Farmers use pull-behind sprayers because they have large areas to cover and the efficiency they get from the wide coverage offered by a large sprayer boom benefits their bottom line. But what about a homeowner? Now we are talking about a much smaller spray boom, but would a pull-type sprayer be worth it for your yard?
A pull-behind sprayer is worth it for a homeowner who does their own pesticide application for many reasons. Not only can you spray more acres in less time, but you also get better coverage, and it is less demanding physically. There are several factors that affect how valuable or more efficient a pull-behind sprayer can be for your specific situation. So, let’s jump in and examine how a pull sprayer works compared to other types of lawn sprayers.
Testing a Pull-Behind Sprayer on My Lawn
In order to learn how a pull-behind sprayer would compare to other types of sprayers for lawn care, I ran a small test. We will get to the specifics of the test results in a moment, but first, let’s clarify the exact sprayer types we are comparing.
Pull-behind sprayers, as the name suggests, are sprayers designed to be towed behind something. For lawns, this is usually a mower or lawn tractor. For larger turf areas, fields, food plots, etc. it could be a pickup truck, ATV, UTV, etc. They all have a spray boom with several nozzles or a set of boomless nozzles. The width of the spray boom can vary. A pull-type sprayer has a larger tank capacity than a hand pump or backpack sprayer making them a popular choice for larger lawns or commercial properties.
In the past, I ran a similar test with a hand pump and backpack sprayers. So I have a good idea of the kind of time it takes to cover an area with both of those. So the first thing I did was mark off the same area, 5000 sq ft, so I could hook up my sprayer to my mower, fill it with water, and spray.
The sprayer I used for this test consists of a 12-volt pump and two spray nozzles on a small boom. It covers about a 7-foot swath with one pass.
Now, to truly compare apples to apples, you would need to figure out what gallons per acre rate you want to apply and then size the nozzles for your travel speed so you are applying the same rate. But, for the purpose of simply seeing how long it would take to cover the same area, this is not critical.
How Long Did It Take to Spray My Lawn With My Pull-Behind Sprayer?
To actually cover the area it took just under seven minutes. This did not include the time it took to fill and mix chemicals in the tank. I did time this and it took just under 4 minutes. So the total time to spray 5000 square feet with a small boom sprayer is about 11 minutes.
If you read my article comparing backpack sprayers and hand pump sprayers, you will note that this is roughly the same time that it took to spray 5000 square feet with my hand pump sprayer and longer than it took to do the same work with a backpack sprayer.
This leads to the natural question: “Why would anyone waste money on a pull-type sprayer”. After seeing these results, that is a valid question, but this test does not fully portray the full benefits of a pull-type sprayer.
Now, there are a few things to take into consideration about the test. First, you could use a sprayer with a wider boom and cover the area much faster than I was able to. Second, I drove very slowly. I do not have a speedometer on my mower, but I was traveling at a slower speed than I walked while spraying. Increasing your speed, if possible will obviously decrease the time it takes to spray.
Benefits of Pull-Type Sprayers
In addition to these factors, there are other benefits that you get from a pull-type sprayer, that backpack and hand sprayers don’t provide:
Even though we have shown above that my small pull-type sprayer did not provide any more efficiency than other smaller sprayer types. A larger boom and faster speed will result in the ability to cover more ground in less time.
You do not have to increase the boom size to gain a lot more efficiency. If you increase your boom coverage from 7 ft to 10 ft, you have decreased your spray time potentially by 40%. There are many factors that affect this such as time to turn around avoid obstacles, etc.
This is one of the most important differences between pull-type boom sprayers and other manual sprayers where you use a spray wand. A pull-type sprayer will evenly and consistently apply liquid across your lawn. Spraying with a wand, your coverage varies because your walking speed varies and your arm movement is not always consistent. Furthermore, you are bound to miss spots as you move your arm back and forth.
Ease of Use
While a pull-behind boom sprayer is a slightly more complex machine than backpack sprayers or hand pump sprayers, they require less physical input from the user. No need to pump a handle, use a spray wand, or carry/pull the sprayer by hand. A pull-behind sprayer, along with the vehicle pulling it, does all the work.
So even if you are able to cover an area in the same amount of time as you would with a backpack sprayer, you are doing so with much less effort. This allows you to spray longer without fatigue. This makes pull-behind sprayers an excellent choice for elderly or disabled individuals who still want to maintain their lawns personally.
Drawbacks of a Pull-Type Lawn Sprayer
While a pull-type sprayer has many benefits, it is going to cost you. A small tow-behind lawn sprayer will start at about $400-500. This includes a boom that covers 7-8 ft and a spray gun. If you want a wider boom, some of those sprayers can cost over $1000.
A larger boom that provides wider coverage will cost more. You can save some money building your own boom. For more details about building a sprayer and boom, take a look at these articles:
Ultimately your budget and the value you put on the time saved will affect your choice.
All sprayer types will require maintenance. However, a pull-type boom sprayer requires more maintenance than a backpack sprayer or hand sprayer. Pull-type sprayers have electric pumps that need to be rinsed out to maintain proper operation and avoid chemical damage. They also need to be connected to your vehicle’s battery to run.
In addition, you have a larger tank to rinse out and additional components like regulating valves, and strainers that can wear out or need to be replaced over time. If you want to see a more detailed breakdown, be sure to read this article that shows the components of a boom sprayer in detail.
A larger boom is harder to maneuver. If you have a yard with a lot of obstacles or a fence, a wide boom can be a hindrance and actually hurt your efficiency. Mowers need space to turn around and get lined back up to spray another pass. Obstacles can make this a time-consuming and inefficient process.
Lawn Size for Pull-Type Sprayer
Generally speaking, if your lawn is half an acre or larger (20,000 sq ft+), a pull-behind sprayer would be a worthwhile investment. For smaller lawns, especially if you have lots of obstacles in your yard, a hand pump or backpack sprayer may be more manageable.
You can benefit from the consistent even spray and wider coverage of a spray boom without a pull-behind sprayer. There are many “handboom” or walk-behind boom accessories you can use with a backpack sprayer.
These are easier to maneuver and less costly, but make your work more efficient and your results more consistent. This Chapin boom accessory is designed to turn a backpack sprayer into a “boom sprayer”. There may be one designed to fit your backpack sprayer or you could make your own.
While a small pull-type sprayer may not help you spray your yard much faster, it does have significant advantages in terms of even coverage, and ease of use, particularly for those with physical limitations. If you have a larger lawn, then a larger boom sprayer will definitely be more worth it.
So is a pull-type sprayer worth it? Yes, in the right scenario. If you have a lawn of 20,000 square feet or more, it will save you a lot of effort plus give you more consistent results. Just be sure your boom is wide enough to make sure you are covering your lawn more efficiently than with a backpack or hand sprayer.