How We Keep Plumbers in Mind During Product Development
If you’ve ever wondered why there wasn’t a better way to do something, you’re not alone. Outdated solutions and makeshift methods can be both a hassle and a waste of time. Because of this, making your life as a plumber easier has always been the focus of our product development process. We’re not out to launch products just for the sake of launching something new and hoping it might work.
Our solutions are designed by plumbing experts for plumbing professionals, and we believe contractors’ interests should drive innovation. So we make a point to be accessible, hear what you think is missing or imperfect and note what you need in the field. That way we can offer value — not an overcrowded product portfolio — and solve your problems one product at a time. Here’s how we do it and how it has translated into real solutions.
Plumbing Product Innovation: How We Keep Plumbers Front and Center
Sometimes coming up with new products is as simple as keeping our ears and eyes open. That means paying attention to the trends and changes in codes and standards, yes. But it also means that when we’re out in the field, we listen to our contractors’ challenges and ideas and ask them what would make their jobs easier or where there’s a gap inefficiency.
- Plumber-tested ideas. When we meet with a plumbing contractor to show them a new product innovation and they say, “Wow, I wish I would have thought of that,” we know we’re on the right track. If it doesn’t ring true to the pros in the field, odds are it won’t fly.
- Direct communication with pros. We also stay in touch with the HoldRite community in other ways. Pros regularly call and email us with feedback that helps drive our innovation.
- First-hand knowledge. We purposely hire people on our engineering team who have decades of experience in the field. With firsthand knowledge of plumbing methods combined with an understanding of the current challenges pros face, we intimately understand what needs to be done to propel the plumbing industry forward.
- Feedback from HoldRite reps. We keep in close contact with our salespeople, and they’re in close contact with you. They may communicate pros’ feedback to us, or they might suggest improvements based on things they’ve seen in the field.
How Feedback and Observations Inspired 3 HoldRite Innovations
1. Suspending a water heater overhead.
For decades, when plumbers needed to position a water heater overhead, such as in a commercial tenant improvement installation, they cobbled together various materials to build a water heater platform out of welded angle iron or a bolted strut or weldless connection system. Then they’d provide a sheet metal or plywood base to set the water heater on and set a drain pan on top.
These methods can be time-consuming, taking an hour or two. They can also be difficult to repeat and can result in expensive and sometimes dangerous installations.
The innovation: SWHP Water Heater Platforms
After observing these makeshift field devised methods for years and personally installing hundreds of water heater platforms over a 20+ plumbing career, Chip O’Neil, our now vice president of research & development, brought the ideas and drawings to the HoldRite team. Working with our plumbing engineers and bouncing ideas off trusted customers, he patented designs for the SWHP series of suspended water heater equipment platforms.
These water heater platforms, shelves and mounts are hugely popular across North America and provide an engineered and tested solution for pros, giving them a safe support structure and a water-tight drain pan for water heaters. They only take a few minutes to install and can be suspended from the overhead structure or mounted to a wall, as seen below in Figures 1 and 2.
2. Pipe hangers for suspended overhead water lines.
For many years, plumbers have installed pipe hanger assemblies for support of water piping to concrete ceilings overhead, through a combination of materials and processes. They usually do this for a pair of hot and cold water lines.
Installation for this makeshift method takes several steps:
- Measure and mark the desired location of the pipe hangers on the ceiling overhead, while on a ladder.
- Drill two holes into the concrete ceiling above, with concrete dust falling on or near the worker’s face.
- Pound in two expansion anchor bolts with a hammer.
- Tighten the anchor bolts in with a wrench.
- Install two threaded rod couplings onto the anchor bolts.
- Pick up, measure, and mark two pieces of threaded hanger rod.
- Cut the two threaded rods with a hacksaw or band saw.
- Screw the threaded rods into the two rod couplings with a wrench until tight.
- Screw two pipe hangers onto the threaded rods.
- Finally, measure and adjust the pipe hangers to the desired height.
All that work is done on a ladder, and other trades are working in the same area. This process often takes about 10-15 minutes and requires many tools.
The innovation: In-Slab Suspended Hangover Bracket
Having witnessed thousands of suspended pipe hanger installations using a variety of methods on jobsites across the country (mostly with the method described above), Chip had a lightbulb go off one day. He devised a simple one-piece galvanized steel bracket with two holes punched in it and then set out to work on the idea with the engineers at HoldRite. The result: the #125-D Hangover Bracket.
Only two simple steps are required:
- On the concrete form deck, at the same time as performing the sleeving layout, measure and mark the deck at the desired hanger locations.
- Nail the bracket to the form deck with four small galvanized nails.
That’s it, just a minute or two of installation time. Let the concrete get poured, and this is what you’ll see in the ceiling below after bending the two tabs down (Fig. 3).
When it is time to come back and install the two hot and cold water lines, you simply bend the two ends of the bracket down 90° and slide the tubing through the bracket while snapping in plastic isolators around the tubes.
3. PEX under-slab support and protection.
A commercial construction site can be a rough environment, especially while installing products with multiple tradespeople and heavy equipment around. We’ve found this to be particularly true with PEX tubing installed in concrete slabs. When PEX tubing is run within a concrete slab and is stubbed-up through the top of the concrete, it sits in that vulnerable position for a couple of months, awaiting the permanent wall framing.
Concrete forms get stripped and dropped on the floor, forklifts and pallet jacks travel across the floor, people stack materials on the floor. These activities often damage the PEX tubing lines. The in-slab installation often looks like Fig. 4, and the results often look like Fig. 5.
As the images show, some of the methods for installing and supporting in-slab PEX tubing are makeshift, and they take a while to cobble together. This increases the chance of PEX stub-out damage after the concrete is set, in which case you would have to return to the jobsite to repair or reinstall them.
While walking job sites in the early 2000s, one of our salespeople saw the inconsistent ways many plumbers were running PEX under slab before the concrete pour. He then brought the concern to the HoldRite engineers.
The innovation: In-Slab PEX Pipe Supports
In response, the team created the 703 In-slab Tubing Support. The single- and double-run in-slab supports (Fig. 6, shows the 703 for single runs) is designed to protect PEX and electrical conduit stub-ups from costly damage. A protective recessed cavity in the upper portion of the concrete floor allows space for the protection of one to two ½ in. PEX tubes or ¾ in. conduit to minimize accidental damage by other trades.
Putting Plumbers First
In each of these innovations, we kept the plumber top of mind during the concept, trialing and testing stages of product development. The result? Contractors get true value-add, times-saving, safe, fast, code-compliant, professional installation solutions. We at HoldRite, and across all RWC brands, are proud to serve you in this way every day, year in and year out.
Share Your Ideas with Us.
- Talk to your local HoldRite rep. Have a need? Tell your rep next time you see them or give them a call.
- Send us a note. You can reach out to us directly by filling out our contact form.
- Reach out via social media. More active on social platforms? Send us a direct message and we’ll pass it along to the right person.