Grease Trap Maintenance

24/7 Commercial Service in NJ and PA

grease recycling in New Jersey and Pennsylvania

D&W Alternative Energy, LLC is the leading grease trap maintenance company in the greater New Jersey and Pennsylvania area. D&W offers:

dirty grease trap

You Need Regular Grease Trap Maintenance

Without a grease trap, fats, oils, and grease flow into municipal water systems, causing major backups which are expensive to repair. To avoid this, regulators require that restaurants, stadiums, hospitals, factories, and other cooking facilities remove grease from their liquid waste before releasing it into municipal water systems. Grease traps do the job. However, if your grease trap isn’t properly maintained, all that grease can cause clogs, odors, health code violations, flooding, and even increased risk of fire hazard.

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D&W offers ongoing grease trap cleaning and maintenance

Our trained experts are happy to provide regular grease trap maintenance, cleaning, and evacuation to ensure your equipment is running smoothly and your restaurant, franchise, factory, stadium, hospital or other facility stays clean and in compliance with all local and state regulations. Our technicians offer inexpensive professional service using top of the line vacuum equipment to maximize speed and efficiency and minimize any interruption to your business.

We can be reached by phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help deal with emergencies and to aid in dealing with inspectors of all kinds.

Our grease trap maintenance experts can spot maintenance or equipment issues while performing regular service, allowing us to immediately alert our clients, and document them in our manifests, so they can be handled before they cause bigger problems ranging from clogs and unpleasant grease trap odors to health and fire hazards.

In many circumstances, we can even fix the problem on the spot or in a subsequent appointment. In the rare event that a grease trap issue is outside D&W’s area of expertise, we can confidently refer our clients to one of our many professional associates to ensure our clients always get the best possible results.

What is a grease trap?

A grease trap is simply a device that traps grease from wastewater as it flows through the pipes and out of your kitchen into the local septic and sewer systems. Sewer systems transport wastewater to treatment plants and are not designed to handle FOGs (Fats, Oil and Grease).  

FOGs congeal and harden at lower temperatures (42-48F). FOGs entering a sewer system can clog, damage and backup a system causing great harm to restaurants, homes and businesses. In extreme cases fatbergs are a very expensive and damaging result. Grease traps are designed to prevent oil and grease from entering municipal waterways.

How do grease traps work?

Grease traps separate solids and grease from kitchen waste water. Because grease and oils are less dense than water, the grease rises to the top of a grease trap and the solids settle on the bottom. The wastewater settles in between those two layers and moves out of the trap via an outlet pipe to the sewer system. The grease and solids remain in the tank, which is why it will occasionally need to be cleaned out. Solids and grease naturally separate from water over time as it cools. Since grease traps slow down the flow of the warm water from your kitchen, the water and grease starts to cool, and then separate into three layers. The exit pipe is strategically placed so only the wastewater continues flowing through into the sewer.

Schematic of how a grease trap operates.

Maintaining a Grease Trap

Sink strainers can help trap the solids so not as much settles at the bottom of the tank, but eventually, the grease and solids can—and, in fact, should—start to collect in your tank. That’s  why it is important to pump and clean grease traps regularly. When a grease trap specialist cleans the tank they are sucking out the solids and the fats leaving the water to pass onto the water system. If you don’t hire someone to clean your trap on a regular basis, it won’t work properly.

Additionally, regulators might penalize your kitchen. The EPA and the Clean Water Act provide regulations governing what can flow into a public waterway. These requirements, in turn, require states and municipalities to create and administer grease trap regulations to insure food service establishments meet those EPA rules. Grease trap inspectors will periodically visit your restaurant to make sure you’re meeting those guidelines. If not, you may need to pay a fine or even have your restaurant shut down.

Different types of grease traps

The three types of grease traps are:

Manual grease traps 

The manual system is the most commonly used because of its low initial cost and the availability of numerous sizes, making it easy to install in tight places such as under a sink. These units use heat and gravity to separate grease from wastewater. The system slows and cools the FOGs and wastewater and the baffles trap the FOGs keeping them inside the trap. The FOGs rise to the top, the solids fall to the bottom and the wastewater stays in between. Smaller restaurants will typically have a manual grease trap. This type of trap requires frequent pumping.

Gravity based grease traps

The gravity based grease trap is typically a large in-ground system which works on the same principles as the manual system. However, the gravity based system can handle a much higher volume of wastewater and grease than a manual system. You’ll need to make sure you build a relationship with a local grease trap pumper with a pumper truck and the expertise to do the work regularly. These systems are efficient, removing up to 90% of the FOGs from wastewater.

Automatic grease traps

The automatic grease trap uses both mechanical and electrical components. An electro-mechanical device skims off the FOGs automatically and places them in a bin for easy disposal. The initial cost is higher than a manual system but the operating costs are much lower over time. The initial cost can be 5 times higher than a manual system. But the automatic systems require much less frequent pumping. They do come in a variety of sizes.

How to choose the right grease trap for your restaurant

If you’re opening a restaurant and trying to decide what type of grease trap to install, you’ll want to consider a few things. First, how much oil do you plan to go through? If you have multiple deep fryers, you’ll probably be using a lot of oil, and producing a lot of waste cooking oil, and may want to consider a larger gravity-based grease trap or even an automatic option. 

You’ll also want to think about where your grease trap can fit. 

Lastly, consider whether you are able to spend a little bit more money up front now to save on the costs of maintenance later.

What is a grease interceptor?

The term “grease interceptor” is used in different ways. For many, the grease interceptor is synonymous with “grease trap”. For others, grease interceptor refers only to a larger in-ground system with higher capacity. For instance, you might use a grease trap for flow rates of 10 to 50 gallons per minute while you might use an interceptor to accommodate flow rates of much more than 50 gallons per minute.

