Shedding Some Light on Irrigation
Do you have questions about how irrigation systems work? Spring Showers Irrigation has gathered the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions about irrigation. Should you not find the answer to your specific question listed on this page, please feel free to reach out to us directly via phone or email.
Q. How can I reduce the cost of installing a sprinkler system?
A. You can request consumer-grade parts, but you will probably pay more in the long run for water and maintenance, and most appraisers will be wary of a system made from cheap parts when it comes time to sell your home. You can, however, defer the cost of part of the system by installing it in sections. It’s very easy to work on a sprinkler system in stages, as long as adequate planning is done upfront. Be sure to lay wires in the trenches in anticipation of future valves, install tees (with a short piece of pipe in them, temporarily capped off) for future zone expansion, etc. You can easily add onto the short pipe at a later date to add one sprinkler – or several stations, depending on how the system is designed. You may choose not to water the whole yard right away, but don’t eliminate the opportunity for easy future expansion just to save a dollar on a few tees.
Q. What’s the difference between professional grade and cheaper retail parts?
A. Professional-grade parts are often made by the same manufacturers as consumer-grade parts, although the commercial parts carry longer warranties and have features not found in cheaper parts, making them easier to install, more efficient, and more reliable. Close inspection often reveals important differences. It may be a Toro® 570 sprinkler, but is it a 570Z or a 570C? The Z model has improved seals. The Rain Bird® commercial sprinklers come with a flush plug installed, saving you hours of nozzle flushing and filter cleaning. Commercial sprinklers have check valve and flow control options, which are actually required in many locations. In almost every case, the consumer line is the 5- or 10-year-old commercial line of the same manufacturer, or a commercial line that has been unsuccessful competing in the commercial market.
Q. Why is it important for a garden system to be divided into zones?
A. Lawns, borders, shrubs, hanging baskets, etc. all have different water requirements. In addition, the equipment to water these areas works at differing pressures and applies water at differing rates. A good design will allow these areas to be controlled separately, and therefore, watered in the most effective and efficient manner.
Q. How long should I water for?
A. This will depend on many factors, including soil structure, planting, local climatic conditions, and the installed equipment. It’s not possible to provide specific times without this knowledge. However, our system designers will provide details within the specification which can be used as an initial guideline for your system.
Q. Will an automatic system use more water?
A. Definitely not! The whole concept of automatic control is to provide consistency with watering which can be easily adjusted to provide maximum benefit with minimum water usage.
Q. I live in a hard water area. Will this affect my system?
A. Generally not. However, certain products, e.g. drip irrigation systems, will tend to block prematurely if filtration is not used. We always recommend a filter is fitted to all drip systems. Most sprinkler heads are designed with integral filters as well.
Q. How can I prevent my system from operating if it rains?
A. All of our installations come equipped with a rain sensor connected to the automatic controller. This device automatically turns off the controller when the moisture-sensing apparatus is triggered. The unit then resets as the garden dries out.
Q. When is the best time to water?
A. At night, when evaporation losses are lowest. Additionally, no damage to the plants from sun scorch can occur. We always suggest that watering is timed to commence as late at night as possible but also to ensure that it’s completed well before sunrise.
Q. What is a built-in check valve? Are they good to have?
A. Built-in check valves are used to keep water from seeping out the low sprinkler head after the valve shuts off. This helps save water by reducing run-off. They’re particularly useful along curbs and on steep slopes, but don’t do much in very flat yards.
Q. The sprinkler description says they cover 25 to 50 feet. How do I know how far they’ll reach after they’re installed?
A. The distance that a sprinkler throws water is determined by the pressure at the sprinkler during operation. The radius can also be adjusted within certain limits using the radius setting of the sprinkler. You can also reduce the radius of any sprinkler or nozzle we sell up to 30% by adjusting the radius screw on the sprinkler or nozzle. Don’t reduce the radius more than 30% or watering uniformity will suffer.
Q. Is an expensive controller really worth the price?
A. The controller is the heart of the system. In a real sense, it’s the money meter. The controller directly influences your water cost by controlling the watering schedule. Sophisticated features such as seasonal adjust (also called water budgeting), programmable rain delay, and multiple programs (at least three are needed usually) are key tools for saving money. An expensive controller can pay for itself many times over in reduced water costs if it has the right feature set. As the most visible item in your system, the controller is a tip-off to home inspectors and appraisers. If they see a cheap controller, they know to warn their client about your sprinkler system. If they see a commercial controller, they assume the system was installed by a knowledgeable person.
Q. What is a rotor? What types are there?
A. Rotors are sprinklers that shoot a jet of water. The stream is moved back and forth across the area to be watered. Over a period of time, the water distribution is uniform. Rotors usually have a relatively low precipitation rate, so one station of rotors can cover a large area. There are single-stream rotors, multi-stream rotors, full-circle and part-circle rotors. The best rotors are gear-driven rotors. Avoid impact rotors because the open cases cause big reliability problems.
