If you’ve had your irrigation system for many years, it may be time for some upgrades. And this is the perfect time. Irrigation professionals are more available, and lawns or plants won’t be harmed while the system’s down.
You may have noticed your water use has been increasing over the last few years, but your lawn and plants don’t look as healthy as they used to. Or you’ve had to book more service calls, and the cost of maintaining your older system is becoming excessive.
Your landscape may also have changed over the years. Plants and trees have grown, or you’ve made additions, and you need better water distribution.
There are a number of benefits to upgrading your system. Today’s newer technologies and better equipment will improve landscape watering efficiency, keep you in compliance with current and future city ordinances, deliver the correct amount of water to your lawn and plants, and save you money.
Upgrading doesn’t mean the whole irrigation system has to be replaced. It could be something as simple as changing the nozzles on your sprinklers.
Signs Your Sprinklers Need Upgrades:
- Uneven spray pattern with pop-up sprinklers. Watering gaps are usually caused by a grain of sand in the nozzle. You can clean the nozzle, but nozzles scratch easily, and just a small scratch can ruin the spray pattern. Nozzles are inexpensive, and it’s easier to replace them.
- Consistent dry spots. This can happen when you’re not getting head-to-head spacing (where the water from each sprinkler is reaching the next sprinkler on both sides). If adjusting the radius on spray and rotary nozzles doesn’t achieve 100 percent overlap, then either the nozzles or sprinkler layout need changing.
- Leaks in pop-up sprinklers. If the sprinkler cap or riser is scratched, or the riser is damaged, you’ll need a new sprinkler. A leak coming from below the sprinkler could indicate a ruptured body, or broken threads where the riser is connected to the sprinkler or the riser to the lateral pipe. Either the sprinkler or riser will have to be replaced. When replacing risers that attach to the lateral pipe, upgrade to a swing joint riser that doesn’t break if the sprinkler is stepped on or run over by a mower.
- Sprinkler low head drainage. When water continues to flow from sprinklers located at lower levels after the system is shut off, you have low head drainage. The drainage will stop when the pipes are fully drained, but it may take several hours. Low head drainage wastes water, which may be flowing onto sidewalks and curbs or creating muddy spots on your lawn.
To prevent this, upgrade sprinklers at lower elevation levels by installing check valves. You can also upgrade by replacing the sprinklers with new ones that already have the check valves built in.
Modern Sprinklers and Nozzles
Modern sprinklers are designed to apply water more evenly when fitted with the proper nozzles and spaced evenly. Just replacing older sprinklers with newer models, even with the current spacing, will improve water distribution.
Updating nozzles to those with the correct spray pattern for the landscape will result in using less water, achieve head-to-head coverage, and minimize brown spots with close-in watering around the sprinkler. Installing matched precipitation rate (MPR) nozzles will make sure all nozzles in a zone, even those with various arcs and radii, will apply water at the same rate to prevent under or overwatering. There are even nozzles available with specialty patterns to handle narrow rectangular grass areas or slopes.
It’s time to upgrade your controller if you have an older model that constantly needs repairs or is difficult to program and has a small display that’s hard to read.
Modern controllers offer a number of water saving features, such as: easy programming, a clear display, a rain/freeze sensor that delays irrigation during local rain or freeze events, and a “seasonal adjust” feature that reduces or increases watering time by percentage for the different seasons.
Upgrading to a “smart” controller provides even more water-saving features. The ones available today monitor and adjust the watering schedule on their own using climate and soil moisture data.
Weather-based smart controllers use a variety of climate information. Some use historic weather data to determine watering time, and some supplement this with an on-site temperature or solar radiation sensor for real-time adjustments.
Other climate controllers use on-site mini-weather stations or weather sensors. There are also Wi-Fi climate controllers that subscribe to a weather station network to download the information that determines the watering schedule.
There are even more advantages with Wi-Fi smart controllers. You can operate your irrigation system completely from your smartphone, tablet or computer. The Wi-Fi controllers also work with digital assistants, such as Google Assistant and Alexa, allowing you to run your irrigation system with voice commands.
Underground pipes can crack or break, and the resulting leak can go undetected for some time. It only becomes obvious when water starts gurgling up on the lawn, or there’s a visible geyser. Even if you suspect there’s a pipe leak, an irrigation professional can track it down and replace the damaged pipe section to restore your system to peak efficiency.
If the pipe was squeezed and crushed by tree roots, it may have to be relocated away from the tree.
Solenoid valve malfunctions cause such problems as leaks at the valve, water pressure issues, sprinklers not turning on or off, and leaking sprinkler heads when the zone isn’t running.
If the old valve didn’t have a flow control feature, upgrade to a better quality valve that has one. Depending on the model, the flow control is a handle or screw that regulates the amount of water passing through the valve. There are different advantages to this feature, one being the ability to force close the valve in an emergency (e.g. stuck open valve).
You’ll also want to make sure your irrigation in-line valves (and underground backflow prevention assembly) are protected by a quality valve box. Valve boxes allow for easier access for repair, and protect valves from damage by the elements, mowers, shovels, etc. Ideally, install them on a firm foundation rock base for proper drainage.
Your sprinkler system is an important investment. Call Smart Earth Sprinklers at (512) 694-1174 or contact us online for all your inspection, repair, and maintenance requirements.