High-tech plumbing equipment & how to get it cheap

It isn’t easy for small- and mid-sized plumbing businesses to keep up in our fast-moving economy. When there are only a few employees on hand, every working hour counts. Getting the most out of the day means having the right tools for the job.

Like other service industries, innovation in plumbing has come a long way in the last few years. Now plumbers have access to high-tech equipment that can significantly boost efficiency on-site and at the office. Taking advantage of the latest technology helps businesses increase their bottom lines. We asked experts in the field what they use to keep a competitive edge.

Drain inspection cameras

Finding the leak is usually the first order of business when plumbers arrive at the work site. And being able to quickly locate the leak often relies on leak detection equipment such as drain inspection cameras. Using specialized camera equipment, plumbers can look into the pipes to see exactly what’s going on and what techniques should be used for repair.

“Leak detection equipment has changed the way we search for leaks under slab and in the ground,” says Justin Greene, Project Manager of Bobby L. Greene Plumbing and Heating Co. Inc. in Shreveport, Louisiana. “It has taken the guessing and searching out of it, which in the end will save the customer both time and money.” 

Ground penetrating radar

Prevention does the job better than retroactive remedies, and careful plumbers know they need a full picture of the structure to ensure the work goes according to plan. Ground penetrating radar, or GPR, empowers plumbing companies with the ability to get a clear picture of what to watch out for underneath the surface. 

“We can’t do our job without it,” says Joshua Quinley, Foreman at UA Local 38, Plumbers & Pipefitters in San Francisco. “A lot of buildings now require it, so you’re not cutting into a structural member. It discovers beams and big rebars that are holding the building together. You cut a certain part that’s major, and you could have a building collapse. It’s very important to keep the structure together. You can only punch so many holes in a slab of concrete before it loses its integrity.” 

“The scanning also protects the electrical and plumbing that’s in the slab sometimes,” continued Quinley. “You don’t want to hit that and have a major repair. It prevents a lot of issues that would slow the job down.” 

GPS fleet tracking

Keeping track of employees, equipment and vehicles can be tricky when everyone is out on a job. If employees are spread out over a metropolitan area while serving clients, there is plenty of room for inefficiency and confusion while moving plumbers from one site to the next. Effectively coordinating time and resources between jobs can make all the difference in the bottom line.

GPS fleet tracking makes coordination issues a thing of the past. By implementing GPS tracking for vehicle fleets, plumbing businesses can leverage tools like digital maps and time-of-arrival features that allow plumbers to trim down the time between jobs. Investing in a GPS system at the office also virtually eliminates the calls administrative staff has to make to track down employees.

Field service management software 

Running a plumbing company means keeping up with estimates, invoicing, schedules, client communications and more. With so much information needed to do the job right, it can be easy to lose track of important documents. That’s why plumbing firms are turning to field service software to ease the strain of organizing daily operations. Now client and job details as well as payment tracking can be consolidated into one place.

“We use a lot of computer programs now in the trade. Things are mostly going digital—like our prints and markups. Everyone can link up and communicate through the app that we use. Or you can markup prints and everyone sees it through the app. It helps you coordinate materials and punch lists. It’s streamlining the industry in that way,” says Quinley. “It centralizes your scope of work.”

Motorized hand trucks 

If there is one thing to be said about water heaters—it’s that they aren’t light. Hauling tanks up and down stairs can wear out even the strongest backs and create additional medical expenses for employees. These days, smart plumbing companies are looking into motorized hand trucks to save their employees the aches and pains of lifting heavy materials themselves.

Motorized lifting equipment for plumbers come in all shapes and sizes to fit the needs of the job. Some industrial plumbers even invest in forklifts and motorized platforms to help them do the work in a safe and efficient manner. Regardless of the type of plumbing work that the company specializes in, motorized hand trucks can provide much-needed relief for overworked employees. 

How to have the best equipment for the least investment

Investing in new equipment is a large expense that needs to be carefully considered before going ahead.

Taking the long-term view on profitability when researching equipment will determine if the investment will be worth it. But even if the new equipment will pay for itself in a short time, some of the highest quality equipment can be hundreds of thousands of dollars, and most small- and medium-sized plumbing businesses simply can’t afford to make that kind of investment. 

Finding the best equipment at the right price can be a job within itself. But with a little perseverance, even businesses that are just starting out can find a way to purchase what is really needed. There are a few different routes to getting the lowest price for top equipment. 

Compare equipment prices online

The internet makes it a whole lot easier to find out which sellers have the best deals available on specialized equipment. Manufacturer websites often have lower prices available than traditional retailers, and some of them even offer wholesale prices to industry professionals. 

Online marketplaces are another option for purchasing hard-to-find plumbing equipment. They can be a great place to find secondhand equipment at minimal prices, but doing your due diligence to ensure the seller is reputable is always a good idea before making the purchase.  

Attend industry trade shows

Trade shows are some of the best places to find high-tech equipment, often before it’s even available in stores. Manufacturers from across the country come together to show off their latest gadgets and wares. And for companies willing to pay a little more, having brand-new equipment can give their employees an edge over the competition.

There are trade shows for plumbers all over the U.S., and a quick search online should make it easy to find one that is nearby. The Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport Show is one of the premier trade shows in the industry, with many manufacturers and business owners alike coming together to show off their tools and techniques and gather information from other professionals. 

Use a business cash back credit card

A credit card for your business can help to alleviate the financial strain of larger purchases. There are many different kinds of cards available to businesses, each with their own perks and drawbacks. Thorough research at multiple banks will determine which credit card will work best. 

Some credit cards are created specifically for larger commercial purchases. Business cash back credit cards offer features to help businesses get the most bang for their buck. Look for credit cards that feature a lengthy 0% intro period; many of them even offer 0% for a whole year. Credit cards like the Chase Ink Business Unlimited℠ Card or the Spark® Miles from Capital One® can help with big purchases, while removing the strain of having to pay back the loan immediately.