Industrial use of vacuum cleaners
Vacuum cleaners use suction to collect dirt, dust, waste products from industrial processes, and other debris for disposal, recycling, or reuse. They are mainly used for building maintenance and cleaning of industrial space. Commercial vacuums have the same purpose but are less efficient and are used for light duty cleaning. Vacuums can be configured to pick up anything such as fine powders, abrasives, explosive media, litter, non-free flowing media, metalworking chips, toxic media, coolant, oil mist, and welding fumes. Depending on their primary function, they can pick up fine dust particles or viscous liquids.
There are some waste materials from industrial processes that can be reclaimed and reused. Industrial vacuum cleaners can collect reusable waste materials without damaging them. Specialized filters minimize the number of unwanted materials that can be mixed with the reusable materials. Once the reclaimed substances are collected, they are cleaned and reprocessed. Special high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are used in environments where waste shavings or dust are collected and remove large particles as well as fine particulates.
Every vacuum configuration is different. Small, portable vacuum cleaners can collect debris in fabric filter bags or removable plastic containers. Sometimes a disposable filter will be lined with a larger, removable filter to provide extra air filtration. Backpack vacuum cleaners, canister vacuums, rider or walk-behind vacuum cleaners, and vacuum cleaner trucks are just a few of the available portable vacuum cleaner configurations. The overwhelming majority of vacuum cleaners are portable. Continuous vacuums, which can be large and are used for the constant cleaning of warehouse or factory workspaces, can come equipped with wheels as well.
Central vacuum systems are the least portable of all vacuum cleaner systems. In large buildings, where constant cleaning is necessary, central vacuum systems are used for their efficiency. Through inlets of ductwork, maintenance employees can connect hoses and vacuum attachments to a single central vacuum located in a maintenance closet. A central vacuum system is out of sight, which decreases the amount of noise from vacuuming. Instead of many vacuums with filters, maintenance crews have one machine to empty and service.
How a vacuum cleaner works
A vacuum is an area from which air has been fully or partially removed. On the earth's surface, every object is subject to the force exerted by the weight of the air in the atmosphere. When air pressure in one area decreases, more highly pressurized air from nearby floods into the lower pressure area until an equilibrium is achieved.
Vacuum cleaners use that principle to pick up and collect waste but use a fan to artificially lower air pressure in their debris collecting enclosures. Highly pressurized air outside of the enclosure rushes in bringing dust, dirt, debris or fluid with it, depending on how strong the vacuum cleaner motor is.
The design of vacuum cleaners allows them to connect with attachments for cleaning unique and unusual spaces. Carpet cleaning vacuums have an agitator for removal of dirt from carpet fibers. Auto vacuums use special attachments to clean tight spaces. Continuous duty vacuums have large collection chambers that need to be emptied quickly and easily so the machine can continue processing without delay.
Vacuum cleaners work using an air pump, such as a centrifugal fan, to generate a partial vacuum capable of sucking dust, dirt and other particles from floors, furniture and other surfaces. Industrial vacuum cleaners work in much the same way, except on a larger scale. Vacuum cleaners vary in terms of airflow, filtering material, dirt storage units, and power source. Airflow, which is the velocity of the air stream produced by a vacuum cleaner’s motor, varies because some applications require the pull of a stronger airflow than others. Greater suction requires greater air pressure.
Industrial vacuum cleaners are equipped with filters that pick up dry material, while others pick up wet materials and combination vacs pick up both. Air filters are designed for cleaning different materials depending on the consistency, type, and size of the particles. Water filters force dirty air through a water bath before it goes back into the atmosphere keeping dust from becoming airborne again. High efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, or ultra-fine air filters, act as secondary filters removing any potentially harmful dust before it reaches the operator. Activated charcoal filters remove odors. Some industrial vacuum cleaners use the cyclonic separation principle, while others take a more traditional approach with a disposable bag.
Types of vacuum cleaners
Cleaning of different materials requires a process that is designed to collect the specific type of material, an appropriate cleaning solution, and the correct type of device. The same concept is true for vacuum cleaners. They can be engineered to remove any type of material from an oil slick on the ocean to minute dust particles. The varieties and designs are wide and varied. They can be found in office buildings, factories, paper mills, or any place where waste control and management are critical.
