Finding the Best Extension Pole for Window Cleaning: A guide to which pole is right for you
Although there’s no hard and fast rule to determine which window washing extension pole is best to meet each job’s requirements, understanding the basics of pole selection can achieve a better clean and safer experience. In general, when selecting an extension pole for professional window cleaning, focusing on price, weight and flex will yield the best choice for your unique needs.
The Physical Risk of Choosing the Wrong Window Washing Pole
It’s a common mistake for window washers just starting out, or facility managers on tightened budgets, to select a pole based on price alone. The risk here, is that often the cheaper pole, the floppier and heavier the pole is. For the pole user, a floppy, heavy pole requires more physical exertion to maneuver, increasing the likelihood of repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) when used frequently.
Common injuries from pole work include wrist pain, numbness of fingers, elbow pain, shoulder pain, upper and lower back pain, neck pain and tension headaches, all of which you can minimize by broadening the pole selection criteria to include weight and flex. Evaluating these pole characteristics will help you select a pole that minimizes the potential for RSIs by allowing the operator to perform the job with the minimum amount of physical effort.
3 Considerations for Selecting the Best Extension Pole for Window Cleaning
The most critical component of the pole you select is the material it’s made of, as that directly impacts the cost, weight and flex. To establish what material is best for your window cleaning needs, consider the following:
How tall is your highest window?
Are you cleaning 1st floor windows, or do you need to extend to clean 2nd and 3rd story windows? The height you need affects the length of the pole needed and the pole material you choose.
When calculating the required pole length, consider that the operator is not standing flat against the building. The operator stands away from the building, working the pole at an angle at which the pole will flex. To account for this positioning, a good rule of thumb is to take the height of the window and multiply it by 1.2 to account for the distance between the operator and the building. For example, for a 40’ window, you need a 48’ pole (40 x 1.2 =48).
Note that some manufacturers promote the actual height of the pole while others advertise the working height of the pole. Working height is the physical length of the pole plus an additional 3’ – 4.5’, depending on the pole, to account for the operator holding the pole. Therefore, when calculating the pole length you need, be mindful of whether the pole length is referring to actual or working height.
When considering the height of your windows, flex becomes a key factor. The higher you go, the less flex you want in the pole. Too much flex in the pole and it becomes increasingly harder to control the motion and apply the pressure needed to create the scrubbing agitation. For the operator, the extra flex of some poles, such as aluminum poles, means harder work, extra fatigue, and longer time on site. Depending on your pole length, you may need to consider a higher quality material, like carbon fiber, that has less flex to avoid these pitfalls.
Do you need a telescopic or extension pole?
There’s a sizable difference between telescopic window cleaning poles and extension poles for window washing in terms of weight. With telescopic poles, each section collapses into another. Whether you need a long pole for high access window cleaning or a shorter pole for first floor windows, an operator using a telescopic pole is carrying around the same amount of weight for either job.
On the other hand, a window cleaning extension pole is modular, meaning that the sections stack end-to-end. The benefit of this design is that the operator only carries around the length of pole needed, decreasing the load when cleaning ground level windows and increasing the weight of the pole only when cleaning windows at great heights.
What is your budget?
It’s typical for a buyer to lean toward a less expensive option if given the choice. However, in the world of window cleaning poles, when it comes to cheaper models, you’re going to get a product made from cheaper materials. Each material has its own characteristics, which need to be evaluated against the job requirements to see if it is the best extension pole for your window cleaning needs.
There are five main categories of pole materials:
$ Aluminum Poles
The Pros: Durable and inexpensive
The Cons: Heavy and flexes significantly from extension and use
$$ Fiberglass Poles
The Pros: Lighter than aluminum and easier to maneuver
The Cons: Flex is still an issue
$$$ Hybrid Poles
The Pros: Fiberglass pole with a carbon fiber wrap; Great price point
The Cons: Floppy and heavy when used over 30 feet
$$$$ Carbon Fiber Poles
The Pros: Extremely rigid and lightweight for high access window washing
The Cons: More expensive than aluminum and fiberglass poles
$$$$$ Hi Modulus (Hi-Mod)
The Pros: Stiffest pole you can get for high access cleaning
The Cons: Expensive
Sourcing Your Next Window Washing Extension Pole
After evaluating flex, weight and price, one other point to evaluate is the ergonomics of the pole. Make sure you look at the pole’s diameter at the part you’re holding to assess its level of comfort, keeping in mind the time spent gripping the pole. Also, consider the height of the pole when it’s fully collapsed. You want to be able to easily adjust the pole sections simply by standing and reaching without much effort.
Before making a pole selection, we recommend a product demonstration to assist you in assessing the pole’s flex, weight, ergonomics and maneuverability. Click here to see Unger’s selection of window cleaning extension poles and to request a demo.