What are some of the trends coming down the pike for plumbers in 2024? At Goodin, we keep our eyes and ears open for trends and issues that may affect the plumbing industry. In this installment of Tech Tip, we'll take a look at some of the trends plumbers may be encountering this year. Spoiler alert: It's mostly about technology. This doesn't mean you need to have a degree in engineering to keep up with it, but you should know the ins and outs of some of this new plumbing tech that consumers are asking for.
But, it's not only about technology. There are some old-school trends on tap as well.
Like just about every industry out there, plumbing is going green. Customers are demanding it. In addition to more efficient appliances like dishwashers and washing machines, some of the newer fixtures and features include:
Water purification and filtration systems. These can be built into showerheads and faucets, or under-counter units.
Ultra-efficient showerheads. These models go beyond the current standards, which are always being raised anyway. The magic of these heads is the use of aeration and spray patterns to deliver a great shower with less water.
Recycled materials. Green in plumbing doesn't just mean water efficiency, though that's a big part of it. But it's also the fixtures themselves, with consumers excited about models made from recycled materials.
Greywater. The old concept of a rain barrel is getting back into the consciousness of eco-friendly homeowners ... only it's about conserving water indoors. Systems exist to "recycle" water from a bathroom sink to flush the toilet. It's a hot concept in Japan right now, with the top of the toilet tank actually housing a sink. It can save a significant amount of water in the home.
2. Technology solutions for your business
Technology will revolutionize the business of plumbing, not just the fixtures and pipes themselves. it's about creating greater efficiency on the job and in your business. Here are a few of the innovations we're seeing.
Cloud-based plumbing management. More and more software products exist now that allow smaller plumbing companies to manage themselves like the big ones. Hosted in the cloud instead of installed on your on-premise computer, these solutions can be accessed anywhere, anytime through a mobile app or web browser. You get flexibility, remote access, streamlined workflows, real-time data insights and improved communication with your team.
Increased use of drones. Drones are on the rise in plumbing. They can easily navigate everywhere from tight spaces to rooftops to sewer lines, providing detailed, real-time analysis of what they find. This provides more safety for your technicians, and increased insights into problems they might not otherwise see.
Infrared technology. Another advancement in inspection, infrared technology can spot hidden leaks, pinpoint the exact location of a clog or blockage, and more.
Augmented reality. This is software you can use to make 3D models of plumbing designs. It allows plumbers to visualize complex systems before getting in there to install them.
3. Smart plumbing
Today, people control everything from their fridges to their dishwashers to their stoves on their Smartphones ... and now the appliances themselves can learn as they go. Artificial intelligence is everywhere. Why not plumbing?
Self diagnosing pipes. These smart pipes incorporate sensors and other monitors that can detect leaks, clogs and other problems before they become catastrophes. There are even acoustic sensors that can pick up unusual sounds within the pipes that might signal a leak or blockage. They send alerts to a smartphone app, so the homeowner knows when pipes start to leak. And now there are automatic measures to stop that leak before the basement floods.
Smart toilets. Oh, how the throne has evolved. Built-in bidets are just the tip of this iceberg. Now, you can find toilets with automatic air deodorizers, fully automated settings that reduce the cleaning customers need to do, touchless lids, Bluetooth speakers, connection to Alexa for voice commands and more. This trend is on the rise, meteorically. The smart toilet market in the U.S. is expected to reach $16.43 billion by 2030.
Touchless options. These have been around awhile, but after the pandemic elevated hand washing to an Olympic sport, consumers are asking for sensor-activated features on their faucets. Self-cleaning faucets are also on the rise, along with voice-activated models.
4. Integration of plumbing and HVAC features
Your customers may view HVAC and plumbing as separate, but these vital systems are becoming more integrated. What's the reason for this trend? Smart home technology is enabling management of both systems and the end result is greater comfort in the home.
Energy efficiency. Integrated systems can help each other and eliminate redundancy. For example, a heat pump can use waste heat from the AC unit to heat water.
Hydronic radiant heating systems. These in-floor heating systems combine HVAC with plumbing to provide warmth that radiates up through the floor. They can be integrated with heat pumps, boilers or solar systems.
5. Digital presence
It's not enough anymore to simply do a great job at a fair price. More and more, people are choosing a plumber online. And that means ratings, recommendations and more. Your business needs a digital presence.
Informative website. Your website is a reflection of your business, oftentimes the first contact people have with you. It should include a short history of your company, customer testimonials of great work, descriptions of your services and even a page of FAQs.
Online scheduling and payments. On that great website, people need to be able to schedule their service and pay for it.
Make it mobile, too. Your website needs to be designed to look as good on a mobile phone as it does on a computer screen. People are doing everything on their phones these days. Make it easy for them.
6. Improved customer experience
Wrapped up in a more robust digital presence is the need for improved customer experiences. In addition to a great website that makes it easy for customers to find you, learn a few things and book appointments, here are some ways plumbers are upping their customer service game.
Make it easy to reach a real person. Websites matter, but when customers want info or have an emergency, they need to reach a real person, not a chat bot.
Be more transparent about price. Customers need to know how much it's going to cost, upfront. This could mean online quotes and estimates.
Better communication. It's essential to keep customers informed with texts, emails or other notifications about things like progress on the job, when it's going to be done, any issues that come up, delays, and especially arrival times.
7. Aging pipes concerns
The lowest-tech of the trends, homeowners are wondering about aging pipes in their homes and whether they should replace them. Knowing when to upgrade the pipes in a home doesn't necessarily require a high-tech solution, just a knowledgeable plumber.
Visual cues. Rust, corrosion, pitting and other signs will tell you if metal pipes are deteriorating, as will cracks, bulges or leaks. Discolored water is also a telltale sign of rust.
Performance. Frequent clogs, uneven water flow, bursts of hot or cold water, and strange noises all signal pipe problems.
Materials. Copper and PEX both have long lifespans, but the longevity of both types of pipes can vary depending on the quality of the water, whether you have a well and other factors. Galvanized steel can last 50 years, but it is prone to rust and corrosion.
From high technology to deep plumbing knowledge, 2024 is shaping up to be an interesting year for plumbing. At Goodin Company, we're your trusted source of supply for all things plumbing. We're committed to your success!