The Sunny Plumber Blog

Slab Leaks: You Are Right to Be Concerned

July 16th, 2018

sunny-plumbersWe are not alarmists here at The Sunny Plumber Tucson. Every plumbing problem has a solution, even if that solution is a bigger undertaking than you’d like it to be. When you work with us, you can count on the right solutions to be implemented for any and all problems at hand. Even we’ll admit, however, that you are right to be concerned about a slab leak in Tucson. The slab leak has a well-earned reputation as one of the most serious plumbing issues around.

A big reason for this is the fact that slab leaks are just so tough to recognize. We excel in the detection and repair of slab leaks, but that really doesn’t amount to much if you don’t realize that there is a problem in need of our attention in the first place. So read on, learn more about what slab leaks may mean for you, and remember to contact us if you notice any of the symptoms outlined that could suggest a slab leak in your home.

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Using Natural Gas Safely

July 2nd, 2018

logoHang on a second. Isn’t this supposed to be a plumbing blog? Not only is it supposed to be a plumbing blog, but it is one! (And, we think, a fine one at that.) While some homeowners don’t really think of it as being a plumbing issue, the gas line definitely falls into the jurisdiction of a plumber of choice—hopefully, The Sunny Plumber Tucson. In fact, there are specific laws regarding who can work on and install gas piping, and it takes a licensed plumber to do the job.

Today we want to remind our customers that, yes, natural gas is a truly great, reliable resource. We also want to remind them, however, that natural gas is still a combustible fuel. As is the case with any combustible material, natural gas can be dangerous if not handled properly. The good news is that scheduling your gas piping services with us means that those gas pipes will be in great working order. The bad news is that there are no guarantees in life, so we’ve got some tips to help keep you safe!

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Why We Offer Emergency Plumbing Services

June 18th, 2018

sunny-plumbersWhat do you think of when you imagine an emergency on your property? A structure fire? A major gas leak? These are obviously huge concerns—and a gas leak actually falls under the plumbing category! It is not the only emergency that does, however. Sure, emergencies that pose an immediate threat to your own safety and that of your family are incredibly important to keep in mind and prepare for. But about those emergencies that threaten the condition of your property, or even your convenience?

It is for all of these scenarios that we offer 24/7 emergency plumbing services in Tucson, AZ. And remember, when you need emergency services, you want to know for certain that you are working with a true emergency plumber. There are a lot of plumbers out there that may make themselves available after hours, but that does not mean that they are the best pick for the job. Our goal is to not only provide emergency plumbing services, but those of a quality that you deserve!

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Perks for Plumbers: Hawaiian Vacations, Craft Beer and ‘a Lot of Zen’

May 29th, 2018

FORT COLLINS, Colo.—The fast-growing business offers all the perks a pampered Silicon Valley tech worker might expect: An on-site tap flows with craft beer and the kitchen is stocked with locally roasted espresso beans. There is a putting green and a smoker for brisket lunches. Next up: a yoga studio.

Welcome to the gushing job market…for plumbers.

Colorado’s Neuworks Mechanical Inc. employs 75 plumbers but needs 15 to 20 more. To keep them happy, it offers “a lot of Zen,” says business-development manager Jackie Sindelar. That includes a sharing exercise that “brings out your raw emotions and makes you vulnerable,” she says.

Drained from a labor shortage, the plumbing industry is throwing the kitchen sink at job candidates.

Bonfe’s Plumbing, Heating & Air Service Inc. of South St. Paul, Minn., boasts an array of arcade games and a “quiet room”—a plush hangout space with insulated walls painted a calming sky blue. It has a lockable door, a comfy couch, a recliner and a sound machine that babbles with the soothing audio of ocean waves.

“When people have a bad day they go in there,” says Mr. Bonfe. “They literally check out for a while.” Mr. Bonfe, a veteran plumber and president of the 120-employee family business, could use the room himself some days, noting that the labor market is “the hardest I have ever seen.”

Plumbing employers are plugging on-site spa treatments, exotic trips and jet-ski outings. The Sunny Plumber—which serves the southwest with the slogan “Bright and Shiny and Won’t Show Our Hiney”—has job announcements offering free laundry service and “a suite at the Arizona Cardinals games for you and your family.”

