What choices do I have to make?
1. DIY or Professionally fitted system?
The following questions in this section will all have to be considered, regardless of whether you decide to do a DIY installation or go for a professional van mount system.
The advantages of a DIY system are cost and adaptability. The downsides are set-up hassle and the level of knowledge required in order to be able do so.
The advantages of a professional van mount system are ease of start-up, reliability and on-going customer care/back up. The downsides are initial purchase costs and finding the right set-up for your needs.
For those wishing to go the DIY route there are many forums on the Web that provide help in setting up. We also supply some of the parts needed for a DIY system along with a parts list which can be found here. Our personal recommendation would be to have a professionally fitted crash-tested system installed. This would provide peace of mind for your driving safety and the simplest set-up option. There are several different companies providing reputable crash tested systems to the window cleaning market.
2. How will I purify and store my water?
There are two options for purification of water - Reverse Osmosis (RO) or Deionising Resin Beads (DI).
Which is the best?
In reality, this question usually means 'which is the cheapest'? An RO based system will be more expensive to set up initially but after just one year of use will usually have cost half as much to run. In contrast, a DI system will be cheaper to set up but will have comparatively high weekly running costs. For example, an average RO system will cost £60 - 200 per year to run whereas a DI system will cost between £500-£2000 per year depending on your water quality.
Does that mean that a Reverse Osmosis (RO) based system is the best?
Not necessarily. To successfully run an RO system you need the ability to process and store a large quantity (200-1000 litres) of water at your base or in your vehicle. With a DI system you process the water as and when you need it in your vehicle. The result of this is that you do not have to have as large a tank in your vehicle as you can top up with tap water whenever you need to. You can however achieve a similar result to a DI system by using an in-vehicle RO unit. This will process water on the spot whilst you are carrying out a job. This is best suited to commercial operatives as it does require your vehicle to be within range of a water tap for the necessary length of time. Water production rates for these systems range from 100-500 litres per hour. This system can also be used at home and saves having to store water outside of the vehicle. However, in-vehicle RO units are more expensive.
In conclusion, the most cost effective way to purify water for the average operative is to have a small RO unit, processing at base into a 1000 litre holding tank which is then pumped into vehicle tanks as and when needed. If you are unable to do this, a DI system or an in-vehicle RO system would be a solution.
3. What length and type of hose on my reel will I need to use?
This is an important question to consider as it can affect the time taken and ease of use on every job you do. The first point to consider is:
What length do I need? - This obviously will depend on the type of work undertaken. We have found that 60 metres is a practical minimum length. For commercial work, our favoured choice is 100 metres and for domestic work 75 metres. If these are the lengths you will require, you need to consider your hose size and ability to store it on a reel.
What type of hose? - For health and safety reasons we would always recommend using a high visibility hose, such as Microbore hose.
Standard half inch garden hose - Advantages of this are that it is readily available and easy to connect standard Hozelock type fittings to. The disadvantages of this are that it is relatively heavy, takes up a lot of space on the reel, is harder to reel back up as it catches and kinks easily.
Professional standard half inch garden hose (Tricoflex type) - Advantages as above but also longer lasting and less likely to kink. Disadvantages as above but is even heavier.
Microbore™ hose (6mm inner diameter) - Advantages are that it is lightweight which reduces operative fatigue, you can fit 100 metres onto a standard 50-60 metre hose reel and it is easier to reel back up as it does not catch or kink as easily (particularly useful for domestic use). We found when switching to Microbore™ on domestic work that we then saved up to half an hour a day over using standard hose.
4. What hose connectors should I use?
There are many choices but we recommend the following:
EZ snap compact couplings – compact size and easy to use
PRO26 couplings – slightly larger than EZ snap with higher flow through rate and very robust
When storing hose reels in the vehicle we make up drip trays for them to sit in. This saves excess water from draining into your vehicle. These trays only need to be 4-5 inches high and you can buy something suitable from a DIY store, perfect to sit the hose in.
5. What type of delivery pump will I need?
You will need a delivery pump to transfer your water from your vehicle tank through your hose and up your pole.
We have found that Aquatec pumps are very reliable. These are on demand pumps so when you unplug or turn your pole off the pump stops. This is ideal for using with a flow control valve.
These pumps run off of 12volts and can be wired into your vehicle’s electrical system with a suitable switch or to a separate battery feed.
Other popular makes of pumps are Flojet and Shurflo.
6. Do I need an electronic flow controller?
We recommend using an electronic flow controller to allow you to accurately set up the flow rate for your system. These will save you wasting water and will also reduce the battery charge used by the pump.
7. What size of tank will I need in my vehicle?
This will depend on how much work you will get through in a day and how you process your water. If you use a vehicle based DI system or a vehicle based RO system you may be able to make do with a smaller tank as you can 'plug in' to a tap and refill whilst you work. If you use a home based RO system you will need to either take all your water with you or refill during the day.
As a guide, domestic window cleaners often use about 350 litres a day. A twin user set-up will usually use about 650 litres a day. For more commercial work, you can sometimes need to increase this to 800 litres for a twin user set-up (if your van has a big enough payload).
When installing a tank you must remember to stay within your plated carrying capacity and this has to include your water tank, persons on board and your other equipment. You also need to ensure that your tank is securely mounted either with a professionally fitted crash tested frame or using heavy duty ratchet straps to a suitable vehicle mounting point.
Remember water is very heavy 1 litre = 1 kg . Please check with your van manufacturer to find out what limits apply. For large (over 250l) vehicle tanks you will need to ensure that these are baffled to prevent excessive water movement.
You can also mount a tank in a trailer but remember that unbraked trailers have 1/2 ton load limit and any large trailer tanks will need to be baffled to prevent flipping your trailer.
8. Will I need a Trolley?
For most domestic and commercial operators in the UK the answer will usually be no.
Speaking from experience, whilst it will look like an attractive way to 'get into' WFP window cleaning in reality it will prove to be the most hassled and hard way of working. It will also be more expensive as you will at some time upgrade to a vehicle based system and will end up spending out twice.
We started off with a trolley many years ago and we found that the hassle of filling it up, filling up Jerry cans, getting it in and out of the car, etc, was just too much like hard work! Also the amount of water you are unable to carry is severely restricting. We use 500 litres a day on a two man domestic round and up to 650 litres on a large commercial day. Despite having a large number of domestic rounds, we have found that a van mount system with hose reels is ALWAYS quicker and easier to reel out than a trolley (particularly up a large flight of steps) and is very much easier to put back in the car.
9. Will I need a Backpack?
Whilst some operators work their entire round from a backpack we would not recommend this due to the excess strain this will put on your body. However, there are many occasions when having a backpack in the vehicle will really make a difference such as when having to step through a house to clean windows in an isolated courtyard or when working at too great a distance from your vehicle. For this type of circumstance a backpack can prove to be time-saving. For these occasions we simply carry the backpack to the location, place on the ground and then work away. Some operators use a small folding trolley to carry the backpack around on, as they can get very heavy.
There are some large commercial rounds where an on-site processing system may prove effective.
For any other questions or enquiries, please give one of our advisors a call on 01726 66400 during office hours (Monday to Friday, 9am - 4.45pm) or email us on [email protected]