Cold Weather Jetter/Vacuum Components are a Matter of Life and Death

Doheny Supplies ( boasts over 350 pieces of equipment in their rental fleet, serving municipal, industrial, gas, and utility markets across the United States and Canada. “These units are equipped to operate under a variety of circumstances and in all types of weather,” says company president, Dan Weber, “inclement weather operation is critical; our industry doesn’t slow down when it snows.” Equipment that freezes could not only prove costly, but catastrophic.

Everyone agrees that public safety is a top priority. If something threatens citizen well being something has to be done immediately. “When the public’s health and safety becomes an issue, our trucks have to get there,” Weber says. “We’re an emergency business,” company founder Jack Doheny echoed, “when there’s a problem, something’s got to happen immediately.”

Doheny’s equipment is designed to function in all weather conditions, from deserts to high altitudes to the extremely cold climates of Canada. Weber says, “We spend a great deal of time making multiple modifications to accommodate specific applications.” Catering to operator needs is one of the foundations of Doheny Supplies; the company goes to great lengths to tailor their products to the needs of individual customers.

Doheny Supplies’ customer oriented approach to business leaves them uniquely suited to meeting the demands of an industry that frequently requires more customization than standardization. Issues such as “winterization”—unique to northern climates—are easily adapted to and equipment problems quickly serviced. Dealing with Doheny is a refreshing change in a market place that is overrun with distributors who push standardized equipment solutions that frequently fail to meet customer needs and leave them high and dry—without service—when that equipment doesn’t work.

As far as operating equipment in those long, cold winter months, Weber recommends two options for protecting the equipment. The first method is to run anti-freeze through the entire system; he suggests pumping a bio-degradable solution housed in an isolated anti-freeze tank. This method requires some care, as the anti-freeze solution needs to be completely purged prior to use of normal water.
The other option is a recirculation system, which Doheny installs on all their current production models. “A major concern is that the equipment could freeze up in transit. Operators need to be cognizant of that,” Weber says. The system is installed on the main hose reel at the main hose opening. The hose is put into a return line to the water tanks using recirculating PTO at ten gallons per minute.

In addition to the equipment modifications, Doheny takes a proactive approach, offering winterization classes at no extra charge. “We provide lifetime training to ensure safety,” stressed Weber, “at Doheny Supplies, we recommend not leaving equipment parked outside. If left out, the equipment must be totally winterized, or if in transit, it must be re-circulating.”

One sewer combination vehicle that Doheny is particularly pleased with is the Vactor 2100 Plus because, in mid-2009, Vactor Manufacturing ( introduced a major redesign of the 2100 Series combination sewer cleaner and the 2100 Plus was unveiled. Brett Hart, Product Manager for Vactor, says, “Since the launch of this new product, Vactor has continued to add optional features and enhancements to meet our customer’s needs and application requirements.”

The Vactor 2100 Plus allows public utilities and professional contractors to safely and efficiently clean wastewater and sanitary systems, using less water and burning less fuel. The 2100 Plus utilizes Smart Truck technology so operators can actively monitor water flow and pressure, engine speeds and fluid temperatures, blower temperature, length of hose in the line, machine diagnostics and more. Hart says, “Our innovative controls system keeps the operator and equipment safe, maximizes fuel efficiency, minimizes noise and keeps the operator focused on the job at hand. With features like standard multi-flow for water jetting and the industry’s all-new fan to load material, our customers can be confident that they can get even the toughest jobs done.”

Like Doheny, Hart says that many of Vactor’s customers operate their equipment in cold weather environments. Vactor offers water recirculation systems to keep the water flowing, air purging systems to blow water out of exposed lines, plumbing insulation packages and heated toolboxes or storage compartments. “For our customers that endure extreme cold weather, Vactor also has provided 400,000 and 940,000 BTU water heaters to re-circulate warm water,” Hart explains.

When operators are out of the cab and in the elements, they want to get the job done without wasting time. Every action becomes more difficult for an operator working in inclement weather. Vactor addresses this reality with the 2100 Plus by concentrating on operator ergonomics and minimizing set-up time. Everything required to operate the unit is at the front hose reel, including tool storage for jetting nozzles. The 2100 Plus controls are easy to read and the switches are easy to operate; even when wearing gloves. Twist & Lock pipe storage allows the operator to quickly and easily get the vacuum tubes for the job without dealing with bungee cords or clamps.

Going all the way back to the beginnings of the combination sewer cleaning machine, Vac-Con ( was the first company to offer it, and Tom Jody, Marketing Manager for Vac-Con, explains it is one of many, “Vac-Con has several different products that are signature innovations and have been since the company’s inception.”

One particular innovation is the Omni-bus Control Multiplex System, which allows an operator to control all functions of a machine from a joystick. The innovation offers limitless functionality in terms of speeds, volumes and pressures, and provides much more precise control over all functions of the machine. Jody says, “A lot of people like it,” especially the younger set who grew up wielding a joystick playing video games.

In addition to being important in the movement of the boom and hose reel, the joystick control can establish water pressure and monitor fuel usage throughout. If something goes wrong somewhere in the machine, the multiplex system can troubleshoot and resolve the issue. Jody says the possibilities are quite limitless in the potential of what something like the joystick controller could do, and right now, the system is installed on all Vac-Con combo machines.

When asked about methods of combating cold weather, Jody laughed and says, “The primary concern, obviously, is that the machine has no water on it.” When a machine is in motion, such as driving down the highway, and the temperatures are sub-freezing, a wind chill is created. It is crucial that that water inside the machine does not freeze, and Jody recommends a “winter recirculation” while driving. The standard dual engine on Vac-Con’s combo machines allows that to happen easily. “The engine that is separate from the chassis can run independently to recirculate the water,” Jody explains.

Jody mirrored Doheny’s concern with problems that can arise if a company does not have indoor parking for their equipment. He suggests a means of easily draining the system, such as installing an air purge system, which forces compressed air throughout the machine. The goal is to eliminate cracks and bursts that cost exorbitant amounts of money to fix. Jody says it is key to avoid extreme spikes in pressure, as those situations can prove dangerous, “You have to have some way to drain all the water out before putting the machine into winter storage.”

Story by Megan McClure

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