The Power of the Portable

March 11, 2004
/ Print / Reprints /
ShareMore
/ Text Size+
photos courtesy of U.S. Products


The past four or five years have seen a run up in horsepower, vacuum and heat in truck-mounted carpet-cleaning machines. Paralleling this run up is a steady increase in the power of portables.

In the beginning, portable cleaning machines had small centrifugal pumps putting out around 25 to 35 pounds of pressure, with a water output of somewhere between 1/2 gallon and 1 gallon per minute. These machines were capable of doing an acceptable job of cleaning carpets and upholstery, especially in the hands of a skilled, motivated technician.

But as we all know, time marches on. Today's portables have pressure pumps and vacuum systems that emulate the power of truck-mounted machines. The way in which they are constructed has also improved. When I first entered the carpet-cleaning business, most portables featured lightweight, plastic construction, in some cases Fiberglas. There were even some units, such as the Steamway 400 I started out with, in which there was actually some metal to go along with the plastic panels.

In the past 30 years the science of plastics has evolved considerably. Most of today's portables are manufactured using a rotation-molding process with much-improved materials. The new shapes that are possible with the rotation molding allow for many features to be built into a portable machine, as well as providing a surprisingly strong, lightweight housing. Today's plastic machines are light-years beyond their forefathers, and should not be prejudged on those early models.

Today's portables may have lightweight pumps with pressure capabilities of up to 500 psi, developed in part because of the "horsepower" race run by manufacturers of portable machines. At the same time, there are machines that function without a pressure pump at all, instead relying on a connection to the customer's hot water faucet.

The portable manufacturers have also developed vacuum configurations that allow airflow of 150 to 200 CFM or more using centrifugal vacuum motors. Multiple vacuum motors, which may be 2-stage or 3-stage in parallel (multiple vacs pulling through the same manifold) or in series (one behind the other), will give varying degrees of performance. Multiple vacs in series will provide the most lift, while multiple vacs in parallel will provide the most CFM.

Some machines are designed so that the operator can manipulate some valves and run the vacs in parallel or series as they wish. Regardless of the configuration, if centrifugal vacuums are being used, 50 feet to 100 feet of recovery hose is at up upper end of allowances. Another factor that must be addressed when discussing these newer high-pressure super vac units is power. Many of these multi-motor, high-pressure systems will require two or more power cords on separate circuits.

One other aspect of portable use is also changing (most, if not all, would say for the better) is the need for the "bucket brigade." For years, using a portable entailed a steady flow of buckets of water, both dirty and clean. Part of your production team spent some of their time carrying buckets of clean water to the machine and carrying buckets of dirty water to the disposal site. Obviously, these tasks added considerably to the amount of time required to complete the job at hand.

Now we are seeing more machines designed with some manner of pump-out system, either as part of the cleaning unit itself or as an attachment, and with water-fill systems that eliminate the need to "bucket" clean water to the machine.

There has been, and probably always will be, a long-standing debate on the merits of a truckmount vs. a portable. But no matter with which camp you side, the fact is a good technician can get acceptable results when cleaning carpets or upholstery with either type of machine. Another fact is that not all jobs are accessible with a truckmount. Case in point: I have a high-rise condominium community less than two miles from me that will not allow a truckmount on the property. If your work order says "Point Brittany," you are going to use a portable. I also work an island that is 22 miles long with condos stacked 20 stories high, many of which are simply not accessible with a truckmount.

The bottom line is that the machine you choose, whether truck-mounted or portable, is a tool, one that is no better than the technician operating it. I'll take a decades-old prototype operated by a skilled tech over the latest state-of-the-art unit in the hands of a chimp any day. Get classroom training to fully understand the jobs you will be performing and the equipment you will be performing them with. And always remember: get it clean and get it dry.

Until next month, see ya!

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to i Cleaning Specialist Magazine.

Recent Articles by Bob Wittkamp

You must login or register in order to post a comment.

Multimedia

Videos

Image Galleries

The 2014 Experience Conference and Exhibition

A look in photos at the 2014 Experience Conference and Exhibition, which was held from April 24-26 at the Embassy Suites Convention Center and Spa in Frisco, Texas.

1/27/15 2:00 pm EST

Grow Your Business and Improve Operations with New Payment Technology

Attend this free webinar to learn how new developments in payment technology can help you close more jobs, increase upselling opportunities and improve operations.

Podcasts

The winter slow season is a great time to pursue commercial cleaning accounts and stay busy. John "the Hitman" Braun solicited questions from thousands of cleaners across the country regarding their questions on commercial cleaning accounts and answers them in this episode of the show.
More Podcasts

ICS Cleaning Specialist Magazine

CoverImage

2014 Nov/Dec

The Nov/Dec ICS features content on how to get better meter readings, a roundtable on truckmount development, neighborhood marketing and more. Also included is the annual Buyer’s Guide and Directory.

Table Of Contents Subscribe

Janitorial Work

In addition to residential and commercial carpet cleaning, do you do any janitorial work on the side?
View Results Poll Archive

THE ICS STORE

FinalCover.gif
The Carpet Cleaner's Book of Unlimited Success! (ebook)

Don’t worry about the recession or about your competition.  Now you can be the owner of over 400 ways for carpet cleaning professionals to make more money and get more jobs!

More Products

ICS DIRECTORY AND BUYING GUIDE

Director_Buyer.jpgThe premier resource and reference guide for the cleaning and restoration industries.

Click here to view

STAY CONNECTED

facebook_40.png twitter_40px.png youtube_40px.pngcrc logo

TRUCKMOUNT EQUIPMENT AND ACCESSORIES GUIDE

Truckmount.jpgEquipment listings and specifications from the leading industry manufacturers.

Click here to view