Why do I need a grease trap?

Restaurants and food service establishments must have grease traps according to municipal codes (health department, building departments etc). The municipality must interpret the EPA regulations and enact municipal codes. Without a grease trap, over time, oil, grease and food solids will solidify in pipes causing backups into kitchens, homes and buildings. This can create a huge, dangerous mess that can result in fines from municipalities or a shutdown of a restaurant. The cleanup costs can be enormous.

Fatbergs are a growing problem in New Jersey as described in this  New Jersey 101.5 article about fatbergs. New York City is paying huge amounts to fight sewer backups. In Pennsylvania this apartment building was evacuated because of a sewer backup caused by grease. In Delaware there is a. Program in New Castle County to tackle and prevent grease backups.

Other ramifications of not having a grease trap or using a malfunctioning trap is that grease contains contaminated foodstuffs, which create the ideal environment for dangerous bacteria to grow and thrive. Not only will that make your grease trap unsanitary, it’ll make the grease trap smell and could even attract rodents to your restaurant. If the FOGs reach waterways or leach out into the environment they can do great harm to aquatic creatures and wildlife.

What happens without a grease trap?

Operating without a grease trap is a violation of regulations in most all cities and municipalities. If you don’t have a grease trap, every bit of cooking oil you use will end up in the pipes. If you’re not using a deep fryer, maybe it doesn’t seem like a lot of grease, but it will add up over time and cause major problems. Plus, the penalties can be significant, starting with fines and up to and including business shutdowns.

If you end up dumping FOGs into the waterways, you’ll eventually experience: 

Many cities estimate that kitchen oils, grease, and wet wipes in the sewer system cause more than 70% of sewer backups Nationwide Insurance says that there are more than 500,000 sewer backups from all causes each year across the United States. The company recommends that you avoid pouring grease down the sink even at home to prevent these damaging backups.

Where can I get a grease trap?

You can get a grease trap from a licensed plumber, specialized grease trap purveyor or from stores such as Web Restaurant Store, Home Depot, Lowes and other restaurant supply stores. Grease trap/interceptors range in price from $200 to $25,000. However, you should keep in mind that the grease trap alone won’t be your only cost. You’ll also want a professional to install the device.

Who installs grease traps?

Ideally, a licensed plumber who is familiar with local building codes and ordinances regarding grease traps will install yours, but not all plumbers provide this service. If you’re tempted to do-it-yourself or offer the job to someone who isn’t an expert, you need to reconsider. Installing a grease trap incorrectly can be a costly mistake. Those without sufficient experience often install grease traps backwards, which causes instant backups. You may not even realize that the surprising reason your grease trap is always backed up is because it was installed backwards, but it’s more common than you think.

Outdoor grease trap installation is the most difficult. Typically you have to dig through concrete if it is below a parking lot. Whenever you dig, you need to identify the exact location where you’ll place your grease trap, and check with a regulator to confirm it’s safe to dig, mark utilities and obtain permits to do so. Then you’ll have to connect the grease to pipes, which is a large and tricky undertaking. An outdoor installation can be very expensive, $15,000 or more. Heavy equipment to redig the hole, rip up asphalt and relocate and reconnect pipes makes the project far more costly.

How is a grease trap sized?

The size of your grease trap depends on how much water and grease you expect to flow through it. These liquids can come from multiple appliances in your kitchen, such as sinks and dishwashers. Depending on the amount of flow and the layout of your kitchen, you may need more than one grease trap. There are two main methods available to calculate the flow—in gallons per minute—when determining the size of your grease trap.

Two different methods can be used to determine grease trap size

  1. Capacity (volume) of sinks attached to trap
  2. Gravity flow rates

Using the capacity method, you would calculate the volume of your sinks in cubic inches (length times width time height) and divide by 231 to convert cubic inches to gallons. Then calculate your fill capacity by estimating how full you usually fill your sink. If you fill your sink to 80% then multiply the volume result by 80%. Then determine how long it takes to drain the sink, usually 1 or 2 minutes. Then divide the capacity after adjusting for fill rate by 1 or 2. The result is gallons per minute flowing into the trap.

The second method uses gravity flow rates. In this case you use the Uniform Plumbing Code which says the maximum flow rate for a waste diameter pipe is 20 gallons per minute (gpm). Choosing a two minute drainage time means you need a 10 gallons per minute gpm rated grease trap.

The world of grease traps is messy and various plumbing codes and manufacturers use different methods of sizing. It’s best to leave this calculation up to a professional to size your grease trap.

How much do grease traps cost?

The installation cost will vary with the size of the trap and its location. Installing a small grease trap usually costs between $1000 and $5000 for the trap and installation which varies with the size and type of trap.

 A large interceptor can cost between $5000 and $15000 for the interceptor alone. Then the installation cost will vary widely based on the location and situation. Also, prior to installation a restaurant must obtain licenses and approvals from the proper authority for installation of a trap/interceptor. 

An in ground interceptor under a parking lot can go as high as $25,000. Don’t forget the operating cost of a grease trap. Traps need to be pumped regularly (every 1 to 3 months typically) and each pumping can cost $125 to $250 or higher for large in-ground interceptors.

How do I clean a grease trap?

It’s best to build a relationship with a grease trap cleaning company, especially if that company also collects your used cooking oil, to have your grease trap cleaned and maintained professionally. These technicians will be able to safely and effective clean your grease trap, provide proper documentation for inspections, and catch any signs of a problem early.

Why do I need to maintain my grease trap?

If you don’t maintain your grease trap you not only risk foul odors filling your restaurant and driving potential customers away, but failing a grease trap inspection can cost you hefty fines and could even shutter your restaurant. Read more about grease trap laws and regulations here, and more about how to maintain your grease trap here.

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