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Sprinkler systems have evolved from automatic sprinkler systems that, once you set the timer, can turn on and off everyday by themselves. Newer lawn irrigation systems, called smart sprinkler systems, are much more complex, being able to judge exactly how much water your lawn and garden require on a daily basis.
The average sprinkler system, if taken care of well, and if you change sprinkler heads after around a decade, can last as many as 20 years. However, regular checks and maintenance are important if you want your sprinkler system to last that long, and for you to make sure you don’t waste water, increasing your water bills every month. Here are some of the essential aspects of the maintenance of sprinkler systems.
Essential sprinkler system maintenance tips
Know how much water your lawn needs
On average, your lawn needs around an inch of water every week. If your sprinkler system is efficient, this should take around 15 minutes. But how do you check if the sprinkler system is fine?
All you need to do is set up empty tuna cans in different watering zones across your lawn, and then run the sprinkler for 15 minutes. If the system is working well, you ought to have an inch of water in the empty cans.
If, however, the cans are a quarter-inch or half-inch of water, it is a sign that you may have to check the system for leaks in the pipes, need to readjust the system, or that your sprinkler head may have a block, causing a drop in water pressure and affecting the water flow.
Change according to the seasons
Your lawn does not need the same amount of water throughout the year. For example, your lawn will need more water during the peak summer months than it will during the cooler months of spring and fall.
This means you will need to change the frequency of watering as well as the amount of water is according to the seasons.
One upgrade that will make system operation easier for you and save you money on your water bills is to install a rain/freeze sensor. These sensors turn off the water supply to the sprinklers whenever the temperature drops below 32 degrees, or if it starts to rain.
Change according to the regions as well
Not all areas of your garden will need the same amount of water either. For example, if a part of your lawn is northward facing and in the shade for a large part of the day, it will need less water than the parts of your lawn that are in the sun all day long.
This means in order for your sprinkler system to be water-efficient, you need to plan the placement of the sprinklers for distributed watering according to these factors.
The importance of regular sprinkler system inspection
Water wastage could be happening without your knowledge. The only way to find out is if you inspect your sprinkler system regularly. Look for signs of leaks, broken lines, or sprinkler heads facing the wrong direction.
One telltale sign of a leaking sprinkler pipe or of a misdirected head is if you see puddles of water in one area of your lawn, while another area is completely dry.
Be sure to replace damaged sprinkler heads, and unclog heads that have mud blocking them (we’ll discuss how to do that in a bit). If you see a sprinkler head shooting water at your driveway instead of the lawn, redirect it properly.
How to remove dirt from a sprinkler system
The easiest way to clean dirt out of a sprinkler system and get it to work optimally is to flush the system. Here’s how to go about it.
- The sprinkler system is divided into zones, with the first zone being closest to the control box. Locate it in the control box.
- To control the water to flow manually, turn the solenoid on the control valves counterclockwise.
- Inspect each sprinkler head in that zone for an erratically spraying head or one that isn’t working at all. This will be blocked one.
- Expose the riser below the sprinkler by turning the sprinkler counterclockwise. This will loosen the riser and make space for the trapped mud to escape.
- Allow water to flush the line for three minutes before turning it off.
- The dirt blocking the sprinkler will now have been removed, so replace the sprinkler on the riser.
Stick to regular sprinkler maintenance and inspection schedule
Unlike fire sprinkler systems that have local codes dictating maintenance norms, your lawn sprinkler system is up to you to maintain. Ideally, check for leaks and breakages once every couple of weeks or so, and make sure to get a professional inspection every spring. That way, you will know how well your sprinkler system is working, and you can make upgrades before repairs pile up.