Outdoor Services Crew

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pump Log 2000

A constant challenge for Turfgrass professionals has, and will always be irrigation. It is the most crucial of all agronomic techniques especially during times of drought and high temperatures. There have been many advances over the years to increase the efficiency of the irrigation application; sprinkler heads are more precise in their applications, central control systems have become even more advanced, and many great tools now exist to help with "site specific" irrigation needs.

The pump station is something that over the past 10 years has become a focus for irrigation companies. They have worked to incorporate technologies that make for better energy efficiency, flow management and operational safeties. These features help to assure that the station will stay operational at the most crucial of times.

To make an irrigation application, you need two components. One is the central control system computer, and the second is the pump station. The control system is where you control what stations are going to run and for how long, while the pump station actually delivers the water to the sprinklers and ultimately to the landscape.  Traditionally these two components have operated independently of each other. There have been a couple of programs that work to connect these two systems so that they act together to provide a more comprehensive operation. Flowtronex Pump Log 2000 is one of those programs. Recently, through advances in radio technology, I have been able to link these two systems by bringing Pump Log to CU!

These two pictures show the pump log interface that I'm able to see on the Toro Sitepro computer. One of the biggest stress points turf managers have is worrying whether the pump stations are still online and running smooth, especially at times when we are not around to physically check on them. There are many times in the middle of the night during hot stretches of weather where I wake up wondering whether everything is watering O.K. and if the systems are all online and working properly. The old method was to drive in during weekends or late at night to verify everything is working properly. With this new system I'm able to check on the stations from anywhere by dialing into the system and looking at the Pump Log program. This has been a great help especially during this hot summer.

One other benefit to the system is the datalog capabilities of Pump Log. When you have a central control system you are able to input data specific to each sprinkler zone to help the computer manage the Gallons Per Minute properly. This insures that the system pressure is always at the desired point. In the past when you felt like you may have flow problems, you needed to sit in the pump house during the entire night, watching the screen to see your pressures and flows, and then pin point a time when the program may not be functioning properly. Obviously this was a time consuming process, not to mention a tiring one.

In the above pictures you can basically see two different graphs. The top graph is the amount of water that the Network 8000 (central control system computer) thinks is running, while the bottom graph is the amount of water that the pump station is actually pumping. This is a gold mine of information for turfguys like myself. I'm able to glean massive amounts of information from this data; specifically how my irrigation system pressures look through the entire irrigation cycle and also what gallons per minute are flowing.

As you can see the graphs are very similar on the surface, but when I look deeper into what is really going on there is a descrepancy between what the computer thinks is flowing and what is actually happening.

Based on this type of information I felt we needed to complete a full campus audit of every single sprinkler zone on the entire campus. This summer we have had two student employees working on this audit. They go to every single station on campus with a print out of every single station from the Network 8000 computer. The Network 8000 has a "control system" where all kinds of information is stored. I spoke about the Network 8000 computer control system in this post from a little while ago. In the control system, large amounts of data are input such as type of head, type of nozzle in that head, number of heads, etc. This data is very important, as with all computers they only know what you tell them. Therefore if the data is incorrect it can cause problems through the whole system. The staff will go to every single station, turn it on, and then compare what is in the computer with what is actually in the field. We have found some pretty significant differences which once repaired will help the entire system function better.

We have recently finished the west main part of campus and I have input the data into the system. I have not gone live with this new information yet as I have been testing it to make sure everything is still functioning properly and that no additional problems were caused when the data was changed.

Currently I have Pump Log up and running on the two pump stations on main campus and am working through some challenges before the new Williams Village station goes online. So far the system already worked in our favor a couple of weekends during this summer, as we were able to see that we had a problem and could respond to rectify the situation. This prevented the station from being down all weekend long.

I can't tell you how nice it is to be able to have this technology. The middle-of-the-night cold sweats are no more!! :-)


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Little Tricks

First of all to all who follow this blog I apologize for not posting in a while. As you well know this year has been one of our biggest construction years in a very long time. We have been extremely busy with construction and it has taken all of my focus for many months now. Also with the extremely dry spring and early summer we have been up and running at full speed for many months. But the final push is close, only a few weeks left until fall semester begins and there will be many long days trying to get the place ready for fall semester.

But now that we have gotten things under control I wanted to get back to providing information and writing some posts. Hope you enjoy.

As I have talked about in past posts, construction during the summer is one of our biggest triumphs and challenges. There are only a few months where the campus is relatively quiet and this allows for a whole years worth of work to try and be accomplished in just a few short months. One of the challenges we are consistantly faced with is maintaining the campus landscape while construction is impacting the irrigation system.

Over the years we have come up with many creative ways to continue irrigation operations outside of construction sites while the vital portions of the irrigation system are actually in the construction zone.

There are two main pieces of the irrigation system that, depending on the location of construction, need to be maintained through the construction zone those would be the mainline and the control wires. At the Recreation Center renovation we have a situation where we have had to make drastic accomodations to keep things running. In the pictures above you see a fire hose and control wires.

The fire hose is acting as the mainline through the construction site. What happens is at the beginning of the day the contractor shuts off two new gate valves and un-hooks the fire hose. They then roll it up and move it out of the way. Then at the end of the day they hook the fire hose back up and turn the gate valves back on and re-pressurize the system.
We have used many little tricks like this to keep things going. We have hung mainlines from I-Beam supports before but we have does the "By-Pass" trick many many times. This allows the contractor to remove a risk from their jobsite and insure that they dont have mainline breaks which can slow the whole project down and cost money at time.

The controls wires, on the other hand, are a different story. With the fire hose it is very easy to shut it down and un-hook it becase there is no sequencing or anything, it is basically a simple task that for the most part can't be done wrong. With the control wires though if they were to have to cut them each day and move them out of the way it would be a time consuming task and wires could possibly get mixed up or not hooked up correctly each day. Since each of these wires is associated with a specific sprinkler zone it is crucial to make sure and keep the proper wire sequencing or risk un-intended operation of the sprinkler stations.

This is where we have to sometimes take the wires and re-route them completely around the construction area into a "safe zone" that is away from vehicle and construction traffic. It is a very time consuming task but once it is done it wont need to be adjusted until the new mainlines and irrigation are installed in the later stages of the project.
As you can see with some of the pictures we have taken the control wires up and around the work site and they are very safe at this time. unfortunately it is not the cleanest looking adjustment but as a former boss used to always say to me, "you have to crack some eggs to make and omelette!"

This kind of "work-around" is very common here on campus. We have a very dense campus and there are a lot of utilities. Every contractor has to work very hard with the campus to help make sure the core functions of the campus remain while working to improve the campus as a whole.

The best way to look at situations like this is to have an open mind and think outside of the box! If you focus too hard on "normal" methods you will have a tough time achieving the end goal of the university, which is to provide a great environment to help our student population have the best chance to succeed in higher learning.