When to Call a Plumber

John: And you’re listening to Talk Radio 1190, I’m John Wolf on the ask the experts radio show. We have with us Roger Wakefield the owner operator of Texas Green Plumbing, you can be look them up online, learn a lot about them at Texasgreenplumbing.com, give them a call there in the weekend now or any time of the emergency. Now Roger, toot your own horn here why would you tell people when it’s smart to call a plumber, what would be the most important occasions?

Roger: Plumbers have field experience. You know we were talking before that about a handyman. Handyman do a lot of different things, plumbers do plumbing every day. We see problems, we see better than that we see opportunities, we see new product. Good plumbers do training, they go through training for different systems, even different products through water heaters, through faucets, through water filtration systems.

We’ve had people come in our office actually one of my other plumbers and me went to Grand Rapids, Michigan to go through a water heater training class for Bradford White. And we were up there two days and it’s a very extensive training. You get in, you learn a lot of things that teach you how to work on a system. Most people if their water heater quits working the plumber is going to walk in say you need a new water heater. Truth be told if the water heater is not leaking chances are it can be repaired, now once that water heater reaches 6, 8, 10 years old you may not want to spend the money to repair it because once again at 6, 8, or 10 years old it could rupture the next week, it could rupture the next month, it could rupture a year or two later. It depends on funds available, it depends on what the water heater looks like, it depends on where it’s located. So there are good reasons to talk to a plumber.

One of the big ones to me and I’ve had handyman say look I put up a plumbing together with shark bite fittings nothing against shark bites but I don’t use them as a professional, I don’t allow my plumbers to use them, I think any time you can take two pieces of copper and stick them together you’ve got a chance for a leak.

John: OK though you mention new products what sort of new products have you seen recently?

Roger: Just in the last few years the tankless water heaters. And those are going to become more prevalent as we move along. They are allowed and they’re fantastic. All of us in North Texas that have tank water heaters we pay all day long for either gas or electricity to keep that water hot. I’m headed out of town next week I’m paying to keep my water hot the whole time I’m gone. That’s fantastic it’s going to be hot when I get home. With a tankless water heater it heats the water on demand meaning when you call for water when you demand hot water it heats it up then that way you’re not keeping it hot all week long, that’s one.

Another one is a great product I’m working with a company out of Kona, Hawaii a company called MeterDog. They have a product that you can actually attach to your meter and your cell phone can let you know if you’ve got a leak. Your cell phone can let you know if water is running through your meter. So say while I’m out of town next week my phone goes off and says you have water flowing or you have water detected that your water heater behind your washing machine under your lavatory under your kitchen sink with a push of a button that water can be shut off if you have the entire system installed.

John: That’s amazing. What does that entail, what kind of costs?

Roger: Costs vary it depends on how intricate of a system you want, it can be as basic as a few hundred dollars plus a monthly monitoring fee and that’s actually very low too. You get the app on your phone so you can control it, a plumber needs to come out hook it up to the system together link it up to your app. Another good thing about it is the system and I’m still working with them on the things that I want on the systems that we’re installing, but a neat thing about that is say you’ve got one on your house and I install that system for you we can set it up if you want where I get a notification too. That way if you’re out of town or if you’re asleep I can see it and I can call you know say John do you realize you have a leak or I can go directly to your house if that’s the agreement we come up when you say Roger look if the leaks detected you have permission to turn my water off you can do whatever you want to do it.

John: Along the same line as you’re supposed to get a little bit of a discount with your home insurance if you have an alarm in your house I’m thinking you should be able to go to your home insurance company and say I’ve got one of these water leak detectors so the likelihood of a large loss due to water leak while I’m not at home should benefit me. They go now we’re not going to do that for you but at least if you save a piece your house you save at least your house and everything you have.

Now you mentioned about if you’re going out of town for a week if somebody has vacation time just starting to come up and do you recommend the people with the non tankless the normal water tank systems turn their systems down while they’re away?

