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  • Unger Stingray Wins Innovation Award 14/12/2016
    PRESS RELEASE : Unger wins Innovation Award Unger Stingray shines all around. Solingen/Chicago – Unger was presented with the Innovation Award at the international cleaning trade fair ISSA/Interclean North America.  The Unger Stingray indoor window cleaning system managed to impress the exclusive jury and won the coveted award in the Supplies and Accessories […]
    Karl Robinson
  • Winterize 13/12/2016
    It's official....winter is here! You spent a lot of money on your pure water window cleaning system this year. Watch the video below for some tips on getting it winterized and tuned up for next season!© HTTP://WWW.ROBINSON-SOLUTIONS.BLOGSPOT.COM […]
    Jessica Ames

Informative Artices

Window cleaning in the sun – a bad idea?

 

window cleaning in the sun

“Never clean windows in the sun!”

- That’s the advice given in many housekeeping magazines. But is it true?

For the general householder it is good advice, but a professional window cleaner cannot afford to be always dictated to by the weather.

Especially when using traditional methods, cleaning in the hot sun can cause problems so here are some tips to avoid the smears and shadows.

Shadows left on the window are caused by the solution drying before the squeegee blade can carry it away.

On overcast days you may soap up a few windows at a time and two or three minutes may pass before you squeegee them all clean. However, when the weather is warmer it is important to blade the window as soon as possible after it has been mopped to avoid leaving  shadows and streaks. Here are a few tips for getting good results even when window cleaning in the sun;

1. Only wet as many windows as you blade before the water dries.
It is best just to soap up one or two windows at a time so that the solution does not have chance to dry. The two handed technique of mopping and blading simultaneously is good in this situation because the solution is carried away almost immediately and doesn’t get chance to dry.

2. Use combination tools
When using a tradtional pole combination tools such as the Unger Vice Versa, Ettore Back Flip or Wagtail Flipper will save time switching tools.

3. Use more water
The most obvious tip is to use more water. Wetting the window more will give you more time to blade it before the solution dries. If you are using a water fed pole then you should rarely encounter problems unless the windows are really hot. – In which case the answer is to just use more water

4. Use less soap
Another practical tip is to use less soap if you use washing up liquid. The solution tends to evapourate quicker if you use too much soap and you will be more likely to leave  streaks.

5- Minimize detailing and use of cloths
Using a cloth on the window in the sun is a bad idea.  The less you use a cloth on the window for detailing the better. Sometimes you can do more harm than good when detailing causing smears with a cloth that are more noticeable than the original mistake.  Take care when using the squeegee to not miss bits in the middle of the window and practice your technique to minimize the amount of detailing necessary.

 

These tips should help you achieve good results when cleaning windows in the sun however, if non of the above work for you then use a water fed pole system with pure water!

How to use a scraper blade when cleaning windows

 

Unger ProTrim scraper blade

When is a scraper blade needed?

The following situations would likely require the use of a scraper blade.

  • After construction or decorating work has been carried out.
  • Stubborn dirt or stains such as egg,  bird excrement or splashes caused by pressure washing.
  • When adhesive tape,  vinyl lettering or stickers need removing.
  • The first time windows are cleaned after many months or years.

Checks to carry out before using a scraper blade

Scraping glass with a scraper blade can damage the glass. Certain kinds of glass are more susceptible to scratches than others.

  • Check if glass is scratch resistant and suitable for scraper use. (It is not recommended to use a scraper on Plexiglass, crown glass, solar glass, safety glass (ESG) etc.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s care instructions.
  • Perform a scrape test in advance on a hidden section.
  • Before starting work, check the glass for damage and report it if necessary.

How to use a scraper blade correctly

  • Never use a glass scraper on dry glass.
  • Always use the blade on a wet surface.
  • It is best to use with a soapy cleaning agent. This lubricates the blade and makes it easier to see where you have passed the blade (think of it a bit like shaving a beard!)
  • Always scrape in one direction! Never pull the scraper back. (Dirt accumulated on the blade can be trapped under the blade and pulled over the surface of the window causing scratches.)
  • Apply even pressure holding the blade flat against the glass. The corners of the blade can cause scratches.
  • Change or reverse the blade if it becomes blunt, rusty or chipped.
  • Clean the blade regularly by swishing it about in a bucket of water.
  • Do not keep an open blade in your work pouches. Always replace the cap or retract the blade for your protection.

