Share this article

print logo

Saving with sprinkler systems

Watering a few flowerpots only takes a moment or two. Watering a garden takes longer. And when it comes to an entire landscape if you plan on hand-watering -- expect to spend an hour or more.

If you have a large garden, then you probably have a built-in sprinkler system -- on a timer -- and don't have to worry about standing around holding a garden hose. But there are things you need to know about your sprinkler system that will reduce your operating costs and ensure that the value of your investment remains high.

Maybe Superman was infallible, but sprinkler systems aren't. Heads can clog restricting or completely preventing water flow. (Can you spell "brown lawn"?) How about "dead lawn"?

Valve bodies can wear out too, allowing the sprinkler head to rotate. When this happens there may be plenty of water, but it can end up soaking the foundation instead of the lawn. When this happens not only will the lawn die but the foundation can be undermined as well. Wet soil under a foundation is a definite no-no. You don't want to pay for the kind of repairs that will be needed if this is left unchecked.

When any of these events occur, the resulting repairs can be costly at best. The point is, it is essential to check and recheck your complete irrigation system every few weeks during the entire watering season.

If your system was set up properly, all valves should be connected to one control timer. Two or more timers can be a problem. If two timers on the same system were accidentally programmed to operate simultaneously, each system would only receive half the water needed to achieve proper sprinkler head coverage. The systems would look as though they were working but, slowly but surely, parts of the landscape would begin to die.

If you have more than one timer, look into the possibility of combining control into one. You will not believe how much confusion can be reduced by this single improvement.

Modern electronic timers let you increase or decrease watering time. With the press of a button, watering times can be reduced to 25 percent of normal or increased to 200 percent of normal -- 1 percent at a time. This is very convenient -- especially during a hot spell.

There is nothing more frustrating than checking for bad sprinkler heads on a large property. Let's say that the farthest sprinkler station is about 100 feet from the control unit. Here's the frustrating process:

1. Go to the timer and turn on a station.

2. Go to the station and flag the bad heads.

3. Go to the timer and turn off the station.

4. Go to the station and remove the head(s).

5. Go to the timer and turn on the station (to flush the lines).

6. Turn off the timer and return to the station (to install the new head(s).

7. Go back to the timer to turn on the station.

8. Go back to the station to ensure that everything is working properly.

If you followed this procedure for a station located a thousand feet away, you walked 1 1/2 miles to maintain one station. Now multiply that times 40 stations, five times a year for 10 years -- that's just under 300 miles!

But picture this: You are at the station and you use a hand-held unit to remotely control the activities noted in the preceding list. You save hundreds of miles of walking, hours or days of wasted time, and repairs get made without frustration. And repairs don't get missed. You can focus on the repairs rather than the logistics required to make them.

If your control unit is OK, but not fitted for remote operation, check with your local landscape irrigation company. Retrofit remote control units are available for slightly less money than replacement.


James Carey and Morris Carey are nationally recognized experts on home building and renovation.

There are no comments - be the first to comment