Plumbing Could be the Next Big Thing for Smart-Home Pros

Leak detection, water purification, water management, living walls, smart kitchens and bathrooms, other water-related trends could drive smart-home pros into the plumbing business.

Plumbing Could be the Next Big Thing for Smart-Home Pros

Solutions like smart bathrooms (Kohler), Hero leak mitigation (Hero Labs), living plant walls (Verdure) and bidets (Brondell) could propel CE pros into plumbing.

Over the past few decades, we’ve seen traditional home-technology integrators enter new categories, sometimes reluctantly, and often with great success – security, motorized shades, electrical contracting, IT, light commercial, independent living, and most recently light fixtures, to name a few.

Is it possible that plumbing could be next? For those who declare, “No way!” consider what you probably thought about motorized shades back in the day, or LED fixtures today: Yikes?

Plumbing might be a bigger stretch, but I see it as no different from categories such as electrical contracting, which don’t just diversify the home-tech portfolio but round it out, as well.

Like electrical contracting, plumbing gets you into the doors of builders, architects and designers early in the home-building process – much earlier than smart-home tech, for sure. And like electrical contracting, everyone needs plumbing and dealers can keep the cash flowing between those bigger jobs.

It’s easier to hire plumbers than low-voltage techs, and customers don’t tend to balk at $100-per-hour rates.

Doing Your Business in the Bathroom

CEDIA Expo 2019 didn’t necessarily scream plumbing, but I personally saw water, water everywhere. There was Kohler taking a keen interest in the home-tech channel with its smart bathroom systems. First-time CEDIA exhibitor Brondell showed off a bidet. Both companies highlighted the contributions of bathroom technology to health and wellness.

Also big in the emerging wellness category is water purification – a key pillar in the wellness platform espoused by Delos (sponsor of the CEDIA Expo Wellness Pavilion) and the Delos-backed Well Building Institute. Kohler and Brondell offer water-purification systems, although these weren’t highlighted at Expo.

Water purification is key tenet of the Well Building standard and the Delos Darwin platform.

Meanwhile Pure Wellness, maker of water and air purification systems, has joined the Azione Unlimited buying group for home-tech pros. (Delos joined HTSA.)

I’m rather confident that home-tech pros will embrace this product category in the near future, along with indoor air quality and ventilation.

You know what they say: Own the bathroom, own the home. OK, no one says that, but plumbing is a good jumping-off place into the lucrative bathroom space (not to mention the kitchen), where home owners and builders put the big bucks.

Built into an exhaust fan, Broan’s disinfecting light gets integrators into the bathroom.

At CEDIA Expo, first-time (in a long time) exhibitor Broan showcased a new ventilation fan that also disinfects the space with special lighting that avoids the (bad) UV spectrum.

Of course, several exhibitors demonstrated smart mirrors for the bathroom. Seura, Electric Mirror and Delos all tout the high quality and healing powers of the LEDs built into their fixtures, which reportedly can improve wellbeing.

And you know me. It’s hard to keep me out of the wellness category, but indoor living plant walls and water features – which optimally are fed through the plumbing system – are two big trends in wellness and biophilic design.

Also on the subject of plumbing in the custom channel: 1) freeze/leak detection and water shut-off, 2) water conservation and management, 3) outdoor sprinkler systems, and 4) potentially indoor sprinkler systems for fire protection.

I don’t know what the margins are for plumbing hardware, including fixtures, but I’m guessing somewhere on the high side.

In the early days of Electronic House and CE Pro, one of our biggest advertisers for many years was Ultraflo, provider of water-flow systems. The plumbing category dried up for about two decades but now it is making a resurgence. I expect a gusher any year now.

We want to hear from you! Are you contemplating the plumbing category? Already involved? Closely allied with a local plumbing company? And let us know what you do in the bathroom.

About the Author

Julie Jacobson
Julie Jacobson:

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson


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