It's that time of year where the cold weather finally sets in. Our thoughts of how our lawns have ended when we stopped mowing our grass. Now we focus more on our Holiday decorations, present shopping, and cleaning the house for family visitations.
While we're presently active; avoiding the cold with our remote start on our cars, heavy coats, long johns, gloves, and hand warmers (whether it be a cup of hot chocolate, coffee with our holiday creamers, or any other heat source we can lay our hands upon), we find that our lawn has pretty much fallen dormant. Obviously, we are not going out cutting the grass (thank God) in the midst of the freezing cold temperatures. No, in place of growing grass, we find a frozen ground covered in fluffy to crunchy crusty snow.
Well, before that snow hits, while the temperature is still freezing, the opportunity arises to capitalize on the frigid cold. If you find you have any spots on your lawn where the grass hasn't yet grown, this is a great opportunity to overseed.
Overseeding in the colder months prevents germination from occuring, which essentially keeps the grass from growing until the spring temperatures rise to a decent temperature in which the grass is optimal to grow. This method often works better than a summer seeding, as summer is more stressful on plants; creating a higher demand for resources and better growing conditions than winter dormant overseeding. On a side note, this method works not just with grass, but with all different kinds of seeds as well (vegetables, perennials, annuals).
Dormant overseeding is best done from December into February.
Ultra Low-Sulfur Diesel (ULSD)
The things we do to take care of the environment. GONE are the days where the black-smoke diesel vehicles reigned supreme. They've been hammered down by government mandates for vehicles to switch from LSD (not the 60's hippy drug...) to ULSD. For those who don't know the acronyms, that’s 'Low-Sulfur Diesel' and 'Ultra Low-Sulfur Diesel' respectively. Not to completely burn ULSD as a bad fuel, there are some benefits to this fuel if used in the correct environment.
The primary benefit of ULSD is the EMISSIONS! I don't know if I'm turning green from government enforced environmentalism, or green with envy of the golden days of yore where we had diesel fuel that served its purpose better in colder temperatures rather than forming candles within our gas tanks.
Not to bash the new diesel fuel, it does allow the word 'diesel' and 'clean' to be used in the same sentence which is a major feat on its own. ULSD has taken diesel from being a fuel with 5000 ppm, down to 500 ppm sulfur in 1993, and now down to a measly 15 ppm. Can you say 'over 95% cleaner'? This fuel mixed with high MPG vehicles such as the VW Golf TDI that gets 30-40 MPG while maintaining the strong performance shows the potential diesel has as a strong clean fuel source in cars.
Unfortunately, so far, it's only really been potential. While ULSD shines green for the environment, the fuel takes a beating FROM the environment. Here is how:
Diesel is required to have different blends each month to meet certain weather related criteria. The issue is that the fuel just isn't good for the cold temperatures during winter use in areas where it does get cold in winter.
Some of the issues with ULSD comparative to LSD:
- The fuel gels at higher temperatures
- The fuel retains more water
- The fuel treatments are less effective
The fuel has wax gelling issues in higher temperatures than LSD.
This brings about numerous issues in the winter.
With water, the colder the temperature, the higher the likelihood of the water content crystallizing within the diesel. This could provide numerous complications from the immediate blocking of filters; which will starve the engine of fuel, down to ice floating in the tank, accumulating over the winter, and then converting back to water when winter ends, leading to other water related issues.
The wax issue occurs as the temperature decreases the same way the water issue occurs. As the temperature decreases, the waxes come together and clog the fuel filters. The wax that is in diesel is called paraffin wax. This wax is essential in adding 'energy' to the fuel, while also giving the fuel properties of stability, viscosity, and a few other beneficial characteristics. This wax is also the wax used in most candles. When this wax collects in low temperatures, the fuel reverses some of these benefits, as well as providing another substance that can clog filters.
Additives aren't as effective with ULSD. Certain additives that worked in LCD are negated in ULSD because of other additives that were used in aiding in the purifying of the diesel from the contaminants (such as sulfur). In return, it takes more additives to yield the same results in ULSD as it does in LSD. With this issue, it's easy, and quite possible to put in to much additive and clog the filter with the anti-gel additive. How ironic.
In summer driving, this diesel seems to be fine if you're continuously running the fuel through your vehicle. If the vehicle sits, water is more likely to separate from the fuel, the wrong blend for the wrong season could be more present, and numerous more issues can arise.
