The public will always take for granted a little the important work that plumbers do. Don’t do the same, and take a moment to reflect on the vital role you play for society.
The public sometimes has a hard time understanding what we do for a living.
People will wake up in a warm house, take a shower, shave, use the toilet, make some coffee, commute to work, eat lunch, gossip with co-workers, go home, water the garden, give the kids a bath, and repeat. We all do some variation of that for the most part, day in and day out.
Eventually, something happens to their plumbing system — maybe a drain clog or a water leak of some kind. You give them the bill and the cost is surprising to them. They complain about how you are committing highway robbery — $200 for a one-hour repair?
I once heard a news anchor say, “There is no profession which gets less credit for what they do than the CIA. They do so much to keep us safe, and when one dies, they get an un-named star on the headquarters’ wall.” I thought to myself, “We are the first and foremost line of defense for humanity as a whole, and when we die, nothing happens at all!”
There is no question that the public has decreased understanding of what we do for a living. But many newcomers to our industry also don’t fully understand the value of what we provide. They show up to work, do their jobs well, earn a great living for their family, and flow on with life as it comes. Let’s take a step back for a second and reflect.
The plumber is a cog in the system that provides clean, safe drinking water, as well as the treatment of sewage, returning it to the environment in the most responsible manner possible. Without water, life cannot exist on this planet. Nature, in itself, has its system of recycling water throughout its ecosystems, and if humans didn’t exist, the world would not need plumbers. Humanity is what ruins Mother Nature’s perfect system because we desire things like big industry to feed our infrastructure and way of life. Since humans are interrupting and corrupting Mother Nature’s cycle, we must fix the problem that we’ve created, and that’s where plumbers come in. We are, whether we want to be or not, the purest and most authentic environmentalists. We take what humankind is doing to the Earth and its water systems and make it right.
If you are relatively new to the plumbing trade, you should stop and think for a moment about the lineage and proud tradition you are a part of. Without people like you, there would be no morning shower, morning coffee, heat in the house, drinking water, toilet that conveniently makes waste disappear, hot water, water for the garden when it hasn’t rained in a few weeks, clean water to feed the chickens or the cows, water to brew the beer you have after work. Honestly, life simply wouldn’t exist at all.
Plumbers have prevented a considerable amount of illness and disease. Humanity left alone without plumbers has proven disastrous too many times throughout history; do the research. It wasn’t that long ago when people would defecate in chamber pots and throw it out of the window of their home. Streets became lined with urine and waste, people dying from things like infectious disease and waterborne pathogens.
Does the public have a lack of understanding about our profession? Absolutely. But sometimes we do, too. We forget how important what we do is. Keep your head down and do the “work of the just” as I call it. Do the right things, not the easy things. Next time you run into that iffy situation where you brought a roll of 3/4-inch but you know the house should get a 1-inch line, make the extra trip and do it right. When your instructor is watching, do the right things. When co-workers or a foreman is watching, do the right thing. But when you are all alone, and you have to decide to put in what you have on the truck or make a trip and do it the right way, that is the true test of a real plumber. Our recognition comes from within. If you don’t take pride in the details, find another job.
Anthony Pacilla is a registered master plumber for McVehil Plumbing in Washington, Pennsylvania. He has 23 years' experience in the plumbing and HVAC trades, and has a bachelor’s in business and economics from Thiel College.
Original article: https://www.plumbermag.com/how-to-articles/industry-involvement-plumbing/respect-the-value-you-provide-as-a-plumber
Heat pumps have become extremely popular considering the significant savings in electricity that they provide property owners – whether for industrial, commercial or residential applications. However, there are many important factors that need to be considered when installing and maintaining this equipment to ensure that it continues to provide maximum benefit over its between 15- and 20-year life span. High quality heat pumps that have been correctly installed and maintained have even significantly exceeded their design life, with property owners usually seeing a return on their investment within three to 10 years. This pay-back period is becoming shorter when considering the rising cost of electricity.