In Manassas, Va., My Plumber Heating & Cooling is trumpeting “biweekly, on-site massages.” Across Virginia, Wisler Plumbing, Inc.’s February radio recruitment ad promised “a hot breakfast every morning.”

“We do that to set ourselves apart,” says President James Wisler, of the daily 7 a.m. repast that can include sausage, gravy and biscuits.

Kerry Stackpole, executive director of the Plumbing Manufacturers International, a trade group, described the race for talent as very real. And the profession’s reputation of being a bit of a drip presents an obstacle to recruiting and drawing new people to the field.

“It’s ‘the butt crack;’ it’s ‘the slobs,’ ” sighed S.J. Peters, the executive director of a Midwestern plumbing group, referring to tired misperceptions swirling around the trade.

U.S. job openings hit a record 6.6 million in March, with the construction industry<https://www.wsj.com/articles/economic-milestone-there-is-a-job-for-everyone-who-wants-one-1525797993?mod=article_inline>—where plumbers are heavily employed—seeing one of the largest jumps.

Building, needed repairs and retirements are fueling demand for plumbers at the same time the U.S. jobless rate<https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-adds-164-000-jobs-in-april-unemployment-falls-to-3-9-1525437126?mod=article_inline&mod=article_inline> in April fell below 4% for the first time since late 2000.

The annual median pay for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters was nearly $53,000 per year in 2017, according to federal data, but it isn’t uncommon to see jobs advertised for far higher wages, from $70,000 up to six figures.

“Our phone is ringing off the hook but we don’t have the skilled folks,” says Jonathan Bancroft, chief executive of Morris-Jenkins Inc. in Charlotte, N.C. The plumbing, heating and air-conditioning company is one of many offering to train unskilled people.

And to further distinguish itself, Morris-Jenkins is positioning its workplace as overflowing with fun.

“We like to play games and wear costumes…a lot!” say current Morris-Jenkins job postings that praise the “legendary” company breakfasts. In one event, Mr. Bancroft says, employees received mullet wigs for “Mullet Monday.”

Bob Hamilton Plumbing, Heating, A/C and Rooter in Overland Park, Kan., recently bumped its signing bonus to $5,000 from $1,000, says owner Bob Hamilton, whose corporate motto proclaims “Better Call Bob!”

The company added a perk in April: employer-sponsored pottery classes.

“I made a couple of bowls and what turned out to be a toothpick holder,” says Paul Smith, a veteran plumber and supervisor there. “It was a blast.”

Candidates know the fringe benefits are overflowing, according to Alex Kramien, chief operating officer of George Morlan Plumbing Co. in Portland, Ore.

A few weeks ago, he started aggressively recruiting out of state—offering to cover moving costs—and says “pet insurance has been brought up more than a few times in interviews.” (He’s looking into it and he gets the appeal: He says his own father spent $1,200 for cancer treatment for his goose George.)

In the meantime, Mr. Kramien waves concert tickets, “week in paradise” Hawaii trips, and use of the company-owned beach house and condo on the Oregon Coast. New plumber jobs at his company pay $44.84 per hour plus benefits.

Plumber Jason Braukman briefly left George Morlan, drawn by signing bonuses and opportunities elsewhere, but says the company’s benefits lured him back.

“We’re like top dogs now,” he says of plumbers.

That reality is one reason Wyatt Hepworth recently unveiled a new indoor basketball court at his business, Any Hour Electric, Plumbing, Heating & Air in Orem, Utah. He also made the company gym “six times larger.”

His technicians get other job offers weekly. Watchful managers whisk employees being courted by competitors off on company time, he says, for a half-day of fun, like jet-skiing.

And of course, “everyone is going to get swag,” he says of Any Hour’s shirts, caps, sunglasses and backpacks for the whole family.

A promise of a “brand new truck” that plumbers can drive home is helping Wilder, Ky.-based Jolly Plumbing, says operations director Scott Sharrock.

Jolly—where “A Flush Beats a Full House”—has its own indoor basketball court, two 72-inch televisions for sports viewing and allows plumbers to use Jolly’s building and large fully remodeled kitchen anytime for personal family shindigs.

“We have had a couple big parties with a lot of beer cans left over,” says Mr. Sharrock, adding that basketball games have led to busted ceiling tiles.

But the extras, he says, are necessary. “We can’t hire plumbers fast enough.”

