Plumbers install and repair piping fixtures and systems in residential and commercial settings. Their job is critical, and they may work after hours and on weekends and holidays.
In this article, we’ll explore the future of plumbing by looking at industry trends, new technologies, and career opportunities.
The Plumbers Industry in the U.S.
The plumbing business is a challenging job that requires high skill and responsibility. Plumbers typically take care of the following jobs:
- Preparing cost estimates for the customers.
- Reading and interpreting blueprints and following the state and local building codes.
- Installing plumbing fixtures such as toilets, bathtubs, showers, dishwashers, and heaters.
- Cleaning drains, removing obstructions, and repairing and replacing broken fixtures.
- Finding the materials needed to complete the job.
- Installing pipes and fixtures.
- Inspecting and testing the pipes in the plumbing system.
- Troubleshooting the malfunctioning systems.
- Maintaining and repairing the plumbing systems.
- Understanding and measuring the thermal conductivity of pipes and other equipment.
- Knowing how black and greywater recycling works and handling issues with the systems.
- Using modern computer technology and high-tech solutions to find and resolve plumbing issues.
The duties of a plumber often overlap with those of a pipefitter and a steamfitter. They use drills, saws, welding torches, drain cleaning, and press fitting tools.
Plumbing professionals need to understand the difference between residential and commercial fittings. While residential water systems typically use copper, plastic, and steel, commercial ones use steel. Journeyman and master plumbers help develop blueprints that align with the building codes, are within the budget, and work well with other site features such as electric wires.
Top Players in the Plumbing Industry
The United States has an estimated 130,348 plumbing businesses registered, but which are the largest and most successful? Here are the top 5 plumbing companies in the United States, ranked by revenue in 2022. These businesses offer general plumbing, mechanical, building sprinkler system installation, steam fitting, piping, and lawn sprinkler installation.
Ferguson Enterprises is a manufacturer of plumbing supplies with its main office in Newport News, Virginia. They are producers and wholesalers who focus on supplying plumbing equipment, fire, fabrication goods, PVF, and waterworks.
FirstEnergy Facilities Services Group, Inc.
FirstEnergy Facilities Services Group, Inc. is a sizable corporation that owns and manages businesses in ten different nations worldwide. Plumbing, air conditioning, ventilation, heating, and electrical are the giant’s areas of expertise. Additionally, it provides smart technology for the most recent advancements in energy management and control systems for buildings.
Emcor Group, Inc.
Emcor Group, Inc. is a plumbing company that serves commercial, industrial, institutional, and utility customers across the country. It opened its doors in 1994 and has grown to become one of America’s largest plumbing companies. Emcor Group was named on the Fortune 500 list of the largest and fastest-growing companies in 2015.
PPL Energy Services Holdings LLC.
PPL Energy Services Holdings LLC is a firm that owns large and successful plumbing companies. Its holdings include companies that are experts in offering HVAC and plumbing services. Pennsylvania is where it has most of its holdings. This acquisition most recently added Rhode Island Energy to its family of subsidiaries.
Comfort Systems USA, Inc.
Comfort Systems USA, Inc. is a Houston, Texas-based plumbing company. The company also offers heating, ventilation, and air conditioning services in 72 cities across the United States.
The Increasing Demand for Plumbers
Plumbing industry statistics indicate that most of these jobs will be because of existing plumbers moving to different occupations or retiring from the workforce. The new entrants in plumbing technology will work with plumbing and construction businesses on new projects and in existing buildings that require maintenance and repair.
How Important Is a Plumbing Degree?
Plumbers play an important role in new construction and the maintenance and repair of existing fixtures. The top reasons to go for a degree in plumbing are:
- Better employment – Companies want professionals they don’t have to train and spend extra time and money on. If you have a trade school degree, you get better employment opportunities than someone who doesn’t.
- Higher payment – You save the company’s time if you have the necessary training. You make fewer mistakes and can learn faster. This means you get higher fixed and variable pay. A professional with a certification/degree gets more than someone with a high school diploma.
- Understanding the fundamentals – Students get hands-on training in fundamental processes and industry standards. For example, the associate’s degree in plumbing and heating at NEIT gives hands-on training in a laboratory to fine-tune the skills before you enter the job market.
- Networking – Developing a network of peers and instructors in the trade school may help you find better work opportunities and stay up-to-date with current affairs in the plumbing business.
- We highly recommend getting a plumbing degree from a reputed trade school for a promising career.
