Dave Bischof set out to create a jetter that solves the limitations of available space and the lack of performance in electric jetters.

Most plumbing firms who perform drain stoppage remediation use the customary cable machines--they are comparatively inexpensive and ergonomically easy to store in cluttered field vehicles. The problem is that they do a poor job of actually removing all the debris from a drain pipe. That's why I prudently avoided the term drain "cleaning" which, when used to describe cabling, is a misleading term that creates an expectation among clients that it does not deliver on.

As an example, take a kitchen drain stoppage. It’s usually caused by organic debris accumulating in a 1.5”- 2” galvanized steel drain pipe. The corrosion on the inside of this material creates the rough surface that facilitates adhesion of food products. Sending a cable down into the drain can only mechanically loosen an area equivalent to the diameter of the cable head or the circumference of the cable arc after bending a dogleg in the cable aft of the cable head. At best this can remove a substantial portion of the buildup, but some stoppages are so gooey they are like a jelly, and cabling such has no effect.

Rather then deploying cable machines for soft stoppages or those based upon organic debris, hydrojetting can be a remarkably superior means of removing soft debris to the point where using the term “cleaning” may be a legally safe term. The problem with jetters is that the size of the units creates enough problems with the limited space in trucks. Contractors revert to the compact and inexpensive electric jetters. If you video inspect 2” lines before and after jetting with an electric jetter, prepare yourself to be frequently disappointed with the results. Currently available gasoline engine jetters offer superior performance, but due to their size are prohibitive to place within a service vehicle--especially if your firm uses George Brazil-style cube trucks and shelving.

For this article I set out to create a jetter that solves the limitations of available space and the lack of performance in electric jetters. For the project I selected Gorlitz Sewer and Drain Company, a local manufacturer of drain equipment in Santa Fe Springs. This firm was given the task of fabricating the design. This drain equipment company is headed up by Gerd Kruger and his son Lutz. Gerd is a fellow engineer so he saw this project as a challenging opportunity, as well as a plausible excuse to tinker. I decided to use almost all off-the-shelf components so your drain equipment company can rapidly fabricate a jetter for you that is similar in design to this unit.

Because of the performance requirements, a gasoline engine was needed. Although slightly larger in size then a 17-amp electric motor, the Honda 5.5 horsepower gasoline engine weighs about the same as an electric motor. In reviewing Honda engines, their 6.5 h.p. offering appeared to be the same engine just slightly bored out, so the 6.5 h.p. engine was selected. Next, a lay-down style cart was fabricated to be extremely small and compact yet with a sufficiently wide stance for transport stability. A retractable cart handle was designed and pneumatic tires were selected. The jetter’s dimensional parameters were set to fit under the lower right shelf compartment of a George Brazil-style cube truck interior, just in front of the interior right wheel well.

The next difference between current jetters and this project jetter is both the main hose reel and the trap leader hose reel were miniaturized and produced as separate reels that attach to the frame quickly, without tools. Quick-disconnect Parker hose connects were used, so different hose reels can be rapidly selected and attached without tools, yet the separate reel design allows for compact reels to be stored in other parts of the service vehicle.

A Hypro pump was selected due to its availability of repair parts and ease of service, but you may get your investment back by going with a slightly more expensive gear-reduction drive pump, which reduces pump wear via a lower operating rpm. Giant, as just one example, produces such a pump that employs a very compact gear reduction drive, which should translate into longevity for the pump system. Appropriate pumps of this performance level typically use three pistons. To accomplish pulsation and reduce friction while advancing hoses through tighter bends, there is a single piston disabling system which produces the vibration necessary to assist hose ingress. Interestingly, two-piston pumps produce more vibration by disabling what is half the available pistons, but pump performance suffers more than with the three-piston variety.

A 3/16” i.d. hose was selected as the main hose; it offers performance quite close to larger 1/4” i.d. hoses, yet allows for a more compact hose reel. The smaller hose reel was loaded with 1/8 trap leader hoses. A notable hose of this size is a Swedish-manufactured hose distributed by U.S. Jetting that has excellent bend radius characteristics, and the hose crimp ends are short coupled, which allows the tip to negotiate tighter bends. The U.S. Jetting hose is also the only small hose I have seen with stainless steel ferrules and threaded ends. This should reduce tip cleaning associated with corrosion pieces clogging the tiny exit orifices of such small jetter tip nozzles. It is tedious to take a torch-cleaning tip set or a single wire from a copper fitting brush to clean an orifice, so give some thought to paying for a premium jetter hose with non-corroding stainless steel crimp ends.

