Autoscrubber Guide – Part V – Good Design and Safety

AUTOSCRUBBER BUYING GUIDE

Part 5 of 7: Floor cleaning machines are a big investment. Do not waste money on a machine with poor design.  The key to floor machines, auto scrubbers, carpet cleaners, and sweepers is well thought out design.  Your machine should not only be easy to operate but also safe for the operator. Walk behind scrubbers can weigh between 350 to 650 pounds and it only takes a second for your operator to lose control. Ride on scrubbers can weigh up to 1300 pounds and likewise you want not only the operator to be safe but also people surrounding it.  Part 5 of this guide goes over fail safe controls, drive systems and squeegees.

1. Drive system

Is the machine “brush assist” or does it have a transaxle to move it.  Brush assist is less expensive, saving the cost of the motor, however, the pad driver or brush is “canted” to one side so that as the brush turns, it pulls the machine and the operator forward.  Brush assist machines do not have full pad contact against the floor. Is the brush “cant” optimized for pad contact?  Also, because the brush is set in one position, reverse requires more operator effort, to counteract the machine’s pull.  Machines with transaxles usually have both forward and reverse, and full pad contact.

Features of Tomcat machine

Features on the Tomcat Autoscrubber

2. Fail Safe Controls

Does the machine have a “Dead man’s” feature which turns off the brush motor and solution if the operator leaves the machine on? Any type of floor cleaning machine can be very heavy and thus dangerous if it can move forward with no one behind it.

3. Squeegee

How is the vacuum and squeegee activated, hand lever or foot lever.  Hand levers are more convenient and safer, keeping both of the operator’s feet on the ground.  Is the squeegee flat or curved (parabolic)?  Parabolic squeegees provide better water control and solution recovery, allow higher flow rates and promote faster cleaning.

 

 

 

© Keep Clean Products, Inc 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Keep Clean Products Inc. with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Autoscrubber Guide – Part IV – Vacuum Motors & Pads

AUTOSCRUBBER BUYING GUIDE

Part 4 of Keep Cleans 7 part installment about auto scrubbers.  This is your complete guide to making informed decisions about purchasing ride on, walk behind, autoscrubbers, floor machines, carpet cleaners, sweepers and other floor cleaning machines.  Keep Clean Products is a great friendly resource located in the Los Angeles area.

1. Pad Pressure

How much pad pressure does the machine exert?  Cleaning efficiency is a function of brush rpm’s, pad pressure and chemical efficacy.  Only so much can be achieved with rpm’s, as at high rpm’s the cleaner is thrown beyond the brush.  Typical rpm’s are between 150 and 350 rpm’s.  Pad pressure can be adjustable or fixed, depending on the machine.  Some machines have a spring-loaded foot pedal to lower the brush head, yielding only one (or at most 2) pad pressure settings, while others have an actuator which provides pad pressure variability to address more cleaning situations!  Actuators add to the price of the machine but provide better cleaning results.

2. Vacuum Water Lift

Vacuum water lift.  How strong is the vacuum motor?  A weaker vacuum motor will not have the lift to fully remove water through the squeegee.  70″ of water lift is a benchmark measurement.

3. Sound Levels

Sound levels.  Is the vacuum motor baffled or configured to minimize noise?  What is the noise level at the operator’s position?  Sound levels from the machine will affect your ability to run the machine during business hours.  The Nobles Speed Scrub 3 for example is whisper quiet at 68.5 dBA.  See below video for more information.  

 

Autoscrubber Guide – Part III – Battery & Maintenance

AUTOSCRUBBER BUYING GUIDE

This is Part 3 of our 7 part guide on auto scrubbers.  This part will discuss what you need to know about the batteries in your floor cleaning machine.  Batteries are obviously crucial for your floor machine to run.  While batteries are perceieved as simple, these heavy duty marine deep cycle batteries require careful maintenance but will last nearly 500 charge cycles if done correctly.  For those that missed our prior posts: Part 1 discussed accessbility of parts and Part 2 discussed the frame & design quality

1. Battery Charging

Does the machine have an “Onboard” charger, or does it have a separate “Shelf” charger.  Shelf chargers are less convenient, and the plugs can be damaged, from connecting and disconnecting, and must be optimized for the battery pack.  Onboard chargers are more likely to fail, as they are exposed to constant vibration, are smaller and lighter (to fit on a machine) and have less rugged construction and components.  Is the charger an “automatic” unit, which varies the charging to the needs of the battery pack, or a simpler “timer-based type?