Further suggestions:

It is a good idea to ask the customer to sign a Scratch Waiver Form. (This is basically a simple form which states that you do not accept responsibility for any scratches that occur and that the customer understands that the task does carry an element of risk.)

Unger ErgoscraperRetractable scraper balde

Use the appropriate kind of scraper for the job at hand.

Winter Window Cleaning Tips

 

It’s dark, it’s cold, it’s wet and you have to go to work.

The last thing you need after dragging yourself out of bed is to find that your efforts were in vain because your equipment is frozen and unusable!

Yes, winter is here and we know what that means. Cold hands and water freezing on the windows.

Thankfully, it’s not every day that temperatures fall below zero so it’s a good idea to check the weather forecast each evening so you know what to expect in the morning.  Most winter related problems can be avoided with good preparation.

Here are some winter window cleaning tips so as to be prepared and keep your business running as smooth as possible over the winter months.

  • · Look after your equipment

When water turns to ice it expands and that is why anything full of water is at risk of cracking or breaking when temperatures plummet.

If the forecast is anywhere near zero degrees or below then prepare the evening before.

Prevention is the best cure so bring any wet gear into the warmth of your house or some other place that is protected from the cold.  If you have a trolley system or backpack in a van left outside then bring those in too.

At particular risk is the RO unit. RO units have fragile membranes which can easily be damaged in freezing conditions. Some window cleaners have these units mounted directly in the van or even worse have a static system placed outdoors. If this is the case then you need to take measures to protect the unit from the cold to minimize the possibility of damage.

  • · Install a heating system

Many window cleaners install a heating system in the van. There are various kinds of heaters available. Oil filled radiators are a popular choice as they often have a thermostat and can be left on a low setting overnight. Some are electric and you therefore would need to run a power cable to an electricity source. (The van doesn’t need to be heated to 20 degrees as long as it remains above zero your system won’t freeze.)

Unlike kerosene or other oil heaters, the oil inside of an electric oil radiator warms but never burns, so there is no need to refill it. This reduces risk of fire, eliminates the smell that can permeate the entire house when a fuel burning heater is present, and saves money that would be spent endlessly on heating oil purchases.

Paraffin heaters and electric fans are another option but these each have their draw backs.  If you don’t have a way of keeping the van warm then you should insulate your system as best you can and drain it of any excess water.

Other more sophisticated ways of preventing the system from freezing include electric trace heating,  also known as electric heat tracing. This system maintains the temperature of your system pipes.  Basically, an electrical heating element in contact with the pipe runs along the length it and is covered with thermal insulation to retain heat losses. The heat generated by the element then maintains the temperature of the pipe thus protecting it from freezing.

  • · Reduce water spillage

Apart from equipment issues, freezing cold weather also poses problems whilst cleaning. An obvious danger exists when using water fed poles in sub zero temperatures and that is that the water falling on the ground is likely to freeze and thus cause a potential hazard for those passing by so the less water spillage the better in freezing conditions.

There are two things that you can do to tackle this:

The first thing would be to reduce the amount of spilt water in the first place. If you generally use a water fed pole system evaluate whether it is possible to use traditional methods which require the use of less water.  (Note:  Using ladders is risky at the best of times and using them in the snow or ice is just plain foolish.

With the right tools and some practice a good window cleaner can use an extension pole on most windows that you can get to on a ladder. Practise makes perfect!  Alternatively, you could always offer just to do downstairs at a reduced price.

You may decide to use a water fed pole for the upper windows but traditional methods on the lower levels. You can also reduce water spillage by turning down the water flow.  The other thing you can do is to give a generous spread of salt on the areas of spillage. Give particular attention to areas that people are most likely to tread.  (Bear in mind however that salt is corrosive and can cause lasting damage some surfaces such as concrete. )

In some cases like in the picture below you wouldn’t really need to worry about water spillage.  It’s just a matter of common sense at the end of the day.

