If I'm a contractor and I could only own one piece of equipment that KM International makes, it would be a hot box reclaimer for sure," says Kurt Schwartz, sales & marketing, KM International.
That's because, according to manufacturers, adding a hot box reclaimer to your fleet can extend your season, improve the life of your pavement repairs, keep good workers on the payroll longer, and even help you earn greater profits on some jobs.
"In any kind of asphalt repair you need hot asphalt to have a repair that's permanent or reasonably permanent," says Tom Allen, general manager of Kasi Infrared. "A hot box reclaimer enables you to do that."
"It enables you to do a permanent patch which in winter is pretty much unheard of," says Wes VanVelsor, president of Ray-Tech Infrared.
Hot Box or Hot Box Reclaimer
There are two types of hot boxes on the market, and it's important to buy the box that best suits your operation.
A regular hot box, what VanVelsor terms a "holding box," is designed simply to hold hot mix asphalt that is already heated. These hot boxes are usually insulated but do not have any heat source. They are designed to transport hot mix from the plant to the jobsite and are suited only for material that will be used within a few hours.
A hot box reclaimer, on the other hand, is not only insulated but it is thermostatically controlled. It can be used to maintain the temperature of fresh hot mix over an extended period of time, but its greatest advantage is its ability to heat cold virgin mix to workable temperatures at any time of the year.
"Hot boxes or holding boxes are limited," Schwartz says. "A hot box has it's purpose for the guy who doesn't have a dump truck whose got a 2-ton repair to do in a couple of hours. But for the price it's ridiculous not to buy a hot box reclaimer."
VanVelsor agrees that contractors who are picking up material and planning on using it that day could get by with just a hot box to keep it warm. "But what happens if you fill it up with 4 tons and you have 3 tons left at 10 o'clock in the morning and the weather turns bad? What do you do? Do you have to dump it? With a reclaimer you just turn it off and then turn it on to reclaim it the next day," VanVelsor says.
Most contractors aware of hot box reclaimers know of them as part of an infrared unit, which are used extensively throughout the winter to repair potholes when hot mix plants are shut down. "Infrared is year-round repair but contractors can benefit from the winter time repair rate (price) which is double what it is in the summer time," Schwartz says.
But hot box reclaimers can be just as valuable on their own.
"There's a whole market out there for patching when you need to have hot material 24 hours a day," Schwartz says. "Being able to get hot mix out there early in the spring before the plants open and without having to wait in line for a small load when they do, that's a tremendous advantage. No longer does a paver need to throw away his virgin asphalt. He can just stockpile it for when he needs it. A hot box reclaimer can be paid for in less than two weeks doing patching."
But to be able to offer customers hot repairs with virgin asphalt all year long contractors need to have virgin mix to reclaim during the winter. So manufacturers recommend contractors stockpile virgin asphalt in any region where asphalt plants shut down.
Stockpiling takes some foresight and planning; you can't dump fresh mix in a pile and hope to use it mid-winter. Some contractors spread a 2-3 in. layer of asphalt in their yard, lightly compact it, then break it into chunks for easy stacking. Others build 2 ft. x 2 ft. sq. forms made of 2 x 4 lumber. They shovel the asphalt in the form, lightly compact it, then remove the frame and they have nice neat 2 ft. x 2 ft. chunks of asphalt 3 ½ in. thick.
"Stack them and put a layer of plastic in between each one so they don't bond together," Schwartz says. "Then, when you know you'll need hot mix the next day, just throw 1 ½ tons of the chunks into a 2-ton reclaimer and it will heat it up overnight."