There is a point at which any new technology becomes mainstream. Remember seeing your first smartphone and wondering if, or when, you might use one? Today they are a must-have to do business. For the plumbing contracting industry, smart leak detection and control technologies are like smartphones in their early years – some are familiar with the technology, while others already sell and install devices, but not everyone has embraced them yet. The time for every plumbing contractor to seize this leak control technology opportunity is right now. Otherwise, you risk losing business to your competition, and squander an incremental revenue source that has arrived for the industry and is here to stay – we’re approaching a tipping point!
Today, smart leak detection technologies are relevant to virtually every customer. Householders already live in smart homes where HVAC control, security and even lighting have apps for remote oversight and control. Meanwhile, as plumbing infrastructures age, water losses are the only category of insurance claims that keep growing consistently. Home insurers are more aggressively recommending or requiring leak control devices. More leak control brands are flooding the market and selling directly to clients, of whom even the boldest DIYers typically are not comfortable cutting a pipe. They need their local plumber’s advice on which technology is best for their home and to facilitate the professional installation.
With so many choices for leak detection technologies, knowledge is essential to best advise, sell and install the right product for your clients. Most models today offer apps and are part of a smart home. Of the two primary categories, there are point-of-leak detectors, which use multiple sensors to identify accumulating water, and come in models that passively alert users of suspected leaks, and that actively shutoff the water automatically. Flow-based systems — the other approach to identifying leaks — constitute the majority of new offerings in the marketplace. These systems can catch leaks no matter the location within a plumbing supply, since any supply leak will cause flow.
Some flow-based systems use metering technology and can inform users of their daily water consumption through their apps. Helping save water is an added benefit that some customers will appreciate. Other flow-based systems concentrate more specifically on protecting property and go beyond water meter technology in the ability to see real time flow in very small volumes. Real time low-flow detectability is a benefit that appeals to those clients whose primary concern is property protection. Some systems offer temperature sensors to alert users of critically low room temperatures and trigger proactive shutoffs when frozen pipes are a risk.
The revenue opportunity for the plumbing contractor is clear. Installing a leak control system with a designated shutoff involves a service call that will take the average plumber between two to three hours. Installation time varies based on the complexity of the plumbing architecture. There is no specialized skill set that a licensed plumber will need to acquire in order to install most devices. Homeowners are typically responsible for connecting systems to their home Wi-Fi to activate the app. Once connected, the homeowner will have a new level of insight over their plumbing ecosystem and water use. They will catch the leaks that would otherwise cause damage or water waste. When more leaks are caught, you get more service calls to fix them — particularly for the wasteful, non-damaging leaks that may have otherwise been ignored.
Selling leak detection devices presents an additional layer of revenue opportunity with certain product brands. While many are marketing and selling direct to the consumer, others have established sales and distribution channels which enable contractors to realize meaningful margins for selling the device to their clients. Price points vary and are influenced by valve materials and valve sizes. Any client who has experienced a recent leak is a prime prospect for you to sell them on the need for a device. Everyone else can be educated that the technology exists to be part of their smart home, protect their property, not to mention likely save them money on annual insurance premiums once they install one. The sales messaging is simple.
The case is clear. If you're a plumbing contractor who believes your book of business does not need to include leak detection technologies, feel free to pull out your flip phone and give me a call to discuss your perspective. No offense to my friends in the industry who are laggards, but I’m always interested in learning why individuals fall behind the times.