Drain Flies: The Genesis of The ●guided● App

Multiple Categories
21.07.2021

What do drain flies have to do with the idea for the guided app? Allow me to explain. I grew up in suburban southern California. City water and city sewer serviced the home that I grew up in. I was totally unaware that this is not the case for every house in the world, so when I moved to New England and bought a home that had a septic tank, I had no idea what was involved. The home inspector inspected it and indicated the flow to the leach field was adequate, but I honestly did not really understand what that meant at the time. I should have spent time doing research at that point but between work and the whole home-buying process, I did not make the time. Side note: if a solution like the guided app had existed, I would have used it to have a video call with an expert to ask questions and get informed.

I grew up putting everything down the garbage disposal. EVERYTHING. Apparently, that’s ok (probably not recommended, but…) when you are on city sewer but that is a problem when you have a septic tank. Our home in New England was a multilevel home with a bathroom on a lower level. It had not been long before we had a back-up in that bathroom. I had a home warranty so I called them and they sent a plumber out after a couple days who basically did nothing. The plumber looked, took the $ervice fee, and basically told me it’s a drain issue and that I needed to call a rooter company and/or a septic tank pump company. Another side note: I have grown a deep hatred for home warranty companies.

Plumbers and Drain Clearing Companies are Not Necessarily the Same Thing

I would have much preferred a solution like the guided app to learn this lesson through an on-demand video call with a plumber. Additionally, had a solution like the guided app existed, the plumber could have assessed the situation via the video call and provided the same advice at a third or a quarter of the cost of the $ervice fee. And I could have received the advice right after the back-up instead of having to wait a couple days for a plumber to come out.

What About the Drain Flies?

I’m getting there. Searching on Google and YouTube ensued. I learned that you are not supposed to put EVERYTHING down the garbage disposal OR down the toilet. I called the septic tank pump company and they came out after a couple more days and pumped the tank. Problem solved…for now.

We decided to do some renovation to a couple rooms in the house including an update to the lower level bathroom – new paint, new flooring, new vanity, new light, aaaaaaand…new toilet. Enter the drain flies. Not long after the bathroom update was complete, we started to see little heart-shaped black or brownish flies in the lower level bathroom. When you killed them, sometimes they would leave a mark on the wall that was really hard to remove. And, we started to notice an odor in the bathroom. Like a sewage odor. No, not like a sewage odor. A sewage odor. Searching on Google and YouTube ensued. We kept getting drain flies in the bathroom and the odor would come and go but never really go altogether. I began to apply the scientific method (also known as troubleshooting) and formulated hypotheses about possible sources of the flies in the bathroom to try to identify the source of the drain flies (I included details related to this process down below).

I determined that the drain flies were coming from the base of the toilet.

1.      I called the home warranty company.

2.      Based on the initial conversation with the plumber, I requested a rooter company be sent out for a potential clog.

3.      Home warranty sent a plumber anyway, the same exact plumber as the first time. They looked again. Took the $ervice fee. Told me to get the drain cleared. At that time, I found out the people that came out were not actually plumbers. They worked for a plumber.

4.      I spoke with the actual plumber. He recommended another plumber for me to contact. So I did, and this was the worst customer experience I have ever had.

5.      The new plumber came out and removed the toilet. Doubled up on wax rings. Drain flies still appeared afterwards.

6.      New plumber came back out. Snaked the drain. During the drain clearing, the plumber did not close something on his shop vac and sprayed gross black stuff all over the shower curtain in the bathroom. Drain flies still appeared afterwards.

7.      I finally concluded that there was an issue with the toilet. I called a completely new plumber and replaced the toilet. Drain flies (and odor) disappeared.

And this horrible experience with the home warranty company and the new plumber was the genesis of the idea behind the guided app. If I had the ability to have a video call with a plumber, I could have, at a minimum, saved myself the time, frustration, and money of dealing with home warranty company and the new plumber and his completely horrible attitude and customer service. I believe I could have arrived at the solution of replacing the toilet much faster and less expensively, and I probably could have even just replaced the toilet myself.

Thinking about the idea for the app, I realized it would have to be on-demand. It would have to be like Uber where a customer submits a request and the request is sent out to a bunch of drivers, and then a driver accepts the request. Similarly, for my idea, a customer would submit a request with description of the issue and the request would be sent out to a bunch of plumbers (actual plumbers), and then a plumber would accept the video call request. Once a plumber accepts the call request, the video call would start and the customer would ask questions, have a dialogue, and get guidance from the professional plumber. The plumber would be paid for the video call, time, and experience. I later realized that this concept could apply to any professional or expert, and the idea for the ●guided● app began to consume me. Eventually, I came to the realization that this could be a better option for some of the searches we do on YouTube and Google. And now, this is our goal – to replace searches on YouTube and Google with on-demand video calls with experts and professionals to allow for real-time dialogue, feedback, and guidance.

Hypotheses Testing

Shower Drain

Hypothesis: If I place clear tape over the drain on the shower, then flies do NOT stop appearing in the bathroom and/or the flies do NOT get stuck to the tape, the shower drain is NOT a source of the drain flies and possibly the odor.

Acceptance Criteria:  Accept hypothesis as true if no flies appear in the bathroom or on the tape; reject hypothesis if 1 or more flies appear in the bathroom or on the tape.

Result: Hypothesis accepted; there were no flies on the tape and flies continued to appear in the bathroom during the test. Drain flies not coming from shower drain. Just to be sure, I treated the drain with salt, baking soda, and vinegar. The next day, I poured really hot water down the drain. I did this several times.

Sink

Hypothesis: If I pull the stopper and close the drain, then flies do NOT stop appearing in the bathroom, the sink drain is NOT a source of the drain flies and possibly the odor.

Acceptance Criteria:  Accept hypothesis as true if no flies appear in the bathroom; reject hypothesis if 1 or more flies appear in the bathroom.

Result: Hypothesis accepted; flies continued to appear in the bathroom during the test. Drain flies not coming from sink drain. Just to be sure, I treated the drain with salt, baking soda, and vinegar. The next day, I poured really hot water down the drain. I did this several times.

Window

Hypothesis: If there are gaps in the window itself or window screen and I place clear tape over the gaps, then flies do NOT stop appearing in the bathroom and/or the flies do NOT get stuck to the tape, the window is NOT the source of the drain flies.

Acceptance Criteria:  Accept hypothesis as true if no flies appear in the bathroom or on the tape; reject hypothesis if 1 or more flies appear in the bathroom or on the tape.

Result: Hypothesis accepted; there were no gaps, and the drain flies could not squeeze through the holes in the screen based on online research.

TOILET!!!

Hypothesis: If I place clear tape around the base of the toilet, then flies do NOT stop appearing in the bathroom and/or the flies do NOT get stuck to the tape, the toilet is NOT a source of the drain flies and possibly the odor.

Acceptance Criteria:  Accept hypothesis as true if no flies appear in the bathroom or on the tape; reject hypothesis if 1 or more flies appear in the bathroom or on the tape.

Result: Hypothesis rejected; flies appeared on the underside (sticky side of the tape). Drain flies were coming from the base of the toilet.

Result

I tested hypotheses sequentially, one at a time, and identified the source of the drain flies was the base of the toilet. Eventually, I realized that we just needed to replace the toilet. After replacing the toilet, drain flies stopped appearing and the odor did not return.