A pump is one of the more expensive components of a golf course or parks sprayer. It also can cause the most problems if not treated properly, although most of these can be avoided with a little attention.
Here are the top five pump problems:
1. Can’t Find Parts
Be sure to buy a name-brand pump with a good warranty and availability of parts and repair kits. If a sprayer is down for two weeks while trying to find parts, the complaints about brown fairways and overtime costs will seem much more important than the few dollars saved up front. Do not buy proprietary pumps or pumps that are only available from a single source.
The same approach applies to pump-control units, pressure-relief valves and gear boxes. Some proprietary control units are particularly elaborate, or have unique couplers that make them difficult to replace. Make sure not to purchase an obscure controller built-to-order in Europe, and only available with an eight-week lead time. When buying a pump, it may be worth asking what parts are likely to fail first, then stocking the necessary parts and repair kit for the first service.
2. Selecting The Wrong Pump
A golf course equipment manager recently inquired why his fairway sprayer couldn’t spray the tall trees lining the course. The answer was that he had purchased a sprayer with a centrifugal pump designed to provide high-volume output to drive a large boom and provide jet agitation within the tank, but the pump did not produce the pressure required to push water through 200 feet of hose to the top of a tall tree.
If the manager had discussed the tall-tree requirement with his equipment vendor when purchasing the unit, the vendor could have selected a different pump that would have done both jobs.
It is critical that the vendor building the sprayer know exactly how the equipment will be used. Failure to take the time up front to explain detailed requirements will likely mean you will not be happy with the final product. Pump selection should be based on:
• Products being applied
• Volume required to do the job (boom, hose, agitation, etc.)
• Pressure required to do the job (spray height, distance, droplet size)
• Skill/ability of the maintenance staff to service/repair the pump.
3. Not Doing Preventative Maintenance
Regardless of the type, brand or price of a pump, it requires maintenance, which must be done at least annually. Pumps exposed to hard use probably require more frequent maintenance. Don’t wait for a pump to fail before servicing it. This is a recipe for an expensive disaster. Proactive service saves time and money. Pumps fail when they are being used frequently, which is typically during the busy season when downtime can be least afforded.
A poorly trained technician may cause serious damage to a pump as well as to a department’s productivity.
There are two main categories of training problems:
• Pressure. Technicians often run spray pumps at excessively high pressure for extended periods of time in order to finish the job more quickly. Most pumps can run at high revolutions for short periods, but running “in the red” for extended periods will reduce pump life and cause hoses, O-rings, gaskets and other parts to fail faster than they would otherwise. High pressure also can mean smaller spray-droplet size, which can cause undesired and potentially dangerous spray drift.
When the equipment is returned at the end of the day, it is a good idea for the supervisor to start the sprayer and see at what pressure the system is being run.
• Ignoring problems. Not paying attention will absolutely result in more severe, more expensive problems, higher repair bills and more downtime. Train technicians to be aware of the equipment--look and listen for problems and report them promptly. Most pumps have warning signs that indicate there is a problem. For example, diaphragm pumps have an oil reservoir that will turn cloudy when the diaphragms burst. Centrifugal pumps and roller pumps begin to leak at the seal. If these problems are noted when they first occur, then installing the pump’s repair kit will usually solve them. When these warning signs are ignored, chances are a new pump will need to be purchased.
Make sure technicians know these signs, and know whom to contact. Supervisors can also inspect equipment for these tell-tale signs. Remember: just because an employee is told what to do on his or her first day on the job doesn’t mean it is still being done.
5. Not Cleaning The Pump Out
Unless only water is being sprayed, a pump should be cleaned out. The materials most parks and recreation departments apply through spray pumps can be abrasive or corrosive.
Granular fertilizers can be the worst, and herbicides are also tough on many pumps. If these materials are continually left in the pump when the spraying task is complete, they may build up in the pump, hoses and fittings. This debris can degrade pump performance, and if the buildup is severe enough, total pump failure can result.
Selecting the right pump and following a few, simple proactive steps will not only extend the life of equipment, but will make life much easier.
Andrew Greess is the President of Quality Equipment & Spray, which designs and builds custom landscape, golf- and pest-control spray equipment solutions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.