Latest in rotor tech

October 17, 2017 -  By

Hard Work Due to a lack of labor, contractors seek rotors that are easy to install, reliable and consistent.

Labor and efficiency drive rotor technology trends.

Pop-up, open- and closed-case, multistream and mini. There are a variety of rotor types, styles and brands for irrigation professionals to choose from—and those options continue to improve to best meet their needs.

Irrigation suppliers and contractors break down the product trends, updates and what to expect with rotor technology.

Insider’s perspective

Rotors are an integral part of any irrigation service, and when used correctly, they can help contractors conserve resources and time.

“One of the most efficient ways to irrigate large turf areas is with the rotor,” says Paul Anderson, Rain Bird’s rotors product manager.

A vital part of that efficiency is pressure regulation, which has become an important component of this product. “Pressure regulation is still a relatively new technology,” Anderson says. “The focus on water conservation is driving that trend.”

Contractors are also looking for rotors that are easy to install, reliable and consistent, Anderson adds. Those requirements stem from the labor force getting smaller and contractors needing to be able to bring in new workers who can easily use and install the products.

“Being able to further simplify the process is going to be a huge factor,” Anderson says.

Products that make irrigation installation and maintenance easier for workers are going to gain the most traction in the industry, he says. “That’s going to be the next big thing.”

When it comes to purchasing rotors, Anderson says one thing contractors need to look at is if the product can put the water where they want it.

“Are you getting a good uniformity?” he asks.

Water conservation and efficiency will continue to remain priorities for contractors as well, and rotors have gone from spraying to streaming to better target the landscape, says Gary Klinefelter, CEO and founder of IrriGreen.

“Rotor technology will focus on how to more accurately put the water on the landscape,” Klinefelter says.

As for commercial versus residential properties, Anderson says the two markets are very different when it comes to their rotor needs.

“Commercial sites are looking for more performance-based products that are resistant to damage that’s more likely on a commercial site,” Anderson says. “Residential clients are looking for an easy-to-use product that’s economical.”

Finding the perfect match

For Russ Jundt, founder of Conserva Irrigation, choosing the best rotor technology for his company meant finding a product that was best in line with his values.

Headquartered in Richmond, Va., Conserva operates in 32 territories across the U.S. and offers a full list of irrigation services. Jundt is located at the Ham Lake, Minn., office and says the company is projected to hit $5 million in revenue this year.

Before the company decided on a rotor to use on all of its properties, they first did some digging.

“We’ve vetted them all out, tested them all,” Jundt says. “We based our decision on our core value proposition: professionalism, innovation and responsibility. Any product we use has to meet all of those.”

Conserva uses Toro T5 RapidSet Series rotors exclusively and orders all of them with check valves, something he calls a “must-have.” Jundt says he appreciates the fact that this product doesn’t need tools to make adjustments and that it has a 5-inch pop-up height (instead of the typical 4 inches), which helps it get above the turf.

“We like the rapid-set functionality where you can quickly adjust the arc of the rotor without a tool. It saves so much time and is a great upselling feature,” Jundt says. “You can easily set the head where it’s supposed to go.”

That saves crews a considerable amount of time, he adds, especially in situations like when the company recently onboarded 68 additional Target stores. Conserva’s clients are 70 percent residential and 30 percent commercial, and its services are about 90 percent system maintenance and upgrades and 10 percent installation.

Jundt says he doesn’t see a difference with rotors for the commercial and residential markets; he uses the same products for both. It’s just about finding one that meets his values and conservation standards, he says.

“For me, these are decisions we don’t take lightly,” Jundt says. “One poor product choice can have catastrophic results. When we make a recommendation, it has to be the right recommendation.”

Contractors should purchase rotors that match their business models, instead of making a decision based on price, Jundt says. “You should be able to negotiate price no matter the product,” he says. “The most expensive part of any project is the labor, not the rotor.”

Narrowing down the search

For Wayne Davis, president of Sprinkler Bros., rotors need to be able to ensure two things: efficiency and practicality.

“Before, you had to either choose an efficient rotor capable of saving water or a rotor that will ensure maximum lawn coverage,” Davis says. “I believe we are now seeing an evolution of rotors driven by the need to reduce installation costs, to require less maintenance and to increase water consumption. We continue to see new rotors with better components and an improved seal for higher life expectancy.”

Davis says the three main factors driving these rotor trends are increased government regulations for water sustainability, the contractor’s need for an easy-to-install system and more customer awareness of smart systems.

Davis’ team provides irrigation installation, repair, winterization and drip irrigation, serving 80 percent residential and 20 percent commercial properties. The company also has started a full-service landscape management team from the San Francisco branch and plans to roll it out to all its locations.

Sprinkler Bros. is located in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California and has an annual revenue of $9.8 million across all of its branches. The firm also plans to expand into Nevada, Utah and Colorado by the end of the year.

When purchasing rotors, Davis looks at the product’s water consumption and durability, even if the price tag is higher.

“Over the long run, the customer will benefit from low water usage, low maintenance and longevity of the system,” Davis says. “I’d rather install a premium system than a low-cost system prone to breakdowns.”

He also opts for different products on his commercial properties, compared to his residential installs.

“For commercial systems, I would choose a more heavy-duty casing as well as stainless-steel risers to deter vandalism on public turf locations,” Davis says.

As for what’s to come with rotors, Davis predicts it will revolve around improved technology that will provide uniformed distribution of water, highly adjustable arc and radius combinations, a longer range and materials that are more resilient to sun rays and chemical inputs.

Photo: Rain Bird

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