In many cases, people relate industrial vacuums to the type setting in the closet at home. Though they are similar, there is a great deal of difference between the two, especially when it comes to power. Saw dust and paper dust at lumber mills and printing plants may seem to be very easy materials to pick up since they are so small. In reality, their small size and light weight requires more power to lift them off a surface than dust on a carpet. If a normal household vacuum were used to attempt to pick up industrial dust, it would clog and bind in seconds due to the type of filter it has.
Below is a description of some of the varieties of vacuums used commercially and industrially. Each type is designed to clean a substance or several substances depending on which industries use them. Some specialty vacuums are designed to handle hazardous or volatile materials and are required to meet government regulations for pollution control and proper disposal of dangerous waste.
Central vacuums are industrial vacuum cleaners used in contexts that require frequent use of high-capacity vacuum cleaners. Central vacuums are different from small vacuum cleaners or portable vacuums in a number of ways; the biggest difference being that central vacuums and their constituent parts are built into the structure of the buildings in which they are used.
Central vacuum cleaners usually involve a single, large machine that creates a powerful vacuum for collecting and temporarily storing dust, dirt and other debris. That enclosure is connected to a network of narrow ducts that go through the structure of a building, often beneath floors or within walls.
Central Vacuum Systems
Central vacuum systems are industrial vacuum cleaners that are built into the structure of a building in order to allow for easy maintenance. Central vacuum systems distinguish themselves from portable vacuums in a number of ways. The most obvious difference between the two configurations is that portable vacuums can be moved while central vacuum systems are entire systems of vacuum cleaning equipment.
These systems usually involve a single piece of equipment that creates a powerful vacuum for collecting debris. That vacuum leads into an enclosure into which the collected debris is held. The central vacuum is connected to a network of narrow ducts that run out of sight throughout a building, often underneath floors or above ceiling tiles. The ducts feature inlets that are accessible by maintenance staff and allow for the connection of portable hoses and vacuuming wands. Central vacuum systems offer several advantages over backpack, walk-behind and all other varieties of portable vacuums.
Commercial Vacuum Cleaners
Commercial vacuum cleaners are used for cleaning non-industrial areas and are found in office buildings, schools, and retail outlets where industrial vacuum cleaning is not required. Commercial vacuums are usually smaller in size, lower in capacity, and intended for less frequent use than industrial vacuums. They have a higher capacity and usefulness than vacuum cleaners available to consumers.
Commercial vacuums are almost always small, portable, and vary in size and configuration. Some are small enough to be handheld and cordless. Medium sized ones can be handheld or wheeled. Non-industrial shop vacuums, small wet dry vacuums, and non-industrial carpet cleaners fall into this category. They are commonly used for spot cleaning and detail cleaning of areas that are difficult to reach with larger vacuums. The largest variety of commercial vacuum is upright and too heavy or bulky to be carried for cleaning floors. Cleaning companies can save money on equipment costs by purchasing commercial vacuum cleaners instead of industrial ones especially if their customers have limited debris and waste.
Continuous Duty Vacuums
Continuous duty vacuums run twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. They are designed to clean applications that run continuously such as production lines, mass transit lines, and certain manufacturing processes. Since they are maintenance free and are not subject to regular engine burnout, continuous duty vacuums allow manufacturers to concentrate on other aspects of their operation. Some of the substances continuous duty vacuums collect include food material, fibrous/plant/wooden materials, and industrial waste.
Continuous duty vacuums come in a variety of sizes, horse powers, and designs. As a general rule, they are stationary, though smaller models are available with mobile capabilities. Typically, they have a primary filter, a pre-separator, pumps or blowers, a container for collected materials, and a point of extraction. Continuous duty vacuums are necessary as a safety precaution to protect workers and collect flammable materials.
