By Dave Dunbar, National Sales Manager, General Pipe Cleaners
Dave Dunbar is the National Sales Manager with 25 years of experience with General Pipe Cleaners, McKees Rocks, PA USA. In this blog post, he answers some of the top plumbing questions from Plumbing and Mechanical magazine.
- How has the drain cleaning market changed since the pandemic?
Shifts in the national labor market have been the biggest changes affecting the drain cleaning industry since the pandemic. The number of drains that clog every week in an area tends not to change from year to year. However, plumbers and drain cleaners are having a harder and harder time keeping a pre-pandemic number of trucks on the road because they can’t find people who want to do this difficult job. Business owners have had to pay much higher wages to attract competent workers, and this has affected prices to the consumer. Because they are understaffed, many large drain cleaning companies are no longer able to handle the demand, and this has allowed smaller companies to enter the market. Some of these newcomers are plumbers who had never done drain cleaning before, and some are unlicensed contractors rushing into the economic vacuum. Regardless, we notice that the newcomers are purchasing more and more drain cleaning equipment from General Pipe Cleaners.
- What is your current top-selling tool for plumbers right now, and why?
One of several top selling products, in terms of dollars is the Speedrooter 92. The Speedrooter is a large drain cleaning machine, designed for cutting roots in 3- to 10-inch pipes. It is the type of machine that contractors want on every drain cleaning truck, and because of the changes outlined in the section above, there have been a lot of drain cleaning trucks outfitted in the last couple of years! In addition, the Speedrooter has the reputation of being tough and reliable, a good money maker, safe, and easy to use. As far as we can tell, it is the largest selling large drain cleaning machine in North America!
- What is the top trend shaping drain cleaning/inspection tool design?
We think that the most important factors shaping drain cleaning and inspection design are the same as they’ve always been – durability, reliability, speed, ease of use and safety. The less the machine breaks down, and the quicker a job can be completed, the more money ends up in contractors’ hands. However, technological advancements have radically changed the drain cleaning world over the past thirty-five years and will continue to do so. High-pressure water jetters, video pipe inspection and digital location systems and now flexible shaft technology have transformed the way contractors do their jobs, taking out much of the ‘guesswork’ and giving drain cleaners the tools to meet almost any challenge. We see the role of superior technology becoming more and more dominant over the next few years, as improvements in electronics and material sciences push and transform the classic design factors into products that are lighter, faster and safer. In our opinion, we may be entering the golden age of drain cleaning design!
- What’s new this year in plumbing/drain cleaning/inspection tools?
The most innovative products entering the drain cleaning world right now tend to fall into two categories: pipe inspection/location systems and products utilizing flexible shaft technology. Since their debut 30 years ago, camera systems have gotten progressively more and more sophisticated and reliable, now offering contractors a dependable and accurate way to inspect most buried and hidden pipes. They can spot obstructions, out-of-code plumbing, cracks and fissures that allow inflow and infiltration, as well as other damage. Then, after the contractor finds the problem areas, they can pinpoint their location and depth using a digital locator. These locators track radio signals emanating from transmitters positioned behind the camera head, and they are becoming more and more accurate and user friendly with every passing year. Because they give contractors the ability to find pipe replacement and pipe relining jobs, inspection/location systems can be found on almost every service truck.
Flexible Shaft products utilize an idea that has been around for a long time, that can now be put to work in sewer and drain cleaning because of advancements in the material sciences. For years, woodworkers, artists, dentists, and others used variations of this technology, which uses quickly spinning wire rope cables spinning inside fabric or plastic sheaths to carve, polish, drill and clean. Several years ago, we started to see flexible shaft technology emerge in the margins of the plumbing and drain cleaning world, mostly as milling devices that contractors could use to prepare a pipe for the relining process. Drain cleaning professionals quickly realized that these devices, that can spin cutting tools at two thousand RPM or more, could cut through roots and other obstructions in a drain. Since then, most of the major drain cleaning machine manufacturers have released tools using flexible shaft technology. Most of these devices can serve multiple functions for the drain cleaning professional, clearing obstructions, removing scale, as well as milling and pipe prep. In addition to their utility, they are lighter than traditional drain cleaning machines, and, because the plastic sheath housing the flexible shaft does not spin, they are far safer. As we said previously, we expect technological improvements in electronics and material sciences to continue to push advancement in both inspection/location equipment as well as flexible shaft devices.