Spring Checkup List for Your Irrigation System
Checking your irrigation system thoroughly before the first time you turn it on in the spring makes your system water-efficient and saves you money.
Learning how to check each component on your landscape irrigation system can help you to find items that are not working correctly or inefficiently and save you money on your water bill in the end.
Irrigation Controller Checkup
Open the irrigation controller’s cabinet and clean out any dirt, debris or cobwebs as these items can cause your system to malfunction. You can use a small broom or brush to rid your system of these items gently. It’s best to change the battery at the same time and check all connections to make sure they are not loose while you are in the cabinet already. If you have a rain sensor on your system, check its connections also.
Check the date and time on your controller and set your irrigation schedules to the times that work best for your type of soil and landscape. The best idea to prevent over-watering resulting in pooling or runoff water is to use split irrigation cycles in two or more cycles. This works best on dry, sandy soils, dense clay soils and slopes.
How to Split Irrigation Cycles
Turn on zone one manually and observe the landscape as you water it. As soon as water starts pooling, turn the controller off manually and record how much time elapsed. Set zone one for this amount of time. Manually turn on each zone and repeat the process. You may have several different times according to your soil and the layout of your landscaping. Set all of the zones for the time you recorded, and then allow one hour between each zone for the same amount of time every hour until you apply the amount of water you wish.
Sprinkler System Checkup
After checking the controller, you need to check all the components of the sprinkler system. Remove the last sprinkler head in zone one and manually run it for a few minutes to expel any sand, dirt or debris. Replace the sprinkler head and repeat the process for each zone.
Run each zone separately while you observe the spray pattern of each sprinkler head and the position of them. Obvious problems will be clogged sprinkler heads or misdirected heads that water hard surfaces rather than the lawn. Look for tilted heads, leaks and misting from the heads.
Common Items to Repair on a Sprinkler System
If sprinkler heads are tilted, they will pool water around the bottom of them rather than spraying the water outward. Trim away any grass or soil that is interfering with the head and straighten the head if necessary. This can also happen if the sprinkler head does not pop up as it should.
If you are getting very little water coming out of a sprinkler head, remove the screen inside of it and clean it with a toothbrush under running water. Debris, small bugs and soil can clog the screens if they were trapped in the system over winter. If the screen is broken, you will need to replace it.
A broken or leaking pipe or valve will not allow the correct amount of water to spray from the heads. This naturally occurs in the lowest head in each zone. You may see evidence of this by algae or moss growing in the area, which will alert you to replace the pipe or valve.
High-pressure problems are evident if you see a very fine mist from a spray head. To correct this, install a pressure regulator after the water meter or pressure regulated sprinkler heads so that all of them spray correctly.
Low pressure in the system can also be a problem. If a sprinkler isn’t covering the area that it should, there will be dry spots between the sprinkler head spray patterns. If your water pressure is too low and several of the heads don’t cover the area they should, you may choose a different time of the day to irrigate your lawn when there is higher water pressure and fewer people using water at the same time.
Spray arcs may need to be adjusted to cover the lawn fully. You can adjust the spray pattern on your sprayer heads or you may need to replace the spray nozzles with another one that includes the spray pattern that you need.
Head drainage is found on the lowest head in a zone. If the water is simply draining out of it, install a check valve or replace your spray heads with newer models that include a built-in check valve.
Mismatched heads can cause uneven coverage of your lawn irrigation. All heads and nozzles should be alike in the same irrigation zone; however, you can have different ones in a separate zone.
Direct the sprinklers so that no water is falling on driveways, streets and sidewalks or on the side of your house. This simply wastes your valuable water on areas that don’t need water and can cause a buildup of slippery mold or mildew.
Check pop-up sprinkler heads to make certain they rise up to at least ground level. Raise any heads that are lower or you can replace heads with taller pop-ups to correct this situation.
You may have tilted heads in areas with slopes to water the area correctly. However, if you have a tilted head on flat ground, it will cause water pooling and uneven coverage.
Check your coverage of your entire lawn from head to head. If there are dry areas that are not reached between heads, you may need to add heads to your system as you need 100 percent coverage to avoid dead, brown spots in your lawn.
Doing a thorough checkup before you use your sprinkler system for the first time in the spring ensures that you won’t waste water and you will have an efficient system leading to a lush, green lawn.