Best Practices

Seasoned Expertise

When you purchase an Orchard-Rite® wind machine, you’re backed by our seasoned expertise. With over forty years of experience, we provide you with the knowledge you need to maximize the efficiency of your investment.

Whenever possible, plan for the location of wind machine sites before you plant the field. Create good access to install, fuel and maintain the fans. Plan for all-weather access to the tanks so they can be fueled year round.

For propane models, take the following precautions when ordering tanks:

  • Order tanks when you order your wind machines. Do not wait until the machines are installed or you may have to settle for old and potentially defective tanks.
  • Make sure fuel tank gauges and dials are compatible with ORSat® (see ORSat Dial Guide).
  • Reserve a minimum of a 500-gallon liquid propane tank and consider a 1000-gallon tank.
  • Insist on either new tanks or tanks that you can confirm have been drained and thoroughly cleaned. Old vapor tanks can have a build-up of ethyl mercaptan that can cause contamination and choke the carburetion system.

Auto-Start Set-Up

  • Obtain a critical temperature chart for the crop you are protecting. Normally start the wind machine 3 to 4° above the 10% kill temperature.
  • Install your temperature probe 50’ away from the machine and set it so the probe is the height of your lowest fruit. Make sure that the cover is facing east or south to prevent a false reading by allowing the early morning sun from warming the probe prematurely.
  • If possible, bury the wire in 3/4” pipe and seal the ends so water cannot be trapped in the pipe. Water will freeze during the winter months and can damage the jacket of the wire causing Auto-Start failures.

Pre-Season Maintenance

  • At least two weeks prior to the start of the frost season, test run your wind machines for at least one-half hour to ensure the machines are operating normally.
  • Consider replacing any batteries that are older than two years with new 800+ CCA batteries to avoid problems with Auto-Start.
  • Buy good quality batteries.
  • Auto-Start is a valuable option, but it can only work if linked to a strong battery.

During the Frost Season

  • Keep spare parts such as extra fuses, battery cables, fan belts and shear-pins on hand.
  • Have jumper cables, extra anti-freeze, engine oil and possibly a back-up portable propane tank.
  • If a critically cold night is in the forecast, start the machines during the day to be sure the batteries are charged, fuel levels are adequate and check the machines for rodents and bird nests. Avoid finding these problems in the middle of the night on the critically cold night when a problem could mean the loss of your crops.
  • Keep the fuel level at least 60% at the end of the season to avoid running out of fuel and causing damage to your machine and your crop when an unusually late frost occurs.
  • Avoid leaving the Auto-Start turned on for long periods as batteries can go dead resulting in failures to start. The battery needs to have a minimum of 12 volts to ensure trouble-free operation.
  • It is best to turn off tanks when not being used for long periods.
  • Replace rodent bait regularly. Rodents chewing on wires is the most common problem found on machines that are not maintained.
  • It is best to turn off the wind machine if the temperature rises 4° F above critical due to the arrival of clouds or the wind increases to a steady 10+ MPH. At that point, the wind is providing the same protection that the wind machine provides.
  • If the conditions are clear and there is variable wind, you should continue to run the wind machines even if you are seeing temperatures well below the critical temperature. Because the machines are preventing supercooling, you are still benefiting the crop with the wind machine running.

Supplemental Heat

  • Supplemental heat is used on nights when the forecasted low is more than 4° F below the critical temperature. The wind machine can struggle to maintain protection on those nights, especially if there is a cold drift bringing cold, untreated air into the block. The use of supplemental heat can be expected on nights when the sky clears early, the wind dies early and there is a dew point that is 5°+ below the critical temperature.
  • Supplemental heat is most needed on the side of the block where cold air is infiltrating the protection zone. Heat in this area will be carried into the block by the drift and will help the wind machine keep the temperature above critical on the edge. Without the supplemental heat, the temperature on the drift edge will decrease during the night and damage will occur as the machine struggles to keep the temperature above critical.
  • Cold spots develop where cold air pools behind ditch banks, road beds and in low areas. Supplemental heat can be placed in lines between the wind machines so the heat can be circulated back and forth to help improve conditions in the entire block.
  • Many forms of supplemental heat are used, but the most common are under-tree sprinklers, diesel or propane heaters and wood- or coal-fired heaters.
  • Under-tree sprinklers – Growers utilize under-tree sprinklers to run large blocks (5+ acres) of water at 40-plus or minus gallons/minute/acre. The heat and humidity generated give an additional 2° of temperature lift.
  • Heaters – Metal pots heated by diesel, propane, wood, coal, hay, etc. can help the wind machines with an additional 2-4° of lift depending on the strength of the system

Post-Season Maintenance

  • Turn off the Auto-Start and the fuel tank during the off-season.
  • Check to be sure your irrigation sprinklers are not wetting down the engine. To prevent condensation and corrosion, it is best if they do not hit the hood.
  • Ensure that your Auto-Start probe and wire are rolled up and secure from equipment and labor operation during the off-season. If possible, install the probe wire in conduit and bury underground. If buried, seal up the ends of the pipe with silicone and avoid trapping any water in the pipe that can freeze in cold locations causing damage to the jacket of the wire.
  • Wind machines rarely wear out, but they will rust out or fail to operate correctly if not maintained regularly. Even if you have a light running year, fully maintain the machine so it does not sit unattended for two years. If the equipment sits for two years without attention, you can expect problems when the long season arrives.
  • Arrange early with your service provider for yearly maintenance. Do not wait until after harvest because your service agent may be overloaded and unable to perform your maintenance before the onset of winter.
  • If the wind machines are not winterized, it is an excellent practice to check the machines for rodent nests once a month and run them for 20-plus minutes to charge the batteries.
  • After your machines are serviced and winterized, check the batteries and rotate any batteries that are two years or older into other equipment such as tractors and harvesters. Replace these batteries with fresh batteries prior to the frost season.