The homeowners of the future are here. Millennials and Gen Z now make up one-third of total homebuyers, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). These conscientious consumers are tech-savvy, concerned about the size of their environmental footprint, and persnickety about how they interact with service professionals. Their buying behaviors – along with continuing labor shortages – are major drivers of the plumbing industry trends of 2023.
Here are 5 shifts you need to know to ensure your business stays competitive as the face of the market changes.
1. Demand for Green, Sustainable, and Energy-Efficient Plumbing Technologies Is Increasing
Droughts, wildfires, elevated temperatures, and rising carbon emissions are motivating Americans to treat climate change seriously. In fact, 64% of U.S. adults say that reducing the effects of climate change is a top priority. Because of this, many consumers are taking steps to reduce their energy and water consumption – and they’re using green plumbing technologies to help them do it.
Eco-savvy plumbers who offer advice and service to these customers will be in demand for the foreseeable future.
Here are a few green plumbing technologies that you can install to help your customers lower their carbon footprint and their utility bills:
Energy Efficient Water Heaters
Heating water is the second largest energy expense in homes. Switching to one of these energy-efficient units can cut your customers’ heating bills by as much as 80%:
Solar Water Heaters
Solar water heating systems are roof-mounted and use the sun’s energy to heat water. These systems are either active or passive. Active systems are the most common. They use pumps, valves, and controllers to move water from the solar collector to the tank. Passive systems use natural convection to move heated water. Each has its pros and cons. Active solar heaters are more efficient. Passive units are reliable during power outages and typically last longer. Both are designed for use alongside conventional water heaters since they lose function on cloudy days.
Solar water heaters reduce heating bills by 50-80% on average.
Heat Pump Water Heaters
Heat pump water heaters gather warmth from the air and compress it to heat water. They use low-voltage compressors and fans and reduce energy consumption by 60% annually. A heat pump hot water heater can save a family of four up to $4570 in its lifetime.
Tankless Water Heaters
Tankless water heaters don’t store water. Instead, they use a gas or electric burner to heat water on demand. Since they don’t use energy to heat stored water, they are up to 34% more efficient than traditional hot water heaters. These units also last 20 years or more, which is 5 to 10 years longer than a conventional water heater.
On average, tankless hot water heaters save homeowners $100 per year.
High-Efficiency Bath and Kitchen Fixtures
Standard fixtures use less water now than in years past, but high-efficiency fixtures bring even more savings.
- High-efficiency faucets have a flow rate of 1.5 gallons per minute (gpm). That’s 30% less than the flow rate of a standard faucet.
- Switching just one shower head to a low-flow model can conserve 2,700 gallons of water per year.
- Older toilets can use up to 6 gallons of water per flush. Low-flow toilets use 1.8 gallons or less.
2. Demand for Smart Plumbing Is Growing
Homeowners today are transforming their houses into smart homes – and they aren’t leaving out the bathroom or the garden.
Here are a few popular smart plumbing options:
Smart Toilets, Tubs, and Showers
Wi-fi and Bluetooth-enabled bath fixtures offer a fully customizable experience in the bathroom. Smart showers and tubs allow each family member to set and save preferred water temperatures and steam settings. Smart toilets offer self-rising lids, heated seats, automatic flushing, and self-cleaning capabilities.
Smart Irrigation Systems
Smart irrigation systems use weather monitoring or soil monitoring sensors to adjust watering schedules They work via Wi-Fi and can be linked with a smartphone or computer.
Smart Leak Detection Systems
Smart leak detectors alert homeowners to leaks in real-time using smartphones. Some can be paired with smart shut-offs which allow users to turn the water off from anywhere. This ensures minute issues don’t turn into major headaches.
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3. Upgrades and Retrofits Are On the Rise
More than half of U.S. homes were built before 1980. As these homes age, they need to be updated – and it’s causing a remodeling explosion. On top of that, many older Americans are modifying their homes to age in place.
Thanks to these trends, plumbers are experiencing an uptick in service, replacement, and repair jobs like these:
- Installs of grab-bars, walk-in showers, and walk-in tubs
- Shower remodels
- Smart-bath installs
- Water heater replacements
- Upgrading old pipes
- Installing leak detection systems
- Replacing old, inefficient plumbing fixtures
4. Digital and Mobile Communications Are Expected Parts of Customer Service
Gone are the days when homeowners thumbed through the yellow pages and called your office. Now, they use their phones to Google “plumbers in my area.” If they can't engage with your business digitally, they won’t choose your service.
Here’s how to use mobile and digital communications to connect with your customers:
- Ensure your website is mobile-friendly and includes a contact form
- Engage with clientele on social media
- Offer real-time text updates about service calls
5. The Labor Shortage Is Fueling the Need to Get More Done with Less Manpower
Sadly, the labor shortage isn’t a passing plumbing industry trend. The lack of skilled workers is expected to continue well into the future. This fuels the need for plumbers to use tools that require less manpower to do quality work.
Here are several tools to increase efficiency in the field and the office:
Push-fit connectors require no gluing, no soldering, and no special skill to use, making them faster and less labor-intensive than other fittings.
PEX pipes don’t require soldering and are much faster to install than others, even for inexperienced plumbers.
Trenchless technology takes much less manpower than digging trenches to replace old pipes.
Portable Pipe Cameras
Portable pipe cameras run on batteries and are compact enough for a single operator to pick up, transport, and use on job sites.
Plumbing software is designed with one main goal: to get more work done in fewer steps. Some software solutions are specialized and focus on one main task, like billing or time tracking. Others offer all-in-one solutions.
Use These Trends to Unlock Growth
Understanding these trends in the plumbing industry is key to growth. Use them to streamline your operations, tailor offerings to better serve your customers, and attract new clientele.