Landscaping may be a seasonal industry, but the mulch business operates on a more fluid calendar. Some mulch producers choose to shut down their coloring operations in the winter months, particularly in northern climates. Others forge ahead, coloring, bagging and shipping product all year long. In either case, when the weather turns cold, you need to take extra steps to protect your equipment or you could end up facing some costly repairs. To save money and keep your operation running smoothly, here are some tips on how to winterize your mulch coloring equipment.
Winterizing your mulch coloring equipment
The number one most important thing is to drain all water out of the system. Pay particular attention to the water and color manifold, the color pump, the spray bar and nozzles, and the booster pump and water tank.
If you don’t properly remove all water from your system, it can freeze and severely damage parts of the machine, namely the flow meters and water pumps. Flow meters can cost around $1,000 to replace, so all valves should be left open to ensure all water has been fully drained.
To drain the water from your manifold, follow these steps:
- Disconnect the main water line going to the equipment manifold.
- Disconnect the water and colorant hose going from the manifold to the spray bar.
- Open all drain valves.
- With the main power on, set the “Prime- Off- Auto” switch to “Prime” and press and hold the water button for about 15-20 seconds. This will drain the water from inside the electric ball valve if equipped.
- Turn off power and disconnect the power line.
*Note some of these directions are specific to the Amerimulch equipment lines.
After you’ve drained the water, you’ll need to give your equipment a thorough cleaning. However, before performing any type of maintenance, it’s critical that the power going to the machine is locked out and tagged out according to standard safety procedures. Once the power has been properly disconnected, clean out all serviceable areas to remove any dirt or debris that may have collected over the season.
You should also consider lubricating your machine before putting it away for the winter. Proper lubrication is critical for machines that are constantly subjected to dirt, dust, wood, water and weather conditions. Add grease so the bearings get a fresh supply, but don’t over-grease as this can be just as dangerous as under-greasing.
You should be performing daily inspections on many of these components already. So, the only difference in winterizing your equipment is just making sure you do a thorough job so your machine is ready to go come springtime.
Storing your equipment
Unlike storing mulch colorant, you don’t need to do much to store your coloring equipment. For example, Amerimulch ColorTrom machines are built to withstand the elements and should make it through the winter just fine. However, you should place your tote coupler, hand mixer, suction hose and pick-up tube in proper storage during winter months to keep them from being damaged.
Some mulch producers also choose to disconnect their control panels and bring them indoors during the winter. While we do recommend this if you’re located in an area with particularly harsh winters, it’s not strictly necessary. All electronic components on the Amerimulch equipment ColorTrom line carry a NEMA 4 rating, which means they can withstand any winter conditions.
Operating in cold temperatures
You should not operate mulch coloring equipment in temperatures below 32°F due to the risk of freezing in various components. However, if daytime temperatures are above the freezing mark, it is possible to color throughout the winter.
Some suppliers experience freezing issues in the spring and late fall, when nighttime temperatures dip below freezing. So, it’s important to check the forecast and stay "weather aware" any time the temperature even approaches the freezing mark.
Take advantage of the season
If you’re not going to be coloring, or coloring very infrequently during the winter months, use the downtime as an opportunity to perform more significant maintenance on your coloring equipment. Experts at ChromaScape recommend replacing your hoses every year, so this may be a good time to make the switch. ChromaScape can also refurbish your pump injection system to make sure it’s performing at the highest possible level.
The winter may be the off-season for many mulch producers. But it’s the perfect time to take stock of your equipment and make preparations so you can hit the ground running come springtime.
Ready to upgrade your mulch coloring equipment? Contact ChromaScape today to see the difference upgrading to an Amerimulch ColorTrom machine could make for your business!