Parts and accessories for a continuous duty vacuum include positive displacement pumps for high volume recovery applications, large rubber tires for portable units, vacuum gauges, vacuum relief valves, housings, impellers, dust buckets, and heavy duty manual filter shakers. Housings are made of cast iron with steel impellers. Available filters include polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) high efficiency, heavy duty cloth, inline, and high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. Motors are slow speed and brushless, standard efficiency, totally enclosed fan cooled (TEFC) electric and explosion proof.
Explosion Proof Vacuums
Explosion proof vacuum cleaners are industrial vacuum cleaners designed to remove flammable substances and dangerous solids and liquids from surfaces without sparking an explosion or starting a fire. They are built from non-sparking materials such as stainless steel and fiber to decrease the risk of catching a spark from contact with a material or generating static electricity. The types of materials that an explosion proof vacuum are designed to collect include aluminum powder, debris, filings or fibers, flammable gas/vapors, flammable liquids, large amounts of fine dust and petrochemicals.
Explosion proof vacuums are used by manufacturing plants and construction zones. Plastic pellet, solid organic material, sugar, corn starch, and wood manufacturers depend them to contain combustible and hazardous materials. Processes that create dust such as shaping, grinding, sawing, polishing, and transportation require an explosion proof vacuum for the protection of their employees and equipment.
Factors considered in the construction of an explosion proof vacuum include static dissipation, electrical insulation, and chemical neutrality. Housings are made of stainless steel or reinforced fiberglass with casters and inlets made from bronze or plastic. Explosion proof vacuum cleaners can come with a water filtration system, or water filter, that has an immersion separator to reduce the effects of combustible dust and bathes other materials to eliminate the risk of combustion.
Other safety features of explosion proof vacuum cleaners include the elimination of the use of electricity and moving parts to control mechanical friction. All elements being fully grounded including parts and attachments that may spark during operation. The U S National Electrical Code (NEC) has standards and classifications regarding vacuums and materials. For an explosion proof vacuum cleaner to be certified it must meet NEC 500 and NEC 505 standards and be able to handle Class 1, flammable vapors and gases, and Class 2, combustible dust, materials.
HEPA Vacuum Cleaners
High Efficiency Particulate Air vacuums, or HEPA vacuums, have HEPA filters. To qualify as an HEPA filter, a filter must be able to capture 99.97% of all particles as small as 0.3 mm, micrometers or microns, or larger. Radioactive dust removal, clean room sterilization, and other processes that require strictly controlled air pollutant levels use HEPA filter vacuums.
HEPA vacuum cleaners are useful in the removal of contamination, mold, or dust with models that can filter wet or dry material or both. Clean rooms use HEPA vacuums to remove contaminants for the production of disk drives, medical devices, semiconductors, food and pharmaceutical materials, microprocessors, and other small technological components. The American Lung Association has become a "Health Partner" with certain HEPA filter vacuum cleaner manufacturing companies that market to places that may have health risks from air pollutants.
Industrial Vacuum Cleaners
Industrial vacuum cleaners are heavy duty machines used to suck up, or “vacuum,” dirt, debris and all other undesirable solid and liquid materials from floors and furniture surfaces. The environments in which they are typically employed include construction sites, manufacturing facilities, metalworking facilities, woodworking sites, warehouses and other work areas that generate large amounts of unwanted materials. In addition, they often work on projects related to recycling, reclamation and spill cleanup. Industrial vacuum cleaners are much stronger and more efficient than commercial vacuum cleaners; some of the large variety of materials they can pick up include: abrasives, coolant and oil mist, explosive media, fine powders, metalworking chips, litter, metalworking fluids, non-free flowing media and welding fumes.
Portable Vacuum Cleaners
Portable vacuums have of six components: an intake port, an exhaust port, an electric, gas or air-powered motor, a fan, a filtering system, and housing. They offer the advantage being able to be used in places where central vacuums cannot be available and are easier to replace than a central system.
Portable vacuums share the common factors of vacuums with the benefit of being portable. They can have agitators to remove dirt from carpet or unobstructed hollow hoses for removing standing water and moisture. Their collection chambers can be made of fabric or plastic and be separated from intake and exhaust channels by several filters or one filter.
