If you are looking to start a new carpet cleaning business or if you are already in business but need to replace your current truck mount or upgrade from a portable to a truck mount there are a few things you should be aware of so that you make the best choice.
Tip 1 – Bigger does not necessarily mean better when it comes to truck mounts. Fuel economy is important not only when it comes to how much fuel your work vehicle consumes, but also when it comes to how much fuel your truck mount consumes. This is something that is easily overlooked because manufacturers give you claimed fuel economy figures that are based on fuel consumed per hour. Back when gas was less than $2.00 per gallon, fuel economy was still a concern, but now with gas prices above $3.50 per gallon, it is an even bigger concern. Fuel consumption can add up quickly when your hours accumulate over a period of time. When you are running a small business, every little bit of savings is important to increasing your bottom line. If you were to run a truck mount with a 1.4 gallon per hour combined gas and propane consumption rate for 4,000 hours with a fuel cost of $2.00 per gallon, you would have spent $11,200 on fuel. If you were to run that same machine for 4,000 hours at $3.50 per gallon, you would have spent $19,600 on fuel. Units that consume 1 gallon of fuel per hour are usually slide-in truck mounts. A slide-in unit that is not a heat exchanger and has a fuel-fired water heating system actually has more heat performance than a larger direct drive truck mount, consisting of a V8 engine, or a slide-in with a 65 HP gas engine. The direct drive units with the V8 engine and the slide-in heat exchange truck mounts with the 65 HP gas engine actually consume anywhere from 3 – 3.5 gallons per hour. Remember; these units actually have less sustained heat performance under commercial carpet cleaning conditions than a slide-in truck mount with a fuel-fired heating system. Now let’s calculate running the larger machines with less heat performance at 3.5 gallons per hour times $3.50 per gallon. That comes to $49,000 in fuel cost for the same 4,000 hours of time on your truck mount. That comes to a fuel cost difference of $29,400 over 4,000 hours of operating time on your unit. That is a significant savings that you can have by choosing a smaller slide-in truck mount with a fuel-fired heating system versus a large slide-in heat exchanger unit with a 65 HP engine or a direct drive unit with a V8 engine.
Tip 2 – Purchase price: A typical slide-in unit with a fuel-fired heating system will cost anywhere between $15,000 – $18,000. A slide-in truck mount with a 65 HP gas engine or a direct drive unit will run you somewhere between about $25,000 – $35,000. Remember that you will also have less heat performance on the larger units during commercial carpet cleaning conditions due to the accumulative hours. The reason why you will have less heat performance is that heat exchangers have less BTU’s to sustain long periods of cleaning time.
Tip 3 – Vacuum Performance Misconception: A lot of people believe that a larger vacuum blower with a larger carpet cleaning machine will get the carpets drier. However, there are physical limitations to how much air can actually go through the carpet cleaning wand once the wand is on the carpet and is semi-sealed with wet extraction. At this point only about 200 cubic feet per minute can go through the wand. There is an illusion of more power when the wand of a unit with a larger blower is lifted off the carpet. It has a louder sound of rushing air due to less resistance than when it is sealed on the carpet. The heat exchange machines or direct drive, use larger blowers to stress the engines more to produce more heat. You must make a heat exchanger load the engine to produce more heat.
Even though 200 cubic feet per minute is the maximum that can be used by the cleaning head, you need to have about 300 – 350 cubic feet per minute to keep negative pressure on the recovery tank and vacuum hoses. One of the reasons large heat exchange truck mount units consume so much fuel is that the blower requires more horsepower. The larger blower on these units is necessary to load the engine to make the heat for the heat exchanger. Some of the 65 HP slide-in truck mounts run 59 blowers which produce 850 cubic feet per minute. So 75% of the cubic feet per minute being produced by the blower is unusable and being released through the relief valve. A direct drive truck mount which utilizes the truck engine as the power plant, has an electric clutch similar to a clutch on an air conditioner that turns a shaft that operates the blower and pump. This clutch limitation is 20 HP. This is why you are unable to put large blowers on direct drive truck units. So you might have a truck with an engine that develops 350 HP but your truck mount can only use 20 HP of that 350 to operate. Still it is burning fuel based on a 350 HP engine running at 1800 rpm.
Tip 4 – Design Simplicity: This is one of the most important aspects to consider when you are looking at purchasing a truck mount. A truck mount is a mechanical machine and everything mechanical needs maintenance and repair. A heat exchange slide-in machine is an extremely complicated design with a lot of proprietary parts. It also has very complicated wiring. One of these types of truck mounts consists of a lot of safety switches, relays, solenoids, and thermal relief valves. A fuel-fired unit doesn’t require all of these components, because it uses a separate heating device, either propane, or kerosene-fired. You do have the inconvenience of having to purchase a second fuel for these heating devices. The simplicity and reliability of not having all of these extra parts on your machine outweighs the inconvenience of buying the second fuel. You also will have a better sustained temperature with a fuel-fired system. Plus the fuel-fired truck mount is simpler to repair and utilizes common parts that you can find local at auto parts stores, Home Depot, or Lowes. The engines on these units can also be serviced at a local lawn mower shop.
In closing the purchase of a truck mount is no small matter. You are investing a considerable sum of money into your carpet cleaning business. You want to be sure you get a unit that is reliable and easy to repair so that you experience the least amount of downtime possible. Also remember that you want a truck mount that is economical on fuel consumption since every dollar counts towards your bottom line when you are in business.