’t know how to shut down the system and they have water streaming in their parking lot or eroding that street.

Interviewer: What happens if you don’t maintain the valves? How much can that cost and how often will that have a problem that you’ve seen?

David Munoz: That’s very, very common. For example, I’ll give you a good example. I also do waterlines, service line to trailer homes, or residential properties, or commercial buildings. It doesn’t matter. It’s all the same. It’s just different sizes.

For Some Facilities, Valve Issues Can Force the Shutdown of Water to the Entire Area

I was working at a trailer park and they had a leaky service line and it was leaking all over behind the trailers. I go to shut 2 valves off to control that section of line, and not able to shut that system down. I go further back to shut other valves off to be able to control that section. So, I had to shut it down.

At this point, I have to shut the whole park down. The whole park had 800 people there. When you do that, you affect many people. That’s when you start getting complaints. This is why it’s important to do a hydrant maintenance program.

Control Valve: An Issue with a Valve Can Prevent Shutting off the Hydrant When Required

Interviewer: If someone has a hydrant problem, it’s really a control valve problem?

David Munoz: The control valve will never give the hydrant any problem unless someone went to turn off the hydrant and they don’t know how to exercise the valve and they go too turn it and the valve actually breaks when they’re trying to shut it down.

At that point, it becomes a problem because now you might have a valve that’s actually half open and with a hydrant that’s not going to have that full flow capacity to be able to flow that water at that point. It’s very critical.

That’s part of the maintenance program for hydrants as well. You check the valves. Make sure they’re fully open. By doing that, like I said, you have to be able to count the turns to determine the size of the valve.

Without Proper Maintenance, There Can Be Issues with the Control Valve in as Soon as Two Years, Especially in Areas with Hard Water

Interviewer: How often do the control valves break when the hydrants in use?

David Munoz: A control valve can break 2 years after that valves installed if there was no maintenance on it and the water was very corrosive in that area. What I mean by corrosive, it could have just had some hard water. The water could be good, it could be drinkable, nothing could be wrong with the water. It’s just hard water and basically what it does it builds up on the gate, and it builds up on the stem, so when you go to turn it, the valve binds and it breaks because the stems are just made out of brass.

On the very bottom of the gate, there’s also a wedge where the wedge actually seats at the bottoms of the seat and those wedges will actually get full of debris. If you don’t open a hydrant and exercise a valve, that debris never comes out, so you’re trying to pull the valve on top of debris. Then you start turning it, it just starts getting harder, before you know it you just busted that valve.

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