For high-rise structures, safety becomes an even greater concern, which is why some companies are turning to automated window cleaning equipment. These machines are suitable for curtain wall glass and “climb” up and down the surface of the building via remote control, eliminating the need to suspend a worker from a chair or lift.

According to Jon Arreguin, owner and operations manager of C-THRU Window Cleaning LLC in Saint Paul, Minn., there are two types of automated equipment: heavier units (200 to 300 pounds) that require a hoist motor attached to the machine and lightweight units (under 150 pounds) that have a hoist motor located on the roof.

“Because a hoist motor is attached to the first type of unit, you have to comply with the regulations of the support system,” Arreguin says. “If the hoist motor has a working load limit of 1,000 pounds, for example, that could add up to 2,000 pounds of counter weight that you need to carry to the roof.”

As a result, rigging becomes more complex and requires more people on the roof. On the plus side, these units are more stable on structures above 130 feet.

For buildings three to 15 stories tall, Arreguin favors lightweight units for mobility and easy setup.

“You can have two guys pick it up, throw it in the back of a pickup truck and go right to the work site and place it wherever it needs to be without worrying about throwing your back out,” he says.

While the brush on Arreguin’s machine is operated via remote control, the movement of the unit is not. On larger systems, however, the ascent and decent of the machine is operated remotely, making the units in effect “self-climbing.”

“The larger machines — two, four and six meter — have a self-climbing winch attached to them,” says Michael Draper, national sales manager for J. Racenstein/Bird Barrier in Secaucus, N.J., and owner of Clearly Windows, Bloomington, Ill. “A steel cable drops down from the roof and attaches to the winch, and the winch climbs the cable. It’s the same technology used on a suspended scaffold. The rope feeds through itself, which makes the unit climb, and it’s operated via remote control.”

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