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10 Tips To Understanding An Automatic Sprinkler System

Read below for great tips for understanding the components of an irrigation system and how they operate.

1 - Backflow Preventor

Installing a backflow prevention device is the first step to implementing an automatic irrigation system. You do not want dirty water backing up into your drinking water. If you are unsure how to go about installing one, have a licensed plumbing professional come in to do this for you.

2 - PSI & GPM

Pressure (PSI) and gallons per minute (GPM) play an important factor in how well the irrigation system will operate. 60psi is good working pressure for lawns, while 30 psi is great for gardens. 7gpm or greater would provide optimum flow to a zone of sprinklers where, for example, each of the four spray heads is operating on a 1.5 gallon nozzle.

3 - Sprinkler Spray Heads

While there are several sprinkler models available, essentially there are two types, rotary and fixed. Choosing the right one will depend on the size of the space to irrigate. Large lawn areas require rotors that put out 25-45 foot spray distances. The smaller spray-heads are perfect with various interchangeable nozzles that can supply water effectively in spaces that have are irregular shaped.

4 - Trenching

Digging trenches for irrigation distribution lines can seem overwhelming. Honestly, there's a right shovel and the wrong one! If you do not know the trenching shovel to use or the job is large scale, rent a trencher from your local hardware store. Simply set the depth the trencher needs to dig and walk it out. Great for plowing through trees roots too.

5 - Sprinkler Connection Fittings

Swing joints are used to connect your sprinkler heads to the main distribution poly pipe. It's flexible enough to make a secure connection, and will help maintain the water pressure to the sprinkler head.

6 - Electric Valves

Each solenoid valve is a regulator that operates each sprinkler zone in your yard. They are wired back to the controller and individually operated through a scheduling system that you will set up on the controller.

7 - Garden Watering

Drip irrigation is the way to go with residential gardens, trees, and shrubs. It's an easy install process to string the tubing around the perimeter of the garden and downsize from there to a 1/4" tubing that is connected to various drippers and sprinklers that can be simply arranged and adjust at your convenience.

8 - Watering Times

Morning watering is best. Avoid watering in the evening as this results in overnight moisture conditions that create mold and mildew. Urban areas have some pressure challenges in the mornings due to working/schooling schedules when most systems connected to the main city lines are being used for showers and such, but find the time that operates your system best, maybe it's 5am and stick with it.

9 - When Rain Falls

Rain Sensors are an essential component to an irrigation system. You don't want to be the neighbor at work with an irrigation system operating in full 6-zone cycles during a rain storm. People talk, but give them something else to discuss, like how well maintained your landscape is. The beauty about a rain sensor is that it can be set to determine how much rain falls before sending a message to shut down the controller allowing it to resume under dryer conditions.

10 - Winterizing & Springizing

Yes, that's a fancy new word, springizing. Some call it dewinterizing. For this explanation it separates the seasons of irrigation methods.

SPRINGIZING is preparing your irrigation system for summer seasonal operation. It consists of a review of all components, the controller, main valve, manifold valves, pipes, rain sensor, and making sure all sprinkler heads are in good condition. Once the main water supply valve is back on then it's time to cycle through each zone manually to determine if all components are set and ready for operation.

WINTERIZING the irrigation system is a yearly operation where all water is blown out from the lines and sprinklers so as to avoid breakage during freezing season.

To do this, simply shut off the main water valve in the mechanic room, hook up at an air compressor to the wye faucet located either inside the house on the meter line, the outside faucet, or directly to the valves of each zone - if there is a connection. Set the psi to 70 for lawns sprinklers, and 40psi for garden sprinklers.

Blow air through each zone for 5 minutes, then cycle back and repeat through each zone one more time or until no more water is purging through the sprinklers.

You can read more on the setting in one of our previous editorials.


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