On the subject of nozzles, I continue to see contractors paying tens of thousands of dollars for dual-axle trailer jetters with all the bells and whistles, then they buy $75 nozzles. The same analogy holds true for compact jetters. On its face, it would seem that nozzles like Swiss-made nozzles are more expensive, but until such time as you compare the performance and longevity between the two, you just need to trust me that you can’t afford not to use highly engineered premium quality nozzles. To this end, I contacted Enz Nozzles. This company produces Swiss-made nozzles employing the European modus operandi of quality and longevity over initial price.

I spoke with Dana at Enz about the most popular usage of small gas jetters for the customary residential secondary lines and the occasional commercial secondary line. For these applications, Dana recommended their wedge-shaped chisel nozzles for opening lines, and their KBR rotary spinner nozzle for more effective total line cleaning. He then asked for the hose i.d.s, the hose lengths, and the engine performance and pump output parameters of our project jetter. Using their proprietary computer software, we selected the correct number and exit port nozzle sizes for each type of nozzle. It cannot be overstated how effective quality nozzles are, especially rotary nozzles.

The reason behind the effectiveness of a properly engineered rotary nozzle is two-fold: the side orifice is set at an angle that describes a large arc to more completely cover the inside surface area of a drain pipe, and the revolutions produced by water travel are limited to slow down the rpms. The analogy of this philosophy is if you have a garden hose with water shooting out of it at 50 m.p.h, and get in a car traveling forward at 50 mph and aim the hose backward, the water will not be traveling in relation to the ground as the forward action of the vehicle is equal and opposite to the rearward action of the hose’s water velocity. Ala Newton’s Third Law of Motion, an unrestrained rotary nozzle all but eliminates water velocity directed at the pipe buildup. Larger rotary nozzles can employ a forward-angled orifice that describes an arc as it rotates, which is extremely effective for opening very stubborn, harder stoppages.

For longevity, ceramic nozzle exit orifices like the ones used by Enz really hold their dimensional stability remarkably longer than softer stainless steel or brass nozzles exits. This allows the jetter tip to perform properly for many more hours of jetting without performance degradation, and the nozzle orifices can be changed if needed without having to throw away the whole nozzle. In the long run, this results in a lower-cost nozzle that performs pipe cleaning better. For this project, Enz-controlled rpm rotary nozzles were selected for their effectiveness and long term cost savings.

Shifting gears, many contractors tell me they think they need to acquire an electric jetter so their field staff can take it inside a facility without the noise of a combustion engine. Although modern small gas engines are quieter than what they used to be, the more noise associated with such is actually an effective marketing tool. How’s that? Well, you have heard of the clich¿#8220;out of sight, out of mind”…the bigger, louder or more complicated and esoteric-seeming the equipment is, the more perceived value it may have. Most clients have never had their drain cleaned with a combustion engine-driven system, so most will perceive that their drain is being cleaned much better by the far noisier process. With a quality gasoline engine system featuring properly selected and engineered nozzles, this perception will be quite correct. This combination of gasoline engine and pump puts out about 2250 psi at 3 gallons per minute, a significant improvement over an electric jetter, which weighs about the same.

Okay, so you are ready to acquire such a jetter. You really need to give some thought into placing one in each service vehicle, because if you don’t, you are losing money. Just as impulse buying is the most effective human trait for sales, the same analogy holds true for your journeymen or master plumbers as well as your clients. If your staff has to leave the client and go back to the office facilities to pick up a jetter, then go back to the clients, your staff will just not get excited at this gross inefficiency.

Once you equip your staff with such a jetter, you will need to train them using highly successful sales methodologies for closing jetter upgrades over cabling in the 25 percentile closure ranges. Although outside the purvey of this article, in my seminars I do role-playing exercises with attendees who see a highly developed sales method for upselling a client from cabling to jetting, which should allow them to gross enough to pay for their jetters after only six jetter calls.


"This article was originally posted on ww.reevesjournal.com."