  • · Avoid water freezing while you work

Often the biggest problem for window cleaners when temperatures drop below zero is the fact that water can often freeze on the glass or even in the pipes of the wfp system.

If a building is well heated on the inside then in most cases water is unlikely to freeze on the window. Avoid cleaning the windows of places which are unlikely to be well heated internally.

Various hot water systems are available on the market for window cleaners. Using a hot water system in the winter is obviously advantageous in that it stops the water from freezing in the system while you work.

When using water fed pole systems the water is left to dry on the window so there is more chance of the water freezing. In some cases it may be best to use traditional methods so that windows are left dry. You don’t want to have a lot of soap residue left on the window the next time you clean using pure water so don’t use too much soap and choose a product which leaves little residue such as Glass Gleam or Ecoverbiological washing up liquid.

If using traditional methods then you can use additives in the water to lower the freezing point of the water. Try mixing the water with screen wash (windshield washer fluid). Anti-freeze, or methylated spirits, may be added to a mixture to give the product a lower freezing temperature. But bear in mind that methanol vapor is harmful when breathed in, so more popular now is an ethanol (or isopropanol) and ethylene glycol.  Take care too if you smoke as these liquids are often highly flammable.

Some use vinegar in the water but actually the kind of vinegar you typically find in the supermarket has a freezing point of -2° C so it is unlikely to have much effect on the freezing point of your solution.

  • · Dress for success

Your choice of clothing will affect your morale as well as your pocket. If you are cold and wet then you are not likely to make it to the end of a working day before wanting to quit. If you do stay out all day cold and wet then you likely to be staying home with the flu as your reward. So investing in good quality clothing that will keep you dry and warm and that allows you to move freely makes good business sense as well as good common sense.

Use decent boots that don’t let the water in. Snow boots or Wellington boots might not qualify you for the front cover of a glossy magazine but your feet will thank you for it.

Choose gloves that keep your hands warm as well as dry.

Most of your body heat escapes through your head so be sure to wear a hat. If you really want to get kitted out warm and snug then visit a shop that sells clothing for mountaineers, skiers and snow boarders. Usually this kind of gear is breathable, comfortable, warm and waterproof.

  • · Be realistic

Realistically you are not likely to cover as much of your work as you usually would but something is better than nothing.  Give priority to your best work.  Do you have work to do which is under cover or inside cleans? If you keep an eye on the forecasts then you can plan ahead to schedule these kind of jobs for when it is likely to snow or be extremely cold.

Sometimes road conditions and parking issues caused by heavy snowfall are to take into consideration. If things are really bad then maybe you could catch up with some business administration, business accounts or the like or perhaps do some telecanvassing accompanied by  a nice hot cuppa!

Or you could just take the day off….after all “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!”

 

 

 


Buying and Selling a Window Cleaning Round

 

How much is a window cleaning round worth?

Like any asset, a window cleaning business is only worth what someone is prepared to pay for it. Unless the seller is including plant and equipment (such as their vehicle and tools) then what you are buying is the ‘goodwill’ of the business.

- So what is goodwill?

Goodwill reflects the reputation, viability and potential of a business. It can be difficult to give a value to goodwill since it is an intangible asset. To illustrate, The goodwill of a round that has been neglected and worked in a ‘hit and miss’ fashion for a few months would be valued less than that of a round which has been consistently and diligently looked after. Another goodwill factor would include the location of the business. If there is lots of potential to expand the business within the immediate vicinity of the window cleaning round then the viability and potential of the business is increased and that could be reflected in the goodwill. It would be wise to ask to see written records of the accounts for the round in question in determining the goodwill value.

You may be thinking, “Yes, but HOW MUCH should I expect to pay for a window cleaning round?”

Often window cleaners sell their round according to its average monthly turnover. It is known for window cleaning rounds to be sold from 2 months average turnover up to 10 months value. Like anything much comes down to supply and demand. Prices of window cleaning rounds vary form region to region. In an area saturated with window cleaners where canvassing fresh work is difficult, fellow window cleaners may be prepared to pay more for an established round than in an area where window cleaners are few and far between and canvassing fresh work is relatively easy. Of course the nature of the work comes into play also. Commercial work that is low level, well priced and compact would be obviously be worth more than a round of poorly priced terrace houses scattered about on a rough estate.

