Helpful Irrigation Tips and Tricks

Irrigation Tips and Tricks

  • Prevent leaking by using 5 to 6 wraps of Teflon tape on all threaded fittings. You can then hand tighten while allowing for heads to be rotated for adjustment.
  • Use poly pipe (JM Eagle, Hancor, etc.) in areas where the ground freezes more than a few inches deep. If you use PVC pipe in these areas, you could suffer pipe breakage through frost heaves even if your system is dry.
  • Blowout your system in the fall to prevent damage if temperatures dip below freezing. This is made easier by putting a tee in the supply pipe where it exits the house and before it reaches the Pressure Vacuum Breaker (PVB)  and putting a cap on the extra leg. You can then attach an airline to the open leg.
  • When blowing out your system, don’t use more than 40 PSI or blow for longer than two minutes if you have rotor irrigation heads. Running the gear drives in these heads when they’re dry will cause damage.
  • Multi-stream rotor heads are the most sensitive to contaminated water. You can determine if your water is dirty by filling a clean, white, 5 gallon bucket and looking for sand or debris. If such debris is present, do not use multi-stream heads.
  • Bigger is better when it comes to pipes. Water flows faster in smaller pipes and the increase in speed creates more friction between the water and the pipe. The extra friction causes water pressure loss. Using larger pipes provides slower flowing water and less friction which, of course, results in less water pressure loss.
  • Run Funny Pipe for 2 to 3 feet between irrigation heads and regular pipe. You can use more Funny Pipe the closer the irrigation head is to the valve; you may be able to use as much as 5 to 6 feet of Funny Pipe for the first head in the zone without a problem.
  • When cutting pipe, use PVC tubing cutters, not a hacksaw. Tubing cutters give a very clean-cut on 1 inch to 1 1/4 inch PVC pipe as well as working on Funny Pipe. Tubing cutters resemble rosebush pruners with a ratcheting handle.
  • Install more irrigation heads than you initially think you may need. Heads are inexpensive and easy to remove if you decide later that you have more than you need.
  • If you’re installing underground valves, use a large valve box for easier installation and access when you need to service your valves. Standard valve boxes may be too small. You can rake woodchips or gravel over it to conceal it.
  • Make sure you have head-to-head coverage in all zones. This ensures that each area of your landscaping is watered by at least two irrigation heads. For example, if the head has a radius of 10 feet, the next has to be no more than 10 feet away from the first. You can install them little closer to allow for adjustments.
  • When you’re flow testing to determine the capacity of your water supply, it is wise to be aware of planned changes in your neighborhood. For instance, if yours is the first house in a new subdivision, pressure and flow may drop as more homes are built. Your local municipality should be able to tell you their plan for pressure and flow once the subdivision is complete.
  • When you’re designing your irrigation system it is important to know the gallons per minute (GPM) at a water pressure of 35 to 40 PSI. You can use a flow tester(do we sell these?) or determine this using a pressure gauge (do we sell this?) and a bucket. Simply attach the gauge to one outside faucet and open the faucet. Next, open another outside faucet until the gauge reads at a steady 35 to 40 PSI with the water running. Then you can measure how many GPM you get using a 5 gallon bucket. NOTE: If the pipe going to the faucet is 1/2 inch, the reading may be unrealistically low. You may need to install a PVB (Pressure Vacuum Breaker) with a three-quarter inch faucet for a more realistic reading. The standard for plumbing a PVB is 1 inch pipe for up to 15 GPM.
  • When working with the PVB, open the inlet valve as quickly as possible; this causes the internal float to seal the vent. If you open the valve slowly, the float may not seal the vent and may result in water purging from the vent area. Minor water leakage is normal when opening the inlet valve, but usually stops within a few seconds.
  • Irrigating large areas with single stream rotors and small or irregular areas with 570 series heads provides better results. Multi-stream rotors are best for slopes and windy areas.
  • If you decide to use poly pipe  in your irrigation system installation, you may want to have a professional installer handle the project. Professional irrigation system installers can use a vibratory plow which pulls the pipe through the yard and does a lot less damage to your lawn than a trencher. The price is typically reasonable.
  • Warm regular poly pipe or Funny Pipe before installation to make it easier to attach the fittings. You can do this by leaving it in the sun or by dipping the ends in hot water.
  • Always leave extra room for additional valves. If you ever want to expand your irrigation system to a garden or drip system, it’s a lot easier to plan for it now.
  • Always call before you dig. It’s best to know where buried utilities are located and the best people to ask is the utility company.
  • Ensure your pipes are always below the sprinkler body and out of the way for lawn aerators by burying them 8 to 10 inches deep.
  • Irrigation heads will eventually wear out or get damaged so it’s good to have a couple of spares on hand.
  • Follow these steps for safe and effective irrigation head replacement. Dig out an area approximately 18 inches in diameter around the irrigation head and remove the dirt from around the head. Remove the old head and install only the body of the new head; hold the, spring, riser and other parts nearby. Activate the zone for a few seconds to allow the system to flush. Finish installing the rest of the parts for the new head and place the dirt back in the hole.
  • Always leave extra wire with your controller and in each valve box. This makes servicing or replacing parts easier. You should also run a couple extra wires from the controller to each valve box. This makes it easier to expand your system at a later date and also gives you spares if anything goes wrong.
  • Choose a convenient place to locate your programmer. You want easy access and good lighting  such as you would find just inside your garage door or in a car port.
  • During pipe installation, take pictures after all of the digging is done. These pictures can help you locate pipes later on if you need to conduct repairs. Store the pictures in a plastic bag near the controller.
  • Water pressure of greater than 80 PSI static can create valve problems. If your pressure is that high, install a pressure regulator to bring it down below 80 PSI.
  • Always run your irrigation system in the early morning. Water pressure is typically better and you will avoid wind patterns interference that usually occurs during the day. Furthermore, you’ll avoid fungus and disease problems that you would merely find if you water at night.
  • Make sure every valve has the same types of head. Run times differ between rotors and fixed-spray heads.
  • More than one pipe may be included in each trench. A 1-inch Schedule 40 PVC pipe installed upstream of the control valves is best, while downstream pipes should be at least 3/4 inch Class C PVC or 3/4 inch poly pipe. Always check your local codes before installing pipe.
  • When digging a trench under driveways or sidewalks, use a length of PVC pipe attached to a hose at one end. The power of the water flow, along with the strength of the pipe, will help you dig your way under the concrete.