Sprinkler Maintenance Tips For This Fall

sprinkler maintenance

If your home has a lawn/landscape irrigation system, regular inspection and sprinkler maintenance are key to keeping it operating efficiently and effectively. In addition to utilizing a professional service, such as Spring-Green’s Irrigation Maintenance Program, homeowners can take an active part in their sprinkler maintenance program periodically by walking the property and looking for visual cues to verify that their sprinkler system is working properly or that adjustments or repairs are necessary.

This can be done anytime you are out on the property, but a as a rule of thumb, the more traffic or use an area receives, the more often it should be checked.

What to Look For: Sprinkler Maintenance Tips

When something goes wrong with an irrigation system, the consequences generally fall into two categories: wasted water and plant damage or loss. Water is wasted if too much of it is applied or if it goes where it shouldn’t. Plant damage or loss, as the result of an irrigation issue, can occur if too much water or too little water reaches the affected plant(s). As you might imagine, these consequences can be quite costly.

Here are some things to note for sprinkler maintenance:

● Persistent puddling or saturated areas, even when the sprinklers are off, may indicate a line break. There are many possible causes for this, including winter damage, unusual activity, and ordinary deterioration.

● Misdirected water—i.e. a sprinkler head is watering the driveway or the side of your house instead of the lawn or bed—may mean the head requires adjustment or an obstruction needs to be cleared.

● Sprinkler heads and rotors are the parts that distribute the water to where it belongs. When these parts become worn or damaged or end up missing, the evidence is fairly easy to spot when the system is running, but may also be apparent while the system is off. Rotors that don’t rotate will cause over-watering in one direction and brown spots in another. Pop-up mechanisms that no longer retract are easy to spot, as are missing or physically broken heads.

● Leaks may occur many different ways. Water lines, valves, fittings, spray heads and rotors are common areas where sprinkler system leaks occur. Look for water squirting or streaming out from behind a sprinkler head or from anywhere water should not be coming.

● Dead zones—entire sections of a sprinkler system not receiving water—may be caused by a line break, mechanical issues, electrical issues, or some combination of these. Diagnostics will determine which of these is the case and what needs to be repaired or replaced in order to resolve the issue.

● Electrical gremlins in the form of failed sensors, faulty controllers, broken wires and more can also cause sprinkler systems, in whole or in part, to be on when they should be off and vice versa. Like any other electronic device, the “smart parts” of your irrigation system wear out. And just like smartphones and tablets, smart irrigation systems and controllers  require updates and upgrades from time to time.

End-of-Season Sprinkler Maintenance

It’s fairly easy to spend a lot of money on irrigation repairs. If you want to see a big repair bill next spring, all you have to do is ignore your irrigation system this fall. Proper winterization to remove all water from the irrigation system will help prevent freeze damage to the lines, valves, rotors and heads.

This is often done by introducing carefully controlled air pressure to individual zones until the entire system has been cleared. While this does not guarantee there will be no damage from shifting and movement of the ground during freeze and thaw cycles, it does remove the threat of freeze damage caused by water left within the sprinkler system components.

Fall winterization is a key component of Spring-Green’s Irrigation Maintenance Program. Do you have any questions or concerns about the current state of your irrigation system or sprinkler maintenance? Please do not hesitate to call on your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green. We will be happy to share our expertise with you.

What You Should Consider Before Watering Your Lawn?

green grass

The Irrigation Association promotes the efficient use of water on lawns and landscapes throughout the US. They also provide training, resources and certification in sprinkler design, installation, maintenance and auditing of water usage.

To maximize this effort, the association has named July as Smart Irrigation Month. July is typically the month with the highest water consumption, so it is the best time to highlight those practices that will save water.

The Irrigation Association stresses 5 important strategies to save water, save money and provide better results. These strategies are:

  • Plant right – landscape and gardens altered to better suit their terrain.
  • Invest in an irrigation system
  • Water wisely
  • Maintain and upgrade your system
  • Work with an irrigation professional

You can read more about these strategies at www.smartirrigationmonth.org, but since July is Smart Irrigation Month, it is appropriate to highlight the practices that use water on a more efficient basis. Here are some of the practices that the Irrigation Association highlights. in the section on Water Wisely:

Get in the zone

  • Almost all sprinkler systems use a controller to provide water to different zones throughout the lawn and landscape.
  • If your controller hasn’t been updated in more than three years, it is a good idea to upgrade to a new controller. This will allow you to set different time schedules per zone to meet the water requirements of the plant material and types of sprinklers in that zone. Different zones will usually require different watering schedules.

sprinkler system

Consider soil type

  • Soils absorb water at different rates depending on their makeup. Avoid watering more than your soil can absorb. It is a waste of water and it will have detrimental effects to your plants.

