Several years ago, while working the General booth at a trade show, I struck up a conversation with a drain cleaning pro who used our products. He looked around at the different products we had brought to the booth, pointed at our line of camera inspection systems and said, “You know, I just spent $1,500 getting my cameras fixed up.” Initially, I was nervous that this might be an upset customer, but what he said next was quite the contrary. “But I don’t mind,” the man said. “Because each one of my cameras made me more than $50,000 this year!”
I learned that the man brought a camera with him to every job, and if there was something peculiar going on with the pipes, he would do a camera inspection to find things like root masses, cracks, dips or any other problems that might warrant a pipe replacement. With his General cameras, the man was able to not only show the customer exactly where the problem was in the pipes, but also use features like voiceover and screen titling to enhance the inspection and eventually help sell pipe replacement jobs.
I tell this story because it is a prime example of how camera inspection systems completely revolutionized the earning potential for drain cleaning companies over the past few decades. It’s one thing to tell a customer they need a pipe replacement; it’s another thing to be able to have a customer looking over your shoulder and show them exactly what’s wrong with their pipes in real time. What started as a useful diagnostic tool quickly became an extremely effective marketing tool that has (literally) opened doors for thousands of plumbing and drain cleaning businesses.
The Early Days of Camera Inspection Systems
I started working at General Pipe Cleaners in 1996. Coincidentally, this was around the time cameras first became widely used in the industry. Later that year, General introduced our first camera system, the Gen-Eye. Prior to this, plumbers and drain cleaners had to essentially guess what was going on in a pipe. They would have to detect a problem by going off the feel of the cable or getting an excavator and digging up the pipe. Cameras changed all that. Now, drain cleaners could see exactly where the problem was in the pipes, which saved a ton of time, effort and, in many cases, unnecessary digging.
Cameras also educated customers on the various problems that would necessitate replacing a pipe. Dips, cracks, root masses and collapses in a pipe could now be visualized. While this benefitted the drain cleaners in helping them sell potential replacement jobs, it also allowed them to potentially mitigate the amount of pipe that needed to be replaced, which brought more peace of mind to the customer.
Drain Cleaning Companies Get the Picture
After camera systems were introduced to the market, tons of companies clamored to enter the drain cleaning business. Drain cleaning pros doing service work realized that they could earn much more money doing pipe replacement jobs. Businesses offered their drain cleaning services for reduced prices as a way for generating leads by inspecting the pipes for potential replacement jobs. And once these companies learned how to successfully use their camera systems as marketing tools in their pitch to customers, their potential earnings increased dramatically. Additionally, by using drain cleaning as a means for entering a customer’s home, these companies could use the opportunity to sell their other services such as water heaters, HVAC, etc.
With an increase in camera systems came an increase in the use of water jetters on the jobsite. Jetters had been around since the 1980s, but their ability to clean the pipe and make it look brand new made them a perfect companion for camera inspection systems. After going through a pipe with a jetter, the inspection looked much more impressive to the customer, which helped secure preventative maintenance contracts with food service business and the like.
Addressing Environmental Concerns
Another factor that increased the demand for pipe and sewer inspections was the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s increased concern for our public sewage system that continues to leak like a sieve. Fresh water is entering our waste lines, which is causing our sewage treatment plants to overflow. Therefore, the EPA recommends that all leaky pipes be replaced. In the early 2000s, the EPA attempted to clean up its act, and through grant money, drain cleaning businesses were able to inspect and replace many of the pipes that were causing problems in our municipal systems. However, leaking laterals in the plumbing for private homes and business became too much to where the efforts proved ineffective. And unfortunately, there is not enough funding to properly ensure that all leaky pipes get replaced. While it can be costly for the consumer, the EPA recommends that contractors be extremely proactive in replacing or fixing all leaky and out-of-code pipes in order to cut down on inflow and infiltration. Once we see more investment in fixing these pipes in the private sector, the business growth opportunities for drain cleaners could be astronomical.
Modern Innovations in Camera Inspection Systems
Nearly 25 years since they were first introduced to the market, companies like General have realized the importance in designing camera inspection equipment to be effective marketing tools so drain cleaning and plumbing companies can continue to grow and expand their business. From making cameras USB-, Wi-Fi- and smartphone-compatible, to adding voiceover and titles to inspection videos, General continues to innovate in ways that help drain cleaning pros secure that next job with confidence.
For more information, visit our Plumbing Diagnostics Tools section or call the Drain Brains® at 800-245-6200 or 412-771-6300. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or complete our easy form here. You can find a retail location near you where you can purchase our sewer camera systems too.