So if you're having a hard time starting your diesel beast, make sure you're taking proper care of the vehicle and finding common issues related to the situations which your vehicle will be subjected. Make sure your diesel doesn't sit with an old blend of fuel in the tank.
P.S. Diesel Machines aren't immune to the ULSD fuel. Offroad diesel is also 15 ppm. Machinery is often more susceptible to more plugs with the higher tank capacity (more potential wax to form up) along with the average machine sitting in winter longer than a diesel vehicle.
Salt. Great for Steak. Bad for cars and equipment.
It's coming near to that time when we start our cars 15 minutes prior to departure just to warm the interior up. That time when we boldly drive our expensive bumper cars through the wild blizzards that are to come. Ah, winter.
Quite a few precautions are taken to prevent the spinning frenzy's we often see in winter. From sitting behind the dreadfully slow moving plow truck that pioneers the pathway through the hazardous road ahead, to having our vehicles pelted by salt with the fast and far throwing salt spreaders from the plow trucks. In some situations, we even get state-of-emergencies, in which everything is simply CLOSED. What an exhilarating day to take our teenagers into barren parking lots to learn how to drive by scaring and scarring ourselves with their horrid spins and slides that bring us close to heart attacks, sporadic lightpoles, and shopping cart holders. ‘Tis the season indeed.
Well, the major issue to be discussed is that beautiful white salt that films our cars and helps to maintain and protect our vehicles structure (from impacts) while jeopardizing its overall integrity. Oh the irony. See, salt works by lowering the freezing point of water, which melts existing and new snow, as well as prevents ice from forming on recently plowed roads. Pure unsalted water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, while salt water freezes down to -6 degrees Fahrenheit. The issue with salting roads here is simple: let me break it down in math terms...
snow+roads = snow covered roads
snow covered roads + most drivers (especially those pesky RWD only vehicles) = Accidents
salt + Snow = salty water. (which provides drivable road conditions, but the math equation doesn't end here.)
salty-wet ROADS = salty wet CARS.
Salty-wet CARS = RUSTY cars.
RUSTY cars = BAD cars.
So unless this chain is broken somewhere (preferably before the rusty part), we're going to end up with terrible rust buckets of structurally unsafe death vehicles barreling down highways, ready to just fall apart upon impact or a pothole. So... What do we do to prevent this corrosive concoction from compromising the conditions of our cars? Proper washing after our eventful voyages. Yes, yes, washing is hard to do when it is frigid outside, but do you want your reliable car to lose all its value over a short period of time because of negligence? The issue is that salt oxidizes metal; deteriorating its integrity. When we wash our cars, we often focus on the visible painted portions of the car. This is important for the integrity of the paint, presentation, and general well being of the car; however, we often miss the important exposed undercarriage of the vehicle. This important area, where your car essentially functions, is the most IMPORTANT place to keep clean (next to the front windshield one could suppose. That could present whole different hazards which we won't cover in this article). Washing the undercarriage protects essential parts such as brake lines (worst things to break when you need to brake. Unless you're on ice... brakes tend to be useless when on ice) This issue with salt is also present with Heavy Equipment! This obviously is more true when handling salt with the equipment. Salt can get into the bearings, the hinges, and the important moving parts that need to be lubricated and clear of contaminants.
In many ways, heavy equipment is more important to keep clean than a car, as most pieces of heavy equipment undergo highly intensive and varying stress loads. A car can more easily get away with rust than a piece of heavy machinery... as a machine typically will just break from varied stress (where a car has less overall stress that is constant… minus potholes and collisions).
An important note for heavy equipment: heavy equipment can hide away pesky salt deposits in places you didn't even know existed... or in the ONE place you couldn't reach, or forgot to wash... etc. etc. etc. The bottom Line: wash whatever metallic objects you have that comes into contact with salt as soon as possible to prevent rust. Do it with soap as water often will just accelerate and rekindle the oxidation. (Water on its own oxidizes metal, typically at a slower rate than salty water).
Good luck this season! Drive safe! Happy Holidays!
Things to do before Winter!
Summer is winding down, temperatures are beginning to drop, and it's time to start thinking about preparing for the late hurricane season and another winter. Christmas presents, snow tires, testing the generator are all typical things that get put off till the last minute. Don't forget to test your sump pumps in the case you get hit by a large storm system. If you need sand for your sandbags, we also have that covered. If you don't have a generator, we recommend stopping in and getting some more information about generators for the hurricane season and winter use. We do rent them, however, purchasing one guarantees the availability when the need comes for them. Don't forget to finish up those final projects before the cold settles in. The moment the ground freezes up, it'll nearly require a jackhammer to break into the frosted layer of the ground.
