When it comes to floor-care equipment, building service contractors have many options: large or small, walk-behind or ride-on. They also have to choose what type of power source — battery, propane or electric — works best in the facilities they clean.

Battery-powered machines are the most commonly used autoscrubbers. They don’t need to be plugged into an electrical outlet, which saves time because operators don’t need to switch from one outlet to the next while cleaning large areas and spend time locating each outlet.

However, battery machines have limitations on their run times. When cleaning large spaces, contractors need to be aware of how much time it will take to clean the floor vs. how long the machine will run. When battery-powered machines are not in use, they need to be charged, which requires access to power sources when in storage. Batteries are very heavy and they add extra weight to the machine. While this is a good thing for applying enough head pressure, it can be a drawback when it comes time to move the equipment to another floor or building. However, access to elevators will make moving inside buildings easier while using ramps and vans can help contractors move the equipment to multiple accounts.

Electric-powered autoscrubbers operate on standard 110 AC wall current and are usually the most dependable model in terms of long-time operation. Electric machines are available in small sizes, which helps reach tight areas such as restrooms and breakrooms. In addition to size, they usually weigh less than their battery and propane-powered counterparts. The lighter weight makes electric machines easier to transport. However, because of their lighter weight, they generally don’t apply enough pressure to the floor to create the heat that makes a mirror-like floor surface. This forces cleaning crew members to work harder to achieve the same results as a battery- or propane-powered machine. Electric machines can also be a safer machine to use as there are no fumes or risk of spillage or leakage from batteries.

The least-used autoscrubber model is the propane machine. Propane-powered models have long run times compared to battery machines. They also apply great pressure to the floor because the entire weight of the machine is on the pad.

Because of fumes and excessive noise, these machines are better suited for warehouses, factories or facilities where occupants aren’t present during cleaning hours. Propane machines usually require more maintenance as well. Proper lubrication is important. Also, engine oil must be changed on schedule to prevent possible damage.

Each type of power source has its own set of pros and cons. BSCs will need to weigh all options carefully before making their decision as to which type of machine is best for their cleaning programs.

Excerpted from the September 2005 issue of Sanitary Maintenance and the October 2005 issue of Contracting Profits.