Turf Maintenance

Artificial Turf Heat

High field temperatures may be experienced by athletes using synthetic fields on sunny days. One study published in the Journal of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation,has shown surface temperatures as much as 95 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit higher on synthetic turf than natural turfgrass when exposed to sunlight.

High humidity coupled with high heat can cause a high heat index indicating limited time exposures for athletes and can contribute to serious heat-related health problems. Watering the field prior to a game on a sunny day may temporarily lower the surface temperature. During clear, sunny conditions, it is suggested that sports turf managers, coaches, trainers, and health care professionals monitor the heat index and make appropriate adjustments to practice and game schedules. In these situations, it is strongly suggested that you purchase an infrared thermometer so that the surface temperatures can be monitored continuously.

The following is a study by C. Frank Williams and Gilbert E. Pulley of Brigham Young University. We bring all of these factors up to our customers during our inspections. Keeping kids safe if our #1 priority.

“Synthetic Surface Heat Studies”

Artificial turf surfaces have long been regarded as a lower maintenance alternative to natural turf. However, artificial turf synthetic surfaces like natural turf have their shortcomings. In the spring of 2002 a Field Turf synthetic surface was installed on one half of Brigham Young University’s Football Practice Field. The other half of the installation is a sand-based natural turf field. Shortly after the Field Turf was installed football camps were started. The coaches noticed the surface of the synthetic turf was very hot. One of the coaches got blisters on the bottom of his feet through his tennis shoes. An investigation was launched to determine the range of the temperatures, the effect water for cooling of the surfaces, and how the temperatures compared to other surfaces.

On June of 2002 preliminary temperatures were taken at five feet and six inches above the surface and at the surface with an infrared thermometer of the synthetic turf, natural turf, bare soil, asphalt and concrete. A soil thermometer was used to measure the temperature at two inches below the surface of the synthetic turf. Also, water was used to cool the surface of the natural and artificial turf. It was determined that the natural turf did not heat up very quickly after the irrigation so only the artificial turf was tracked at five and twenty minutes after wetting. The results of the preliminary study are shocking. The surface temperature of the synthetic turf was 37o F higher than asphalt and 86.5o F hotter than natural turf. Two inches below the synthetic turf surface was 28.5o F hotter than natural turf at the surface. Irrigation of the synthetic turf had a significant result cooling the surface from 174o F to 85o F but after five minutes the temperature rebounded to 120o F. The temperature rebuilt to 164o F after only twenty minutes. These preliminary findings led to a more comprehensive look at the factors involved in heating of the artificial turf.

Three aspects of light were measured along with relative humidity. The synthetic surface was treated as two areas, the soccer field and the football field and the natural turf was one area. Four randomly selected sampling spots were marked with a measuring tape from reference points on the fields so it could be accessed for subsequent data collection. Bare soil, concrete, and asphalt sampling areas were selected and marked in a similar manner.

Surface Temperature of Artificial Turf is significantly higher than air or soil temperature of artificial turf. The amount of light (electromagnetic radiation) has a greater impact on temperature of Artificial Turf than air temperature. The hottest surface temperature recorded was 200o F on a 98o F day. Even in October the surface temperature reached 112.4o F. This is 32.4o F higher than the air temperature. White lines and shaded areas are less affected because of reflection and intensity of light. Natural grass areas have the lowest surface and subsurface temperatures than other surfaces measured. Cooling with water could be a good strategy but the volume of water needed to dissipate the heat is greatly lessened by poor engineering (infiltration and percolation).

Average air temperature over natural turf in the late afternoon is lower than other surfaces. Soil temperature of Artificial Turf is greater than bare soil and natural turf. Humidity appears to be inversely related to surface and soil temperature. It is likely that energy is absorbed from the sunlight by the water vapor.

The heating characteristics of the Artificial Turf make cooling during events a priority. The Safety Office at B.Y.U. set 120o F as the maximum temperature that the surface could reach. When temperature reaches 122o F it takes less than 10 minutes to cause injury to skin. At this temperature the surface had to be cooled before play was allowed to continue on the surface. The surface is monitored constantly and watered when temperatures reach the maximum. The heat control adds many maintenance dollars to the maintenance budget.

A budget comparison was made using actual dollars spent and for every dollar spent on the Artificial Turf maintenance one dollar and thirty cents was spent on the natural turf practice field. While construction costs are very unbalanced, for every dollar spent on the Natural Turf, eleven dollars and seventy-seven dollars were spent on the Artificial Turf.

The area under the carpet of BYU’s installation is designed to move water from the surface and into an extensive drain mat system. This part of the installation is two thirds of the overall cost of the Artificial Turf Thus, for a 2.5 million dollars installation approximately 1.7 million dollars go for the subsurface and drainage. The most interesting thing about this is that the drain mat probably sees little or no water. The surface is hydrophobic and the undersurface is poorly engineered to favor water retention rather than drainage. That seems like a high price to pay for something that may not work under hot conditions.

Artificial turf surfaces have their place in the turf industry. They can work in environments where grass will not grow, where utilization needs to be fulfilled with more activities. However, they are costly and not maintenance free. It is important to take all the factors in to consideration before making a large investment. Don’t take the manufacture’s word for the factors of concern i.e. don’t let the fox guard the hen house. The propaganda on BYU’s installation is charts with surface temperatures less than the air temperature and claims for drainage of 60 inches per hour.

For more information on this contact us at (949) 407-5362

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