Don’t send water down the drain.

  • The most common misuse of water comes from sprinklers that water sidewalks, driveways and other impervious surfaces. Having your system checked for efficiency by an irrigation professional will save money on your water bills.

Water only when needed.

  • Once thoroughly watered, allow the soil in the lawn and landscape to dry out before watering again. By following this practice, the roots of the plants will grow deeper in search of more water.

Water at the best time.

  • Although it will not hurt your lawn or landscape, watering during the heat of the day is not an efficient practice as much of the water will be lost to evaporation. The best time to water is early morning. Avoid watering in the late afternoon to evening as this may increase the chance for disease development.

Water is a precious resource and the supply is not endless. Make sure your sprinkler system is working at peak performance and water wisely.

Do You Really Want to Do This Yourself? (Winterize Your Sprinkler System)

Irrigation_700x200

Sadly, summer is officially over. Fall is upon us and that means there are a number of projects that need to be taken care of before winter arrives. Even those people that live in the southern states, there are a few winter projects that need attention. For the rest of us, fall is the time to take stock of the successes and failures in regards to the plants in your yard. It is also the time when we have to winterize equipment. If your yard includes a sprinkler system, a very big project to complete before freezing temperatures arrive is to drain the water from the lines to winterize your sprinkler system.

Maybe I Can Do This Myself . . .

I often do a little Internet research before writing most of my blog posts and looked up the subject of winterizing a sprinkler system. One do-it-yourself website provided three options of how to do so – draining the system manually, using an automatic system and using an air compressor to “blow out” the system. Each method had its good points, but after reading the procedures, it was clear to me that winterizing a sprinkler system is a job better suited to a professional.

sprinkler system valves

As with any number of do-it-yourself websites, the authors assume you have a working knowledge of the system you are trying to work on. For example, on one site the directions were to open the boiler drain valve or the drain cap on the stop and waste valve. Unless you are a licensed plumber, you may not have any idea where those valves are located. I know I don’t have any idea where they may be located.

Since reading the directions posed some problems, I looked on YouTube and found several videos that went through the winterizing process. The main problem I found with the videos was where the filming was taking place. A number of them focused on temporary winterizing for people who live in Texas, which generally does not get as cold as in the Midwest. Following that procedure in Minnesota would not prevent your sprinkler system from being damaged. I did look at a few, but the procedure did seem a good deal more complicated and required more time than what most homeowners have available to devote to this process.

Maybe Not . . .

Considering how much a sprinkler system costs to have installed, and how much expert knowledge it takes to work through any issues with an irrigation system, having a licensed professional winterize your sprinkler system the right way makes the most sense.

If you do plan to hire someone, do it quickly as their schedules fill up. Contact your local Spring-Green office to determine if this service is offered near you.

Get Smart with your Sprinkler System

July is Smart Irrigation Month

Did you know that July is Smart Irrigation Month? The Irrigation Association dedicated this month to smart practices for your sprinkler system, which makes sense since July tends to be the hottest month of the year due to scorching temperatures and high humidity.

The initiative was started in 2005, focusing on providing consumers information on the value of water as well as increase awareness in water saving products, practices and services.

Using water wisely and being efficient when watering, starts with have a properly working and calibrated controller. Today’s controllers have “smart” technology that can determine which zones need more or less water and adapt the run times to water needs and current weather conditions.

sprinkler system control panel

The type of soil in your yard and landscape also plays a major role in how your sprinkler system is set-up. Some soil absorbs water quickly without runoff where as other soil may need to be watered for a short period of time, waiting for the water to be absorbed and then watering the same area again until it has received the correct amount. This process may need to be repeated three or four times to supply the correct amount of water to heavy, compacted soils. In most cases, different zones within your yard are going to need different amounts of water. The amount of water needed changes based on the amount of sun or shade the zone receives, the type and quantity of plant material in each zone and if the area is level or sloped. A good controller will allow you to set each zone to receive the correct amount of water.

Regardless of how efficient your controller is, if the sprinkler heads are not properly aligned or the wrong heads are being used, you will be wasting water. Inspecting your sprinkler system will alert you to water that ends up flowing down sidewalks, driveways and into the street from incorrectly set sprinkler heads. Clogged nozzles can also affect the even distribution of water across a lawn.

