The Key to Having Your Irrigation System Last

Posted on: September 05, 2015

That new automatic irrigation system you just had installed cost you more than a nickel or two. The last thing you want is to have problems with it, or to have it give out before it should. How do you keep your new system in top operating condition? Let’s take a look at some tips that will help prolong the system’s life.

Regular Sprinkler System Maintenance

Regular maintenance is the key to ensuring a good long life for your irrigation system. Sprinkler heads can be damaged by being run over by the lawn mower, or by being hit by the weed eater. Irrigation systems also degrade over time. So if you have dry spots, or too much water in spots, or if the water is running down the gutter, it’s time for a tune-up.

After your next lawn mowing, turn on your watering system one station at a time, and visually check to see that all the sprinkler heads are working and working properly. After you see that everything is working well, or fix what isn’t, it’s a good idea to outline a basic maintenance plan to follow. The plan can be divided into two sections: maintenance done frequently throughout the watering season, and that which only needs to be done once or twice during the season. Your climate will determine how long the watering season is.

Twice a Season Maintenance Checks

Begin your inspection at the water faucets that control the irrigation system. Check for leaks or drips. Some leaks can be easily fixed with some white plumber’s tape wound around the threads of the faucet or hose connection. If there are pressure regulators or filters attached to the faucets, check these for blockage and clean them out. Leaking control valves may have debris buildup inside. They will need to be taken apart and cleaned out.

Does your system put out the correct water pressure? If the pressure is too low, the lawn and other vegetation won’t get sufficient water. If it is too high, it can wear out the parts too soon. Too high of pressure will also waste water and may put it where you don’t want it. Water pressure test kits are available at your local irrigation supply store. Check your owner’s manual, or call the manufacturer, to see what the optimal water pressure should be for your system. Then set it accordingly.

Most fixed-spray, pop-up type of sprinkler heads work best around 30-psi. Rotor type sprinklers work well at nearly 50-psi. Micro-spray and drip systems should have a pressure regulator with a filter installed that operates at 8 to10-psi. This pressure test should only have to be done once when the system is installed. The only other time would be if changes are made to the system, such as adding or removing sprinkler heads.

Matched Application Rate Sprinklers

If there is a variety of sprinklers, drip lines, and misters all on one system, you may not be getting the appropriate coverage you desire. All these different types of sprinklers require different water pressure. Also, if you have some heads that sprinkle 360º, some that spray 180º, and others that only spray at 90º, you will have some places that will get way too much water. The 90º heads will spray four times the amount of water that the 360º does. You need to make sure that all the sprinkler have heads that have a matched application rate, meaning that all the heads will put out the same amount of water.

Angle and Coverage Of Sprinkler Heads

Make certain that all the sprinkler heads pop up properly and are parallel to the ground, not slanted or tilted. This ensures proper application of the water to the ground around it. Check to be sure that all of the area is getting covered. The sprinkler spray should overlap just a bit in order to not create dry spots in between.

Visual Irrigation Maintenance Checks

Look around to make sure there are no geysers. Anyplace you see water shooting up into the air is a sure sign of a malfunctioning sprinkler head, or possibly a broken pipe. If you elect to fix it yourself, be sure you know what type of system you have, what particular part(s) you need, and how to go about completing the repair. Putting in the wrong part can really mess things up.

Check for other sprinkler heads that are not outputting water properly. This needs to be done close up. Look for heads that are spraying erratically, spraying only from one side, or just dripping rather than spraying. Sometimes the head is cracked, chipped, or broken and needs to be replaced. Sometimes it is just clogged with debris that can be easily cleaned out.

Broken pipes underground will create a puddle above the break. Sometimes you will be able to see the water bubbling out of the ground. A broken pipe will also cause a drop in water pressure. If you notice a significant drop in water pressure, check it out immediately. You don’t want a big water bill that accrued due to a broken or leaking pipe. If you don’t feel capable of fixing it yourself, call a professional to help.

Make sure the spray pattern falls within the correct area that you want watered. If the spray is reaching a hard surface such as a driveway, sidewalk, or other similar place, adjust the sprinkler head to shrink the spray pattern. Likewise, if some area is being missed, adjust to make the spray go all the places you want it to. If the wrong sprinkler head has been installed for that particular area, you may want to replace it with a correct one.

If an area within the spray pattern is dry, but the ground is wet on either side of it, perhaps the sprinkler head is clogged. A straightened paper clip makes a handy tool to poke into the hole and clean it out.

Providing regular maintenance for your irrigation system will give you many years of hassle-free use.