Reliability is a must when selecting a vacuum pump. One contractor offers a few tips.
If you have a diverse business and septic pumping is one of your service offerings, you know 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, Georgia, 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 a 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 preventive maintenance program,” she says, noting that some 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, 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.