“This technology can heat the same amount of water as a conventional electric water-heating system using just a third or a quarter of the electricity required by the latter, saving property owners between 30% and 70% on their monthly utility bill. The technology is also 50% more cost-effective than gas and oil boilers to operate. Unlike solar water heaters, they also operate efficiently at any time of day as they are only slightly affected by variations in temperature. Moreover, heat pumps can be easier to install and because they only require minor servicing, they are very cost-effective to own. However, when they have not been installed and maintained correctly, they can actually cost the property owner a lot of money, undoing their intended benefits, which is to reduce electricity bills and the carbon footprint of a premises. It is, therefore, imperative to always use a professional plumber to install and service this equipment,” Brendan Reynolds, Executive Director of the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA), says. IOPSA is the official voice of the local professional plumbing industry and comprises a strong membership of plumbers who are committed to quality workmanship. Many of these members also specialise in the installation of heat pumps for a variety of applications. They have installed and are maintaining heat pumps for hotels, hostels, hospitals, schools, office blocks and universities, as well as for a host of industrial applications, including change houses and laundromats. This is in addition to the many systems that have been installed and are being serviced for homeowners. Bear in mind that it is a legal requirement for a Certificate of Compliance to be issued by a Licensed plumber for any heat pump installed.
The majority of heat pumps work on the same principle as a domestic refrigerator. They use a vapour compression cycle that transfers heat from a low temperature to a high temperature body. Refrigerant is used as a transfer medium. Heat is moved from the outside air to the refrigerant in the evaporator at a low temperature and pressure. A compressor compresses the fluid and heat is transferred from the refrigerant at a high temperature and pressure to the water in the condenser. The fluid then flows through the
expansion valve where the temperature and pressure drop before it enters the evaporator again and, in doing so, repeating the cycle.
Well-maintained heat pumps consume between 10% and 20% less energy than those units that have not been correctly maintained. In fact, an important sign that a heat pump is faulty can be a sudden rise in electricity costs. This may be because the heat pump is overworking and, therefore, drawing more energy as important components and parts have worn out.
Poor maintenance can even lead to major repairs having to be undertaken to the heat pump. Compressors, reversing valves and coils, for example, can become damaged, and their replacement an expensive and an extensive process. In severe circumstances, worn out components can also cause the heat pump to break prematurely resulting in major unwanted repair and even replacement costs. Many heat pump manufacturers recommend that their products be maintained at least once a year by the owner to validate their warranties. Bear in mind that this equipment works round the clock and is, therefore, subject to wear and tear.
When servicing a heat pump, professional plumbers will verify the correct thermostat communication, as well as controls and safety switches; inspect belts; and lubricate motors. Among others, they will also check refrigerant levels, as well as the electrical terminals, in addition to cleaning and tightening them if necessary.
Meanwhile, there are many problems that can occur with heat pumps if they have been installed incorrectly.
A common mistake made during the installation of heat pumps is insufficient refrigerant use. If refrigerant levels are too low, performance issues may arise, and the heat pump may become damaged.
Leaking ductwork is also another outcome of poor workmanship. Experts usually seal or rebuild the ductwork system to ensure an airtight fit.
Incorrectly sized heat pumps can also eventually cause problems for owners. Heat pumps that are too large for an application will short cycle and, if too small, they will work overtime to reach the desired temperature. In both instances, more energy will be required to operate the heat pump, and this will reflect on owners’ monthly energy bills.
“Savings on utility bills aside, heat pumps help reduce our carbon footprint. This technology, therefore, has a critical role to play in helping South Africa to achieve its carbon emission reduction targets. The fact that there continues to be a marked uptake of this technology in
the country means that South Africans are opting for ‘greener” living. However, it is important that they deal with specialists who are trained in the correct installation and maintenance of heat pumps to avoid buyers’ remorse,” Reynolds concludes.
89% of the 3955 enrolments on IOPSA’s e-learning platform were free CPD accredited courses. The top 10 CPD accredited courses offered are for free.