The advancement of Technology in Construction
The world seems to be getting more complicated with the ever expanding front of technology. Electronics have seeped into nearly every aspect of our lives. From smart phones, computers, electronic steering in vehicles, gas-electric hybrid cars, realistic graphics in computer applications and movies, down to automated toilet lid-exchangers. We've come a long way technologically in a short period of time.
In many ways, the realm of construction has hid itself from the advances of technology as it often wouldn't benefit from incorporating technology (for reasons of reliability and safety concerns); at least not as much as other industries have. There are, however, some breaks technology has acquired within the realm of construction. We now have GPS on some bulldozers which assist the operator with finding the perfect level grade on his finishing touches for a work area. GPS systems that not only monitor location, but monitor the different critical elements of the equipment (such as expected oil life, hours, on/off, etc), provide a fence and night time alert if either are breached, as well as other features. There has also been a push towards an implementation of electric sensors in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to help relay dangerous instances with not just the person wearing the PPE, but the people who are in upper management in charge of overseeing the project. There is also the newer technology of the brushless motors, and steady improvements on old designs. Many different innovations are constantly popping up and it's important to stay ahead of the curve on much of the technology whenever possible to stay ahead of competition.
Some experts believe that as the baby boomers retire, and the next generation enters the workforce, that they will bring the innovation that has been carried through their lives into the field to push the advances of technology in the construction industry even further. Could we see self-operating equipment down the road? Could we see smart phone controlled equipment? Already we have realistic simulators that run off of laptops for training purposes.
Take a moment and envision this: a construction company has just taken a contract to aid in the construction of windmills. They bring their new equipment to the job site, with a portable office that is stationed right on the job site. The office is loaded with comfortable features, cubicals, bathroom, and a dining area. In a standard cubical, TVs surround an operator displaying live video from cameras on the machine the operator is using remotely to view the area around the machine. The operator has joysticks that are active only when gripped, with an on/off operating handle, truly like an excavator, or bulldozer. He has foot pedals to move his machine, and a smaller screen to view not only his oil pressure, his fuel, and his engine vitals, but also hydraulic pressure. A camera faces the operator and detects / monitors his alertness to ensure that if he happened to fall asleep while operating, his machine would shut off. Outside the office, if say it takes 30 minutes to move a machine from one spot on the job site to another, the operator engages a mobility mode where the operator decides where he/she wants to move the piece of equipment on the job-site, sets the way-points to get there, and the equipment moves itself autonomously to that spot via the way-points set by the operator. Sensors on the machine that detect hazards, such as other machines, impassible terrain, as well as the road it needs to take would aid in guiding the machine to its location on its own. While the machine is moving, the operator gets a countdown timer of its ETA, and can either take a break during this time, or switch to operating a different piece of machinery to relief another worker, or just work in a different area while waiting for his piece of equipment to arrive at the specific location. When actively operating the piece of machinery, proximity sensors tell you how close you are to another object, and alerts you if you are to close to another object that should not be close (like a person wearing proximity sensing PPE, or a bulldozer backing to close to an excavator. However, the excavator can get close to a approved objects such as a haul truck to load it.) The technology for implementing all of these ideas has already been available on the market and tested independent of each other today.
Google has been testing Prius's on roads in California, Florida, and soon to be Texas that drive themselves.
GPS tracking and proximity technology is found on different cars as anti-cartheft devices and backup assistance.
There are remote controlled airplanes such as your typical R/C airplane, to the military UAV's.
Remote controlled backhoes are already existent and have been for a few years with a small box to operate the controls like the one found in this video here.
The wireless connection to the devices are powerful enough to stream all the data required for the operation of multiple pieces of equipment.
The big issue with major technological overhauls in the construction industry is that the efficiency, reliability, dependency is hard to predict until the systems are already in place and a benchmark has been established; which is why technology is slowly introduced into the industry. There is also the issue of software. Computers are only as smart as the operators who use them; in which programmers who would make the software to run the machinery and ensure the safety and efficiency of operation for this kind of undertaking would have to have a thorough understanding of not only the operation of the pieces of equipment, but also the construct and mechanics of the equipment.
When reality settles in, any of these advancements could happen sooner or later than any of us anticipate, or may never occur at all. Whether they ever come to exist is pure speculation; however, innovation starts with an idea and comes to life by those who are willing to capitalize on that idea and pursue the implementation of their creation.