"The E-Z Pour 50 is our least expensive unit and requires little training time to use. It features a one-hour heat-up time and applies all hot pour sealants. The Super Shot 60 is a pumping unit that also is easy to use. Among features is a 15-ft. heated applicator hose. This unit is ideal for sealing anywhere from several hundred feet to 4,000 to 5,000 feet of cracks a day."
When asked what contractors should look for when purchasing a melter/applicator, Manning, says categorically, "durability." "The primary asset in any melter/applicator is its durability. Heavy, rugged, and durable is the name of the game. Burners can heat steel to 1,200°F. At that temperature, heavy-gauge steel is important. Take a close look at the weight of the machine before making a purchase. The complete weight will disclose a lot about its durability."
Among special features and options to consider, he points to an integrated compressor as a feature that facilitates the drying out and cleaning of cracks while eliminating the need to drag around a compressor on a separate trailer (and the individual to drive the trailer). He notes, too, that all Super Shot models come standard with a heated hose that delivers the sealant to the crack at just the right temperature so it will adhere properly.
"If you're truly undecided about the brand, size of machine you need for the application, or the special features you may want, consider renting a melter/applicator prior to buying one," he says.
Direct versus indirect heat
Melters heat the material in one of two ways, either using direct or indirect heat. "Direct fire melters heat material virtually the same way a barbecue cooks a hamburger," says Brad Dunn, vice president of sales and marketing for Minnesota-based Cimline. "Material is loaded directly on tubes heated by a propane source. The trick is to always keep the tubes covered to avoid combustion. Direct-fire melters are less expensive than their indirect heated counterparts, but the sealant is more expensive.
"With melters using indirect heat, as the name suggests, the heated material never contacts the direct heat source. Instead, a burner heats transfer oil that is contained in an oil jacket."
Cimline offers three direct-fire models in its Heatwave Series and four sizes in its Magma indirect-heat models.
"I like to steer smaller contractors toward our 60- and 110- gallon Magma series models," says Dunn. "The 60-gallon unit is the least expensive but is only available with gravity feed. Our 110-gallon unit offers more flexibility, available as a gravity-feed version or with a pump to apply the sealant. Contractors can equip this model with either a heated or non-heated hose and choose between a propane or diesel engine to run the pump. They also have the option to equip the melter with an integrated air compressor."
Contractors have several decisions to make when purchasing a melter/applicator, says Dunn, and costs can be deceiving.
"A diesel engine, for example, lasts longer and is a less expensive to operate than one fueled by propane, but it is more expensive on the front end. A heated hose is substantially more costly than a standard hose, but it allows the contractor to apply sealant when temperatures are not ideal, in early spring and late fall. I would guess more than half of our contractor customers buy units with the heated hose."
Some operators purchase both heated and non-heated hoses, planning to use the non-heated hose during the summer months. Hoses get damaged and using a less-expensive standard hose in the summer makes economic sense for some operators.
All the above manufacturers point out that basing a purchase decision for any major piece of equipment, including a melter/applicator, on price alone is risky at best. Unless you have only sporadic use for the machine, it needs to be rugged and durable, have enough capacity to suit the application, and be fitted with features that will increase productivity and ease of use.
Getting fitted up
You have a truck, a trailer, and a melter/applicator. Now all you need are a few cracks to seal, and a few more pieces of equipment. The equipment list likely would include a tool to clean and dry cracks (a backpack blower or an air compressor, either stand alone or integrated into the melter/applicator) and pour pots, even if you have a unit with an applicator hose. Dunn says pour pots come in handy for smaller jobs.