“CPD stands for Continuing Professional Development. It refers to the process of tracking and documenting the skills, knowledge and experience that you gain both formally and informally as you work, beyond any initial training. It’s a record of what you experience, learn and then apply”. (https://career-advice.jobs.ac.uk/career-development/what-is-continuing-professional-development-cpd/). In other words, CPD is the continuing life-long learning that you do after your qualification.
But why is it necessary? In the modern world, the only constant is change. New technology, methods and products emerge on an almost daily basis. Likewise, new or revised laws, regulations and standards are introduced regularly. This all means that, more than ever before, it is important for plumbers to stay abreast of the changes. CPD is a method to do this and more importantly, a method to prove to the market that you are up to date. CPD is fairly new to the South African plumbing industry but for many other industries it has been a normal requirement for many years.
We often hear comments like “CPD is just a money-making racket” from certain sectors of the industry. The Institute of Plumbing, IOPSA (www.iopsa.org) has provided an e-learning platform to the industry. Having completed its first full year of operation (Feb 2021-Jan 2022) we decided to take a close look at the facts and you may be interested to see what we found;
Admittedly, some plumbers may spend thousands of Rands on CPD courses, but this is their choice, there are plenty of opportunities available to achieve all the CPD points needed at absolutely no cost. Plumbers who leave their CPD to the last minute, often end up scrambling to participate in any course available to make up their points, with some planning, that is completely unnecessary. It is interesting to note that of all the industries we have looked at, the plumbing industry is the only one which has such options available. Most industries require a minimum spend of around R20 000 per year in order to achieve their points. The plumber does need to invest some time and for small businesses that can be a challenge but in the end, they are gaining valuable knowledge which will ultimately benefit them massively.
I have heard people say that “they are making millions on CPD” and “its just a money-making scheme” and various other similar comments. The truth is vastly different, there is NO other industry which makes its CPD more affordable or accessible to its stakeholders. CPD is by no means a cash cow for any of those involved. What it is, is an opportunity for plumbers to uplift and improve themselves. Knowledge is the one thing that can never be taken away from you, embrace it!!
A week’s work for a team of Nelson Mandela Bay plumbers helped restore dignity and basic sanitary conditions to a destitute community living on a plot of land on the outskirts of Gqeberha.
Now, the dozens of residents at Place of Hope in Greenbushes do not have to worry about raw sewage running down their streets, and their children’s health will improve along with their cleaner living conditions. Each year, the Eastern Cape branch of the Institute of Plumbers of SA identifies a project where its members band together to help the less f o r t u n at e. The initiative usually coincides with World Plumbing Day on March 11, but the institute’s regional chair, Adriaan Myburgh, said Covid-19 had forced them to delay their project last year, to the benefit of Place of Hope residents.
The team is now looking for a new project to tackle on March 11. “We couldn’t do our project in March , but we refused to skip a year and started asking among our members if they had any suggestions where we could help the less f o r t u n at e. “Pieter Rademeyer [of Pieter Rademeyer Plumbers] took us to Place of Hope and within days we knew what had to be done and work began.” The owner of Place of Hope, who asked not to be named, started the shelter decades ago with her husband on a piece of land adjacent to Cape Road. They opened their gates to a handful of destitute people looking for a safe place to start over, and when they sold their land in 2007 they provided shelter for five families. They relocated the shelter to the piece of land it now occupies, and the community has grown to 26 families, comprising about 90 people.
Myburgh said when the plumbing team arrived at the property early last month, raw sewage was running down the streets between the makeshift houses on the smallholding. Children were playing in the dirty water, not realising the dangers and possible health risks involved. It turned out that the existing French drain system on the plot was inadequate for the number of people using it, and it was not emptied and treated as regularly as it should have been. Within days, more than 15 companies, consisting of members and non-members of the plumbers’ institute, volunteered materials and services to alleviate the problems at Place of Hope and contributed to building a longer-lasting solution for the community.
“We often underestimate people’s willingness to become involved in a worthy cause and we were blown away by the support this project received from the local business community,” Myb u r g h said. “Some people gave equipment, others brought materials, and then there were teams giving their time to oversee the project.” Within a week, the plumbers had cleaned out the existing drainage systems, increased their capacity and installed plumbing that would allow the shelter’s residents to expand their homes.
