Electric eel versus water jetter: what’s your take?

By Andy Smith, co-founder, Lifestyle Tradie

Does the electric eel or water jetter do a better job of clearing a blockage? Plumbers everywhere always love to have their say about this one – and the debate can get pretty heated among tradies.

Here’s what I think. I’m an electric eel man. Yes, I’m one of those old-school plumbers who reckons the eel is more effective. There, I’ve said it. Go ahead, blast me for it. There’s nothing like a bit of friendly banter!

Before you do, hear me out. In this blog, I’m going to outline the pros and cons of both the electric eel and water jetter. Once you’ve taken a look, I’m keen to know what side of the fence you sit on.

Electric eel

Invented in 1933, the electric eel (drain snake or plumber’s snake) is a steel cable with a cutter on the end that’ll spin through and dislodge the blockage as it’s fed further into the drainage line.

I’m a fan of the electric eel for lots of reasons. I’m not denying one of them is because it’s what I know. However, given the lower price-point (approximately $5,000) and ease of maintenance, it’s still my pick.

In saying that, I recognise there are some serious downsides. It can be clunky trying to wrangle the heavy cables – not to mention the smell. It’s harder on the back and more physically demanding to use an eel.

Water jetter

Invented about 20 years ago, the water jetter (or high-pressure drain cleaner) is a water blaster with a nozzle that’s fed into the drainage through an access point. It dislodges whatever is causing the blockage.

While it’s probably easier for plumbers to use (not as heavy as an eel) and navigate inside houses, the higher price-point (approximately $10,000) can be prohibitive for plumbers with multiple trucks.

I know some of you will argue the water jetter is more efficient because it can clear, cut and wash away tree roots – all of which is true. I also agree, in some situations, it may be a faster option.

For someone who is open to change and new technology, the eel remains my favourite – I’m yet to be convinced otherwise. While there’ll be plumbers saying the eel is almost obsolete. We’ll see about that.

In an ideal world, there’s a place for both machines in a plumber’s truck, if budget was no object. As a side note, a drain camera inspection might be necessary to help solve a blockage once and for all.

There you have it. The eel is a winner in my eyes. What’s your verdict? One of our previous blogs that compared the best tradie vehicles really opened up a can of worms – are you as passionate about this topic?

Andy and wife Angela Smith will be presenting a series of live events, Next Level Tradie in November. Book your free tickets.