If you have contracts in place and can show the annual profits of the business from the

Tips when buying a window cleaning round.

Prospective buyers should only purchase a business after due diligence, which means basically acquiring and analyzing all the information you need to make a wise decision.

Failing to take the time to find out about all aspects of the business may result in a costly mistake. To buy a window cleaning round could be the best business decision you ever make, on the other hand it could end up being one of the worst. A lot depends on good communication. Window cleaning rounds don’t often come cheap, so before spending a lot of money be sure to do your research. Ask to be given a quick tour of the work to get an overview of how compact the work is and what the prices are like. There has to be an element of trust from both parties for the deal to be successful. Some questions you will need to ask are:

  • When was the work last done?
  • How established is the work?
  • What income does the round generate in an average month?
  • What kind of methods are the customers used to? Traditional or water fed pole?
  • Is collection usually by cheque in the post or by collecting in the evening?
  • What kind of scope is there for enlarging the round if need be?
  • When were the prices last raised?
  • How long does it take the current window cleaner to do the round?
  • Realistically, what is the average hourly rate achievable?
  • What is the reason for the sale?

If the seller seems vague about these details and is more interested in getting a deposit from you without giving you opportunity to at least select a few customers at random to verify, then take that as a warning sign.

Alarm bells should also start ringing if the seller is reluctant to provide you with personal details such as a home address or telephone number.

For a smooth transition the customers should be told what is happening by the original window cleaner. Householders like to know who is coming and who they are paying, so ideally it would be good for you to meet the customers once you are pretty sure that you will buy the work. At this stage ask to choose a random selection of customers from the list and then go to verify that they exist by meeting them. (See below). If you will not be working the round for the first time with the seller, then ask him to give a letter to all the customers to inform them of the change. When you start you may wish to leave your own letter to introduce yourself.
Download example changeover letter.

Tip: Work a section or all the round for one clean with the seller. This will give you opportunity to get to see first hand not only what the round is like, but it will also give you opportunity to have an insight into the seller’s character. Buying and selling goodwill involves trust and if you don’t know the seller then working alongside him for a day or two will help you develop the mutual trust.

Don’t expect to be given the full list of work until you have made at least a deposit. The seller is also taking a risk in giving you the work before he receives the full amount. A fair method for the exchange may be to put half of the amount down as a deposit and pay the other half once you have worked the round once and established that the round is all legitimate, ideally doing this together with the seller and splitting the proceeds.

Before you start the work, agree between yourselves as to what will happen in the case of cancellations. Again this requires trust. Both parties should have a written copy of the agreed terms of sale so that any issues that arise can be settled according to the agreement.

When there are large amounts of money involved it is highly recommended that you involve a solicitor and seek legal advice for the transaction to be documented.

Tips when selling a window cleaning round.

If you want the sale of the round to go smoothly then communication with your customers is vital. Your customers have a right to know who is coming onto their property to clean their windows. Mention to your customers the change and hand them a letter of notification with the new cleaner’s contact details. You can download a sample letter here for free. Having a name, telephone number and address of the new cleaner will make customers more at ease with the change. Download example changeover letter.

If you don’t have the time to take the new cleaner around ALL of your customers to be introduced, and if you don’t like the idea of working the round with the buyer for the first clean, then at the very least be prepared to show the list briefly to the prospective buyer and allow them to pick at random a selection of the customers to verify. It would not be wise to introduce a prospective buyer as ‘the new window cleaner’ until the deal is certain and a deposit has been made. For a domestic round the conversation may go something like:

“Hello ‘Mr.Smith’, I hope you don’t mind me disturbing you but as I mentioned I may be passing the window cleaning round on to someone else. ‘David’ here is evaluating whether or not to buy the round from me and I’m just introducing him to a few customers for him to see that the round is legitimate. ‘David’, this is ‘Mr.Smith’. He’s a great customer, he has his windows cleaned every month and we’ve been cleaning the windows here for about ‘3 years’”.