Myburgh said there was still a lot of work to be done to improve the community’s conditions and that it would be an ongoing project. However, the residents’ quality of life had already improved immeasurably. Rademeyer said he came across Place of Hope 10 years ago and had assisted with smaller projects at the property from time to time, but when he heard the institute was looking for a bigger project to tackle, he immediately knew the plumbers could make a real difference. “What the landowners have created here is a chance for people to start over and improve their lives, and that needs to be applauded and supported . “I am happy we could make an impact on these people’s lives , ” Rademeyer said. Resident and community leader Judith Benzies said they were grateful and humbled by the generosity.
“We would like to thank everyone involved in co-ordinating the project, including the managers, supervisors, workers and suppliers, for their selfless act to improve the lives of those in need. “We do not have the words to fully express our gratitude,” she said. Myburgh said the regional branch of the institute wanted to challenge its counterparts in other regions, as well as the broader business community, to identify projects where they could make a difference in people’s lives. “We don’t do this for the publicity, ” he said. “We do it to make a difference. “Why can’t others do the same?
The Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) and the Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB) conducts the Plumbing National Survey annually.
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The primary focus National Development Plan (NDP) of South is to eliminate income poverty and inequality, as well as to increase employment.
The NDP accordingly calls for the annual entry of 30 000 qualified artisans into the industry. The plumbing industry is however characterised by far more informal activity than formal, with the number of formal enterprises declining every year and the number of informal operators increasing.
It is estimated that there are more than 125 000 self-identified plumbers in South Africa. In this dataset that is produced by Statistics South Africa, 10 359 employed one or more people and 12 860 are own-account workers.
An analysis by race of the owners shows that there are increasing numbers of formal black, Indian and coloured plumbers. Most plumbing business, whether formal or informal, are dominated by men. Female business owners are most likely to be operating in the informal sector.
It is with great sadness that we, at IOPSA, have observed the outbreaks of social unrest, rioting and looting over the past few days. These actions have seriously affected the ability of plumbers and plumbing suppliers in KZN and Gauteng to provide services to their communities. Plumbing is an essential service and these actions mean that not only are many plumbers unable to earn a living but communities are being left without water and adequate sanitation – a serious health concern. In a water scarce country, we can ill afford to lose vital water to leaks which are now going unrepaired. Material supplies are also being severely constrained and if the situation continues this will lead to further delays in the future.
We condemn the wanton destruction of property and the threat posed to innocent civilians by riotous mobs, in the strongest possible terms. Several plumbing suppliers’ stores have been looted and at least 1 plumbers’ vehicle was torched. In these difficult times these illegal actions could very well lead to further job losses.
The National government has commissioned the South African Police Services and the South African National Defence Force to calm the situation, to urgently quell the unrest, and to return law and order to our affected cities, towns, and communities.
Our immediate focus is on ensuring the safety of all those in the plumbing industry, while working with law enforcement agencies to ensure that everything is being done to restore calm and order in the affected areas. It must be noted that service delivery continues without disruption in most other areas of the country.
We appreciate the anxiety and stress that this causes, and the extreme disruption to clients. We implore all those working in the industry to take extra precautions in protecting themselves and their staff and call on the affected communities for calm. Whatever the grievances, violence and criminality are not the answer.
To all IOPSA members, the plumbing community, and the public, please remain calm and allow law enforcement to do their work. Look after yourselves and your families, we will get through this!
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05 July 2021
REPORT: COVID-19 IMPACT ON IOPSA MEMBERSHIP.
