Backpack Sprayers

Photo Courtesy Of Andrew Greess

Photo Courtesy Of Andrew Greess

Many parks and recreation professionals use some type of manual backpack sprayer for weed control, fertilization, watering, etc. To ensure maintenance crews are getting the maximum results and value from a backpack, here are some suggestions to optimize your investment:

Start With The Proper Equipment 

Select a quality product that can stand up to long hours, harsh chemicals, and rough treatment. Pay particular attention to the spray wand and the pump mechanism.

The best spray wands are made of brass, which is more durable than plastic. The spray wand should be “re-buildable” so it doesn’t have to be discarded when there is a problem.

A backpack that allows the use of readily available industry-standard tips is preferred. The backpack can then be used for multiple purposes, products, and applications. Standard tips are usually cheaper than product-specific tips, so they will save money as well.

The pump mechanism should be easily accessible for cleaning and maintenance. If it is difficult to service the pump, a pile of backpacks will accumulate in the corner until someone throws them away.

The backpack’s filter must also be easily accessible to check and clean. A clogged filter causes downtime, leading to damage and repair expenses. There is one backpack brand that houses the filter inside the chemical tank, so if the filter clogs, the technician has to stick his or her hand into a tank full of chemicals to retrieve the filter. This is not recommended!

It is critical to make sure repair and replacement parts are available. If a sprayer can’t be fixed, it is essentially a disposable item and a waste of money.

Train Technicians In Correct Operating Procedures

Check it out. Have technicians do a quick check of equipment before leaving the shop. This can be as simple as a quick visual inspection, then pressurizing the unit and giving it a quick spray to ensure proper operation. Those who don’t want to discharge the product should have techs team up and spray into each other’s sprayers.

Clean the filter. Make sure technicians clean the filter frequently. Many technicians do not even know where the backpack filter is located, so training is required.

Take it easy. Do not over-pressurize sprayers; this causes parts to fail with increased repair expenses. If a backpack isn’t spraying, don’t pump it more–it will break. It is easy to turn a simple O-ring replacement into a major repair.

Release the pressure for longer equipment life and fewer problems. Certainly the pressure should be released at the end of the day, and optimally at the end of each stop. Leaving a sprayer under pressure for extended periods reduces the life of the components, such as hoses, gaskets, O-rings, etc. This also reduces the risk of wands bursting in freezing temperatures.

Don’t use the spray wand as a crowbar. Spray wands and tips are not to be used to open gates or to move trash and debris. They also should not be dragged on the ground or otherwise used inappropriately.

Follow the manufacturer’s directions for cleaning tips. This usually includes using a soft bristle brush and mild cleaner. Wire brushes, pins, and pocket knives will destroy tips.

Do not expose a sprayer to freezing temperatures–this will cost money. Spray technicians in moderate climates–where freezing is not a regular occurrence–need to be sensitive to this issue.

Keep it clean. Chemicals and debris build up in sprayers, which will eventually cause problems. Rinse sprayers, hoses, wands, and tips with clean water. You may be surprised at what you find in the unit. Aside from chemical buildup, the most common items found are labels and caps from herbicide bottles.

Report it. Make sure technicians are comfortable reporting problems. Too many times techs continue working with equipment that needs service. Instead of asking for help, they push the equipment past the breaking point, turning a small repair into a major rebuild.

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