A few successful introductions like these chosen at random by the prospective buyer, should be enough grounds for a deposit. At that point it would be wise to work the round together for the first time splitting proceeds down the middle. Then the final payment could be made, at which point the seller would hand over the full details of the round.

There is often a certain inevitable amount of cancellations when a window cleaning round changes hands. Introducing the new buyer will minimise this, but a strong selling point would be to guarantee the work by offering to refund any cancellations. Alternatively, you could deduct 5% from the asking price to start with to cover any eventual losses during the change over.

Think long and hard before selling your work. Window cleaning rounds are a valuable asset that are often underestimated in value. Ask yourself what the round is worth to you. You then need to find someone who is prepared to pay that amount. A window cleaning round is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. It could be that you are better off keeping the round.

 

Building a window cleaning round – Sow Seed or Buy Turf?

Building a window cleaning round from scratch is like sowing a lawn.

It would be fantastic to have a nice, thick, luxurious, lawn – the kind that you find on a well kept golf course. But ask any groundskeeper and they will tell you that you don’t get those kind of results overnight!

Do you sow seed and grow your own lawn – or buy rolls of turf and have an instantly finished garden?

Similarly, anyone that has built a good, compact and lucrative window cleaning round from scratch will tell you that it takes lots of time, lots of determination and lots of will power -  but it is achievable.

When laying a lawn you have two options: Sow seed and grow your own lawn – or buy rolls of turf and have an instantly finished garden.

Although it may cost more, the obvious advantage of laying turf is the speed in which you can have your lawn. Turf is simply rolled out and although it needs to be laid correctly, you can reap the rewards of having a nice lawn for the kids to play on immediately. On the other hand, if you sow grass seed the shoots will appear after a week or so (depending on time of year) and the kids will have to wait to play on the lawn for several months. Growing your lawn from seed will mean weeding out all the undesirables and lots of regular watering to get the lawn looking good and healthy.

Yes, you could canvass a round from scratch and the satisfaction in doing so has its own rewards. It takes time, a lot of weeding out unreliable customers, lots of watering with more advertising and more canvassing to pad the round out – but it is achievable.

Or you could buy an established round where most of the hard work has been done for you. It may cost more initially, but the time it would take you to reach the same level of earnings (and the loss of potential earnings working a ready made round in the meantime) could very likely make buying a round a sound investment. A combination of the two would likely be the ideal.

If you are looking to buy or sell window cleaning work in the UK then you should definitely pay a visit to www.windowcleaningroundforsale.co.uk where you will find hundreds of window cleaning rounds for sale.  – If you are looking to lay a lawn then you are best to visit your local garden centre!

Deionisation or Reverse Osmosis?

 

If you use a water fed pole system then you will know that the harder the water that you process is, the higher the running costs of your system will be. 

Producing pure water fit for use with a water fed pole involves filtering normal water and extracting from it all the chemicals and dissolved solids. Logically, if the water is hard and contains high levels of total dissolved solids (TDS),  the filters and resin which work to separate these from the pure water will be consumed and wear out more quickly than if the water is soft and contains very few dissolved solids.

An effective way of immediately producing pure water is by deionising normal water, passing it through a pressure vessel containing mixed bed resin. (Typically referred to as a DI vessel).

2 DI Vessels in series. 

 

Using this system pure water is produced on demand very quickly simply by connecting the vessel to the water supply. The main advantage of this method is the speed and simplicity in which you can produce pure water. You generally don’t need a large tank in your van. With the permission of a kind customer, you can refill very quickly on the job or work directly from their tap. Another important advantage is that no water is wasted in the purification process.

However, most window cleaners use a different method of producing pure water -   Reverse osmosis.

