The plumbing industry in the United States was $ 95 billion strong in 2013, according to industry research firm IBISWorld. The industry depends on the state of the construction industry, but wherever there are sinks, toilets, pipes, heating and air conditioning equipment, you need a plumber. During recessions, when the construction of new homes and commercial buildings slows down, there is always a demand for repair work on existing facilities.
Plumbing, heating, and air conditioning are grouped together into one industry by the US Census Bureau. According to IBISWorld, companies in the sector number around 154,000, with more than 715,000 employees. Although the recession and economic woes following the 2008 credit crunch caused industry growth to decline by 1.3% per year, a return to full economic health is expected to resume normal annual growth rates. over 2.5% as new construction and renovation activity increases.
The industry is made up of independent, owner-managed companies and franchises like Roto-Rooter, but no single company dominates the market. Franchises feature training, marketing and management tools that have elevated the independent plumber to a level of professionalism as a plumbing technician, with branded uniforms and utility vehicles. The result, in many cases, is better visibility and more consistent activity.
Among the issues facing the industry – which is made up mostly of smallholders – are business continuity issues, especially with regard to death taxes. There are worker safety concerns related to toxins such as lead paint and hazardous waste. Jobsite conditions include climbing in high places, such as on rooftops, and in crawl spaces under structures. New developments in weatherization of existing structures under the US Department of Energy’s Federal Weatherization Assistance Program provide an opportunity to gain certification in an emerging area of work prompted by concerns about climate change.
Plumbing companies install and maintain more than plumbing systems. The industry has expanded to the installation of heating and cooling, water treatment, fire extinguishing and landscaping systems in new construction, as well as maintenance and emergency repairs to existing systems. As environmental concerns about water quality, waste management, chemical pollution and climate change continue, the plumbing industry and its unions are actively promoting the application of technology and training to further develop the industry.
Biography of the writer
Victoria Duff specializes in topics related to entrepreneurship, drawing on her experience as a start-up facilitator, risk catalyst and head of investor relations. Since 1995, she has written extensively for ezines and has been a regular columnist for “Digital Coast Reporter” and “Developments Magazine”. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration from the University of California at Berkeley.