Water Fed Poles – A Brief History

1950’s

After the Second World War, Irv Tucker began a business in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, USA, recovering scrap aluminium from aircraft and manufacturing gas hot plates and heaters for agricultural water tanks.

In the early 1950’s, this evolved into Tucker® Manufacturing Incorporated.

In the search for new products, the inventive Irv Tucker introduced a car and home washer kit that had a 3′ to 6′ pole configuration. This was the forerunner of the Tucker® Pole System.

1960’s

Originally introduced in the consumer market-place in 1955, the concept moved into commercial use in the 1960’s. Hospitals, college campuses, schools and businesses soon began to appreciate the advantages of being able to wash windows at high level without the necessity of ladders and scaffolding.

Initially, the Tucker® Pole was sold through direct mail and newspaper advertising. Surprisingly, an advertisement in ‘The Rotarian’, initiated international sales when an enquiry from Japan brought about Tucker® Pole’s first overseas distributorship – a relationship which has lasted to this day. Canada, New Zealand and Australia all became markets for the Tucker® Pole throughout the 1970’s. Thirty percent of sales are now outside the US.

1970’s

At first the Tucker® Pole used a single rubber hose with or without an optional soap dispenser. Standard brushes were horse hair and deluxe brushes used Chinese pig bristle. It was a natural progression that vinyl hose eventually replaced rubber enabling the design of a dual hose possible. Today the Tucker® Pole is still the only fully integrated, dual hose pole washer system in the industry.

During the 1970’s, semi-automatic brush making equipment brought many changes to the way brushes were made. Nylon became the established material and Tucker® Pole now has the widest range of brush formats and sizes available in the industry. All brushes are designed and manufactured by the company in their 4806 sq metre (53,400 sq ft) factory.

United Kingdom & Europe

The Tucker® Pole was initially unsuccessful this side of the Atlantic. Water marks and stains resulted and this was totally unacceptable. Unfortunately, in Ireland and the UK, water quality problems are varied and complex and the window cleaning industry failed to appreciate the importance of linking pole washing with water purity. It has only been since the late 1990’s that the necessary water treatment implications have been understood and combined with the marketing of water fed poles in the UK.

Aquafactors Limited (established in 1988), first became involved with pole systems in 1997 through a number of companies experiencing difficulties with water quality. This led to the company obtaining the rights to market Tucker® Pole, in the UK and Ireland, in the autumn of 1998. We operate from a factory, in Basingstoke.

Since then, the company has evolved a specific range of water treatment systems to produce the 99.9% purity of water required to wash windows successfully. We have a considerable level of experience in water quality and this has spearheaded the design and type of systems currently being recommended to customers.

This specialised knowledge in water treatment has enabled us to sell systems to some prestigious customers. The remarkable London Eye has used our equipment since this major London tourist attraction was first opened. A reverse osmosis system is housed on one of the platforms. Heated pipe-work runs to various locations on the structure so that the poles can be “plugged in” to give flexibility of operation regardless of weather conditions.

Other UK customers include systems operating for the Royal Navy, London Underground and Edinburgh University. Both the largest cleaning companies in the UK, Mitie Cleaning and OCS, now use our equipment.

Although glass washing is the main function of a water fed pole, it has also been found to be the ideal way of cleaning all kinds of high level surfaces such as fascias, cladding and high level signs. A number of different brush types are now produced for this work, including a mini brush to clean high mounted CCTV camera lenses.

Tucker® Pole has moved into mainland Europe by setting up an agent in The Netherlands. The operation has established a large customer base even though Holland has more stringent rulings applicable to poles. Local Authority consent must be gained before a pole can be used on any building and certain safety precautions must be taken. Poles were included in the 2004 Dutch Labour Agreement, for the first time, for use up to 10 meters. In the UK, we are fortunate that poles do not come under such strict rulings on use and safety.

Health & Safety Responsibilities

The advent of the ‘Single European Market’ (EU) has imposed responsibilities upon all employers. Most organisations are now requesting a risk assessment and a statement of working methods from cleaning contractors intending to use poles. Additionally, the 2005 ‘Work at Height Directive’ has had an enormous influence on the way buildings are cleaned.

The outcome of this is proving very positive in two ways.

Firstly, it is highlighting the many advantages of using high level poles, compared with the obvious problems associated with ladders, scaffolding and hydraulic platforms.

Secondly, it is creating considerable interest from local Health and Safety Officers and Facility Managers, who are viewing poles as a very important development in the industry and encouraging their use.

Water Treatment Implications

The popularity of poles is seeing a momentum by several external sources. This is good news for those in the industry but, because the equipment requirements are still evolving in such a young business, there are some considerable differences in the compilation of competitive systems, particularly the water treatment implications.

This is a field in which Aquafactors has much expertise compared with the competition. The company is a corporate member of the United Kingdom Water Treatment Association (UKWTA). The company takes an active role in various technical committees.

The experience gained in water treatment, over many years, has contributed to a wealth of knowledge unequalled by our peers. We openly admit we often do things differently from the competition who have been criticised for over engineering their systems. We believe in “keeping things simple” as much as possible and this is reflected in the systems provided and our pricing structure.

The company is always moving forward. In 2004 the company took the important step of patenting a new type of integrated baffled tank for use in trucks, trailers and vans. In 2006 a new aluminium pole clamping system was introduced. In early 2008 the company launched a carbon fibre pole with a new head assembly.

To see how your business could benefit from use of an Aquafactors water fed pole system, please contact us.