The Best Money-Makers of 2017

Here are some of the top tools that contractors featured in Cleaner magazine in 2017 relied on to keep their companies profitable

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Covanta Environmental Solutions of Milwaukee has trailer-mounted vacuum units built in-house that it calls VacSimizers. They combine a 5,000-gallon tank and a standard vacuum truck cab, thus increasing capacity while maintaining maneuverability in tight spaces. The company uses them primarily for a quicker turnaround time on cleaning petroleum-based debris in railroad tanker cars, but they’re also used to clean things such as industrial tanks, catch basins and car-wash waste pits.

“When the wheels extend, the truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, which is the gross vehicle weight plus its maximum payload. Most high-powered vac trucks designed to remove thick sludges don’t have tanks that big and can’t leave with more than 400 or 500 gallons of material in the tank.” — Joe DeNucci, Covanta Environmental Solutions marketing manager, on a sliding subframe that allows weight to be distributed more evenly so that trucks can comply with road weight restrictions during disposal runs


Ace Pipe Cleaning of Kansas City, Missouri, has seven SL-RAT acoustic pipeline assessment tools from InfoSense. The SL-RAT consists of two paired devices — an 18-pound transmitter and an 11-pound receiver — that are deployed atop adjacent manholes. The transmitter sends a series of tones down one manhole and into the pipe, while the receiver uses sophisticated algorithms to create a blockage assessment based on what it “hears.” The system ranks pipelines on a scale from 1 to 10. The higher the score, the lower the level of blockage. While it can’t serve as a replacement for camera inspections, it allows Ace Pipe Cleaning to be more productive for its customers, inspecting more linear feet per day.

“The SL-RAT provides a rapid assessment of pipe flow. Think of it as a pre-screening tool you can use before doing a conventional sewer cleaning and CCTV inspection. It can help prioritize the need to do expensive camera inspections. This technology is especially suited for small municipalities, which usually just don’t have the money to spend on camera inspections. We can assess an entire small town in four or five days and tell them where to focus their resources.” — Bruce Jameson, regional manager for Ace Pipe Cleaning, on the value SL-RAT provides customers


Tillett Plumbing & Heating in Palmyra, Pennsylvania, uses a Power Smoker 2 from Hurco Technologies to help its customers pinpoint the smallest of leaks. When customers report mysterious sewer odors and the company checks the usual suspects to no avail, it’s time to deploy the Power Smoker 2. It’s made up of a 2 1/2 hp, four-stroke Honda gasoline engine; a 6-foot-long 4-inch-diameter, heavy-duty piece of flexible duct; a high-pressure, cast aluminum fan that disperses the smoke at up to 700 cfm; and a canister filled with LiquiSmoke, a laboratory-tested, nontoxic and nonstaining fluid that produces the smoke. In some cases, the Power Smoker 2 is more efficient and effective than an inspection camera, which can’t always reveal every pipe defect, such as a hairline crack masked by tuberculation.

“Within 10 minutes, we found major smoke in a hallway in the basement. At that point, we traced it back and saw smoke coming from some insulation in an unfinished area of the basement. We found a 1 1/2-inch drainline that a contractor had failed to cap off during a remodeling project. The homeowners were very surprised — and very grateful because the line was still connected to the sewer. It’s a very ingenious machine. It’s extremely valuable for specific applications.” — Jeffrey Tillett Jr., co-owner, on identifying the source of a sewer odor problem on a job where two other plumbing contractors had failed


All American Plumbers in Manassas, Virginia, uses the Maxi Miller from Picote Solutions to prevent the periodic collapsed liner from becoming a financial disaster. It’s designed primarily as a drain cleaning machine — and the company uses it plenty for that purpose — but the Maxi Miller can also be outfitted with different attachments that turn it into a versatile tool. In the case of a collapsed liner, All American Plumbers uses a cutting head that’s designed to drill through fallen liners in 4- to 6-inch-diameter pipe. Then it employs a sanding head that utilizes four spinning grinding panels that smooth out the rough cut left by the cutting head. Soon, things are back down to the original pipe, and it is ready to be lined again.

“It was a desperate measure. Excavating from above wasn’t an option because it would have bankrupted my company. It’s the only time I ever worked for 48 hours straight without any food or sleep. We had to get the job done … and it nearly killed me. That’s when I started looking for an alternative.” — Ricky Salinas, co-owner, on a job where the liner collapsed and the only option was to hand-dig a 5-foot-long tunnel and replace a section of the lateral with PVC pipe


Evergreen Industrial Services in La Porte, Texas, uses automated Micro-ARM mobile hydroblasters from NLB to improve cleaning efficiency in oil refineries and petrochemical plants, thus increasing the chances of gaining repeat customers. The robotic hydroblasters are compact, mobile, and powerful — 29 inches wide, 1,000 pounds, rubber treads that can climb stairs or navigate narrow catwalks, an onboard air compressor, hands-free remote operation, and a 305 hp NLB 225 Series water pump that produces 20,000 psi at up to 23 gpm. 

“When these plants go into turnaround mode, you have to consider that they’re losing money twice. First of all, they’re losing money because they aren’t making the product they usually make. And second, they’re losing money because they’re paying you to clean things. The faster you can help them get up and running, the more profitable they are. And the more profitable they are, the better the chances are that they’ll bring you back to do the work again.” — Zac Cudney, general manager of hydroblasting and turnaround services, on how the efficiency of the Micro-ARM hydroblasters helps the company gain repeat business



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