February 12, 2020
As the grass begins to change colors and temperature is increasing, so are the business demands for irrigation services in Eastern Iowa.
“We dropped the eight-ball in 2014,” said Scott Dinderman, owner of Fleming Irrigation Inc., 7900 Peterman Ln, Cedar Rapids. “Normally we get out there the first or second week of March. You can’t turn anything on, but you can get rolling. But couple that with the late start from projects backed up [that couldn’t be finished in the winter due to weather] and we’re really backed up.”
Usually irrigation businesses are asked to come turn on the irrigation systems for residential homes and businesses in early March, but this year, most could not do anything until mid to late April. If they did come earlier, because of the few warm days earlier last month, the pipes ended up freezing again. The companies are now on track to open everyone’s pipes, and hope the temperature does not drop too low again.
“We never worry about highs, we worry about lows,” Dinderman said. “We try to get a jump start on things and work as early as possible but the weather wouldn’t allow it. April and May is the busiest time to catch up.”
All irrigation business owners said a majority of people and businesses have irrigation systems in their homes or businesses now, because of the convenience of not having to control the water.
“Basically any high end home that is over $200,000 has an irrigation system,” said Chuck Hansen, owner of Iowa Sprinkler Systems, 6969 Mt Vernon Rd SE. Cedar Rapids.
Hansen originally opened up his company 30 years ago because of the lack of irrigation businesses, which he said has greatly evolved since that time.
“The market was wide open,” he said. “There wasn’t anyone doing it and we had a huge need for lawn irrigation. Now everyone has a system.”
Each company had a different price and type of system for irrigation, ranging from changing the size of the sprinkler to having multiple sprinkler heads. One company, Hynek Landscaping, 12013 34th St SW, Swisher, is unique in the sense that they cater solely for temporary systems. If there is a residential home being built, for example, and the contractor wants the lawn green for potential buyers, Hynek will install a system and then remove it once it fulfills its purpose. Paul Hynek, owner of the company, said they are the only company in Eastern Iowa to have this type of service.
“We came out with a system that doesn’t have permanent irrigation, it just germinates [the lawn] and establishes it for the homeowner or contractor,” Hynek said. “It’s so much easier and more efficient to help with the customers.”
Cost for a system varies, depending on the size of the field. A rough estimate can range anywhere from $2,000 to $250,000.
Although types of irrigation services and systems vary, training for employees to install the systems focuses less on training in a classroom and more on getting out into the field to learn by doing. Each businesses has somewhere between six to 12 employees, with two of the companies hiring college interns in the summer, which is their busier time of year.
“A lot of it is learn on the job,” Dinderman said. “A lot of guys we hire right out of Kirkwood [Community College] because they were introduced to irrigation through the landscaping program. We do train them in class as well with an Irrigation Association certified contractor. We want to take advantage of continuing education.”
Hansen’s business has a more classroom-intensive program. They are TORO certified, the only company in Linn County, which involves attending yearly training to learn about the changes in the industry and how to address them.
“Every year we go to training school for layout and design learning,” he said. “We also learn about the newest ways to use new technology and experiment with that.”
However training is done, business owners said the field is constantly changing and it is important to keep up with the latest techniques and technology.
“It’s constant improvement,” Dinderman said. “Now there are technology controllers, it’s all a computerized way. It’s way more advanced than a conventional system ever was. It becomes much more complicated, but much cheaper and future service is so much easier.”
One large technology change that is recently very beneficial with the large amount of snow and rain this season is the weather-based technology and controller. It measures how much water the ground needs, and how much has evaporated since the last time the system ran to calculate the perfect amount of water needed without wasting any.
All the company owners believe irrigation systems are the more inexpensive, easier way to help keep one’s lawn healthy through the year.
“It’s a way for them to get their lawn back on track at a faster rate,” Hynek said. “It’s more cost effective, without the dependency on themselves to do anything.”
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