Merlin Reverse Osmosis Unit 

 Put simply, reverse osmosis is a process where only pure water is allowed to pass through a membrane and the rest goes down the drain. A typical reverse osmosis unit used by window cleaners involves a 5 stage process, whereby water is first softened, then filtered and finally polished. The process is much slower than a DI set up and so space for a static tank is usually necessary to store the water. Pure water is then  transferred to a tank in the van either by gravity or more commonly by a submersible transfer pump. To produce 500 litres of pure water a typical RO unit with a recovery rate of 25% will reject 1500 litres of water, meaning a total of 2000 litres of water used. An average water fed pole user would use 500 litres of water in an 8 hour day. A two man team of window cleaners could get through 1000 litres in a days work. Over the course of one month, that means they could use up to 80,000 litres of drinking water to run their system. Much of the efficiency of the RO unit depends on the mains pressure. The lower the pressure, the higher the rejection rate. So some choose to buy a booster pump to increase efficiency.

Given all the extra expense and added complication using an RO set up, why is it that the majority of window cleaners choose to use this system to produce pure water? The problem lies in the expense involved in using a resin only system. A 25 litre bag of mixed bed resin typically costs £70 – £80 and only produces 5000 – 7000 litres of pure water (where the input water TDS level is 100).  Since many window cleaners live in hard water areas, using the resin method on its own would be just too expensive. In a soft water area where the TDS level is less than 100, lets say 50, the resin will last twice as long. 

Where two DI vessels are used in series the resin life will be extended even further. (Where only one vessel is used, the resin must be replaced as soon as the output TDS level begins to rise. However, as long as the output TDS level is substantially lower than the input level, this resin can still be used as a pre-filter for a second vessel.)

So in a soft water area, the practical advantages of a DI only set up make it a sensible choice. If only everywhere was a soft water area…….

Free Soft Water in Hard Water Areas?

The fact is that soft water is readily available wherever you live. We’re talking about water which is actually almost pure already, so running costs become negligible. You can use it with no feelings of guilt whatsoever, even during hosepipe bans since it is totally environmentally friendly and best of all, its free!

Too good to be true? That’s right, we are talking about rainwater. The new buzzword that will be heard over the next few years will be ‘rainwater harvesting’.

In view of the scarcity and precious nature of potable water, rainwater harvesting is becoming increasingly popular for domestic applications. It’s surprising how much water can be collected from a standard roof. A house roof may collect 80,000 litres of rainwater every year. 

downspout filterWith purity of around 4 parts per million, rainwater is ideal for pole based window technology.

To collect the rainwater is a simple task of diverting the downspouts of your guttering to a storage tank. It is essential that the tank does not allow light through to the water to prevent algae growth, so a black container or underground tank works best. To keep the TDS level to a minimum, the roof and guttering should be maintained so as to be free of dirt and sludge.

Rainwater should pass through a filter to strain out larger contaminants like insects and leaves before entering the tank. A submersible pump can be placed inside the tank to pump the water through one or two DI vessels to polish the water. Some window cleaners that collect rainwater use the water without even passing it through a DI vessel since the TDS level is so low anyway. It’s good practice however, to use water at a TDS level of 000 and with such a low TDS level, the resin will last a long time anyway.

Of course, it doesn’t rain everyday so the tank size should be large enough to store water from rainy periods which can be used during drier periods. An underground tank size of 3000 or 4000 litres would be ideal. Another method could be a modular system of smaller water butts connected in series above ground.

We mentioned earlier that a house roof may collect 80,000 litres of rainwater each year. This is based on the total surface area of a typical 3 bedroom semi detached house. Obviously, the larger the surface area of the roof or collection surface, the more rainwater collected. For every inch of rainwater water that falls on a surface of 1000 square feet it is possible to collect approximately 600 gallons of water.

80,000 litres of rainwater per year would be sufficient to fill a 300 litre tank each working day of the year. This could dramatically reduce water bills and with the much publicised, continual water rate increases, we cannot afford not to save our water and subsequently save money and the environment.

Being green is also a good selling point. Nowadays customers appreciate a company that is responsible towards the environment. Even if window cleaners were to be given exemption, customers are not always comfortable about having their windows cleaned with a water fed pole system during a hosepipe ban. Explaining that you use harvested rainwater would no doubt resolve the problem.

There’s no doubt about it, whatever your water usage may be, the investment of setting up a rainwater harvesting system would soon pay itself off. Interestingly, Enhaced Capital Allowances (ECAs) enable a business to claim 100% for rainwater harvesting equipment.

For more info visit: http://www.ukrha.org/index.php

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