Roger: You can a gas water heater on the control valve has a knob that you turn down to vacation it keeps the pilot light going it may kick on the burner every now and then but it does not keep the water heated up to one hundred twenty hundred forty degrees whatever homeowners have that set at. So at least that way your water heater is still running but you’re not keeping it fully heated all the time. Electric water heater is a little bit different you would have to turn the breaker off- I know people that want to control their hot water usage on electric water heaters so they actually have them on a timer where they have hot water available for 6 to 8 in the morning and then they have hot water available from 6 to 8 in the evening so they know OK we need to take showers during this time, wash laundry during this time, run the dishwasher whatever they want to do that way that water heaters heating up 4 hours a day instead of 24 hours.

John: Right just like your home thermostat. OK You mentioned earlier about pulling permits and what are the types of normal things that most towns need to get a permit pulled?

Roger: If you’re a home is registered as your homestead you can pull that permit yourself you can actually do the work yourself whether it’s the water line, the sewer line, the gas line it does not matter. As a homeowner in Texas is like I said as long as that house is registered as your homestead you’re allowed to work on it and do anything in it.

As a plumber we’ve got to pull permits when we change water heaters, when we tie into the domestic water line and when we tie end of the sewer line. Any time you do new work where you’re tying into the main system you’ve got to pull a permit. If you install a shower pan we pull permits, we fill them with water, we plug the drain line. we get them inspected; as a homeowner you’re supposed to do all those things too so as a homeowner if you’re calling a plumber and he’s doing this work for you and he’s not getting it inspected that may tell you something right there.

John: Right and I’d say well I hated the time and I don’t remember if there was that much of an investment in pulling a permit the last time I had a hot water heater changed. When the city employee came out he found that the licensed plumber who I had putting it in had missed a couple of things. Maybe the guy was just cutting corners, maybe just you know just one of those things I say I’m not perfect either but I’m glad that the inspector came out.

Roger: It happens- different cities have different addendums. Meaning whatever code they agree to build by each city can go in and write their own addendums. So as plumbers we have to know what addendums each city is doing, why they’re doing it that way we can install it the way each city wants. Most cities are very close but there are certain things about each city that maybe the chief plumbing inspector in that city is this is my big deal, this is my pet peeve I always want this right. So the plumbing company needs to make sure they look at the addendums and get everything the way that city wants it.

John: Now I’m a little hesitant to bring this up but I’ve got to. One of the things you hear people say about plumbing all the time is why does it cost so much? You’ve got a lot riding on it with your house you don’t wanna have a big problem but what is your comeback for that if somebody says that?

Roger: I get that question often why are plumbers so expensive. Plumbers are expensive because number one and guys it’s going to get worse- there’s less young people getting into the plumbing trade. It’s really funny because it’s hard to get good young kids that really want to do this, get a man they all want office jobs or they want to be the next multimillionaire and plumbing is a great trade. Plumbers are expensive because we’re in a big city, if a plumbing company is running trying to cover Dallas or even a big part of Dallas, you’ve got what we have to factor in as about a fifty percent drive rate. Meaning if a plumber works on a job for an hour it’s going to take him about an hour to get from one job to the next job in this big city, so basically for every four hours a plumber works he’s got four hours of drive time.

As the plumbing company we’ve got to pay for that. We still have to pay him we still have to pay his benefits, we still have to pay his insurance, we still have to pay for the truck, the insurance, the rent and everything else. When a plumber or any other trade as a matter of fact goes out to do a job we’ve got to figure in fifty percent work time.

So that’s the way it’s all set up it’s not a bad deal really because if you’re calling a real plumbing company you’re getting a good trades person out there and at Texas Green Plumbing that’s what we want to do. We want to send out good people to do the right job.

John: Now is it the situation where the time that you have to spend to get somebody out there is at a loss if you don’t add all that in and do plumbers ever go out of business because they try to cut corners as far as charging?

Roger: Absolutely you’ve got to know what it cost you for a man to work for an hour and that cost has to include your rent, your vehicles, your insurance, your gas, your tires, your tools everything. And that all has to be factored in, people say well you’re more than my doctor, you’re more than my attorney. If your attorney was driving around to meet you all the time his pricing be double what it is same thing with the doctor.

John: Yes he would be charged by the quarter of the hour that’s very true. We’re talking with Roger Wakefield from Texas Green Plumbing. Texasgreenplumbing. com is their website. This is John Wolf with the Ask the Experts radio show on talk radio 1190.

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