What your department needs before installation

So, you’re considering adding an ultrasonic cleaner to your sterile processing department (SPD). Is your SPD prepared? Do you have all the connections necessary to hook up an ultrasonic? Before you pitch the idea to higher-ups, you need to know what needs to be done to add an ultrasonic to your cleaning arsenal and where it will fit best within your SPD.

All ultrasonic cleaners will need the correct electrical and water connections, and most will need pressurized air, as well. The specifications for each will vary based on the size of the machine and the number of instruments it can process.

Electrical connections

Ultra Clean Systems produces six models of ultrasonic cleaners, ranging from tabletop to freestanding. All but the smallest one (the 1100) require a dedicated electrical circuit to operate with the appropriate power. The two tabletop machines require 120 volts, 10 amps, while the four larger machines need 208 volts, 10–20 amps, depending on the machine. It is important to have the voltage and amps listed in each machine’s technical specifications to prevent undervoltage or overvoltage. The technical specs also show the electrical plug configuration needed.

Water connections

Ultrasonic cleaners work with municipal water systems. There should be connections for both hot and cold water available to connect to the mixing valve. The mixing valve blends the two to get the correct temperature for the specific cycle, around 120° for hot water and 50° for cold water.

The hot and cold water also require a regulator at the connections on the wall to keep the water pressure between 15 and 60 psi. Too much pressure can cause leaks and too little could cause fill time errors.

For facilities that have reverse osmosis (RO) or deionized (DI) water, either can be used in the ultrasonics’ rinse cycle. The machine has a separate connection for this. All Ultra Clean machines come with the hoses necessary to hook up the machines to the facility water connections. For a more detailed discussion of water quality and filtration in sterile processing, see Jonathan Wilder’s articles “ST108: The Future of Water for Processing Medical Devices” and “AAMI ST108: Filters and Your Water Supply.”

Of course, since the ultrasonic systems use water in their cleaning cycles, a drain is required nearby. The machines can use a wall drain, floor drain, or drain into a sink. Each machine has its own pump to push the water out of the system. Again, Ultra Clean supplies the necessary drain hose with its machines.

Pressurized Air

Many ultrasonic systems also require pressurized air for drying the instruments after the cleaning cycle, especially those processing lumened or robotic instruments. Pressurized air is forced through the channels and lumens during the drying cycle, so they also require a regulator to adjust the flow of air. Ultra Clean’s machines all require pressurized air, except for the smallest tabletop model, where it is optional. They all include an internal regulator for pressurized air.

The largest two, the Triton 36 and Triton 72, use 70 psi because they also use pneumatic lifts to raise and lower the instrument trays. The other four of the Ultra Clean machines use 15–20 psi, which is adjustable on the machine.

Finally, one of the most important, yet often overlooked, requirements is a level surface. Whether it is a tabletop or freestanding model, an ultrasonic cleaner needs a level, flat surface to operate properly.