Write to Jennifer Levitz at jennifer.levitz@wsj.com<mailto:jennifer.levitz@wsj.com>

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Is It Time for Repiping?

May 21st, 2018

sunny-plumberFor a lot of people, the idea of a “home improvement” project is more aesthetic than anything else. Maybe you want to revamp your deck, or paint/side your house to make it more visually appealing. Others blend both fashion and function. Putting up new shutters, repaving an ugly, cracked, or rutted driveway, for instance. But some of the most important home improvement jobs are the ones that offer no visual benefit. Repiping a home is certainly one prime example of this.

When you hire a professional plumber in Green Valley, AZ to repipe your house, it is entirely a matter of function. It is a matter of protecting the integrity of your plumbing system, so that you can count on the reliable delivery of potable water throughout your home. It is also a matter of protecting your home from serious damage caused by damage to these pipes. This all begs the question of when you are supposed to be repiping your home, of course.

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Take Advantage of Our Scour Jet Service

May 7th, 2018

sunny-plumbersThe plumbing system that you use in your home each and every day, throughout the day, and for so many different purposes, has a few components that you directly interact with regularly. Your toilet, your sinks, and appliances like your laundry machine and dishwasher.  That being said, there are parts of your plumbing system that you don’t really see and that you don’t often think about—such as the pipes connected to the bottom of your drains or, for that matter, your sewer line.

Now, the fact that these components of your plumbing system are out of sight doesn’t mean that they should be entirely out of mind. In fact, you find pretty fast that compromised drain and sewer lines will pretty much render your plumbing system unusable. That is why you should hire a professional plumber in Vail, AZ to service them as needed. One great service offered by The Sunny Plumber Tucson is scour jet service, and it can really help your drains and sewer out of a jam!

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Is This It? Time for a New Water Heater?

April 23rd, 2018

logoWhen it comes to an appliance that is as important as your water heater—something you use every single day, throughout the day, and for many different uses—you really need to know that it is in the great working shape necessary to get the job of heating water effectively done right. Of course, no water heater is going to last forever, either. While you don’t want to be wasting money on a premature replacement, you also really don’t want to wind up with a completely broken down system on your hands.

Today, we are going to talk about some of the reasons that you may want to replace your water heater. Planning out your replacement will save you the serious inconvenience of waiting for that replacement to happen when your water heater goes belly up at an inopportune time. Of course, you cannot always get out ahead of problems that you may encounter with your water heater. Scheduling your water heater services in Tucson with The Sunny Plumber Tucson, however, will give you the best chance of doing so.

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Is a Tankless Water Heater Worth the Money?

April 9th, 2018

sunny-plumbersAmong the plumbing services we offer are those for various water heaters in Tucson, AZ. This includes routine maintenance and repairs. When the time comes for a homeowner to purchase a new water heater for an installation or replacement, we always recommend that they take the time to really explore all of the different options that are out there. While the tank water heater is probably still the most popular system around, there is a lot to recommend the tankless variety.

While we are big advocates of the tankless water heater, for reasons that we’ll get into below, there is one factor that may dissuade some potential buyers right off the bat. and that is the price of the tankless water heater. When you’re doing your research on available systems, you’ll notice that tankless models are definitely more expensive than tank models. When you do a bit more research or simply read the following information, however, you’ll see that these systems really are worth the cost.

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How to Keep Your Drains from Backing Up

March 26th, 2018

logoThere are countless issues you may encounter with your plumbing system. Many are simply beyond your control. The need for plumbing repairs in Tucson, AZ is not a matter of if, but of when. Now, that being said, there are also a lot of problems that, while not 100% avoidable, are still often the result of human error. Some, for instance, can often be averted with a bit of care on the homeowner’s part.

Today we want to talk about ways you can help to prevent your drains from backing up. Should you encounter clogged drains, we strongly recommend that you schedule professional drain cleaning services with the exceptional plumbers here at The Sunny Plumber Tucson. Trust us, we’ll have much more success and achieve far better results than any DIY attempts on your part will. You can minimize the risk of requiring any such service in your home by keeping these helpful tips in mind.

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With a Focus on Customers, Plumbing Firm Finds Fast Growth in Five Years

March 16th, 2018
With a Focus on Customers, Plumbing Firm Finds Fast Growth in Five YearsGary Eisenhauer, The Sunny Plumber general manager, poses outside the company’s office and many of its service vehicles in Las Vegas. Most of the company’s 43 vehicles are Nissan V2500 high-top models.

