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Editor's Note In the August 2002 issue of Landscape Contractor, our Irrigation Talk department featured an abridged article titled \\\"Choosing a Controller Enclosure.\\\" As indicated last month, we have decided to run the entire article in this November issue. The use of enclosures not only protects equipment from weather, it is also beneficial in safeguarding the landscape. Protecting the equipment from vandals or others who may improperly adjust the controls saves the landscape from possible ruin. Today's contractor has many options when choosing an enclosure for controllers or backflow prevention devices. There are many factors to consider when selecting an enclosure. Is the site subject to vandalism as in a park or shopping center, or is it in a secure area, such as a gated community? Protection from vandalism such as grafitti, baseball bats and B-B guns may be a concern. The site of the enclosure may be highly visible and therefore the design and overall aesthetics may be important. Who has access and how frequent is access to the irrigation equipment needed? How easy is access for monitoring, programming and inspection? Budget and long-term maintenance responsibilities are also considerations. Weather resistance is always a consideration, not only from nature's elements, but also from being in an irrigated environment. Enclosures are generally fabricated from metal, fiberglass or plastic. The materials used to fabricate the enclosure vary in degrees of weather and rust resistant properties. Not only do we need to consider resistance to rust, but also fertilizer and chemicals. The construction and durability of the enclosure is important, as is the strength, longevity and ease of maintenance. Selecting a Controller Enclosure The first item to consider is the type and size of the controller. Today's controller enclosures come in a variety of sizes and configurations to meet the changing needs of the irrigation industry. Many of today's controllers provide more functions and accessories that may require the addition of equipment such as moisture sensors and lightning protection. These additions can add to the space needed to house the controller. Once you determine the correct size, check for elements that will make installation and use of the equipment easier. What type of access is needed? Front opening door, two doors or top entry? Does the enclosure include a mounting backboard and is it pre-drilled and removable? Does it allow for easy access for wiring and programming? Are accessories available to make your job easier? Some manufacturers have controller assemblies available that can be added to the backboard and provide items such as terminal strips, placards and a duplex box with an on/off switch. Controller enclosures are generally fabricated from stainless steel, carbon steel (both hot- and cold-rolled), aluminum, plastic and fiberglass. The construction and durability of the enclosure is important. The strength, life span and ease of maintenance are considerations. What is the quality of workmanship and materials in the cabinet? Are hinges and welds liable to rust? Does the cabinet have features that address the conditions of being used in an irrigated landscape such as louvers or vents to allow for ventilation? Does the cabinet provide for storage of instruction manuals or maintenance documents? Specific weather-resistant attributes in cabinets that will house a controller include: water tight seals or gaskets, vents for cross flow ventilation to allow for heat and moisture dissipation, and hinges and hardware that are resistant to rust. Stainless steel has the greatest strength and durability and is impervious to weather elements, including rust. Carbon steel enclosures are strong but they are inclined to rust. While aluminum may be impervious to rust, it does not have the tensile strength of stainless or carbon steel. Metal enclosures may also have a positive effect on enhancing lightning protection. Plastic and fiberglass cabinets resist corrosion but retain more internal heat and have less UV resistance. Both powder-coated metal and fiberglass enclosures can be manufactured in colors that can enhance a specific project. Vandal-resistant features to be considered: the security of the locking system, what type of handle and is it well-placed? How easy is the cabinet to repair and remove grafitti? Does the locking system have more than one point of connection? Can the locking system accept a padlock and still limit access by vandals? Is the handle easily accessible, yet difficult to pry open by vandals? If vandalized with spray paint or hit with sharp or heavy objects, is the enclosure easy to repair? Stainless steel is the most resilient. Graffiti can be dissolved without marring the finish. Scratches can be buffed out and most heavy objects are deflected. Aluminum can scratch easily and solvents can mar the finish. The painted surfaces on carbon steel products are difficult and expensive to repair. Plastic and fiberglass can sustain permanent surface damage. Selecting a Backflow Enclosure Backflow protection devices come in an ever-increasing variety of sizes and configurations. In many areas it is required that the backflow device be installed above ground so the need to protect it and camouflage it becomes necessary. Backflow enclosures also come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and appearances. Determining the actual size of the model is very important. Be sure to include the measurement of any additional equipment such as wye strainers, etc. Also, take into account sizing to accommodate clearance for removal of enclosure for access. Most enclosures are not adjustable at the job site. Once the length and width are determined, consider all the uses for the enclosure. Is it primarily for vandal protection or to keep unauthorized people from tampering with the device? Is the device going to be near a high traffic area and highly visible, or placed in an out of the way area? Does the end user want to be able to view the backflow equipment or have it concealed? If frost damage is possible, the use of an insulated enclosure should be considered. It is important to take into account the ease of gaining access to the backflow device for shut-off or service. Can the enclosure be removed easily and adequately for annual inspections. Backflow enclosures are made from a variety of materials such as expanded metal, fiberglass, plastic, aluminum panels, and stainless steel rod and tubing. Backflow enclosures may have the appearance of a cage with an open mesh surface, a rectangular box with solid sides, or even a rock or tree stump. If the primary reason for using an enclosure is to prevent people from opening petcocks or shutting off valves then the use of a "cage" type enclosure may be best. The enclosure's material should be chosen not only for its strength, but also for its safety and aesthetics, especially in high traffic areas such as schools and parks. Although it should be easy to gain access to the backflow device for authorized personnel, the locking system needs to be adequate to prevent vandalism. If freeze protection is a concern, try an enclosure with solid sides to allow for insulation. If vandalism in the form of graffiti is a concern, then perhaps an open mesh type enclosure would be better. If freeze protection is needed with a mesh type enclosure, and the system can not be blown out before winter, then an insulated blanket-type cover can be fitted underneath the enclosure. A final consideration in the selection of a controller or backflow enclosure concerns the ease of installation at the job site. The manufacturers of both controller and backflow enclosures should provide easy-to-follow installation instructions and mounting hardware or templates as needed. Products are now available to make installation easier. Enclosure mounting pads may be made of pre-cast concrete, plastic, fiberglass or aluminum, and can provide a professional looking alternative to pouring a concrete pad.

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March 23, 2017, 11:22 am PDT

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Last Updated 03-20-17