Want More Profits?

Jan. 1, 2004
If you're looking for a way to increase your rental business, look at drain cleaning equipment. It's one of the top five rental items in the industry,

If you're looking for a way to increase your rental business, look at drain cleaning equipment. It's one of the top five rental items in the industry, according to the American Rental Association. Even Home Depot stores report that drain-cleaning equipment is one of their best renting items with the least amount of downtime.

“If I were new in the rental business, the first thing I'd buy would be a drain-cleaning machine,” says Rick Hostetler, rental manager of SDC Rental Center, an Ace dealer in Somerset, Pa.

“Drain cleaning machines are our top selling item. They rent in all seasons and no matter what the economy,” says Charlene Roy, owner of Pioneer Supply, a rental distributor in Archie, Mo.

When SDC Lumber decided to start a rental center, it wanted equipment that would turn a steady profit quickly, and with as little maintenance and downtime as possible, which Hostetler says is why it chose drain-cleaning equipment.

Initially, SDC Rental Center purchased one heavy-duty drain cleaner for large drain lines and tree roots, as well as a small handheld drain cleaner and a flat tape. It found that the large drain cleaner was renting so often that the company decided to buy another one. And at the peak of his busy season in the spring, he says, “The machine can pay for itself in two months.”

If you're just starting to rent drain-cleaning equipment, you should check with the local plumbers in your area to see what type of machine they prefer. Cage-type and sectional drain cleaners have a regional preference. Each has its advantages. The cage-type machines are self contained and easier to operate, the sectional machines are lighter. Check with your regular customers before you make your purchase. SDC Rental Center ended up with one of each.

Hostetler's first large machine was a sectional drain cleaner. For his second machine he decided to purchase a 100-foot cage-type model because it has everything in one package. Matt Diamond, also of SDC Rental Center, figures that the customer preferences in his area split pretty evenly between each machine. “The customers ask for the machine they're familiar with,” he says.

Pioneer Supply has been in business for 32 years as a rental distributor selling to rental stores all over the United States. Owner Charlene Roy notes that most of her customers prefer the cage-type machines over the sectional. “The cage-type are the most popular by far because they're easier to use and all in one piece,” Roy says. “We get customers that could break an anvil. Rental stores want heavy duty machines designed to handle the abuses of the rental industry.”

The first thing Roy looks for in a rental duty drain cleaner is a reinforced cable. “That's what's doing all the work,” she says. “It's got to be reinforced with wire rope, not those hollow ones. They don't last two seconds.”

When a customer gets a cable caught on a root or around a tight bend, the end of the cable stops turning. At the other end of the cable the machine is still turning because the operator doesn't know the cable is stuck. If you are renting a hollow cable, it will kink quickly and break. If your customer gets into the same situation with an inner core cable, the core inside can support the coils as they start to build up torque. Some manufacturers go a step further and use a tightly wound inner core that supports the cable and resists kinking and breaking as well.

Roy also looks for features like reinforced frames that can protect a machine when it's dropped. Another necessity: A safety slip clutch that protects the cable from kinking and the customer from injury by slowing down the rotation of the cage when the user gets the cable caught in the line.

Because water and electricity don't mix, be sure your machine has an air actuated foot pedal and a ground fault circuit interrupter. “People will sue for anything these days,” says Roy. “You've got to protect yourself by getting the safest machine possible.”

A key part of safety is good instruction and training. Some manufacturers offer instructional videos for each of their rental machines. Insist on having your customers view them. Also make sure your customers use leather gloves rather than cloth gloves. A cloth glove can get caught in the coils of the cable as it spins, causing severe hand injury. Any rental of a drain cleaner should include leather gloves.

Before Hostetler purchased his latest drain cleaning machine he went to a national rental show to look at what was new, talk to the manufacturers directly and learn more about the industry. You should do the same. Go to The Rental Show in Atlanta in February and kick a few tires. Because the more you know about drain cleaning equipment, the more you'll see how you can boost your profits.

Marty Silverman is marketing manager for General Pipe Cleaners, McKees Rocks, Pa.

Electric Eel

The new Eel Jet 1500 Electric Jetter is designed for fast cleaning of grease, soap, sand and sludge in small drain lines. The unit is powered by a rugged 1½ HP Baldor motor with an in-line ground fault circuit interrupter. It generates 1,500 psi at 1.7 gallons per minute and features a built in pulsation valve for maneuvering around difficult bends. The pump/motor assembly detaches from the frame in seconds for increased portability and working in confined areas. The compact cart reel has a capacity of 150 feet of ¼-inch diameter hose.
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Ridge Tool Co.

The K-375R cage-style drain cleaner is designed for cleaning drain lines from 2 inches to 4 inches and is well suited for removing grease, debris, sludge, lint and other non-root blockages from floor and gutter drains, interior laterals, stack lines and vent pipes. It comes with a variety of cutting tools to match the proper tool to a specific job. The standard accessory package includes a 1 ¼-inch bulb auger, “C” cutter, spade cutter, coupling pin and gloves. The K-750R is a self-contained drain cleaner designed for cleaning lateral drain lines from 3 inches to 6 inches. It is suited for clearing roots, debris and foreign objects out of main lines, storm drains, septic lines and building drains. Its standard accessory tool package includes 2-, 3-, and 4-inch “C” cutters, P-trap cutter, spear blade, tool box and gloves.
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General Pipe Cleaners

The Model 88 sectional drain cleaner features a ¾ hp motor as standard equipment. The heavy-duty motor drives a 3.5 to 1 ratio gear head to give the machine power to handle the most difficult jobs. The machine also has a longer frame to protect the drive coupling and a larger front caster wheel. It spins 4-, 8- or 10-foot quick-coupling cable sections at distances of 200 feet or more. The cables self-feed while the operator stands safely behind the machine as the cables screw into the line. For extra strength, General offers either chain or spring center cables.
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