Nobles Speed Scrub Battery Compartment

Battery compartment on a Nobles Machine

2.  Gauges and meters.

Does the machine have an hour meter and battery condition meter?  Hour meters provide a means to assess service needs.  Battery status meters provide the operator warning when the machine will soon need recharging and prevent starting a job which can’t be finished.  Status meters also prolong battery life by eliminating operator guessing when the batteries need charging.  Deep cycle batteries can be charged a finite number of times called a cycle (approximately 400-500 cycles).  Automatic chargers draw the batteries down to prevent “memory” from forming, and then charge the pack up again.  By charging only when needed unnecessary chargings are eliminated, extending battery pack life.

Operation hours display

Display screen showing operating hours on the Tomcat MiniMag

3.  Machine run time.

What is the run time before the machine requires recharging?  Are different battery options available to match run time with cleaning requirements?  How big is the battery pack?  A smaller battery pack lowers the price of the machine but may artificially limit productivity.  Match your batteries to the demands of the job – If it will take you less than 2-3 hours for one job do not have a battery pack listed to last 4-5 hours.  Do not charge your machine when the battery is 2/3 full because it will still knock one more “charge cycle” off of its life.

4.  Battery Compartment & Battery Maintenance

Does the machine have a battery liner or pan in which the batteries are located?  Deep cycle batteries generate heat during operation, and during charging.  Operators should check solution levels after operating the machine as fluid levels rise as the batteries heat up.  After use and before charging the operator should make sure there is enough water to cover the cells, if there is not distilled water should be added.  If the operator adds water before using the machine, solution can overflow from the batteries.  A liner prevents the overflow to drip onto the frame/ transaxle, other metals parts or on the floor, protecting against unnecessary corrosion and floor damage.  If battery maintenance sounds like too much trouble there is an alternative.  AGM sealed sealed batteries do not require maintenance.  These are much more expensive but do not expose the operator to battery fumes, and do not require water maintenance.  However AGM batteries have fewer charge cycles, less run-time, and are much more expensive.

 

 

© Keep Clean Products, Inc 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Keep Clean Products Inc. with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Autoscrubber Guide – Part II – Frame & Design Quality

AUTOSCRUBBER BUYING GUIDE

When investing money into a machine to maintain your floors you want to be sure you are purchasing something that will last.  Quality parts and well thought out construction are key to a long lasting machine.  For those that have not already read Part 1 I have already discussed how the accessibility of workable parts can lower the cost of service calls for your machine.  This guide applies to all brands of Automatic scrubbing machines, floor cleaning machines, carpet cleaners, sweepers.  These floor cleaning machines will leave all floor types clean and virtually dry with one pass.  This is part 2 of a 7 part series about what to look for in a floor cleaning machine (autoscrubber).

1.  Frame & Wheels

Does the autoscrubber or sweeper have a frame on which the tank and wheels are mounted?  Some machines have the wheels mounted into the plastic body of the machine which creates savings on the front end of ownership, but can be costly should the wheel break the plastic housing and necessitate replacing the tank (if a replacement is available).

Frame and Wheels on a Tomcat machine

Frame and Wheels on a Tomcat machine

2.  Manufacturing & Design Quality – Hardware & Components.

A. What type of fasteners is used, all stainless or zinc-plated steel?  Stainless resists rusting and corrosion assuring long life and serviceability; the ability to remove and replace a component without expending hours of labor.

B.  Are components named brand, first quality or private-label import.  Name brand components add to the price of a machine but have better windings, bearings and are more dependable and durable than off-brand.  Switches, are they individually replaceable, or do they require replacing a complete panel?

C.  Wiring:  Does wiring conform to MIL Spec. requirement, or lower standards that create a service tech’s worst nightmare – An Intermittent failure and a Labor Hour Love-fest!

D.  Painted surfaces.  What type of paint and how is it applied, mere spray enamel, or a 7-Step Powder Coat Catalytic process that resists corrosion from exposure to chemicals and maintains the new appearance of the machine.

