What to consider
Research is essential for any contractor considering adding infrared equipment, Marshall says. Determine what you want to use it for and where. Decide on your target markets and who your customers will be. Research the different manufacturers and equipment available. And make yourself familiar with the infrared industry itself.
Possibly the biggest concern for a contractor looking into infrared is the cost of the unit. Infrared equipment can range in price from the low thousands to more than $40,000, Burke says.
How much money can be budgeted for the purchase, use, and maintenance of the equipment must be taken into consideration before a contractor adds anything new to his or her equipment line, Marshall adds.
But cost isn't the only issue to consider. A contractor needs to make sure he finds a unit that will fit into his business and work with the services he plans to offer. Where a contractor does business - driveways, parking lots, roads, etc. - will also influence the unit he chooses to purchase.
It is important that contractors consider the planned use for the infrared equipment before they decide what size and configuration to purchase, Marshall says. Contractors not only need to consider the type and size of job the equipment will be doing, but also how often the equipment will be used.
"The more I keep my assets working, and working profitably, then the more money I make," Burke says. Larger units will be more of an investment but worth it if a contractor plans to use it often. If the unit will only be used as a part-time service, a smaller unit might be a better purchase.
However, Van Velsor says that some contractors will make the mistake of buying too small of a pavement heater. "You need equipment that is large enough to allow you to accomplish a dollar amount to make it all worth while," he says.
Infrared units in today's market have a wide range of sizes and configurations. They can range from covering 4-square-feet to 64-square feet, Marshall says. And they are available as walk-behind, truck-mounted, and trailer-mounted units. All units can be used for the same applications, but some may be a better choice than others depending on jobsite conditions.
Once you've made your equipment purchase it's time to market your new services. Marshall suggests listing the services on your website or putting a logo on your trucks. Another great marketing tool is demonstrations.
"When people see the process they can't help being impressed," Van Velsor says. "It makes a lasting impression well beyond the purchase order."
The limits of infrared
Using infrared technology and equipment to repair pavement failures, apply thermoplastics, or create decorative asphalt can definitely save a contractor time and money. Marshall says it typically takes 20 minutes from start to finish to repair a pothole with an infrared heater. But infrared is not a miracle cure for all pavement failures.
"It's definitely not the fix-all-sum," Marshall says. "That's kind of a misconception some people do have with these - they can go out and repair any problem with asphalt, and it's going to last. If there's a bad base issue the problem will likely come back after looking good for a year or two. There will be problem areas where a contractor needs to decide whether to use the traditional method or heater repair in order to give customers the quality patches they deserve."