HOUSTON GREASE TRAP SERVICES
FAQ: Grease Trap Services in Houston
Are you new to the restaurant world? Are you looking for more efficient, in-depth solutions to keep your kitchen clean and environmentally friendly? Learn more about Houston grease traps, interceptors, tanks, and fatty solids management.
What are grease traps?
Whether you are deep frying, marinating, or barbecuing, commercial-scale cooking generates pounds of FOGS (fats, oil, grease, and solids) on a weekly basis. While some of it can be scraped off directly from broilers and pans, most end up staying on dishes and making their way into the dishwasher, where they eventually wash off alongside water and soap.
A grease trap is a small container, either hidden beneath your sink or underground that is meant to catch FOGS as they go down the drain. This prevents them from simply being poured into the sewage system, where they can potentially damage pipes and leak into the water supply.
So, can I pour grease there directly?
This is a bad idea. The purpose of a grease trap is to separate the FOGS that are mixed in with water and leftover foods and to temporarily collect it until it can be properly disposed of. Pouring thick grease directly on top of them can clog them or prevent them from catching the next batch of oil. It can also overload them and cause you to be forced into placing an emergency call for service.
Are they mandatory? Why?
Yes, they are. In the City of Houston, the water supply relies on large amounts of grease to be filtered out before they have any chance to leak onto the general water and sewage supply. This is why they are considered mandatory in all commercial, licensed, or shared kitchens. Furthermore, this also means that their operation and maintenance is subject to the city’s regulations and specifications. Not meeting them is grounds for losing your license!
How do Houston grease traps work?
Normally, whenever washing dishes and cooking wares, your staff simply pours the water down the drain, mixed in with soap, oil, and even the occasional leftover bite. Beneath the mouth of the drain hides the grease trap. This is equipped with a fine mesh and a holding container. As FOGS have a different density and weight than water, this trap will catch them and keep them afloat in a separate, side tank.
Naturally, this tank is not the final destination for grease and oils. Eventually, it will fill up, and as a restaurant owner, you will be responsible for ensuring they are removed and disposed of properly.
What about grease interceptors?
Grease interceptors provide an extra layer of protection versus standard grease traps. This is why, depending on the size of your kitchen and your turnover, the city may also encourage you or require you to upgrade to a fully-featured grease interceptor.
There are two main types of interceptors: hydro-mechanical interceptors and gravity-based interceptors.
What are the advantages of hydro-mechanical interceptors?
Hydro-Mechanical Grease Interceptors (HGIs) are smaller and usually go directly beneath the sink. They use a small engine to move around all liquids that enter your drain, and then use this movement to separate water from denser FOGS. A standard HGI is excellent for oil-intensive, small-scale cooking, as it can separate a large amount of oils and handle up to 20 to 50 gallons of water per minute.
What are the advantages of gravity-based models?
Gravity Grease Interceptors or GGIs can handle much larger amounts of water and are therefore used in larger kitchens, such as mess halls, school cafeterias, and food courts. Unlike HGIs, they do not rely on an engine but simply offer more space to let FOGS settle away from water. This is why they usually require underground installation and are attached to very large tanks – from 1000 to 4000 gallons.
How can I maintain Houston grease traps and interceptors?
All sizes and models of grease traps share two features: a tank or storage space that will eventually fill up and pose the possibility of becoming clogged. Therefore, grease trap and interceptor maintenance relies on keeping all edges clean and grout-free, and on periodic pumping.
These in-depth cleaning and pumping sessions use industrial pumps and require professional management. The exact cleaning schedule required will depend on a variety of factors, and in all cases, the goal will be to ensure an overflow or spill never occurs.
However, there are some additional steps you can take in between visits to better protect your traps, interceptors, and reputation:
- Ensure that the correct procedure for grease and food waste disposal is covered during staff training.
- Have all plates and pans scraped into a trash or composting bin before washing them.
- Ensure all traces or morsels of food are collected and disposed of separately.
- Check the top of your trap periodically. The best tell is to use a good-old sniff test.
What happens to the FOGS collected?
As we mentioned before, after your trap or interceptor’s tank fills up, it’s time to call the professionals to dispose of all the accumulated FOGS. Up until recently, recycling oil and grease was mostly unheard of. However, there are now a number of potential uses for it. Thicker brown grease can be used for biofuels, while less dense types are often used to feed animals. The important part is that this grease cannot simply be poured down the drain or into any body of water – river, lake, ocean, you name it – as it could contaminate it.
