Trailer-Mounted Jetter Helps Plumber Draw in More Business

Texas plumber’s powerful water jetters punch above their weight for productivity.

Trailer-Mounted Jetter Helps Plumber Draw in More Business

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About six years ago, a custom-built PipeHunter trailer-mounted water jetter with hot-water capability vividly demonstrated why Black Plumbing in Abilene, Texas, now owns five of the powerful machines.

In one instance, the company was called out to a local U.S. Air Force base to locate a clog in an 8-inch-diameter sewer line. A combination sewer vacuum truck had been trying unsuccessfully to clear the line for 24 hours, explains Darrin Black, the owner of the company.

“They were fixing to dig up the line to get access to the clog, so we cameraed the line to locate the clog,” Black says. “My son, Chris, had the PipeHunter trailer jetter hitched to his truck, so he asked if he could give it a go — said he’d do it for free.

“The guy looked at the big vac truck and then at the little trailer jetter and laughed, then said no,” he continues. “But Chris persisted and, finally, was allowed to give it a shot. And he had it flowing in 10 minutes.”

A similar situation occurred the next day, when Chris saw an Abilene municipal vac truck trying to clear an 8-inch sewer line. He stopped and learned the crew had been working on the clog for eight hours, Black says.

“He offered to help and unstopped the line in 10 minutes,” he says. “PipeHunter (a brand owned by Texas Underground) makes a very effective machine.”

HIGH PRESSURE, LOW FLOW

The company’s PipeHunter jetters features a potent one-two punch: a low-volume, high-pressure water pump (up to 10 gpm at 4,000 psi), made by Giant Pumps, and heated water provided by either Pressure-Pro hot-water generators or boilers made by Pressure Systems Innovations.

The high-pressure, low-flow combination enables technicians to pierce clogs faster without flooding, say, a restaurant kitchen while they’re working. And the hot water cleans pipes much more effectively than cold water, especially lines clogged with grease, Black says.

Furthermore, the hot-water capability is a great differentiator in the drain cleaning market. “You always want to occupy some sort of niche in your market,” he explains. “In this case, it’s the hot water, which melts grease and does a much more thorough job of cleaning drainlines. It’s a great selling point.

“If you leave grease behind after cleaning a line, it gives the new grease coming down the line something to attach to,” he adds. “So, thorough cleaning is really important and these machines offer a much better cleaning solution.”

Crews at Black Plumbing also use the jetters to clean lines in preparation for pipe lining, Black points out.

CUSTOM DESIGN

Along with Giant triplex plunger pumps, the custom-designed PipeHunter jetters also feature 300- or 500-gallon water tanks; heavy-duty, single- or tandem-axle trailers; a hose reel that rotates more than 180 degrees and holds up to 600 feet of 3/8-inch-diameter hose; reel-mounted controls; and diesel engines made by either Caterpillar or Perkins Engines.

Furthermore, Black says his company uses hoses manufactured by Piranha Hose Products to handle the high temperatures.

“We sat down with their engineers and customized the jetters’ design,” he says. “They were open to what we needed, not just what they wanted to sell us. We wanted more piercing power than just a deluge of water. A typical jetter with 2,000 psi and flow of 24 gpm just doesn’t work for our applications.”

Black bought his first PipeHunter jetter in 2014 and purchased four more since then; one is skid-mounted on a Dodge 3500 dually pickup truck. The jetters are used to clean sewer lines for a variety of customers, both commercial and residential; commercial customers include apartment complexes, restaurants and malls. Some clients include facilities with massive amounts of wastewater infrastructure, such as three local universities and two Air Force bases, Black says.

Black praises the machines’ durability and reliability, which are critical to providing great customer service.

“It gives us peace of mind when we know we won’t have issues out in the field,” he says. “And when machines like this stand the test of time, you get a bigger return on your investment.”

TECHNOLOGY-MINDED

Established in 1994, Black Plumbing offers a wide range of services, including service and repair work, pipe bursting, trenching and pipeline inspections. It runs 33 service vehicles, employs 70 people and serves Abilene and a surrounding 32-county area.

The company has built a reputation for emphasizing investments in technology, as evidenced by the five PipeHunter jetters, which cost roughly $55,000 to $60,000 each. Black believes the more services a contractor can offer, the better.

“My philosophy is that if you don’t offer that one service that a certain customer might need, you won’t get your foot in the door — they’ll just call someone else,” he continues. “And if you don’t offer all those services, eventually someone else will. So why shouldn’t it be us?

“Technology has opened so many doors for us,” he adds. “If you don’t keep up with technology and trends, you’re not providing the best service for your customers.”

As for a return on investment, the PipeHunter jetters pay their own freight. And while it initially took technicians a while to warm up to using them, all five machines now are used almost every day, Black says.

“Our techs have grown to love them,” he notes. “If I said we were going to sell them all, I’d probably have a mass mutiny on my hands.”  



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