Top 10 Spray-Equipment Problems

A cracked filter creates an air leak, preventing sprayer use. These are expensive problems. As a rule of thumb, filtration can be separated into three categories: sound design, careful operation, and sufficient maintenance.

A. Design. All good hand-sprayers and backpack sprayers are designed with a filter. Avoid cheaper sprayers that do not have a filter. For a power sprayer, filtration design is another issue because all vendors design them differently. Here are some important design issues:

• Filters must be easily accessible by technicians. If the filters are not, the technicians will not check and clean them. If that happens, problems will occur.

• Filtration must be designed appropriately for your application, products applied, pump, water source, etc. For example, a roller pump is more sensitive to debris than a diaphragm pump and should have more filtration. Poor water quality (i.e., a golf course that draws water from a pond) requires better filtration than a municipal water source.

B. Operation. Technicians must check filters regularly and clean them if needed. We advise our clients to start checking filters daily. If the filters are always clean, the frequency can be reduced. It is better (cheaper) to check filters too often than not enough.

C. Maintenance. Eventually filters age to the point where merely checking it is not enough. When filters become really worn, or the screen can no longer be washed out, replace them. It is much cheaper to replace filters than wait for them to fail.

4. Clean it out.

All sprayers must be periodically cleaned to remove debris (i.e., dirt, pebbles, rocks, chemical buildup). Whatever is not removed will eventually clog and damage the sprayer.

5. Don’t over-pressurize.

In order to finish a job more quickly, technicians often operate sprayers at higher-than-required pressure. Just as with running your car in the red, continually spraying at high pressure reduces equipment life. Components that are especially sensitive are pumps, hoses, gaskets, and O-rings.

Backpack sprayers seem to be particularly sensitive to over-pressurization. Train technicians to look, listen, and know the equipment. If the backpack doesn’t operate properly at normal pressure, over-pressurizing it will often worsen the situation and result in higher repair costs. Additional risks to operating under high pressure include larger chemical spills if a hose or fitting fails, as well as reduced droplet size and increased spray drift, possibly causing contamination, lawsuits, etc.

6. Always release the pressure.

Never store a sprayer under pressure. Doing so will reduce the life of hoses, fittings, gaskets, O-rings, etc., and put more stress on the pump and motor when starting. It also increases the risk of freeze damage since the water in the sprayer has no room to expand.

Releasing the pressure after each stop is recommended so technicians develop the habit of releasing the pressure at the end of the day, which is the minimum frequency at which the pressure should be released.

7. Perform preventative maintenance.

Equipment fails at busy times. Instead of waiting for that to happen, perform preventative maintenance when convenient. Remember, even the best spray equipment requires service. Spending $1 now will save $5 later.

8. Compile a preflight checklist.

Every pilot checks his or her plane’s equipment before taking off. The theory is it’s easier to fix a problem on the ground than in the air. Spray professionals should adopt a similar approach. A few minutes checking equipment at the start of the day will do two things:

• Identify problems where they can be most easily addressed.

• Find problems early when they are smaller, cheaper, and faster to fix.

The inspection is a three-step process:

• Visual inspection. Does anything look amiss? Are there fluids where they are not supposed to be? Does anything appear worn or ready to fail? Is all the equipment and product needed for the day present on the truck? Is everything secured?

• Pressure test. Pressurize the equipment. Does it build the proper pressure? Are there any leaks? Does the equipment sound and look right?

• Spray test. Does the gun deliver a good stream with the right pressure and volume?

9. Carry emergency repair kits.

Many spray-equipment problems involve small, simple repairs. If technicians have a few key parts available, they can fix the problem, saving time and money. Filters, O-rings, gaskets, and belts are easy to replace. Assess equipment to determine what to carry on the truck, as well as the technicians to determine those capable of making repairs in the field.

10. Require employee training and retraining.

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