Getting a Look at Drainlines While Cleaning Changes the Game

Rhode Island drain company uses new technology to clean and inspect drainlines simultaneously

Getting a Look at Drainlines While Cleaning Changes the Game

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Cleaning clogged drainlines used to be a prolonged and tedious job for Rob Broccolo Jr. Most drain cleaners know the drill all too well: Push an inspection camera into a pipe to diagnose the problem. Pull it out. Push in the drain machine cutter for cleaning. Pull it out. Push the camera head back in again to check the progress. Then repeat as many times as necessary.

But the RIDGID series of FlexShaft drain machines — the K9-102, K9-204 and K9-306 — dramatically reduced that time-consuming process at Professional Drain Services of Southern New England, the company Broccolo owns with his father, Rob Broccolo Sr. The resulting improvements in productivity and per-job profitability offer vivid proof of the drain machines’ game-changing capability.

“We now average four to five drain jobs a day, compared to two or three a day before we bought these machines,” says the younger Broccolo, who established the Westerly, Rhode Island-based company in 2017. The company serves customers throughout the state, as well as in southeastern Connecticut. “We’re definitely knocking out more calls per day.”

The productivity gains stem from the units’ design. First of all, the K9-102 (for 1 1/4- to 2-inch-diameter pipes) and K9-204 (for 2- to 4-inch pipes) weigh in at 24 and 38 pounds, respectively. Broccolo says they’re much easier to move around than heavy drum machines.

Even the K9-306 (designed for 3- to 6-inch pipes), which weighs 159 pounds, is a relative lightweight compared to bigger and more cumbersome drum and sectional drain machines. And it comes with a built-in dolly — including a telescoping handle — that can be rolled on two or four wheels.

Two jobs at once

What really drives productivity is the machines’ cable design. The cable is enclosed within a flexible nylon sheath that prevents it from spinning wildly inside a pipe. (The sheath diameter is 3/8, 1/2 and 5/8 inches in diameter for the K9-102, K9-204 and K9-306 machines, respectively.)

By eliminating the cable gyrations, technicians can safely insert an inspection camera behind the drain machine’s cleaning head without risk of damage. As such, technicians can effectively perform both cleaning and inspecting at the same time.

To inspect pipelines, Professional Drain Services owns three RIDGID SeeSnake cameras — a Compact M40, microReel and Mini reel — plus a RIDGID CS6x Versa monitor.

“I was amazed when I first saw the technology at a WWETT Show three years ago,” Broccolo says. “Now these machines are the first thing I pull off the truck for jobs. And nine times out of 10, I’m also finishing the jobs with them.

“It brings so much more value when customers can see the problem on a camera monitor. They can watch me remove a clog while I explain what’s going on. Plus, now I can get in and out of jobs in about 45 minutes, compared to around 1 1/2 hours minimum before.

“Before I was just a drain cleaner. Now I’m a guy with efficient, modern equipment who’s a drain surgeon. My customers love it.”

Broccolo says he still uses a JM-3080 cart jetter from General Pipe Cleaners for longer runs on commercial jobs, as well as a RIDGID K-5208 sectional machine for really tough root clogs.

Powerful machines

The K9-102 and K9-204, which max out at 2,500 rpm, are powered by an 18-volt power drill. That might lead some drain cleaners to question the units’ strength, but Broccolo says he’s never lacked for power. “I’ve cut through some pretty crazy root clogs that were 10 to 12 feet long,” he notes. “And the FlexShafts ate right through them like they were nothing.

“That’s pretty impressive because it’s hard to drive a bigger cable machine through that much root. In the nearly two years I’ve owned the K9-102 and K9-204, I’ve never broken a cable or been unable to get through a clog.”

Broccolo recently purchased a K9-306, which is powered by a 1 1/2 hp electric universal motor that generates 2,000 rpm. He primarily uses it for descaling cast iron pipes and root removal. In terms of durability, he says he’s run the motor (which draws 15 amps) for up to an hour straight with no issues.

“It has a forward and a reverse switch, which is great when you’re descaling cast iron pipes because you can penetrate going forward and clean in reverse coming back.”

The K9-102 includes a 50-foot-long, 1/4-inch-diameter cable; the K9-204 features 70 feet of 5/16-inch cable; and the K9-306 offers 125 feet of 3/8-inch cable. Each machine comes with two chain knockers.

Great return on investment

Broccolo also says the FlexShafts easily move through the exterior P-traps, where the sewer lateral exits a house, that are commonly installed on homes in his service area. With other drain machines, getting a spinning cable and cutter head through these kinds of traps is next to impossible.

But the FlexShafts’ cable and chain knocker can be engaged on demand. As a result, he can send the cable and chain knocker through a trap in nonspin mode, then engage the cable and knocker when they clear the trap. “The cable sheath is very flexible, and the chains don’t engage until you want to spin them.”

With price tags of approximately $880, $1,320 and $4,000 from the smallest to largest machines, respectively, Broccolo believes the FlexShafts are a great value and says they quickly pay for themselves.

“The return on investment is no joke,” he says. “I can make so many more calls a week, so I’m definitely making a lot of money with these machines.” 


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