Wild Winter

Features - Winter Prep

When it comes to equipment winterization, a little planning pays big dividends.

October 17, 2016

Photos by Andrew Greess

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Winterizing your pest control equipment follows that old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A little time spent winterizing your equipment can help you avoid repair expenses and eliminate downtime while waiting for repairs.

A lot of pest control equipment uses pressure to apply water-based products. Because of the presence of water in sprayers, they are subject to freezing and possible freeze damage.

Every pest control professional knows this, yet every winter repair shops are busy repairing freeze-damaged equipment. What follows are some tips for preventing damage with a minimum of effort and cost.

WHAT’S AT RISK? If you expose your equipment to freezing temperatures you may damage key components. Parts that can’t expand when water freezes may become damaged. For example, spray hoses expand when water freezes, so spray hoses are usually not a concern. Tanks are usually not a concern unless they are filled to the brim with the lid screwed on tight. The force that freezing water applies to equipment is extraordinary and even heavy-duty components will succumb. Here are some key risk areas:

  • Pumps
  • Filters
  • Manual and power sprayer guns and wands
  • Plumbing fittings
  • Valves

In many cases, the time lost waiting for repairs, or for equipment to thaw out, is more costly to the company than the freeze damage repairs. The time factor is compounded because the freeze impacts many companies and equipment at the same time. Repair shops are busy. If you think your equipment has suffered freeze damage, you might want to be the first person in line at the repair shop so you don’t spend your entire day waiting on repairs.

When it comes to power sprayers, it is important to balance risk vs. effort.

For example, if you live in a northern climate, where winter is long and the pest control season is over, it is worth a little more effort than a southern location where a deep freeze might only last a few days.

Here are some winterization strategies:

  • Backpack and compressed air sprayers.
  • Never store your sprayer under pressure.
  • If possible, remove all the liquid from the sprayer. You can do this by pumping out all the liquid, and then pumping a bit more so you are just spraying air.
  • If there is too much product in the sprayer to spray it out, then release the pressure and drain water from spray wands and valves.
  • If possible, store the sprayer inside in a heated space.

Important note: Some service technicians travel with their compressed air sprayer in the vehicle cab with them to protect the sprayer from freezing temperatures. Many states do not allow chemicals or equipment in the cab. Check with your state regulatory agency to ensure you are in compliance.

Truck-mounted power sprayers. Unlike a manual compressed air sprayer, many power sprayer pumps cannot be run dry without causing damage. This means it may be difficult to pump all the water out of the system. Check your owner’s manual or talk to your equipment supplier for advice.

Here are some winterization strategies, in order of effectiveness:

  • Store vehicles in heated spaces so freeze damage is not a risk.
  • Remove costly parts that are at greatest risk (e.g., pumps, spray guns, filter, etc.).
  • If it is too much effort to remove the pump, protect it with insulation or blankets, heated blankets, heat cables or electric lights (not fluorescent).
  • Put some anti-freeze in the tank and run the system just long enough to get the it into the pump and other key areas.
  • Remember to never store the system under pressure.

Power spray equipment also can be designed with easy winterization in mind. Discuss this with your equipment vendor. He or she can install fittings to drain liquid or add anti-freeze, etc.

All other pest control equipment. Other pest control equipment does not contain water, so it is not at as great a risk as your sprayers. That does not mean, however, that it should be ignored. For example, my 10-speed bike does not have water in it, but that doesn’t mean I leave it out in the snow. Do a quick check of all your other pest control equipment to determine what should be brought inside or what should be covered for protection.

These efforts to winterize your pest control equipment will pay dividends in the form of time and money saved and will help ensure your equipment is ready to make you money when the sun finally shines.

The author is president of Q Spray (qspray.com) and can be contacted at agreess@gie.net.