Choosing Sweeping Equipment
Piranha Brushes Gaining Widespread Attention
by Ranger Kidwell-Ross
As detailed in our previous article in September of 2016, Balais Nomad Sweeping has developed an innovative set of heavy duty gutter broom add-on segments called 'Piranha.' The segments, which fit onto most all gutter brooms, claim to extend bristle life, take a load off hydraulics and aggressively scrub caked-down material and eliminate weedy curblines.
The back story: Christian Robertson's Canadian-based sweeping company, Balais Nomad Sweeping, needed a weeding curb brush to respond to customer requests for vegetation removal. The available 'weed attack brushes,' which consisted of large steel cables, they found to be too heavy and to not provide a clean sweep. Everything on the market required them to do a second pass with a standard gutter broom to get the curb both weeded and clean.
"Wouldn't it be great," Robertson thought, "if we could combine both a weeding brush and the cleaning power of gutter brush?" That line of reasoning eventually gave birth of the company's Piranha gutter broom attachment. The Piranha is a segmented brush that is attached between the drive plate and the curb broom's brushes. Piranha, which has a patent-pending design, is constructed of small cold-compressed and specially formulated steel cables.
The secret to the design, says Robertson, is that the cables are small enough to go into the gap between the asphalt and the concrete curb. Piranha doesn't simply cut the weeds; rather, it attacks them at the roots.
"I'm become very familiar with sweepers, all makes and models, over the last 30+ years" said Jeff Miles, "and the one common thing that hasn't changed is the side broom bristles themselves, the actual part doing the majority of the work. For example, when Elgin reinvented the iconic Pelican to the Pelican NP there was only one part on the entire machine that stayed the exact same part number – the side broom. I have spoken to many broom manufacturers and found they see their products as a commodity that worked yesterday and they build them the same way today."
"When I stumbled across the Piranha broom on social media it gave me ideas in a couple of directions. One was for the application of street sweeping, which uses metal broom segments. The other was for use on Elgin's NASCAR sweeper, which uses poly brooms. I needed some more scrubbing action for the packed-down rubber on track surfaces."
Key Equipment obtained a set of Piranha segments and set out to find out their capabilities. Their test process involved painting a set of squares on the ground and testing normal broom scrubbing ability in the standard "eyebrow" position. Then, they installed the Piranha segments and found that the same scrubbing ability was available with much less ground pressure. This obviously provides less wear on the broom; however, less obviously there is also less wear on all of the other side broom components, including the hydraulics, hoses and bushings.
Next, the Key Equipment team did a 2 x 4 test, letting the regular broom spin onto the 2 x 4 and then doing the same with the Piranha segments added. The Piranha proved to be much more aggressive, eating through half the 2 x 4 in short order. Their testing showed without a doubt that, by adding the Piranha broom segments, the sweeper will do more work with less power and wear. The results of these tests are showcased in the YouTube video linked below.
As a result of its testing, Key Equipment began making the Piranha broom segments available to its customers. One of the clear advantages to using the Piranha segments is for removing vegetation without the use of chemicals. Although a number of herbicides are available, none have the environmental benefit of just removing the curb line weeds mechanically with the gutter broom. Plus, when herbicides are used they are sprayed on existing vegetation so the eyesore of dying vegetation in the curb line is also a negative factor.
Miles reports that of the about 25 customers where Key Equipment has installed the Piranha segments on their side brooms, only one didn't really see the value. That's an initial satisfaction rate of about 96%!
"Even with the one customer that didn't see the overall value," said Miles, "the real problem was that we didn't educate them on how to use the Piranha so all they saw was price. However, with the addition of the education portion we ended up with the customer ultimately using the Piranha segments.
"There's no question that the sweeper needs to be operated differently with the Piranha segments added. We now go to the customer and install the broom segments and train them on correct operation. With the Piranha segments installed, most all sweeping is done with the lightest downpressure setting. If you do that, the brooms last drastically longer and there is less wear-and-tear over the life of the sweeper on bushings, bearings and other components.
"There are also productivity gains in that more material is picked up per pass, there are fewer second passes needed, more vegetation is dug out of the curb line, etc. Part of the operator training in heavy vegetation is to move slowly and allow the leading edge of the broom to dig out the stalk portion of the plants."
At the 2018 APWA tradeshow Jeff Miles collaborated with Elgin's team to install Piranha broom segments on the sweepers they took to the show. To make the segments more noticeable, he had them painted red to match the Elgin logotype swooshes. To say that the brooms were a hit is an understatement, Miles says, in that everyone who walked up wanted to know what was different about the brooms.
Also, they then discovered that when the Piranha broom segments have been painted a bright fluorescent red or yellow, they take on the characteristics of the strobe light and so provide an added safety element. "Kids are always fascinated by those spinning brooms," said Miles, "and the strobe element definitely adds a safety component. The manufacturer now provides its Piranha broom segments with a colorful sticker on the top of them that produces the same type of safety benefit.
"The Piranha segments can be seen as expensive when compared to running a standard curb broom without them. However, in our experience there's no question that when all factors are taken into consideration the Piranha segments are definitely a cost-effective, long-run solution that serves to increase sweeper productivity. By the way, we've sold them for installation onto other types of sweepers besides Elgins, including Schwarze and TYMCO, and they've worked well on all of them."
For the many reasons detailed above, Elgin now offers Piranha brooms through all of its North American distributors. To purchase a set of these Piranha brushes contact your local Elgin Distributor or call 1-877-342-5374. Christian Robertson, owner of the company that makes the Piranha segments, also encourages anyone interested in knowing more, or in trying the Piranha broom segments, to visit his website at www.balaisnomad.com or to contact their local Elgin dealer.
Want to know more? Here's a three-minute video Jeff filmed where he discusses his organization's experience with sweepers they have outfitted with the Piranha broom segments.
Would you like to hear the audio interview WorldSweeper's editor held with Jeff Miles? If so, click here to listen to the approximately 15-minute audio interview done with him to present material for this article (audio will open into a new browser window).
To view a one-minute YouTube video of a curb broom with the Piranha broom segments added cleaning a vegetative curb line, take a look below.
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