In the carpet cleaning industry technicians will forever debate what is better, the portable system or the truck mount system. In my opinion that is not a fair question, this is comparing apples to oranges. There are pros and cons to each method and they have their respective place in the market.
Let us first examine the physical makeup of each.
The portable is run by 2 electric vacuums. These vacuums generally have enough power to create sufficient suction for about 50 feet of hose; if you run a vacuum booster you can achieve 75 feet of hose. These have electric pumps that can power up to 500 PSI. They are built with around 10 gallon recovery and solution tanks. Some portables are equipped with an inline water heater that can achieve around 180 degrees.
Truck mounted machines are powered by 2 cylinder gasoline engines. The engine powers the suction vacuum and the spray pump. There is enough power to use several hundred feet of hose and can achieve around 1200 PSI. These machines use kerosene heaters or use the heat from the motor to warm the water. They can reach over 240 degrees. The water source for these machines is pulled directly from a garden hose connected to the garden outlet outside of the customer’s house. Inside the van you can fit an 80 gallon recovery tank.
Capabilities Due to Build Constraints
Both machines have the capability of cleaning carpet, however because the portable cannot achieve high PSI it cannot clean tile or hard surfaces. Because a truck mount can only run a few hundred feet, the portable is more suitable to clean carpet in high rise buildings or apartments that are higher than the 4th or 5th level or large commercial complexes that cannot be reached with 3 or 4 hundred feet of hose.
Because portable units cost around $2,000 it is a better option for a startup company. Truck mount machines can cost up to $20,000 not including the van they have to be mounted in. However, because truck mounts have better heat, and better suction, they can achieve much better results. My point is that portables should be used where no other machine can go (high rise buildings and apartments).
Truck mount machines however require a lot more maintenance. Because they are powered by a gasoline motor they must have scheduled oil changes. These machines also burn about 1 gallon per hour, not to mention the insurance and gasoline for the van. These machines have more moving parts and therefore require more repairs and tune ups. Portables generally just need a cleaning with a rag and to wash the recovery tank out with a hose. Although truck mount require more maintenance, some people feel that they are more professional.
The “professionalism” issue is brought up because when one uses a portable, they have to drag the machine into the customer’s house. They generate a good amount of noise and can sometimes smell. These machines must be cleaned thoroughly after every job or you will take dirt, soil, maybe even feces to the next job.
My conclusion on the issue is that portables have their place in the market. They should be used in places where no other machine can go. I do understand that for startup companies this is the affordable option but they should avoid heavily soiled free standing homes. You can add options to a portable that can improve its performance; however, pound for pound truck mounts are more powerful and perform better. Portables should be used to build a business and create enough cash flow to buy the best machine on the market.