Business prospects are bright for The Sunny Plumber. Since it was launched in Arizona in 2013, the plumbing company has already reached markets in Nevada and California. And Gary Eisenhauer, general manager, believes that’s only the beginning.

“Ten years from now, we’d like to be in all the states,” Eisenhauer says. “It’s a lofty goal but absolutely possible.”

The Sunny Plumber would not, of course, be the first plumbing company with a national footprint. Think Roto-Rooter, for example. However, The Sunny Plumber can’t offer a novel solution to clogged plumbing lines like Samuel Oscar Blanc did with his homemade root-cutting device. Rather, company executives are banking on expertise and a sunny disposition to power their expansion.

FINDING ROOM TO GROW

Ken Goodrich is the driving force behind The Sunny Plumber’s ambitious growth plan. The entrepreneur, who grew up in his father’s air-conditioning business, has founded a succession of successful heating-ventilation-air conditioning firms and plumbing companies, including acquisitions in Arizona in 2013 that introduced The Sunny Plumber to Tucson and Phoenix. Two years later, the company opened an office in Las Vegas and, in 2016, in Corona, California.

In these locations, Goodrich owns both an HVAC company — Goettl Air Conditioning — and The Sunny Plumber, but he operates them separately. What they have in common is the goal of growing across state lines. As Goodrich puts it in a Las Vegas business publication interview in March 2017: “Our ultimate goal is to bring our brand, our unique customer-centric culture and processes across the nation and become the gold standard for home service in the U.S.”

To that end, the plumbing side of the organization is being aggressively marketed around an image of the sun. The company logo is a smiling cartoon sun ablaze with cheerfulness and holding a pipe wrench in one of its sunbeams. The theme continues through bright orange and yellow wrapping on service trucks — and the giveaway of a pair of sunglasses with every job.

FOR THE CUSTOMERS

The positive vibes flowing from the company image are also, by design, felt within the company, according to Eisenhauer. He says The Sunny Plumber is as optimistic a workplace as it appears to be.

“Every company goes through its trials, but we do everything we can to keep morale up. We do everything we can to make it a positive work environment. The management style I have always followed is to lead on a positive level,” he says. “And the positive attitude we have in the office, when conveyed to our clients, helps them overcome their situations. After all, the clients have called us because they are unhappy. They are unhappy that something is wrong in their home.”

Eisenhauer says the positive attitude begins with Goodrich, who, he says, is “upbeat and can-do and pretty demanding, too. He attracts the best talent — not just recruits them.”

The upbeat company attracts customers, too. It holds them through such innovations as The Sunshine Club, an annual maintenance agreement in which The Sunny Plumber techs inspect all fixtures, check the pressure on lines, do recommended maintenance on the water heater, and flush drains. The agreement promises two drain clean-outs each year and a camera inspection whenever a snake is deployed to clear a line.

Sometimes these inspections generate additional plumbing work, sometimes not. “If the house is in good shape, we’re going to tell the homeowner so,” Eisenhauer says. “If there are issues, we are going to say this is what you have going on. If you don’t want it fixed, fine. If something is not quite up to specs or is getting corroded, we will suggest a fix to avoid flooding because each inspection is really about flood prevention.”

Annual inspections are not original to The Sunny Plumber, except for the drain check and clearing, but are an increasingly popular feature: Eisenhauer says the company is signing up 100 to 150 Sunshine Club members each month. Fees for the plumbing maintenance do not vary with the size of a property. The service is reserved for residential customers, which constitute the bulk of the company’s customer base.

Another feature of the customer-centric culture is a guarantee of 100 percent customer satisfaction. That sounds like a pie-in-the-sky promise, given the wide-ranging expectations of homeowners regarding service. But Eisenhauer says the company lives up to the pledge — one way or another.

“We know we can’t make everyone happy. We could not get hot water to one bathroom we worked on, so we gave the client all his money back. I’ve given money back on $12,000 jobs,” he says. “When things don’t work, we leave the client satisfied by not taking his money and walking away. It’s all about reputation.” The company’s reputation is good enough to have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.

