Portable Drain Cleaning Machine Leads to Better Production for Plumber

FlexShaft drain machines may be easy to carry and use, but they’re anything but lightweights when it comes to unblocking tough clogs.

Portable Drain Cleaning Machine Leads to Better Production for Plumber

Duane Goodpaster, owner of All Drains Drain Cleaning and Plumbing Repair in Ohio uses a RIDGID FlexShaft drain machine at a restaurant job. Goodpaster now owns four FlexShaft machines, two K9-102s and two K9-204s. (Photo courtesy All Drains Drain Cleaning and Plumbing Repair)

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As the owner of All Drains Drain Cleaning and Plumbing Repair, a two-man operation, Duane Goodpaster is all about maximizing daily productivity and efficiency. As such, he wasted no time investing in a RIDGID FlexShaft K9-102 portable drain cleaning machine.

“In 2017, a friend of mine in Baltimore recommended it to me and I ordered one the very next day,” says Goodpaster, who founded his business in 2001 in Middletown, Ohio, located about halfway between Dayton and Cincinnati. He serves customers in a roughly 40-mile radius around Middletown, doing drain cleaning and service and repair plumbing. “I immediately started using it when it arrived a couple days later. It has definitely changed the way we do things.”

One of the primary attractions was portability. The K9-102 weighs about 24 pounds and measures approximately 19 by 7 1/2 by 22 inches, so it’s easy to carry just about anywhere. In addition, it’s powered by an 18-volt, battery-powered drill, so there’s no need to deal with extension cords.

The portability easily translates into productivity. Before, Goodpaster used drain machines that weighed close to 300 pounds. Lugging them up and down stairs several times a day or in and out of homes and buildings took its toll physically.

Furthermore, in restaurants — a major source of All Drains’ work — Goodpaster would sometimes have to haul in different size drain machines, depending on how cramped the work areas were.

“I was looking for a way to stop carrying these big machines around,” he says. “I’m 47 years old and had my first back surgery at age 37. I knew there’d come a time when I couldn’t carry these machines around anymore.”

NO LONGER LUGGING

But that’s no longer a concern. Goodpaster says he now can quickly clean eight to 10 drainlines in one restaurant, using either a FlexShaft K9-102, designed for 1 1/4- to 2-inch-diameter pipes, or a larger K9-204, developed for 2- to 4-inch-diameter pipes.

The K9-102 includes a 50-foot-long, 1/4-inch-diameter cable, and the K9-204 features 70 feet of 5/16-inch-diameter cable. It weighs around 38 pounds and measures roughly 21 by 11 by 24 inches. Both machines come with two chain knockers that expand as they rotate to clean the entire circumference of a pipe.

“One day I did eight drains in one restaurant in just two hours,” Goodpaster says. “And I cleaned each one several times with a chain knocker, which removes all the grease and leaves pipes in like-new condition. I wasn’t just poking holes through the middle of the sludge and grease.

“After that, I still had time to do four more service calls and then get home in time to have dinner with my family,” he adds. “I wish this technology would’ve come out 20 years ago when my daughters were younger.”

Goodpaster estimates that drain cleaning jobs go 40% to 50% faster with the FlexShaft machines. Goodpaster and his son-in-law, Luke Brongersma, can each do seven or eight jobs a day. “It’s just amazing how much time you save, and it does such a thorough job of cleaning,” he says.

A major part of the productivity boost stems from the units’ design, which encloses the cable inside a 3/8-inch-diameter, flexible nylon sheath for the K9-102 and a 1/2-inch-diameter sheath on the K9-204. The sheath prevents the cable from spinning wildly inside the pipe. As such, there’s less job site mess as the line is retracted.

CAMERA IT WHILE CLEANING

Better yet, the nylon sheath allows technicians to insert a pipeline inspection camera into a line while the machine is cleaning, without jeopardizing the camera. Goodpaster owns one RIDGID SeeSnake inspection cameras and is preparing to buy another one.

“You can actually see what you’re doing while you’re cleaning,” he says. “Which means you don’t have to stop and pull out the line, then push in the camera to take a look, then pull out the camera and push the cable back in to clean more, and so forth. It takes out all of the guesswork.

“And with the camera there, you can invite homeowners to take a look, instead of having them wonder what you’re doing,” he continues. “You want them to see how thorough you’re cleaning the drain. They’re usually excited because no one has ever shown them this before.

“I build a camera fee into my rate, but I’m still competitively priced,” he adds. “And customers don’t mind paying my rate because they can see what they’re getting for their money.”

The FlexShaft is easy to use, too, and setup is much faster than larger drain machines. Goodpaster says an operator can push the cable in with one hand while squeezing the drill trigger with the other hand. The drill clamps onto the unit’s standard 5/16-inch, hex-shaped drive shaft, mounted in the center of the machine’s drum. “It couldn’t be any easier to operate,” he says.

PLENTY OF POWER

If anyone is concerned that an 18-volt drill can’t generate enough power to spin a cable fast enough to clean a drain, Goodpaster says the FlexShaft offers enough muscle, generating a maximum of 2,500 rpm.

“It gives you a lot of power,” he says. “And it spins the chain knocker at the end of the cable at the same number of revolutions per minute as it does at the point of the drill — there’s no lagging or binding up. You don’t have to wait for energy to build up: Those chains are moving almost as soon as you pull the trigger.”

Goodpaster now owns four FlexShaft machines, two K9-102’s and two K9-204’s. The K9-102 sells for around $880, and the K9-204 is priced about $1,320. Goodpaster says the machines are a great value, especially for plumbers looking to invest in a high-quality, versatile drain cleaning machine that can handle all kinds of clogs.

“It’s such a small investment, but the return is just huge,” he says. “We’ve never quit on a clogged drain; we always get it open. If I’m, say, the third or fourth contractor a customer has called to handle a really tough clog, I tell that customer I’m the last person they’re going to have to call. That’s how confident I am in this machine and its abilities.”



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