COVID-19 arrived in South Africa in March 2020 to devastating effect. We are currently experiencing the 3rd wave which is once again impacting the country severely. SA has been in various stages of lockdown for nearly 16 months now and the impact on businesses has been severe. The plumbing industry has not been immune, but the impacts have been mixed. Plumbing businesses which operate in the construction/new build industry were extremely hard hit by hard lockdown, since then there has been a slow but steady recovery, it will take some time before these businesses get back to pre-COVID levels, but there is movement. Plumbers who focused mainly on commercial and industrial maintenance have arguably faired the worst, business closures, work-from-home and lockdowns have seen their business dwindle. It remains to be seen what the long-term impacts will be but for now these businesses are struggling to survive. Conversely plumbing businesses which focus on domestic maintenance and renovations have been doing quite well, this is largely due to two factors, firstly more people are working from home and wanting to renovate or upgrade their homes, secondly with more people at home for longer periods, plumbing equipment tends to get used more often which leads to higher maintenance. Essentially a lot of the commercial/industrial maintenance market has shifted to the domestic market due to people working from home.
On average IOPSA membership has grown by around 10% per year for the past 7 years, however over the last 3 years membership has grown by 12-14%. This year looks set to be even better. This is not necessarily an indicator of market growth but more, we believe, due to renewed confidence in the services that IOPSA offers its members. Whilst cancellations have been relatively low, around 5% for the years leading up to 2020, we have seen an increase to around 7% since March 2020. Since March 2020, IOPSA has been carefully monitoring the reasons for cancellations of memberships to gauge the impact of COVID-19 on the industry. The below graph illustrates the reasons given by members for cancellations from March 2020 to June 2021.
COVID Financial difficulties due to COVID-19
Closed Business closure – no reason given.
Unpaid unpaid fees – no reasons given.
Unwanted No longer want to be IOPSA members.
Restructure Cancellation due to business restructure/no longer do plumbing work.
Liquidation Business currently in liquidation
Emigrate Business owner emigrated.
Retire Business owner retired.
Sold Business sold
PIRB 1 member cancelled due to IOPSA’s association with PIRB.
Deceased Business owner deceased.
Prior to 2019 IOPSA did not capture data on reasons for cancellations therefore accurate comparisons against previous years is difficult. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that in the period 2017-2019 the main reasons for cancellations were;
A full quarter of cancellations were directly attributable to financial difficulties experienced due to COVID-19, many of these members have indicated that they would like to continue as IOPSA members if their financial position improves. It is also reasonable to assume that many of the businesses that closed without providing reasons or went into liquidation may very well have been due to the effects of COVID-19. IOPSA staff have also reported that several older members decided to bring their retirement dates forward due to the health risks posed by COVID-19. Of interest, is the reduction in emigrations. South African plumbers are still in demand internationally but due to travel restrictions emigration has been difficult. From these statistics there is little doubt that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on plumbing businesses. The extent to which it has and is affecting current members will be assessed in the annual industry survey in August 2021.
The below graph indicates cancellations by region. The graph closely tracks IOPSA’s membership per region, with one exception. The Western Cape makes up roughly 13% of IOPSA’s total membership, however this region only accounted for 7% of cancellations since March 2020. This was arguably the most surprising finding from the report since IOPSA has faced some stiff opposition in the province. We are not sure if the reason for this anomaly is due to plumbers in the Western Cape weathering the COVID-19 storm better than other provinces or for some other reason, but it makes for an interesting anomaly. We are currently trying to source other data sets to compare this to and hope to find more answers during the upcoming annual industry survey.
As the 3rd wave reaches its peak we are once again receiving more reports from members who are finding trading conditions increasingly challenging especially in the new build and commercial/industrial maintenance markets. Many of these businesses are now pivoting into domestic maintenance, the effects of this change are yet to be seen but it will likely create stiff competition for those already in the domestic market. Whilst plumbing, being an essential service, is certainly more resilient than many other sectors, the impacts are definitely being felt. There is a distinct lack of larger construction projects and government tenders, releasing projects that are currently on hold would go a long way in stimulating the sector and creating much needed employment opportunities.
IOPSA would like to remind its members and everyone in the plumbing industry to wear masks at all times, regularly wash or sanitise hands and practice social distancing. We encourage everyone who is eligible to receive the vaccine to do so as soon as possible. Together we can overcome this pandemic.
Should you have any queries on this or any other matters, please do not hesitate to contact us on 011 454 0025.
* Please note that all articles are dated and content was valid at the time of publication.
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