Tech, usability influence plumbing tool design
Not your father’s plumbing tools.
Each year, plumbing tool manufacturers release their latest and greatest products for plumbing contractors. These are a few of the trends shaping hand and power tools for the plumbing professional.
Hand tool trends
For plumbing hand tools, it’s all about ergonomics and ease of use, says Mike Peiffer, product manager, DEWALT.
“Slim profiles and designs to improve access around plumbing fixtures” are a current trend, Peiffer says. “Tight spaces where threaded connections are still used” are driving this trend.
Ergonomics, tethering and multifunctionality are three top trends shaping plumbing hand tool design, says Robin Hilton, category manager – tools, safety and specialty products, Ferguson.“An emphasis on safety is driving the trend for ergonomic and tethering design in plumbing hand tools,” Hilton explains. “Tools that are ergonomic focus on design that feels comfortable in the hand, making them easier to handle and use over longer periods of time.”
Meanwhile, tethering reduces drops and protects workers below and extends the lives of these tools.
Sara Porosky, global marketing manager, hand tools, RIDGID, says that in addition to better ergonomics that put less strain on the body while lessening fatigue, multipurpose tools are also a trend, and both help save time and money.
“Contractors are looking for ways to work smarter, not harder, and this translates to not only the way they run their businesses but also the tools they use,” Porosky says.
Users are definitely looking for more versatile hand tools, says Corey Dickert, vice president of product management for Milwaukee Tool.
“Productivity is everything in today’s market,” Dickert says. “Streamlining operations is incredibly important, and having a tool that is highly capable and easy to use can be the key to maximizing any tradesmen’s productivity.”
Power tool trends
When it comes to power tools, the biggest influencer across the board is technology.
“New technology is allowing for the existing plumbing tools to become more powerful, efficient, compact and ergonomic,” Peiffer says. “One factor is a shift in materials being used for plumbing. A second big one is a shift in technology that allows power tools to be created that could never be done before.”
Marcus Borman, global marketing manager, pressing, RIDGID, also points to compact size as a major trend in power tools for plumbing applications.
“The reason why size and weight is important is due to the tight spaces that plumbing contractors are in every day,” Borman explains. “They are constantly working overhead and in tight spots and need tools that work well for the jobs they are on. This is why at RIDGID we work to improve accessibility from all angles.”
Marty Silverman, vice president of marketing, General Pipe Cleaners, also agrees that “small is the next big thing,” adding that General’s mini-jet weighs just 23 pounds. “The 1,500 psi unit easily clears small drain lines 1-1/2 inches to 3 inches in diameter up to 50 feet long. It’s so small it fits inside a tool box, so it won’t take up much room in the truck.”
Improved battery power and smaller, lighter batteries are also huge trends this year, Hilton says.
“The redesigned battery packs also have a longer run time and work in multiple tools, so they can easily be interchanged on the jobsite. The enhancements to the battery packs make tool connection to power much easier.”
Dickert also points to battery advances as a big trend affecting power tool design in 2018.
“Lithium-ion, along with advancements in motor technology and electronics, has allowed manufacturers to pack a massive amount of power and performance into a more compact structure. Because of this, users are now able to focus completely on finishing the job at hand without the distraction of cords or worrying about losing productivity searching for an outlet. In fact, many of the technological advances surrounding cordless tools have led to the ability for cordless products to meet and surpass corded products.”
The tool market is rapidly changing, and plumbers more and more require the right tools to be able to do their jobs while maintaining a healthy profit margin.
“All firms large and small are looking to maximize bids and service times and minimize call backs,” Dickert concludes. “To do this, they must understand the trends above that can dramatically affect their productivity.”
Name: RIDGID EZ Change Faucet Tool
Released: January 2018
Description: The RIDGID EZ Change Faucet Tool is a multipurpose tool for installation and removal of faucets and sink strainers. It is designed with a short body for easy access into tight spaces and features a unique cubed insert that is compatible with a variety of common nut sizes and ideal for most common 2-,3-, 4- and 6-tab mounting nuts.
Where to Buy: Your local RIDGID distributor, The Home Depot, or online
Name: RIDGID Compact Press Tools (RP 240 & RP 241)
Released: September 2017
Description: RIDGID compact press tools allow plumbing contractors the ability to make quick press connections, saving contractors time and money. The RP 240 and RP 241 can make connections from ½” to 1-1/4” (copper and stainless steel tubing), ½” to 1-1/2” PEX, and ½” to ¾” steel. The lightweight, low-profile design of these tools are ergonomically designed to help users easily work overhead and in tight spaces.
Price: List Price For A Kit (tool, 2 batteries, charger, case, and ½”, ¾”, 1”, 1-1/4” jaws): $2,199
Where to Buy: Your local RIDGID distributor or online
Name: M18 Short Throw Press Tool
Released: March 2017
Description: Optimized for residential installations, the tool presses 40% faster than competition, delivering force optimized for PEX installation and eliminating downtime caused by calibration intervals. With the introduction of the M18 Short Throw Press Tool with PEX Crimp Jaws, Milwaukee can provide a solution that can accomplish the majority of residential installations seen today, reducing the cost of ownership and maximizing productivity for the residential installer.
Where to Buy: www.milwaukeetool.com
Name: JM-1000 Mini-Jet
Description: The lightweight, compact JM-1000 Mini-Jet gives the user 1,500 psi of cleaning power while weighing just 23 pounds. It clears grease, sand, and ice from 1-1/2" to 3" lines. The pump and motor assembly are safely contained in a rugged metal diamond plate case that can handle abuse in the field.
Price: Less than $1,000
Where to Buy: Most plumbing supply houses
Name: Bosch GOP12V-28 12V Max EC Brushless Starlock Oscillating Multi-Tool
Description: This compact, lightweight oscillating multi-tool packs the power of a 12V Max tool. Featuring the next-generation Starlock 3-D interface, it’s perfect for cutting, scraping, grinding and sanding, making any task hassle free.
Where to Buy: Use the “Buy Now” button at bit.ly/StarlockBosch
Name: DEWALT 20V MAX* PEX Expander Tool Kit DCE400D2
Description: Expand PEX Type-A tubing from 3/8” to 1” with the 20V MAX* Cordless 1” PEX Expander.
Price: Bare Unit DCE400B, $299; Kitted Unit DCE400D2, $459
Where to Buy: Wherever DEWALT products are sold.
This article was originally titled “Not your father’s plumbing tools” in the July 2018 print edition of Plumbing & Mechanical.