Shop smart

Sprayers and spreaders are a big investment, and choosing the right ones is crucial for proper applications. For efficient crews and happy customers, consider these factors before you buy.

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Pick your priorities.

When it comes to shopping for new equipment, Ron Connor, fleet and safety manager for Lawn Dawg in Nashua, N.H., keeps four considerations top of mind for his nearly $13-million company:

“No. 1, the equipment has to be reliable,” he says. “It has to live up to the commercial requirements we have of a million square feet a week per applicator.”

Second: Is the equipment easy to fix?

“Most lawn guys work on their own equipment, and not many mower shops know how to work on fertilizer equipment, so we look for equipment we can fix in-house that’s relatively easy to work on and get up and running in less than an hour,” Connor says.

Budget comes next. He says an entry-level sprayer-spreader will run around $6,000-7,000. A higher-end unit, he says, will cost closer to $10,000 on the retail side. When you’re buying multiple units, it pays to negotiate a better deal, Connor says.

Finally, customer service is key. “How well does the company stand behind its products?” Connor asks.

Consider key features.

Chris Lemcke, technical director for Canada-based Weed Man, is all about keeping things simple when it comes to selecting sprayers for his company. “We try not to make them too complicated,” Lemcke says of the company, which posted $134 million in 2013 revenue. He favors sprayers with reels on each side of the truck, so employees can pull from either side.

Rather than using a spray gun, most of Weed Man’s almost 300 franchises use a low-pressure, heavy-droplet wand. “It’s easier to train on, we save on chemical costs and it’s more environmentally friendly because we can spot treat when we need to versus blanket spraying,” Lemcke says.

Lemcke is also a fan of aluminum tanks rather than plastic ones. “We’ve used aluminum tanks for nearly 40 years. We’ve had rollovers and the tanks hold, so they don’t spill any material,” he says.

Although Weed Man franchises, which serve mostly residential customers, have used electric pumps in the past, most now use gas-powered ones for their versatility. “They go at a lower pressure, which is great, but can go at higher pressure for more output,” Lemcke says.

On the other hand, Tod Hampton, president of 20-employee Tender Lawn Care in Cummings, Ga., favors electric sprayers. Originally, his company used gas sprayers and pumps for tree and shrub services, but now that landscape technicians are cross-trained to also take care of trees and shrubs – and gasoline equipment can’t go in the enclosed vans the company uses – the company switched to all electric models. “It saves us a lot of money having one vehicle on the property instead of two,” Hampton says.

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