Ditch the old school excuse and dare to change.

After watching the nonsense this past November, I'm glad it wasn't me being elected president. If I were elected president, however, what would I decree?

The president is always granted that first 100 days to make an immediate impact on the country. If granted those first 100 days, I would decree that everyone in the plumbing industry has to be educated on innovation and new technology. I mean really educated, so that everyone understands what we are talking about.

This country was founded on "Yankee Ingenuity." Yet in recent years, new technology has taken a backseat in the plumbing industry. A common expression heard is "I'll wait till my competitors use it." When it comes to many of the plumbing codes, the expression is "NIMBY" - Not In My Back Yard. In other words, we know this new technology or innovation works, but we just don't like it. Anyone in the plumbing profession caught saying one of these expressions would be fined $100 for stupidity under my administration.

Old School Exposed

One of the reasons I would decree continuing education is because I am tired of hearing "I'm from the old school. We do it the old, tried and true way."

I often wonder about this "old school" concept. What is old school? How did it get so old? Was it ever new?

It has been 30-something years since I was trained in plumbing, so I guess my school is old. When I learned the profession, I learned all of the techniques many consider old. Heck, I started out caulking lead and oakum joints. Inside the building, we used white oakum because it was better. But when rubber gaskets came out, we were out there trying to figure out how to use them. What was the best way to join the pipe using these new devices? Someone finally invented the puller tool, as we so aptly named it.

But my old instructor was not old in his thought process. While it is old now, it was new back then. I was being trained in modern technology at the time. I remember seeing this good German mechanic's eyes light up the first time we ever installed a piece of plastic pipe back in the late 1960s. He knew the material would change the face of the plumbing industry. But he never feared any of this new technology.

Hence, if we really are old school plumbers, we have to keep pace with modern technology. That is what the old school taught. Imagine if the old-timers only installed plumbing the way they did in 1930. They didn't; they kept up with innovation.

Give It A Shot

I would further require every plumbing contractor to try at least one new or innovative item every year. Manufacturers are spending millions of dollars to develop new and innovative products. The least we could do is try them. If they are no good, let the manufacturer know. The manufacturers learn from hearing responses from the field.

I just returned from one of my favorite shows, the ASPE Exposition. There were all kinds of new gadgets and gizmos. You can have a field day at this show. I could go on for a long time about the neat new innovations coming from the manufacturers. The new water heaters impressed me. There were many new gas-fired units that had through-the-wall venting. You should check some of these new water heaters out.

One of the more impressive devices on display was the automatic shutoff valve for the water supply to a single-family dwelling. The prototype was being shown at the Thompson Plastics booth. The shutoff valve should be available sometime this year.

You may ask, "What is so impressive about an automatic shutoff device?" Well, this valve had intelligence built into it. The valve is designed to shut off the water supply in the event of a leak. Now, I have seen systems like this in the past, but this was different. Unlike the other systems, this has a single valve that does all of the monitoring. Multiple valves interconnected through a computer are not required for this system to work.

The manufacturers developed a way of monitoring the normal flow of water. If the normal flow of water is altered, the valve assumes there is a leak and shuts off the main water supply to the house. The shutoff valve is simply a ball valve operated by a 9-volt motor.

The system is preprogrammed to establish the normal use of water in a home. We know how long a typical shower is used, for example. We also know how much water is used by opening various fixtures. If there is a leak of a water heater, icemaker line, sillcock, split water line, etc., the flow of water is too high. Thus, the system shuts off the water supply. When the water is shut off, an alarm goes off to indicate that the valve has activated.

There are overrides built into the unit as well. Say you are washing your car or watering the lawn. The use of water for these operations would exceed the expected use of water flow. The control panel would allow the homeowner to bypass the normal use of the valve. Within a given period of time, however, the system would reset itself to continue monitoring the normal use of water.

This automatic shutoff valve is a great device for vacation homes and homes that are empty during the day or on trips. Just think of how many times you have repaired water lines that have caused extensive water damage because the leak went unattended for a period of time.

I doubt a shutoff valve like this will ever be required by code. If you choose to install this type of valve, it will cost more. The long-term savings, however, can be tremendous. If I was in the insurance business, I would be giving breaks on the insurance rate if someone installed this valve. Water damage is right behind fire damage as a major insurance claim in single-family dwellings. So, will you consider using a new and innovative device like this?

Under my presidential administration, you would use new and innovative products like this on a regular basis. That would be part of your job. But, then again, that is your job today. So even under an administration not run by me, expand your horizons into new and innovative technology.