Hot-Water Jetter Opens Business Pipelines

Texas contractor’s custom Pipehunter water jetter boosts productivity with hot water and higher pressure.
Hot-Water Jetter Opens Business Pipelines
Black Plumbing technicians Jay Gardner (left) and Cole Sisco use a customized PipeHunter hot-water jetter to clean sewer lines at Dyess Air Force Base outside of Abilene, Texas.

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A customized PipeHunter hot-water jetter built by Underground Inc. is helping a Texas drain cleaning and plumbing contractor clean clogged lines faster, increasing both profits and productivity.

The “secret sauce” for increased efficiency with this trailer-mounted jetter, owned by Abilene-based Black Plumbing, actually consists of two components. One is a boiler that heats water up to 180 degrees F to more effectively clear out clogged lines. The second is a pump that generates higher pressure and lower flow than conventional jetters. The unit’s pump, made by Giant Industries, generates pressure of 3,800 psi and flow of 8 to 10 gpm instead of a more conventional 2,000 psi at 24 gpm configuration, says Darrin Black, the company’s owner.

“A jetter with 2,000 psi at 24 gpm just doesn’t work for our applications,” Black explains. “Whether we’re working on a 3-inch- or 10-inch-diameter line, that combination of 3,800 psi and 8 to 10 gpm is very effective.” How effective? “One day, my son, Chris, was driving in Abilene when he saw a city truck along the road. He stopped to visit with the guy who runs the sewer department, who said he and his crew had been there for seven hours trying to unclog a sewer mainline. Chris asked them to let him give it a try, and he had it unstopped in 10 minutes.

“I attribute its efficiency to using a smaller 3/8-inch-diameter hose and higher pressure and lower flow — it turns the jetter into more of a piercing tool,” Black adds. “It creates more of an opportunity to break loose whatever is in there. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, like a collapsed line, I’d say we’re able to clear lines 100 percent of the time.”

Black praises Underground representatives for sitting down with him and designing a machine that fits his needs. “They were open to understanding what we needed, not what they wanted to sell us,” he says. Along with a heavier-duty chassis, the unit features the aforementioned boiler (650,000 Btu); a 525-gallon water tank, big enough to minimize costly stops for water refills; a Caterpillar diesel engine; and a hose reel that can hold 600 feet of 3/8-inch-diameter hose.

Technicians at Black Plumbing use the jetter in a wide variety of line-cleaning applications, ranging from industrial cleaning and commercial kitchens to colleges, malls and apartment complexes. “We also do a lot of work for municipalities,” notes Black, whose company services six different towns within roughly a 140-mile radius around Abilene. “A bunch of these little towns have sewer mains, but they don’t have the resources to own large sewer cleaning equipment. So they outsource that work.

“We can also use the jetter as a pressure washer to clean our vehicles or wash off parking lots,” he adds. “It’s a very versatile piece of equipment.”

The ability to clean lines faster with hot water has helped Black Plumbing establish a firm foothold in the area’s drain cleaning market. When the company isn’t working for clients, it’s working as a subcontractor for other area plumbing companies that don’t have the same technological resources, Black says.

“Hot water cleans lines like they’ve never been cleaned before,” he explains. “If you run cold water down a grease trap line, you’re not completely cleaning the line — you’re still leaving behind residual grease. But hot water does such an effective job of cutting through grease. When we run a camera down a line after cleaning it, the line looks like brand new.”

For really tough cleaning jobs — and especially while preparing pipes for relining with cured-in-place pipe technology — Black says his crews use rotating chain-flail devices, made by Picote Solutions. The scouring tool attaches to the jetter nozzle and does an especially thorough job of removing pipe scale while the jetter flushes debris downstream, he explains.

Black paid about $70,000 for the PipeHunter jetter. That’s a significant investment, for sure, but he says the machine easily paid for itself. Moreover, the benefits of investing in advanced equipment that keeps customers satisfied — and employees busy — are priceless.

“We’re always trying to stay ahead of the curve, keep up with technologies and provide great service for our customers,” Black says. “We embrace the things that are new and exciting and that improve profitability. I always want to be sure I’m doing everything I can to ensure I keep our employees busy — and to do that, I have to bring the newest technology to the table for those guys.”


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