Eisenhauer believes people are afraid to call plumbers and other service technicians for fear of being victimized. With the 100 percent guarantee, potential customers know they have some recourse when things go wrong. “When people know that, they are more willing to let you do work for them. Most customers will let you work through problems until it’s right.” He adds that he has no evidence that potential customers try to game the system by feigning dissatisfaction.

A TEAM ATMOSPHERE

Eisenhauer’s office is in Las Vegas. From there, he closely supervises the activity of the company in its four locations. He accomplishes this mostly through weekly conference calls, but specific management issues that crop up at any of the locations are addressed the same day in real time.

Besides offering competitive salaries to its 42 employees, Eisenhauer says the company offers a team atmosphere in which colleagues “can jell and help each other out in the field. Plumbing is a fickle industry for technicians, who seem to have ‘the grass is greener’ syndrome. I try to look after and take care of our technicians.”

In return, Eisenhauer expects job applicants to communicate well, both in listening and verbalizing. That’s because a tech must be able to understand a customer’s plumbing issue and then clearly explain the cause of the problem and what will be required to resolve it.

Eisenhauer acknowledges that, as in other maintenance and construction industries, attracting qualified and suitable people to work as plumbers is difficult. “I don’t have a pipeline for techs, unfortunately.” For those the company does hire on, there is no shortage of work: The Sunny Plumber offers true, live-dispatched 24/7 service.

Technicians roll out in the company’s fleet of 43 trucks. Most of the trucks are fully equipped Nissan V2500 high-top models, which are deemed to be ideal because a water heater can be stood upright in them. Some repair specialists, as Eisenhauer describes the most experienced techs on the team, drive smaller units and are being transitioned to the standard-top version of the V2500.

A WIDE RANGE OF CALLS

Some of the same societal changes that make it difficult to find blue-collar employees are having impact on customers, too, but not as one might expect. The cultural preoccupation with electronic gadgetry has in some ways made homeowners more, rather than less, likely to roll up their sleeves and attempt plumbing repairs on their own, Eisenhauer says.

“Today’s homeowners are not less hands-on. If anything, they are more hands-on. They’ll watch some video and, by golly, they are now a plumber. Then we get the calls. We have a saying here: ‘Everyone is a plumber until they mess something up.’”

Like their peers across the plumbing industry, The Sunny Plumber techs sometimes arrive at a home and find the results of interesting attempts by a homeowner to repair something on his or her own. Eisenhauer recalls the time a technician walked into a residence for an inspection and found an Australian Foster’s beer can adapted to reuse as a vent on a water heater. “That was probably a homeowner fix.”

Service calls typically range from clogged drains and leaking pipes to fixture failure.

Before he became general manager of The Sunny Plumber, Eisenhauer “dabbled” in a variety of careers, from office administration to law enforcement and federal prison supervisory work. It was in this last capacity — as plumbing supervisor for eight years at a prison in California — that Eisenhauer gained perspective about customers. “I tell our technicians that my best client in prison was worse than my worst client on the outside,” he says. “My best defense was communication.”


First, look for integrity

A growing company like The Sunny Plumber is necessarily a hiring company. It builds out its business on the backs of new hires who, once they prove themselves, become the veteran employees whose performances foster future growth.

The Sunny Plumber will be in a hiring mode for years to come because the Southwest U.S. company aspires to establish itself across the country. “We are not yet expanding across the country, but that kind of thinking is coming into play,” says Gary Eisenhauer, general manager, “The goal (in 2018) is to expand quicker. Every month, we have a management meeting to determine if it is time to move forward or to slow down.”

In the process of expansion, Eisenhauer constantly will be culling male and female technician candidates for employment. The general manager says technical ability is not the first criterion he considers as he interviews job applicants. “The first thing I look for in the recruiting process is integrity,” he says. “That’s because I will be sending them out to clients they have never met. They have got to be able to work with strangers.”

He is not talking about an employee being congenial, though that also is a valuable customer service attribute. Rather, the employees must be trustworthy because they will be in clients’ homes where personal security is always a paramount concern. Both Eisenhauer and his customers must be able to trust that the plumber entering a home will demonstrate good character while there. Eisenhauer says what separates The Sunny Plumber from some competitors is the trustworthiness of the company itself and the integrity of the service employees who represent it.

In his focus on character, the company’s general manager might be channeling Warren Buffett, the legendary CEO of the Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate. Buffett is quoted saying: “In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. And if they don’t have the first one, the other two will kill you.”

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