If you want to save water, money, time, and effort, your first thought should be to hire a professional licensed irrigator when installing a sprinkler system. In fact, it’s against the law in Texas for anyone to sell or install an irrigation system who isn’t licensed by the TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality).
Licensed Texas irrigators must spend many hours in the classroom, pass a comprehensive exam, and devote a minimum of 24 hours every three years taking Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to maintain their license. Most irrigation professionals are members of a professional organization that keeps them up to date with training, product developments, and changes in local and state regulations.
As an assurance to clients, licensed irrigators must also undergo extensive background checks through the TCEQ. And most professionals carry insurance that protects you and your property, such as Workman’s compensation and general liability insurance.
Here are more reasons you should hire a licensed irrigator:
Installing an irrigation system begins with a design plan, and all new installations must have one. Licensed irrigators receive training in design planning, which contains some of these basic steps:
- Locating site utilities.
- Determining soil types.
- Measuring the yard, and noting plant materials, relevant elevation changes, sunny/shady/partly shaded areas, boundaries (fences, walls, driveways, sidewalks).
- Drawing a plan to scale and comparing it to the site.
- Determining water pressure (psi) and gallons per minute (GPM) available from the water connection.
- Selecting system components (e.g. backflow preventer, mainline, valves, sprinkler heads, lateral pipes), and determining pressure losses from the equipment and elevation changes.
- Balancing the system by making pressure loss adjustments.
- Calculating the correct distance between sprinklers, the precipitation rate, and the GPM for each sprinkler head.
- Determining where to place each sprinkler head in the system and marking it on the plan.
- Identifying hydro-zones and creating different valve zones for various plant materials (e.g. trees, shrubs, flower gardens).
- Drawing the sprinkler pipe layout on the plan.
- Running a preliminary pressure loss calculation.
- Calculating the size for each lateral pipe.
- Determining the location and type of controller and sensors.
Licensed irrigators also learn to install, maintain, and service backflow preventers to ensure against contaminated drinking water. In Texas you must have a backflow device by law. Your licensed installer is knowledgeable on the types of devices that meet both your system needs and local codes.
Correct Sprinkler Head Layout
Sprinkler heads should be placed so that the spray from each sprinkler reaches all the way to the next sprinkler in every direction for 100 percent overlap. This is known as head-to-head coverage. If the spray falls short, you’ll have dry spots. Heads placed too close to driveways and sidewalks results in runoff, and if placed too close to walls or fences will waste water and money watering these structures.
Too many sprinkler heads in a zone lowers the water pressure for each sprinkler. The sprinklers will shoot very little water, and the pop-up sprinklers might not pop up with the lower pressure. With too few sprinkler heads the area isn’t getting adequate coverage. Some plant materials will be under-watered, becoming dry and brown, while other areas near the sprinkler will be green, and possibly over-watered. A licensed irrigator will make sure there’s proper head layout so these situations don’t occur.
Separate Zones for Matched Precipitation Rate Sprinklers
Texas law requires that all sprinklers in the same zone must have matched precipitation rates. Mixing a high precipitation sprinkler with a low one results in one head over-watering and the other under-watering their area. Precipitation rates differ between brands and models, so one brand and model should be used in each zone. However, other types of sprinklers can be used in different zones to match the area size and type of plant material (e.g. drip emitters for a garden, rotors for large lawn areas, and spray heads for smaller lawn sections).
Professionals know how to choose the correct nozzles for rotor sprinklers in order to have matched precipitation rates. For example, a rotor that’s watering a 1/3 circle requires a nozzle that is applying 1/3 of the GPM compared to the nozzle on a full circle rotor in the same zone.
It’s easier to match precipitation rates and distance in the same zone with spray sprinklers. The nozzle patterns with most spray head brands can be mixed and matched — however, the professional ensures the nozzles are matched precipitation spray nozzles before doing so.
Drip and Micro Irrigation Systems
Licensed irrigators know how to properly install drip and micro irrigation to ensure easy future inspection and repair. They know the proper layout and watering needs of various plant materials for the installation of spot emitters, dripper line, subsurface, or micro irrigation components. Trained in the benefits and concerns of drip and micro irrigation, the professional can educate the system’s owner in the proper maintenance. With proper care, a drip irrigation system can last 10 years or longer.
The wiring used to connect the automatic controller to the valve has to be the right gauge for the valve model being used, as well as the correct length for the distance between the controller and the valve. It also has to be suitable for direct burial in the ground (direct burial wire), and properly placed to prevent accidental damage. As well, wire splices need to be protected from water through the use of waterproof splice connectors. If not, water leaking into the splice corrodes the wire, and either shorts it out or creates an electrical open.
A professional irrigator not only knows the types of wiring to use, and underground installation techniques, but if repairs are needed, can also troubleshoot electrical problems using specialized equipment.
Pipes and Trenching
According to the Texas Administrative Code (TAC), “piping in all irrigation systems must be installed according to the manufacturer’s published specifications for depth coverage of piping.” If these aren’t published, then all piping must be at least 6 inches deep, and all trenches must be brought back to the original grade.
PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipe is commonly installed in irrigation systems in warmer climates. Most PVC pipe is connected using
PVC fittings that are glued in place using a primer and cement. Some PVC pipes have threaded ends, and these are joined using push fittings rather than glue. Push fittings consist of O-rings to create a watertight seal, and a locking mechanism with teeth that grips the pipe to hold it inside the fitting.
In Texas, with all new irrigation systems using PVC pipe, a colored primer (purple) must be used before applying the PVC cement (in accordance with the Uniform Plumbing Code (Section 316), or the International Plumbing Code (Section 605)).
All licensed irrigators have been trained in the rules, regulations and standards applicable to irrigation and will ensure their installations are in compliance.
The irrigation professional will help you select a smart controller for your system and will show you how to program and use it effectively to conserve water and take care of all your plant materials. He’ll be aware of your specific watering days and permitted watering times, as well as the fact that all new automated systems or replacement controllers in Texas must include a rain sensor or other shutoff device that’s approved by the TCEQ. He can also show you all the available features of a smart controller, such as Wi-Fi connections to your cellphone or tablet for remote control, system regulation based on local weather conditions, flow rate monitoring, and automatic seasonal watering adjustments.
When you hire Smart Earth Sprinklers to install or repair your system, you’re getting over 19 years of professional experience. Here are some of the services provided:
- Expert custom designs for your yard and water needs.
- Installation of best, high quality parts to minimize future maintenance and total lifetime cost of your system.
- System planned to conserve water.
- Sprinkler installations done by Smart Earth’s licensed irrigation technicians — no subcontractors.
- All PVC joints primed and glued — no push fittings used.
- Smart Controllers installed on all new systems without a major cost increase.
- Wireless rain and freeze sensors on all new systems.
- Owner provided with state required irrigation plan upon completion of installation.
- 2-year warranty on every installation.
- Addition of new zones to an existing system.
- Modification of system for landscape or renovations.
- Overhaul of existing system.
For the very best in sprinkler design, installation, maintenance, and repair call the experts at Smart Earth Sprinklers at (512) 694-1147.