Irrigation System Spring Tune-Up

lush lawn with sprinkler working nicelyWith the warmer weather arriving, it’s time for your irrigation system spring tune-up. It’s important that your system is working properly throughout the upcoming seasons to maintain a healthy lawn, and to ensure you’re not wasting water and increasing your water bill.

Here is a start-up checklist to get your system up and running for the spring:

  • Inspect sprinkler heads. Remove any debris, dirt, gravel or vegetation that’s collected on or around them. Replace any cracked or broken ones in each zone with the same brand and model.
  • Straighten any tilted sprinkler heads.
  • Adjust any sprinkler heads that are too low or too high.
  • Ensure the tops of sprinkler heads are at a correct angle to the slope of the lawn.
  • If you haven’t run your system during the winter, create a flush point by removing the sprinkler head at the end of each zone to allow any debris (or insects) to escape freely when the system is first run.
  • Locate the valve boxes, and carefully inspect the valve assemblies for damage.

  

Check the backflow preventer (if it’s above ground) for any damage, even if you ran your system periodically during the winter. Then slowly open the isolation valve to allow the pipes to fill with water gradually. This helps prevent water hammer (water hammer is a high pressure surge of water in the lines that can cause burst pipes or even cracked fittings when the air which currently fills the pipes is replaced by water).

Inspect the controller to make sure it’s functioning and that the time and date are correct. If it has a back-up battery, change it. This should be done every six months (fall and spring). A few of the high-end controllers have built-in battery chargers, so the batteries will last for years. Most newer controllers now come with non-volatile program memory and long-lasting batteries to keep the clock running during a power outage. These batteries are like the ones in your computer — they last for years, and you may never need to change them.

If the system was shut-off during the winter, run it now to flush out any debris or insects. Run each zone separately, and allow enough time for the system to flush. Ensure that water is coming out through the flush points you created  earlier. When finished, replace the end caps or rotors at the end of each zone.

Next, inspect your irrigation system to verify the proper operation of each station valve. Manually activate each zone one at a time from the controller, and walk through each station looking for the following issues:

  • Check for leaks in pop-up spray heads. If you spot leaks, clean out any debris in the sprinklers, and make sure the caps are tight. Replace any internal parts if they’re damaged.
  • Look for uneven gaps in the fan-shaped spray that indicate a partially blocked filter or nozzle. Clean the filter. If the nozzle is the problem, remove it and carefully clean it. Nozzles do scratch easily, so it’s faster to replace them, and they’re not expensive.
  • Make sure the spray goes all the way to the next spray-head. If the spray is going too far or not far enough, turn the radius adjustment screw on each nozzle to achieve proper head-to-head spacing.
  • For pop-up rotor sprinklers, check that they’re rotating, and the water stream is shooting a good distance. Clean the filters if these issues exist, and if that doesn’t solve the problem, replace the affected sprinklers.
  • Check that pop-up sprinklers are popping up fully. If not, a possible reason could be debris in the sprinkler heads and filters, or damaged sprinklers. Another cause could be low water pressure, preventing the heads from rising. To resolve this, check to make sure the valves on your backflow device are fully open to provide the highest water pressure. As well, check for leaks in the water line.
  • Check that pop-up sprinklers are lowering completely. Look for debris or dirt between the risers and sprinkler heads, and clean it out. If worn-out seals are causing the problem, replace them. If the risers are broken, you’ll have to replace the sprinkler heads.
  • Inspect valve boxes. If they’re wet, look for worn parts, loose wiring, and water leaking out between fittings.
  • Look for signs of broken or leaky pipes. These include: water bubbling up from the soil when the system is running, a depression in the ground, or a very wet or soft area.
  • Check if the sprinkler heads at lower elevations continue to drain when the system is turned off. If so, replace draining sprinkler heads with check valves.
  • Make sure each zone shuts off properly when you’ve finished inspecting it.
  • Check that your irrigation sensors are operating properly (e.g. rain, soil, weather).

Once you’ve finished your spring inspection, set up your controller for automatic watering.

Many of these tune-up steps can be done by the do-it-yourself homeowner. However, a professional can do these and more, such as: inspect the main and lateral lines for leaks, adjust the arc and distance on all rotor heads, check the station control valves for proper operation, make sure valves are closing properly, check sensors for proper operation, inspect system for proper water pressure, test the valve wiring from the controller, provide a watering schedule based on current restrictions, and even program your controller if you request it. Plus, during a spring tune-up, a professional can identify any necessary repairs and potential problems, helping you to keep your system and lawn in tip-top shape.

Trust Smart Earth Sprinklers to keep your sprinkler system in top operating condition.  Call us today at (512) 694-1147 for prompt and reliable service.

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