Automatic Irrigation Systems
If you're tired of maintaining a constant vigil over your lawn and manually moving a sprinkler from the front yard to the backyard in an effort to keep your grass green, you may want to consider installing an automatic irrigation system. While it may seem that having a sprinkler system that turns on automatically would use more water, an efficient system may actually help you conserve water by allowing you to customize the amount you need in certain areas. Consider the following questions as you begin planning your irrigation system to ensure that it meets all of your lawn's needs:
• What measurements do you need before you can begin planning?
• How should you measure your property and set up watering stations?
• What components will you need?
• How frequently should you water and at what times?
• What features would you like to have access to?
Measurements, Parts, Winterization and Watering Tips
You won't have to drain your wallet to water your yard. Irrigation systems, particularly if self-installed, are reasonable investments that will save you time and conserve water. A good cost estimate is around 16-cents per square foot of lawn, though the size and shape of your yard as well as your water pressure can alter this cost. If you have a larger lawn, the cost per-square-foot will likely be lower, as bigger sprinkler heads cover larger areas with greater efficiency. Knowing how to properly assess your lawn size and water pressure and capacity are the first steps in planning a sprinkler system. You'll also need to know what components the system requires as well as how to winterize it if you live in a colder climate. It also pays to know how and when to water your lawn to achieve the best results. Be sure to consult local codes and regulations, as some areas require that your irrigation system be planned and designed by a professional.
Measurements: When you measure the dimensions of your yard, it's a good idea to make a sketch of the area. Use graph paper so it's easier to draw it to scale. Don't forget to include measurements and drawings of your deck, patio, driveway, sidewalks, fences and walls. Note which areas are grassy and which have flowers, trees and shrubs, and mark where your water meter and supply line locations are. Once you've done this, you'll need to determine your water capacity and pressure ratings. Consult your water company to determine average pressure, or use a standard pressure gauge on a faucet in your house. To measure the capacity in gallons-per-minute (gpm) and to determine the maximum recommended flow, consult the chart that follows this section.
• Note on your house diagram which areas of your yard receive the most sun and shade
• Mark areas that you don't want to water, such as sidewalks and porches
• Pushing a system beyond its capacity can cause damage to the pipes
|Determining Water Capacity||
1. Turn off all faucets and water sources.
2. Attach a pressure gauge to an outside hose spigot, and turn it on
3. Locate the outside faucet closest to your home's main water
4. Place a 5-gallon bucket underneath the faucet, and time
5. Use the chart to the right to determine capacity in gallons
• 5-seconds = 60 gpm
• 10-seconds = 30 gpm
• 15-seconds = 20 gpm
• 20-seconds = 15 gpm
• 25-seconds = 12 gpm
• 30-seconds = 10 gpm
• 35-seconds = 8.57 gpm
• 40-seconds = 7.5 gpm
• 45-seconds = 6.67 gpm
• 50-seconds = 6 gpm
|Maximum Recommended Flow|
|Type of Pipe||Size||Maximum gpm|
• ¾-inch Galvanized
• 1-inch Galvanized
• 8 gpm
• 13 gpm
• ¾-inch Poly Pipe
• 1-inch Poly Pipe
• 8 gpm
• 13 gpm
• ¾-inch Schedule 40
• 1-inch Schedule 40
• ¾-inch Class 200
• 1-inch Class 200
• 8 gpm
• 13 gpm
• 10 gpm
• 15 gpm
|Type K Copper||
• ¾-inch Copper Tube
• 1-inch Copper Tube
• 6 gpm
• 12 gpm
Parts: There are several key components to a sprinkler system, and since most products are interchangeable, you have the freedom to purchase products that have just the features you desire. There are a number of different heads available, each of which waters the lawn in a different fashion. Some use a fine mist while others emit a steady stream. You'll also need a pump, pipe, valves and a control box. The size of your lawn will dictate how much pipe you'll need to lay and how many valves you'll have to use.
• Purchasing parts for your irrigation system can seem complicated, but by having
a sketch and idea of your needs in place before shopping, the whole process is
• Use different heads in different zones for more efficient watering.
• Digital controls make it easy to set your watering schedule with the touch of a button.
Watering Tips and Winterization: When installing your system, be cognizant of which areas of the lawn need more water than others. Plants and flowers will most likely need more water than grass, which in turn probably needs more water than trees and shrubs. Avoid over watering your lawn and try to run your sprinkler system early in the morning so vegetation has time to dry out before nightfall. Lawns that are constantly wet are more susceptible to pests and disease. Set up sprinkler heads so that watering zones overlap a little to avoid under watering any sections. If you live in a climate that experiences cold temperatures and snow during the fall and winter months, you'll need to winterize your irrigation system. This process involves removing excess water from the pipes to protect them from damage when temperatures drop below freezing.
• Consider using drip irrigation for trees, flowers and other areas that lack grass
• Install pipe around 8- 12-inches deep to avoid accidental damage bursting or
cracking in the winter. If you live somewhere with particularly harsh winters
be sure to consult local building codes
• Ask utility companies to mark where pipes and power lines are before you dig
• Winterization can be done by installing drain valves or blowing air through the system
• Consult manufacturers' information for further recommendations regarding winterization.
Moisture Sensors: Irrigation systems with this feature monitor rainfall and automatically shut off the system or prevent it from running when the lawn has received adequate amounts of precipitation, helping to both conserve water and prevent flooding and runoff.
Timers: Timers allow you to preset watering times so the system can begin watering early in the morning before you get up or even when you're away on vacation.
Controller: If you have a flower garden, a variety of shrubs and several trees in addition to your grassy areas, look for a controller that allows you to set different times and cycles for different zones. This will allow you to avoid over watering shrubs and trees while still providing plenty of water for grass and flowers. Some controllers even allow you to access the system from your computer and use software to help you customize watering schedules based on your lawn features, local climate and current weather.