Get pumped about Irrigation Technology

Pump stations are critical to the working operations of any golf course. It’s important for superintendents and operators to know what technologies and customization options are available. This information will help them make the best selections for their current flow and pressure requirements.

Thanks to new developments and features, today’s pump stations offer superior levels of energy efficiency, pressure and water management, and program customization with the irrigation central controls. Additionally, it’s important to know how to look for the signs to know when it’s time for a new pump station. Even with proper maintenance, a pump station will eventually need to be replaced due to worn parts, component obsolescence or rust.

Everyday use
Nothing is more valuable than performing quarterly or semi-annual preventative maintenance inspections. Preventative maintenance measures as simple as sanding off rust and repainting components are key to extending the pump station’s life. Other measures, such as monitoring pump motor oil levels, checking pump performance, lubricating valve handles that may have rusted in place, checking for frayed wiring and cleaning filter screens, can also help extend a pump station’s life.

Pump stations that operate in climates with extreme swings in weather conditions are the most susceptible to damage or breakdown. Water, no matter the source, will lead to rusting of the pump station’s metal structure. Sometimes this only affects the physical appearance of the unit, but other times the rust will eventually crumble the supporting structure, which will necessitate full replacement. To combat rust, manufacturers have started offering aluminum, special quality vinyl coatings and even stainless steel options for pump stations, as well as specialized coatings on the inside surface of the piping to help lessen the effects of corrosive elements in some water sources. Stainless steel is often used on pump stations to combat harsh weather conditions and the damaging effects of salt.

With industry advancements in water management and energy efficiency, older motors are not in line with the efficiency standards of newer premium efficient models. Sometimes it can be possible to retrofit units with new pumps and motors, as well as upgrading the control panel, but many times there are compatibility issues, making full replacement the only option.

The life cycle of a pump station is approximately 20 to 25 years, however, in areas like Arizona where it is working year-round, the lifespan is usually shorter. Generally speaking, the pump station will run seven to 10 months of the year in this type of climate.
Other signs equipment might need to be replaced include water leaking through weakened connections, distortion of exterior motor components or housing, degradation in pumping efficiency or flow and units that employ dated technology.

Advanced technology
The industry has come a long way with pump station features. During the past 30 years, pump technology has improved considerably, with the biggest advancements in controls. Smart technology provides modern benefits for users.

Aging irrigation controllers, such as an electro-mechanical controller, were engineered with no program flexibility, but newer digital units are highly customizable to meet any variety of water needs. Customized controllers are adaptable to local water conservation guidelines and personalized landscape designs. This customization ensures that each micro-climate remains watered to optimal levels, while conserving where possible. More advanced systems use satellite weather data to provide the user with daily evapo-transpiration values to better manage water use.

Today’s communication capabilities are superior to previous control systems. Superintendents and operators hold the power of the pump station in their hands. Real-time updates are available with technology, including Ethernet, smartphone applications and Toro® Lynx®. Human–machine interface screens and advanced controls can make an operator’s day easier by providing updates when they are not on the greens.

Additionally, new pump software programs manage power and efficiency better than ever before with the use of variable frequency drives. VFD technology enables control of the AC motor speed and torque by varying the input frequency and voltage to match the system demands. As demand increases, the VFD speeds up, which improves control efficiency and optimizes flow. These pump software programs and better integration with irrigation controls can make today’s pump stations up to 30 percent more efficient than those from 20 years ago.

If a station is in need of replacement, the best time to schedule it is when the unit is not in high demand, usually the winter. It typically takes two to three days to remove an old station and install the new one. A welder, electrician and pump service technician will need to be onsite to ensure proper fit and operation.

The technological advantages of today’s pump stations make replacement a good option for many courses with aging units. Superintendents should assess their units to weigh the cost of upgrading against the cost of a repair and maintenance of their current stations. Additionally, updated systems also contribute to increased energy efficiency and result in cost savings.

Pump stations are vital for any golf course’s working operations. Luckily, today’s technologies and customization options put users in control and provide real-time data and results. Now’s the time to get pumped about irrigation technology.

About the author: Dan Gregg is the central regional sales manager for Flowtronex Prepackaged Pump Stations, a Xylem Applied Water Systems brand. He is a registered landscape architect, Texas Licensed Irrigator and EPA Water Sense partner with more than 35 years of experience in landscape irrigation design, consultation and sales.

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