Q. What is a spray sprinkler? What types are there?
A. The spray sprinkler sprays water over the whole area to be watered the entire time it’s watering. In other words, the spray pattern does not move back and forth like a rotor. Spray sprinklers come with interchangeable nozzles to provide varying radius and arc choices. While most spray sprinklers do pretty much the same job, there’s a big difference in the quality of the seals and ability to "pop down" reliably, so be sure to get commercial-grade versions.
Q. Which type of sprinkler is best, rotors or spray?
A. Rotors work best for large areas without a lot of complicated lawn area shapes. The only time they work well in smaller yards is in unobstructed rectangular areas that happen to measure at an even multiple of the radius distance. They are ideal for large lawns. Spray sprinklers do a better job of watering small yards or yards with lots of obstructions, such as trees and bushes, walls, fences, etc.
Q. I wish to purchase some equipment to install myself, but I am unsure of what I need. What do I do next?
A. Simply provide us with a scale plan of your area with as much detail as possible. We’ll then discuss with you the options available and provide you with a quotation for a specific kit of parts to enable you to install the system yourself.
Q. I wish to have a comprehensive system designed and installed for my large garden. What do I do next?
A. It’s essential that you meet our systems designer on-site to ensure that you’re made aware of the options available to you and to discuss which areas are to be irrigated. Our designer will also discuss with you the locations of all equipment, power requirements, etc. and show you how the system could be installed. After the meeting, a thorough survey of the site will be undertaken to allow a scale drawing to be produced. This is the basis for the irrigation design. Once the design is completed, our designer will provide a full layout plan of the system, together with a complete specification of all equipment to be used and a fixed-price quotation. Our designer will then meet with you to discuss the details, make any changes required, and agree upon an installation schedule. Installation is then carried out by our trained installers using our own specialized equipment to ensure a quality installation.
Q. Can I run a system from my tap?
A. Generally, drip systems and spray systems may be run from a tap. However, the amount of equipment operated will be determined by the available flow and pressure. Pop-up sprinkler systems require higher pressures and flows, and therefore, require more water than that which is provided by an ordinary hose bib.
Q. What is the benefit of automatic control?
A. Automatic control allows irrigation at night when evaporation losses are lowest and pressure’s highest and most constant. It also provides strict control over the amount of water used, and therefore, minimizes water being wasted and promotes water conservation.
Q. What guarantees are provided on equipment and systems?
A. All of our equipment is guaranteed for a minimum of 12 months from the date of purchase. Systems designed, supplied, and installed by us are covered by a full parts and labour guarantee for 12 months from handover. This can be extended if required.
Q. Can my system be easily extended?
A. Yes, provided thought is given at an early stage as to potential extension areas. You should consider pipe sizes, cable sizes, and controller types carefully if you think this may happen. Many of our customers extend their systems regularly. If you’re unsure how to proceed, please call us for free advice.
Q. How unsightly will the equipment be?
A. A good system will blend easily into the landscape and will be very unobtrusive. For example, pop-up sprinklers may be used for the lawn areas, whilst the shrub beds may use a spray head installed below the ground. Drip lines are normally installed under the mulch level. Drippers are very small and are locally fed from a small 1/4” distribution tube clipped to the building. Valve boxes are generally installed at ground level, but are dark green in colour and may be located in a secluded area.
Q. Will my lawn have fewer weeds if I fertilize with a sprinkler system, as opposed to not having one?
A. Yes. One of the most important things involved with proper fertilization is a consistent application of both the fertilizer and water. This schedule can be set up automatically on your controller and brings about the best results.
Q. I wish to install a drip system for my pots and baskets, but the pressure fluctuates badly. What can I do?
A. We recommend and install a pressure regulator that’s fitted to all drip systems to prevent this happening. The regulators are easily adjustable with a screwdriver and prevent pressure surges within the system. This also prevents the push-fit joints in the piping system from leaking over time and ensures the system operates at optimum pressure.
Q. How long will my system last?
A. A well-designed and installed system will last many years. We have many fully operational systems that are 15-20 years old.
Q. How much maintenance is required with a system?
A. System maintenance is generally minimal and limited to regular visual inspections throughout the growing season to ensure equipment is operating correctly. Modern equipment is very reliable. However, sprinkler nozzles and pumps etc. will wear over time. We operate maintenance contracts for our systems to ensure that they operate efficiently over many years. Please call for details.
Q. Do I need to drain my system for winter?
A. Yes. All systems should be winterized to protect the components from frost damage. For a regular system, the pipe will need to be drained together with manual opening of the solenoid valves etc. This function is carried out as a normal part of our maintenance contracts.