A good controller will allow you to set the best times to water. Generally, this is early in the morning. Having your sprinkler system come on at 3 o’clock in the morning is ideal. Overall, there is less water being used at that time, so water pressures should be good. Adding soil moisture probes into the lawn and rain gauges will also improve water efficiency. These tools will reduce the need for water if the amount in the soil is sufficient.

sprinkler system water saving tips

This year has been a strange one in regards to weather. Some areas of the Midwest are experiencing record setting rain levels where other parts of the US are mired in a drought that has lasted three or more years. Regardless of where you live, having a properly functioning sprinkler system will help reduce water usage and save you money.

Contact your local Spring-Green Professional today to learn about how we can help your system reduce water usage and cost.

Smart Sprinkler Systems: Upgrade Today to Save Money and Water

sprinkler system tips

Saving water should be everyone’s concern. Water is a limited resource and its availability is becoming a greater concern every year. Unfortunately, as homeowners, we don’t think about water usage as frequently as we should. We turn on the faucet and water comes out, we turn on our garden hose or sprinkler system and water our lawns and landscapes without hesitation – Everything is good!

Being smart about how much water we use is going to become a greater issue in the future. This is especially true when it comes to watering your lawn or landscape. It is estimated that outside water usage can reach 70% of the total water used during certain months of the year. We want our lawns to be green and our landscapes and gardens to flourish. Being green is a good thing and growing healthy plants is good for the environment, but you may be using more water than necessary to keep your lawn and landscape green and healthy—that’s where smart sprinkler systems come into play.

How Do Smart Sprinkler Systems Work?

If you have a sprinkler system, you should have an automated irrigation controller. Most of these have a season adjust or water adjust feature to allow you to cut back on water at certain times of the year. Try decreasing watering by 10 % and then wait a week or two to see if your lawn or landscape becomes stressed. If not, you were over watering. Try reducing it by another 10% and see what happens. If parts of your lawn show signs of drought stress, but other parts of the lawn look okay, then you may have a problem with sprinkler uniformity, which is compounding the problem.

Investing in a new controller that has water-smart features or installing rain gauges and moisture sensors will quickly pay for themselves. These smart sprinkler systems are designed to automatically determine how much water your lawn and plants need and irrigate accordingly without wasting water. Rain gauges are also helpful to shut the system off when it rains. Even if you only replace your current controller with one that has water smart technology will help. Then, over time, add moisture sensors and rain gauges to become even more efficient.

Saving water should be everyone’s concern. Do your part and upgrade your sprinkler system. You will save money and water, which is a win-win.

During a Drought, Check Your Sprinklers and Water Efficiently

Most of us don’t think about watering our lawns in the spring; we generally rely on Mother Nature to do that for us. If you are fortunate to have an automatic sprinkler system, you may have delayed the start up process since the lawn might look good right now. Unfortunately, that is not true across the entire country.

U.S. drought map May 2015

As you can see from the most recent Drought Monitor map, the west coast and some of the east coast are experiencing very dry weather. California is experiencing abnormally dry weather to an extent that some municipalities are paying people to remove their lawns and plant native grasses and plants that require less water than home lawns.

Desperate times often lead to desperate measures. California is still getting some rain now and then, but not enough to reverse a drought that has lasted more than four years. Agriculture uses a large amount of the water that California receives, which leaves very little left for the people who desire a green lawn.

It is not just California and the West Coast that are dealing with drought. In the Northeast, despite having record setting snowfalls this past winter, they are extremely dry. It also has been unusually hot this spring, which results in lawns needing more water to stay green and healthy. Whether you use a garden hose and sprinklers or have a sprinkler system to water your lawn, it is important to water correctly and efficiently to conserve water.

If you do have a sprinkler system, the startup process should include more than just turning on a few valves and restarting the timer. The entire system should be checked for broken heads that need replacing, heads that are out of alignment, broken water lines, sunken sprinkler heads, etc. Often, doing a little bit of sprinkler repair can mean the difference between wasting and saving water.

Many things can happen to a sprinkler system during the year as well as during the winter, especially if you live in an area where the ground freezes, and spring can sometimes necessitate worthwhile sprinkler repair services. If you have never had your system checked, it would be a good idea to hire a professional sprinkler service company to do so. Water usage or misuse is becoming a greater issue every year. Make sure your system is working properly.

Many Spring-Green offices offer sprinkler startup services. Contact your local Spring-Green office to get this service scheduled.