It is usually understood that your grease trap cleaner will then take them to the appropriate plant or disposal facility. However, you may have heard from city officials that you are responsible for your FOGS from “cradle to grave.” This means that relying on the wrong kind of grease pumper can cost you a lot of money! It’s important to choose a reputable grease trap cleaner who cares about the environment and does everything by the book. The final destination of all grease collected may be specified on the service contract, and any breach can always result in a lawsuit later, but as far as the city is concerned, you will be the responsible party.
How to install a Houston grease trap or interceptor?
Grease trap installation requires a personalized consultation, as the answer will vary from customer to customer. Not only are there several types of interceptors themselves, but the amount of available space, the overall building structure, and the type of soil will also affect the feasibility of an underground tank and its maximum size.
The City of Houston has a set of regulations that state the minimum size and specifications of your grease trap, but these are just a minimum. Depending on your average customer turnover, a minimal installation could put you at risk of frequent blockages or compromise nearby sewage pipes, which would not save you from the requisite fines.
Depending on your starting budget, you may find that installing a bigger tank now can save you money down the road. Alternatively, an oversized gravity grease interceptor may not provide a good return on investment, and if you are in a shared building or facility, you may simply not have the space or the right to dig a 1,000-gallon underground tank.
As there is no easy answer, the experts at the Houston Grease Trap and Interceptor Services can take a good look at all your circumstances and help you make the best choice.
How often do they need to be cleaned?
Just like with the initial installation, the exact maintenance schedule you should follow will depend on a variety of factors – mainly, the size of your tank and the number of people you serve on a weekly basis. The first time you contact us for a
routine grease trap cleanse, we will ask a few follow-up questions to help design your customized schedule.
What happens if my grease trap clogs or overflows?
The first thing you need to do is call for emergency cleaning! An overflow can quickly spill over the surrounding sewage pipes or even into the water supply, in which case, the local Health Authority will be quick to arrive and fine you. If this is not the first time your trap overflows, and you can’t prove you have been cleaning your trap as required, you may also face a long-term suspension or, in a worst case, downright closure of your building.
Our emergency squad will arrive at your premises quickly and help you right this wrong. We will also provide you with several follow-ups to ensure the problem does not reappear right away. Naturally, this is all dependent on you following a tighter and more thorough cleaning schedule in the future.
We cannot stress this enough: do not attempt to clean an already clogged grease interceptor by yourself. This is an unpleasant and labor-intensive task even at the best of times, especially if you don’t have a good industrial pump at your disposal. In fact, most of our emergency calls don’t come from people who have never cleaned their grease traps; they come from hard-working business owners who tried the DIY approach unsuccessfully.
A grease trap that is already clogged or close to overflowing requires dexterous handling. Otherwise, there is a good chance of clogging it tighter, breaking or cracking part of the trap, or spilling the trapped grease and oils in the surrounding area, which causes a very resilient stench.
So, about that smell – We just cleaned our Houston grease trap. Why does my restaurant still smell bad?
The short answer is that it most likely wasn’t cleaned right.
If you are looking to dig a little deeper into the long answers, then you may want to consider any of the following:
The manhole cover: This is the most common cause for people who have an underground gravity-based interceptor. The manhole cover is equipped with an isolating rubber gasket that is meant to keep any gases and bacteria inside. If this gasket gets corroded, worn out, or is simply too old, some of these gasses may be leaking out and spreading around the restaurant.
Back pipes: Out of sight and hard to reach, the back pipes and feeding lines leading into your trap may be clogged or damaged. If this went undetected during the last cleaning session, then the smell will persist.
Ventilation: Sometimes, even if a grease trap was cleaned properly, the old stale smells may be left behind for a few days. This is especially likely if the restaurant has poor ventilation, or the A/C system has been turned off.
Dry-pumping: Cleaning a grease interceptor or trap requires more than just pumping the grease out. After the tank has been emptied, the insides of the tank need to be sanitized and then refilled with water. If the tank is simply emptied and left to dry (a practice is known as “dry pumping”), then bacteria and grease will be left at the edges, causing unpleasant odors and bio-hazards.
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