Portable Pumping Power

ProVac units’ mobility provides foundation for California company’s grease trap service

Portable Pumping Power
Ray Castro, a technician with California-based SRC Pumping, wheels a Conde ProVac portable pumpout unit into a job. The company uses the machines for pumping grease traps in cramped kitchen areas.

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Any contractor who cleans restaurant grease traps and interceptors knows there’s rarely a convenient time for customers. While municipalities typically require regular grease trap cleanings, restaurant owners don’t want to deal with the disruptions — a hose snaking through a kitchen, the odor, the noise and so forth.

But SRC Pumping in Sacramento, California, takes the pain away with a small fleet of Conde ProVac portable pumpout units made by Westmoor Ltd. The company’s six ProVac units are essentially miniature vacuum trucks that can easily maneuver through cramped kitchen areas and work quickly and quietly, with minimal business disruption.

“Before we invested in the ProVacs, we used a lot of hoses and accessibility could be a problem, especially in high-rise office buildings with cafeterias on upper floors,” says General Manager Jim Walsh. “But with the ProVacs, we roll them right in. They’re small enough to fit through a standard doorway. Then we pump out the trap and roll them back outside.

“Then we use the pump on one of our vac trucks to evacuate the ProVacs,” he continues. “We can do multiple jobs in one day. ProVacs are the best.”

SRC Pumping bought its first ProVac about 20 years ago after seeing the machine at the Pumper and Cleaner Environmental Expo International (now called the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport Show). Management was so impressed, they kept on adding ProVacs as the company built up its customer base. The business — which was founded in 1913 and has been family owned for four generations — is part of SRC Companies. Other services include restaurant grease collection, rendering and recycling of animal byproducts, and production of animal protein meal. It serves more than 4,000 customers in northern and central California and northern Nevada.

To provide these services, the company also owns about 15 5,500-gallon vacuum trailer tankers made by Dragon Products and Galyean, outfitted with vacuum pumps made by Fruitland Manufacturing and National Vacuum Equipment. It also owns four Isuzu trucks equipped with 500- and 750-gallon Workmate vacuum tanks (FMI Truck) and Conde (Westmoor) pumps.

Made from lightweight aluminum, the 52-gallon-capacity ProVac is 24 inches wide, a little more than 4 feet long and 45 inches tall. It weighs about 250 pounds. It’s powered by a 1 1/2 hp, 115-volt/13.4-amp electric motor and a Conde pump produces vacuum power of 35 cfm. It can pump up to 124 gpm at 5 psi of pressure, and it switches from vacuum to pressure mode for off-loading with the flip of a switch. Other features include a built-in charcoal exhaust deodorizer that minimizes odors; an automatic lubrication system; a 20-foot retractable electric cord; an electronic automatic float shut-off; and a 2-inch-diameter, 10-foot-long Plastiflex suction hose.

“You can plug it into a normal 110-volt electric outlet,” Walsh explains, noting that the motor isn’t so over-powered that it flips circuit breakers at restaurants. “And it’s very quick and quiet. We also like the reverse-pressure feature. A lot of times, the material we’re vacuuming up is coagulated. So if we can reverse (the pump), it breaks the material up a bit.”

One of the ProVac’s biggest assets is its mobility, which allows the company to perform more service calls a year and, in turn, post more billable hours. Some of the grocery stores that SRC Pumping serves, for instance, might have several grease traps per store. So instead of inefficiently hauling hoses around and potentially repositioning a vacuum truck for each trap, an employee can clean two or three traps with the ProVac, depending on the traps’ capacities.

“We also clean out grease traps at about 30 concession stands at Raley Field,” he adds. (The stadium is home to the Sacramento River Cats, a Pacific Coast League baseball team that’s a Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.) “It’s next to impossible to clean them with a vacuum truck because of limited accessibility, so we have to use some kind of portable device. And the ProVacs are a perfect solution to the problem.”

Walsh also praises the units’ satin-aluminum finish, which he says enhances his company’s professional image. “When we arrive in the back of a kitchen, it’s a professional-looking machine, not like a cheap shop vac or some homemade machine. That’s important because (restaurant) operators don’t like this kind of work — there’s never an ideal time to clean at restaurants. So it helps if we look like a professional outfit while doing it.”

The ProVacs’ ability to pump out grease traps quickly and quietly also has enabled SRC Pumping to establish a profitable market niche. In addition, because the company also cleans grease interceptors, the ProVacs enable one-stop shopping for customers that require both interceptor and grease trap service, Walsh says.

“If we do 1,200 services a month, about a third of them rely on the ProVacs,” he points out. “Is it a good revenue generator? Absolutely. It allows us to do work we otherwise couldn’t do. Without a doubt, using a ProVac is the only way to do this kind of work. If you’re in a business like ours, you have to have one.”


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