When Chad Anderson decided last summer to take a step up to more powerful drain-cleaning equipment, he sought a machine that could seal the deal in terms of customer satisfaction and improved efficiency. He found what he was looking for in a cart-mounted Brute Series water jetter from JETTERS NORTHWEST.
By Ken Wysocky
Along with a RIDGID SeeSnake pipeline-inspection camera, the portable Brute gives Andersen, the owner of Andersen Plumbing and Drain Cleaning in Aurora, Ill., the confidence that he can unclog any drainline, quickly and profitably. And in doing so, he helps customers avoid expensive sewer lateral repairs, which in turn generates word-of-mouth referrals, as well as repeat business for maintenance and line cleanings.
“I didn’t want to be that guy who pokes a hole in it [an obstruction] and then comes back six months later to fix the same problem, or tells someone they need a new line when they really don’t,” Andersen says. “The camera and the Brute help us do our work with honesty and integrity.”
To underscore his confidence in the Brute, he relates a story about a customer who hired another contractor that couldn’t clear out a lateral with a sectional cable machine. The customer was leery about hiring another contractor, so Andersen told her he wouldn’t charge her anything if he couldn’t determine the cause and resolve the problem.
“She thought I was nuts,” he recalls. “I strapped my camera head to the Brute’s hose and found tree roots about 85 feet out. The other contractor went out 160 feet, even into the mainline sewer, but still didn’t clear out the roots. But the Brute did. We were done in two hours. The other guy had been there for the better part of a day.”
The Brute features a 12-gallon water tank (which Andersen supplements with a 65-gallon cart-mounted tank when needed); a 25 hp Subaru engine that runs on propane fuel; a UDOR U.S.A. pump that produces 8-1/2 gpm at 3,600 psi; a 200-foot remote reel with a shut-off valve; a Warthog rotating jetter head from StoneAge Inc.; and 300 feet of 3/8-inch-diameter hose.
Andersen also owns a large, trailer-mounted jetter made by Harben Inc. (300-gallon water tank/18 gpm at 4,000 psi), used for larger commercial and municipal jobs; and three smaller drain-cleaning machines made by Spartan Tool LLC. By gradually accumulating an array of drain-cleaning tools, he’s been able to shift the primary focus of his business from plumbing repairs and installations to more lucrative drain-cleaning jobs.
“We are able to net more profit on these jobs because we charge extra to run this equipment,” he points out. “In the first half of this year, I’ve already made more gross income than what I earned during my first year in business in 2011.
“The average invoice for a drain-cleaning job is much higher than one for, say, a toilet repair, which is why I decided to focus more on drain cleaning,” he adds. “Our growth has been unbelievable, and I attribute most of it to adding drain-cleaning services.”
Andersen says the Brute – which he uses primarily for cleaning out residential sewer laterals, as well as commercial work – basically paid for itself in about five months. “Any machine that you can bring in and make what you paid for it in five months is worth having,” he notes.
The Brute’s portability and its propane-powered engine allows Andersen to use it indoors on commercial jobs. That gives him an edge over companies that own only larger, trailer-mounted jetters that require long hose runs that can disrupt business operations.
“That means the company has to shut down traffic in an area, or maybe leave doors open that should be secured,” Andersen points out. “But with the Brute, I can wheel it right in, which you can’t do with gasoline-powered units. I just bring along a water hose, or use my cart-mounted water tank, and work without snaking a hose all over the place. Customers love it … it’s all about making things easy for them.
“Another thing that makes the Brute shine is that its pressure flow is pretty close to that of a small trailer jetter,” he added. Moreover, for jobs that require working several stories high, the portable Brute doesn’t lose water pressure the way a trailer jetter does on jobs that require a long vertical hose run.
Along with accessories, Andersen paid about $10,000 for the Brute. But he says it’s a small price to pay for a machine that seals the deal in terms of customer satisfaction and increased productivity and profitability.