Havoc in Cold Weather, Part II

Last week, in Havoc in Cold Weather, we started the conversation about some of the things that happen to applicators in cold weather.

This week we are going to continue the discussion on cold weather, so you and your team are aware of these concerns.


There is a big difference between electric and hydraulic proportioners. Have you ever heard your hydraulic pump make a high whining noise? This is a tell-tale sign that something isn’t quite right and you should not continue to operate until you identify the problem.

In cold weather, this could occur if the hydraulic fluid is too cold, which means it is too thick and the pump could be damaged if you try to run it with cold, thick hydraulic fluid. If you find yourself with this problem, you should look for opportunities to heat the hydraulic fluid up so the pump can operate properly.

The alternative includes:

  • Replacing an expensive hydraulic pump
  • Freight cost
  • Down time waiting for the new pump to be ordered, shipped and received
  • Installation time and cost, do you know how to do this yourself?

Or you can choose a proactive solution, so that you don’t run into this problem: Keep your equipment warm during cold weather.


Your fluid pump is probably either a diaphragm pump, such as a Husky 1040, or a stick pump (also called a drum pump or transfer pump), like a Graco T1 or T2. The diaphragm pump is usually mounted on the interior wall just above the chemical drums and has a dip tube that goes into the drum. The stick or drum pump is usually screwed into the bung opening on a drum. And the cold weather affects the diaphragm pump more than it does the stick pump.

The diaphragm pump works because two rubber membranes move back and forth causing a vacuum inside the pump. This vacuum pulls the liquid from the drum through the pump and feeds the equipment. In a warm environment, these diaphragm pumps can work well. However, most liquids, including spray foam A-side and B-side material, become thicker and thicker as the surrounding temperature goes lower and lower. So, if the chemical temperature is too low, resulting in the material being too thick, the diaphragm pump WILL NOT pump it and you will not be able to circulate the open-cell B-side resin to heat it up.

Additionally, diaphragm pumps rely on water to keep them lubricated. But, most of your equipment requires dry air, so you must lubricate these pumps manually.

Solutions: Don’t use diaphragm pumps. Keep your equipment warm during cold weather.


Even if you have a closed trailer operation, as you should in colder weather, your hoses have to span the length from your rig to the building. So they have to be outside, even when it is cold. However, it is important to maintain the chemical temperature from the machine to the tip of the gun, so heated hoses are very important. One of the most important things to know is the location of the hose thermocouple or Fluid Temperature Sensor ( FTS ) which should be located as close to the gun as possible. This means the temperature will be measured close to the gun and reported back to the brain of the machine to maintain the temperature as close to the target temperature as possible.

Here are some tips:

  • Find your FTS and move it as close to the gun as possible.
  • How much hose do you have? Most proportioners can handle 50-300ft of hose. On older machines, you have to manually change a tap setting if your hose length changes for any reason. Today that is sensed and adjusted by the equipment.
  • When getting to a job site, make sure to position the rig as close as possible to the entrance point of the project; this will limit the length of the exposed hose in the cold weather.
  • Additionally, it can be beneficial to protect the exposed hose from the cold weather, for example, wrapping batt insulation around the hose or laying down wood pallets, to lay the hose on, to get the hose off of the ground.
  • Keep your equipment warm during cold weather.

That’s a quick look at proportioners, fluid pumps and hoses. Stay tuned next week and we will share a few more things that can happen in cold weather as we continue to discuss the interesting world of spray foam insulation.

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