The plumbing industry has evolved a lot throughout the years. In previous posts, we talked about how plumbing first began. Now, let’s focus on how the industry has changed in terms of both products and people.
The largest change in the plumbing industry has been the increased value of a knowledgeable tradesman. A plumber is probably 10 to 15 times more valuable now than he was 50 years ago. One of the reasons behind this change is due to the fact that the number of skilled people is shrinking daily as older generations retire from the trade. There just isn’t an influx of young people joining the industry to replace them. Because of this drastic rise in the value of plumbing labor, costs have been driven up industry-wide.
To compensate for these rising expenses, plumbing products have become more cost-efficient over the past 50 years. Heavy metal pipes have largely been replaced with plastic pipes that are much easier to install. The metal pipes were made out of a heavy cast iron and copper that needed to be sweated or brazed. Now, plastic pipes are glued and crimped together.
The single most expensive plumbing product in the home is probably the water heater. There are water heaters that were installed in the 1950s that are still working today. Because modern products have significantly gone down in quality, there is no way you could put in a water heater now and expect it to last 60 years. Products used in today’s plumbing industry just don’t last as long as they used to.
Toilets are another example of a product that has gone down in quality from a manufacturing standpoint in order to improve cost efficiency. Toilets that were made back in the 1950s used to last upwards of 30 years because of their heavy duty build quality.
Along with reducing manufacturing costs, there has also been a movement to conserve resources. Toilets, faucets, and water heaters don’t use as much water or energy as the products that were made 40 years ago. These water and energy conservation efforts have definitely changed the industry.
Once water conserving toilets began to make progress in the mid-to-late 1990s, toilets went from 3 gallons per flush down to 1.6 gallons per flush. As a downside, they were initially unable to flush as effectively due to their engineering. Since then, the engineering has improved to the point that they are just as good or even surpass older models that used almost twice as much water.
Finally, household cleaning products have become more and more abundant in the recent years. Antibacterial agents, soaps, heavy duty cleaners, and chemical drain unclogging products have had a significant impact on plumbing. This is because there is sometimes a necessity for beneficial bacteria in the plumbing system to keep it working properly. When homes use all of those chemical cleaning products, they will kill a large portion of the bacteria, causing plumbing systems from 40 years ago to stop working. This is a relatively recent change in the industry and it is something that we have to combat and adjust to.
If you have any general questions or you would like to learn more about how plumbing has evolved over the years, contact us online or give us a call at (540) 483-9382.