The Pressure to Succeed

The right jetting equipment – and knowledge – can give your business a high-pressure profit boost
The Pressure to Succeed

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Jetting, the use of a high-pressure water stream to clean pipes and vessels, is frequently a core service offered by drain cleaners, grease trap service providers and many plumbers. A waterjet can cut away roots and break up solidified accumulations of nearly any fluid-deposited material. Jetting also flushes the loosened material and carries it downstream for removal. Entrepreneurs, either those with an existing onsite-related business or those creating a new enterprise, should carefully consider both the added capability and added revenue-producing potential jetting adds to their service menu.

Helping a potential customer recognize the volume jetting can add to the business’ revenue stream is Nick Woodhead’s favorite discussion starting point. Woodhead, president and founder of US Jetting LLC, uses a standard set of questions to elicit key information that lets him guide the discussion.

“I want to be sure the customer buys with an eye to expansion,” he says, noting most newcomers tend to buy up to – but not over – their current needs. “Sometimes it is hard to envision rapid business growth for a service the company never offered.

“When a customer can tell me how much jetting work they are referring to a different business, I can give them a pretty close estimate of the potential earnings they are losing.” This and many other “helps” that he gives to his customers set him apart. “When you shop for price on the Internet, you get the lowest value for your investment,” Woodhead says.

Woodhead believes the purchase and deployment of a power washer to do the work of a true jetter will be frustrating and disappointing for both his customers and their customers. “The threshold that separates a jetter from a pressure washer is about 10 gallons per minute flow at 3,000 psi. To achieve this delivery, a motor that delivers 25 hp is needed.” He points out that power washers typically deliver a less effective 4 gpm at 2,000 psi.

Engine selection is just as important as picking the right operating pressure and flow rate. The tradeoffs are a balancing of investment dollars, maintenance and operating costs, performance and life expectancy. Woodhead says, “The discussion starts with the question, ‘diesel or gasoline?’”

Diesel engines have a 10- to 15-year life expectancy; gas engines, two to three years. With the initial price difference – diesel engines are about four times more expensive – the choice seems easy. Over 12 years, the aggregated cost of replacing a gas engine three times becomes a big factor that has no direct price tag.

There are not a lot of subsystems to choose from. The engine, the pressure pump it drives, the hose and nozzle and supporting chassis are about it, yet each deserves investigation since they all must work together. The greatest diversity is in the nozzle selection, as they all are job-focused in their design. Flushing, root cutting, mud liquefication and propulsion each require a purpose-designed nozzle.

“Using the right nozzle at the right pressure and flow rate can reduce time on the job,” Woodhead explains.

It is no different than trying to make do with a 15-inch adjustable wrench to turn bolts from 6 mm to 1.375 inches; the right tool always makes the job go faster. Customers watching the work know when things are moving forward in a professional manner; they don’t want to see ineffective tools slow the job and raise their bill.


An operator’s perspective

Brittnie Nesenman, co-owner of Jason’s Septic Inc., in South Florida, knows all about the importance the right equipment is in being efficient and effective on the job. Jetting service has been part of their business plan from the outset.

“When Jason, (Brittnie’s husband) wrote the specs for our first truck, he included a jetter,” she says. “Today, all of our vac trucks are equipped with jetting equipment.”

All the company’s trucks are outfitted with identical jetters. Each has a Honda gas engine that drives a CAT pump delivering up to 4,000 psi with a flow rate of 4 gpm. Each unit is fitted with an Aqua Mole head. This setup lets them effectively service pipes up to six inches in diameter.

Jason’s Septic has found another revenue opportunity in cleaning stormwater drop boxes and catch basins. Typically, the debris accumulated in each basin is gravity-compacted and often dried into a large homogeneous chunk that is pretty much immune to removal by vacuum alone. The jetter breaks and cuts these chunks, which are fluidized by the jet’s water. In this sludgy consistency, they are ripe for vacuum hose removal.


Safe practices essential

Worker safety is essential and it starts with hands-on jetter training supervised by Jason. A high-pressure water stream can be a powerful – and dangerous – tool. Safety shoes, gloves and eye protection can diminish the effects of a minor encounter with second-hand spray, but only relentless attention to the work at hand can sufficiently protect the hand at work. A direct “strike” by a high-pressure stream can amputate fingers or toes and do life-threatening damage to the body.

To train employees, Jason set up a training area that includes a 50-foot-long section of 6-inch-diameter PVC pipe. Employees develop familiarity and become comfortable with the equipment once they have mastered the basics of machine startup, emergency shut down, and pressure and flow rate settings.

“We have never had a jetter-related injury, and for that we are grateful,” says Brittnie.

Jetter safety training fits in with the company’s requirement that all employees participate in an OSHA-sanctioned 10-hour basic safety training course. Information presented in this course emphasizes hazard identification, avoidance, control and prevention, in addition to basic OSHA standards. Emphasis is placed on OSHA’s “Focused Four.” These are the major categories into which most construction site accidents fall. They are, Electrocution, Caught-in (or caught between things) events, Struck-by injuries that occur when a worker is hit by something that is intentionally (or otherwise) moving on the site, and Falls.


Doing the homework

Jetting is a proven tool and income opportunity for drain cleaning contractors. The first step to deployment is an understanding of capability, and there are many familiar with the process who are willing to share their knowledge. Talk to your peers and your sales reps and get as much information as you can before deciding on what equipment is right for your needs. With the right knowledge, you’ll be able to acquire the right tools to help your business, and your customers.


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