Shop Vacuum Cleaners
Shop vacuum cleaners, known by the generic trademark Shop-Vac® or shop vac, are designed to handle larger and tougher cleaning tasks in workshops, machine shops, and facilities with tough debris. They come in cylinder, drum or canister vacuum models, are designed for indoor and outdoor usage, and are strong enough to handle wet, liquid, and dry debris. Some come with an exhaust port or detachable blower for reversing airflow, which is handy for clearing a clogged hose or blowing dust into a corner. They were originally designed for workshops and construction sites but have become popular with zoos, aircraft, for cleaning of drums, at wineries to clean barrels, and as an assist in cleaning damaged property after a disaster.
Shop vacuum cleaners are bagless and use cylinders, drums, or canisters as collection chambers since bags would disintegrate. The collection chamber can be removed to be emptied, blown out, have a plastic bag inserted, or tilted and dumped. The hoses, canisters, and other components on a shop vac are accessible and easy to clean. They come in a variety of sizes and horse powers to fit any application.
Small Vacuum Cleaners
Industrial processes produce byproducts or waste materials from machinery that may only be accessible by a small vacuum cleaner that can reach tight spaces. In settings that produce a small volume of waste, large vacuum systems can be inappropriate and unnecessary such as interior vehicle detailing and disaster recovery services that travel to homes and businesses. A small wet dry vacuum is often the only tool for the situation.
Some varieties of small vacuum cleaners have casters, while others have handles. Battery packs have given greater flexibility to small vacuums offering them unlimited movement but limit their maximum suction power and their time of operation.
Stationary Vacuum Systems
Stationary vacuum systems are heavy vacuum systems built as permanent fixtures. They are automated and can run up to 24 hours a day. Some of the materials that stationary vacuum systems most commonly consume are dusts, such as sawdust, explosive dust and hazardous dust like asbestos dust. They also deal with materials like: metal waste (ex. iron chips), blasting media, plastic resin, organic fibers, insulation, gravel and free flowing media like cement slurries.
Stationary vacuum systems offer their users a wide variety of advantages. First, they are quite versatile. Second, they take several cleaning tasks and roll them into one. Third, they are less labor-intensive and cumbersome than portable vacuum systems. In addition, they are powerful; they’re usually available powers up to 30 HP. Also, they are the perfect way to meet EPA requirements. Finally, because they can run 24/7 and require little to no operator assistance, they are incredibly efficient. They are an investment, but in the long run, they will save you quite a bit of money.
Truck Mounted Vacuum Cleaners
Truck mounted vacuum cleaners, also known as vacuum trucks, are industrial vacuum cleaners used in outdoor or hard to reach locations. They are mounted on the back of trucks or trailers. Truck mounted vacuum cleaners are important to applications in industries such as: petroleum and oil, drilling, wastewater treatment, sanitation, public health, commercial aviation, agriculture and disaster relief. They clean up materials such as: industrial waste, industrial liquids (petroleum, drilling mud, cement, brine water, etc.), sludge, slurry, fecal sludge, animal sludge, sewage, contaminated soil and flood water. They can also be used to recover and recycle valuable raw materials like wastewater, metal chips, alumina, abrasives, etc.
Manufacturers design truck mounted vacuum cleaners to be mounted one of two ways. They can either be: 1) mounted directly on the truck, where they use the truck motor to power the vacuum drive, or 2) mounted on a trailer with an independent motor. Usually, they just mount the vacuum directly to the truck because it’s easier.
From the hand crank vacuum of Ives McGaffey to the carpet sweeper of Melville Bissell, the vacuum cleaner has been a staple in society for well over a century. The concept of creating a vacuum to collect dirt, waste, and dust has been a leap forward in the cleaning and waste industry. During the early exploration of space, high quality vacuums were a necessity for the protection of early space explorers as they returned from their missions.
Recent developments in technology have made filtration systems on vacuums a necessity for the protection of delicate products from contaminates. As new innovations are developed and the world becomes more concerned about contaminates, it is very likely that the reliable, old vacuum will remain an essential tool.