Matt Michel: 7 products for the modern plumber
Aging-in-place products provide homeowners many options.
The basics of plumbing may be timeless, but the products are changing as technology evolves and demographics shift. For the modern plumber who embraces opportunity, these products offer new and enhanced revenue streams. Here are seven you should offer.
1. Tankless water heaters
Some plumbers look at tankless water heaters and decide they are too expensive and the energy savings is insufficient to generate an adequate return. Do not worry about ROI. People do not buy tankless water heaters because of the ROI. It’s enough to emphasize that they use less energy.
People buy tankless to save closet space, to enjoy an unending stream of hot water, or to simply get rid of the tank and the potential for leaks. The latter is especially true in homes where builders installed water heaters in the attic to save space.
2. Flood alarms
People with storage water heaters are especially open to flood alarms, but they are not alone. Flood alarms can be installed under every sink and bath and in the laundry room. The alarms can be connected by wire or wirelessly to water valves that will close if a leak alert is triggered. Alarms and shutoff valves operate as part of a connected home solution or as a standalone solution.
People buy flood alarms for peace of mind. While homeowners need to check with their insurance company, make sure they are aware that some insurance companies will offer discounts for flood alarms.
3. Touchless or bump faucets
Touchless or bump faucets are popular with people who do not want to touch the faucet handle to activate the water flow. For some it is convenience. For others, it is germaphobia. It also is an excellent product for arthritic homeowners.
4. Sensory showers
As the United States becomes wealthier as a nation (e.g., U.S. GDP per capita is roughly twice what it was in 1980), products evolve from a functional focus to more of a convenience and luxury focus. This is apparent in cars. It is practically impossible to buy a car without electric windows and keyless entry. Even heated seats are widespread.
In plumbing, luxury will unfold in the bath and shower. The future focus on bathing is less functionality than the bathing experience itself that involves water, light and sound. People will buy these because they seek to indulge themselves.
5. Antibacterial glazing
Plumbing manufacturers are beginning to use antibacterial glazing techniques on porcelain products. This reduces bacteria and germ buildup and makes cleaning easier. The glazed surface is repellant to dirt and oils. Hard water deposits are easier to remove.
Consumers who learn about these products will be willing to replace perfectly good sinks and tubs for ones with glazing. They buy for convenience in cleaning and appearance, but mostly out of a fear of germs.
6. Intelligent toilets
There is an array of cutting-edge toilets coming on the market. Some automatically flush when the person moves away from the toilet. Some prevent overflow during stoppages. Some sense just how much water is needed per flush. Other options range from heated seats to bidet features, air drying, self-cleaning features, nightlights and more. At the extreme end are toilets that sample urine and perform health monitoring, which is not as extreme as it sounds at first flush, er, blush.
People’s reasons for purchasing intelligent toilets are as varied as the features they offer. But like other cutting-edge plumbing products, people cannot buy what they are unaware of. Since these products are not in the big boxes (yet), it is up to the trade to communicate their availability,
7. Aging in place
Americans are living longer and want to retain their independence and quality of life as long as possible. Not only is this a quality of life issue, it’s economically advantageous to reasonably avoid assisted living. The average cost of assisted living ranges from $30,000 to $70,000 per year, depending upon the state. Remodeling a home to allow its residents to live in it several more years is a smart financial decision.
Aging-in-place products that plumbers can offer include those listed above as well as attractive wheelchair-compatible sinks, grab bars, lever-faucet handles, walk-in tubs, folding shower seats, mixing valves and more. While it can be difficult to broach the subject, ask older customers how long they plan on living in their homes. Then, suggest a plan to upgrade aspects of their kitchens and baths over time to facilitate their desires to stay in their homes.
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