Combination equipment may give you two machines in one, but not necessarily for the price of one. Depending on the type and features, dual-purpose machines can cost $500 to several thousand more than their traditional counterparts.

“The question is, which makes the most sense for you?” says Jasper.

Before deciding to spend thousands of dollars on a single piece of equipment, managers need to weigh the pros and cons. A distributor can help determine the best machine for the needs of a particular facility based on budget, type of carpet, size of the building, expected cleaning outcomes, soil and traffic patterns, and more.

Dual-purpose equipment is finding buyers for several reasons. First, combining multiple functions into one machine frees up storage space. Second, adding more interim care to a maintenance schedule can significantly extend the life of a carpet, which saves money on replacement costs and downtime during installation.

“The more you put water on carpet and let it sit, the more the fibers and glue break down,” says Kevin Thompson, sales manager at Brookmeade Hardware and Supply in Nashville, Tennessee. “These machines can save their carpet and they can get a year or more out of it.”

Most importantly, combo equipment can have a positive effect on labor dollars, which is the biggest expense for any cleaning department. A dual-purpose machine can help facilities increase interim cleaning frequency, which is less labor intensive than restorative care. Also, many new machines are faster than older models and may clean twice as much square footage in the same amount of time.

“They are usually more expensive, but it’s one of those things that if it is the right formula for that particular facility, then usually you can take a look at the return on investment and it pencils out,” Schneringer says.

There are trade-offs with any product, of course, and these machines are not without their downsides.

“In some cases, this combination equipment can be a blessing,” Jasper says. “In other cases, it can be troublesome for departments.”

In addition to a higher price tag, some combo machines are quite large. Facilities with elevators, narrow hallways, or many small offices may find the equipment simply isn’t mobile enough for their needs. When it comes to orbital machines, facilities can no longer have one worker cleaning carpets while another tackles hard-surface floors, unless they purchase two of the machines.

It’s also important with this new technology to invest in training. Users can cause expensive damages by using the wrong chemicals, laying too much water, or even pressing the wrong buttons on the machine.

“One of the mistakes that happens is the facility manager sticks the janitor with the job and doesn’t train him properly,” Jasper says. “If there was more training, they could do a tremendously good job.”

This training is readily available from any good distributor, and the IICRC also offers classes worldwide. The independent organization isn’t affiliated with any manufacturer, so it doesn’t endorse particular equipment or chemicals. Instead, the instructors review the various types of carpet, discuss how each responds to different methods and chemicals, and explain the advantages and disadvantages of different cleaning methods to help facility managers choose the best chemicals and equipment for their individual situations.

“I stress education when choosing equipment,” Jasper says. “When a facility manager is well trained, he can make a smart decision about what is best for his particular facility.”

In the end, selecting carpet equipment is no easy task. While everyone hopes for a magic bullet that can do everything and do it all well, that simply doesn’t yet exist.

“Everyone would like to tell you their machine is the best for all situations, but the reality is, it’s not true,” Jasper says. “Every machine is very good and designed to clean, but they all have their pluses and minuses. You have to look at your particular facility to determine what is best. In some cases it might be a combination machine to save space, time and money. But in other situations, it may be a combination of a few pieces of equipment.” 

BECKY MOLLENKAMP is a freelance writer based in St. Louis, Missouri.

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Carpet Equipment That Streamlines Frequencies