As any portable restroom operator knows, the vacuum pump is an essential tool when outfitting your service truck. Whether you’re looking to upgrade one piece of equipment or invest in a brand new truck, take care when making the selection.
Lee Insley, co-owner with her husband of A-OK Portables in Warner Robins, Ga., offers some tips on choosing the proper vacuum pump for your next service truck. With 18 pump trucks, the portable sanitation business serves 26 counties in the state, servicing about 1,000 restrooms each week. So having reliable vacuum pumps is a must.
While price is always a consideration, Insley says cost alone can’t be the deciding factor. In fact, A-OK, with its used fleet of trucks, has purchased a variety of vacuum pumps, mostly used. “I think we’ve only bought one new pump since we bought the company,” she says.
Here are Insley’s top tips for selecting a vacuum pump for your trucks:
1. Consider performance
“I think we have every pump ever made,” Insley says. In terms of performance, she specifically looks for speed of use, as well as proper suction.
When shopping for pumps, the Insleys especially look for flex couplings (or flex gears) to help performance. “The flex gear technology is very smart,” she notes.
According to Insley’s husband, Mark, the couplings, which use a rubber (EPDM), neoprene or Hytrel sleeve, have exceptional torsional flexibility. “Their four-way flexing action absorbs virtually all types of shock, misalignment and end float,” he says. “With these types of couplings, the need for lubrication and maintenance is eliminated. As a result, these couplings provide clean, dependable and quiet performance.”
2. Size matters
Yes, size matters. With vacuum pumps, a larger pump will not really help you work faster or pump much quicker. You’re not going to put a 450 to 500 cfm pump on 2,500-gallon tank. Get the pump that best fits the size of your tank. Here are some guidelines for good pump/tank combinations:
Manufacturers will provide specific pump recommendations based on the size of your tank. They’ll also need to know the pump application, if you’ll be using it to pump septic tanks or portable restrooms and how long the pump will be running on average.
3. Don’t overlook maintenance
“Like any piece of equipment, if you maintain it properly, it’s going to give you a better life,” Insley says. So, no matter which pump you select, be sure to maintain it regularly to ensure a long life. A-OK and its drivers develop a well-rounded understanding of the pump and its quirks to safeguard against mishaps.
Learn to respect your equipment; longevity will differ if you use your pumps on heavy routes and the pump is constantly running. It will also depend on whether you are pumping septic tanks or portable restrooms.
“Your pump is just as important as your motor on your truck,” she says. As you run down your maintenance checklist, don’t overlook things like checking and filling the oil on the pump.
The Insleys rebuild their pumps regularly, usually in winter, changing out the bearings and other parts pervasive to wear. “We try to do a preventative maintenance program,” she says, noting that some portable restroom contractors wait until pumps break down before rebuilding, which can bring work to a standstill if a replacement pump is not on hand.
4. Do some research
It might seem like common sense, but research is essential to choosing the right pump for your business. The Insleys purchased an existing business, so they inherited vacuum pumps — and learned quickly which ones they liked and which ones were “problem children.”
Check out trade magazines and catalogs (See the PRO online directory for a list of vacuum pump manufacturers), but also speak with others in the business to find out what works for them and which brands they recommend.
Contractors outside your direct service area are usually more likely to share personal experiences because you’re not competing for business, says Insley. “When I talk to people, they’re always open to talk about the good and the bad; I’ve learned so much from fellow pumpers,” she says. “They really are your best resource.”
5. Respect brands and reputation
Insley says her company usually sticks with the same two brands of vacuum pumps because it makes ordering replacement parts easy. If you have a brand that works well for you, brand loyalty can pay off. But there can also be value in diversification, especially with a large fleet.
- Heavy-duty, water-cooled vacuum pumps from Moro USA pumps nonvolatile liquids and sludge long distances. Features include integrated check valve, changeover valve and automatic oiling system, industrial-duty bearings, seals and low operating speed. Available in three sizes, Model PM60W has a maximum flow rate of 252 cfm, the PM80W produces 417 cfm and the PM110W produces 630 cfm. The PM60W and PM80W have 3-inch hose connections and the PM110W has 4-inch connections. All pumps are capable of 29 psi and continuous vacuum of 24 inches Hg.
- The eVAC electric vacuum system from LMT can be used for light-duty grease collection and portable sanitation applications in noise-sensitive environments. Model 1205 has a Conde ProVac 3 vacuum/pressure pump (35 cfm) and runs off the vehicle’s power system. Features include an automatic, electronic on/off system. Measuring 18 inches wide, 16 inches long and 26 inches high, the 12-volt unit includes a 2-inch oil catch muffler and 2-inch secondary shutoff.
- Jurop RV-Series vacuum pumps and Chandler Equipment Inc. packages are designed for industrial and energy applications. The RV360 and RV520 are available in multiple drive configurations, including gearbox, hydraulic or belt drive. The pumps operate at or near 73 dBA while producing 18 inches Hg. The RV360 has a recommended input speed of 1,100 to 1,300 rpm with an output of 360 cfm at free air and 332 cfm at 18 inches Hg. The RV520 has a recommended input speed of 1,100 to 1,300 rpm with an output of 520 cfm at free air and 466 cfm at 18 inches Hg.
- The Eliminator MK250 vacuum pump package from Fruitland Manufacturing is designed for portable sanitation service, and includes a Fruitland RCF250 commercial and continuous-duty vacuum pump, creating optimal vacuum for portable sanitation (180 cfm). The package is engineered with a heavy-duty and integral secondary shut-off, oil-catch muffler, drive coupling, vacuum/pressure gauge, and all relief and drain valves. Hydraulic or gearbox drive adapters make vacuum system hookup easy, durable and professional. The package has a compact design, measuring just 26 inches wide by 23 inches high for convenient installation on portable sanitation service trucks.