Trends to Look Forward in the Plumbing Industry
Like other businesses, plumbing also saw a decline during the pandemic. However, it is now recovering, and the top plumbing industry trends are:
Housing Market Forecast
The declining interest rates during the pandemic saw a surge in home buying. However, the curve has flattened now, and the average cost of building materials has gone up. This indicates that plumbers may not work on new projects but repair and maintain existing residential building fixtures.
Re-calibration of Labor and Materials
With rising raw material and building costs, companies want to save on training their workforce. This will see a rise in demand for skilled and educated plumbers only.
The Growing Market for Fixtures and Fittings
North America’s plumbing, fitting, and fixtures market was at $22.40 billion in 2020 and will see a CAGR of 7.5% from 2021 to 2028. This indicates that the demand for plumbers for home improvements and repair and maintenance jobs will grow.
Consumers are now environmentally conscious regarding plumbing fixtures and systems, water consumption and treatment systems, landscape and fire sprinklers, and waste management. People want lower water consumption and carbon footprint while building healthier homes.
This brings a demand for tankless water heaters, greywater plumbing trends, and recycling systems that are easy to install.
Smart Plumbing Fixtures
Homeowners are choosing smart technology such as motion-sensor (touchless) faucets, leak detectors, and toilets that lower water consumption. Therefore, plumbers must upgrade their knowledge to be relevant in the job market.
Plumbers need to expand their professional knowledge of smart home systems and new emerging products. They may have more recent training, licensing requirements, and certifications to stay up-to-date.
Evolution in Plumbing Tools
The plumbing trends include not only the fixtures but also the plumbing tools. Smart technology requires special tools for more straightforward and less invasive ways to detect and fix problems. For example, infrared technology can see leaking pipes, and a portable high-definition camera can inspect drainage systems.
Other technology trends include greywater systems, smart pipe systems, and telematics. This helps boost productivity and the company’s bottom line by providing excellent customer service and quality of work.
If you are looking for a career that requires high responsibility in the industrial, commercial, and residential environments, plumbing may be right for you. There is a good growth curve as you move from an apprentice to a master plumber who is a stakeholder in industry decisions and plumbing innovations.
The plumbing and heating AS program at NEIT is a great place to start if you want a rewarding and well-paying career. Call us at 401-739-5000 or write to us for more information on the associate’s degree in plumbing and heating.
Is plumbing a good career for the future?
Yes, with a median wage of $59,880 per year ($28.79 per hour), the plumbing profession gives you a good lifestyle and ample opportunities. The highly skilled 10% of the plumbers earn more than $99,920 per month.
Apart from commercial and residential environments, plumbers work in manufacturing, heavy and civil engineering, and government sectors. Their role is critical, and highly skilled plumbers are always in demand. Self-employed plumbers living in populated areas stand to earn the most as their work gains a reputation.
Which are high-paying plumbing jobs?
According to a leading recruitment agency, plumbing jobs that pay the highest wages are –
- Plumbing engineer – up to $97,000 per year
- Plumbing designer – up to $83,000 per year
- Residential plumber – up to $82,000 per year
- Master plumber – up to $78,500 per year
What technological tools are used in plumbing?
Typical tools plumbers use are:
- Pipe wrench
- Basin wrench
- Faucet key
- Adjustable wrench
- Tubing and plastic pipe cutters
- Plumber’s torch
- Threading seal tape
- Press fitting systems
- Hand auger
- Snake machine
- PEX pipe expander and fittings
- Inspection camera
- Heat shields
- Gloves and goggles
Modern plumbing technology is reshaping the industry’s functions, and plumbers need to learn them. These technologies include superior filtration systems such as reverse osmosis, activated carbon, and ultraviolet light. It also includes touchless plumbing fixtures to conserve water, leak detectors, and remote control systems on a smartphone or tablet.
Plumbers also need to know modern technology in the software for marketing, booking calls, managing contracts, and generating invoices. They should also know how to get online reviews, facilitate easy online payment options, have a social media presence, use instant messaging, and handle any negative reviews.
How has technology improved plumbing?
Tech-savvy millennials want to use technology in every aspect of their lives, including home and commercial plumbing fixtures. Advanced plumbing technology has become an integral part of how plumbers do business.
Advancements include smart pipes that raise an alarm when there’s a leak, tankless water heaters, and LED lights in toilet bowls. Plumbing technologies for troubleshooting and repair, plumbers use waterproof cameras and tablets to provide reliable, cost-effective, and high-quality services. Technology is also making the job of a plumber easy and safe.