3.  Ergonomic Design.

Is the machine easy to steer relative to its weight and mass or cumbersome?  Does the control system and handle promote operator comfort and minimize fatigue?  Can the handle be adjusted?  Is the handle durable or is it made of light tubing which can bend or break?  Are the control features intuitive and easy to master for a new operator?   Are the controls labeled with icon-style graphics?  Is clean out  a daily requirement of any scrubber, easy to accomplish to a high standard?  (See #2 above)

Nobles adjustable handle height

The Nobles Speed Scrub has an adjustable handle

© Keep Clean Products, Inc 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Keep Clean Products Inc. with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Autoscrubber Guide – Part I – Accessibility

AUTOSCRUBBER BUYING GUIDE

This guide is meant to help consumers make informed decisions about buying ride on, walk behind, auto scrubbers (also spelled autoscrubbers), floor machines, carpet cleaners, sweepers and other floor cleaning machines. These machines can clean tile, concrete, hardwood, carpet, linoleum  vinyl floor, rubber floor, ceramic tile and virtually all surfaces.  One autoscrubber will take the job of three tools: The mop bucket, floor buffer, and wet vac an autoscrubber does all three jobs in one pass. Keep Clean Products is a great friendly resource for those that are looking for more information in Southern California, but we also want to help others not in the area by providing this guide detailing what to look for in an their floor cleaning machine.  This guide will appear as a 7 part series.

Part I 

Accessibility of parts

1. Recovery and Solution Tanks

  •  How accessible is the recovery tank for cleaning?  If an operator forgets to empty the floor machine and it sits for several days the sediment settles and creates a sludge which can be difficult to remove clean.
    • Ex. Tomcat autoscrubbers have a bathtub like recovery tank which makes it easy to rinse out using a hose or even the optional sprayer jet attachment (see Fig. 2)
    • Tomcat Magnum Autoscrubber

      Fig. 1 Picture of the recovery tank in a Tomcat Machine

  • Can the solution tank be easily emptied to change chemical types, i.e. from stripper to neutral cleaner?
    • Ex. Most autoscrubbers have a clear tube that shows how much solution is in the tank.  The tube can easily be removed to empty the solution tank. Clean your concerete warehouse, empty solution and change the pads to then clean your hardwood floor!
    • Clean Solution Level Indictor

      Ref. 2 Clean solution level indicator / drain on the Tomcat MiniMag

  • Is there a view window in the recovery tank? (See Fig. 1) If foam builds in the recovery tank it will be sucked into the vacuum motor, which dramatically shortens the life of the vac motor ($300+ expense) Some machines have “De-misting Chambers”, which in theory creates separation between the vacuum intake and the recovered solution, however, most have limited effectiveness, foam doesn’t dissipate fast enough as more is created during solution recovery.
    Why does foam occur in autoscrubbers? 
    1.  The wrong cleaner; autoscrubbers require a “low foam” detergent, some cleaners produce high foam, even at low dilution rates.
    2. Too much detergent for the level of soils on the floor.  A view window (Fig. 1) allows the operator to react and either empty the machine or add a defoamer, rather than blindly operating the machine and sucking foam and dirt debris through the vacuum motor to the detriment of its longevity and vacuum power!

2. Working and electrical components accessibility

How accessible are the major working components?  All  floor automatic scrubbing machines will have these parts: Vacuum motor, brush motor(s), clean solution filter (does it have a filter?), batteries, electric switches and components.  The easier these parts are to reach will make them easier to replace if the time ever comes.
  • Ex. Tomcat machines excel in this area. Note in the picture how everything is easily accessible.  This feature can cut your service call expense in half.
  • Exposed working components

    Fig. 3 Exposed working parts on the Tomcat MiniMag

3. Brush and pad holder accessibility 

Brush and pad holder accessibility and changing.  How accessible is the brush/pad driver.  How easy is it to remove and replace.  Some machines have a rubber or plastic shroud which protects the scrub head and contains solution under the brush.  In many cases the shroud is difficult to remove, limiting operator accessibility.  Brushes or pad drivers should be stored in the “Up” position, preventing undue bending of the bristles!  Likewise pads should be inspected frequently to make sure they are in good condition, a worn pad will not protect the pad holder from damage, and may damage the floor. There will be another installment in part VI explaining the difference between disc and cylindrical brush styles.

 

 

© Keep Clean Products, Inc 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Keep Clean Products Inc. with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.