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.

Overwatering Your Lawn Can Lead to Brown Patches in the Grass

brown patch in grass from over watering

Many customers equate a brown spot in their lawn as the lawn needing more water, when actually the opposite is what is often required. Too much water saturates the soil, filling up all the air space between the soil particles with water. This results in an anaerobic condition; basically the plant drowns, as it does not have enough oxygen to survive.

How Do Sprinkler Systems Overwater the Lawn?

Having a sprinkler system is great and it allows you to water your lawn with the push of a button. Unfortunately, people with a sprinkler system have a tendency to overwater. This can result in wasting water and can be detrimental to the health of your lawn—and that’s when many homeowners see brown patches in the grass.

Many sprinkler systems have a rain sensor in place as part of the system. These are great additions, but they do need to be inspected at least once a year to ensure that they are functioning properly. These sensors fail occasionally, meaning that they will not turn off the sprinkler system if it begins to rain. They can also get covered by leaves, become dislodged, get dirty, or need internal parts replaced on a regular basis.

Consider Adding Moisture Sensors to Prevent Overwatering

Another addition to the system would be moisture sensors that are placed in the ground to monitor how much moisture the soil contains. These sensors would then report back to the control unit and shut that zone down or increase the amount of water another zone may require. There is added cost to installing the sensors, and you may need to upgrade your control unit, but these items will pay for themselves by using less water and guarding against overwatering the lawn.

Maintenance Is the Key

Having your sprinkler system inspected on an annual basis is almost a necessity these days, especially if you live in areas experiencing drought conditions. Having an efficient system that correctly places water where and when it is needed is best for your lawn as well as your bank account.

In select markets, Spring-Green offers sprinkler system maintenance checks as well as upgrades to your current system. Check with your local Spring-Green office to see if this service is available to keep your system in tip top shape.

Winterizing Your Sprinkler System: How to Blow Out Your Sprinklers

blowing out your sprinkler system

If you have an automatic sprinkler system installed in your lawn and landscape and you live in an area where the ground can freeze during the winter months, the most important task to ensure the system will function properly next year is to winterize your sprinkler system. Not only are you removing the water from the pipes, you need to shut down the controller and remove and store the backflow preventer.

I did a search on how to winterize your sprinkler system and I found several YouTube videos and various instruction sheets with detailed and not-so-detailed instructions on performing this task. Winterizing a sprinkler system is not as easy as it seems. You may need to rent a commercial-sized air compressor unless you have one that can supply a minimum of 50 cubic feet per minute of air volume. Blowing out your sprinklers by attaching the air compressor to the pipes may require some type of adapter. You also have to have the correct type of wrenches to remove the backflow preventer, and you also need to know how to shut off the water supply to the system.

sprinkler system control box

Winterizing a sprinkler system is probably not the task that the average homeowner should tackle on their own. Contracting with a sprinkler maintenance service is often the best and safest choice to winterize your system. The company should be able to inform you of any possible breaks or malfunctions that they observe while blowing out the sprinkler lines. Most companies will also shut down your controller and remove the battery for the winter. The backflow preventer, once removed, should be stored in a location where it will not freeze during the winter.

Winterizing your sprinkler system is an important task that should be completed before the cold weather sets in. Don’t put off this task too long. There was snow falling on Halloween morning in the Chicago area. Winter could be right around the corner!

Contact Spring-Green Lawn Care today to set up your maintenance appointment!

Tune Up My Sprinkler System?

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You change the oil and have your car serviced on a regular basis. You have someone come in and do a furnace or air conditioner check to make sure either one is performing at top efficiency. You visit your doctor on a regular basis to make sure you are in tip top shape. Have you ever thought about doing the same with your sprinkler system?

Often times, people who have a sprinkler system never think about having it evaluated to ensure that it’s running correctly and supplying water efficiently and uniformly. As long as the grass looks green, the basic assumption is that everything is fine.

The efficient use of water is becoming a major concern in many parts of the country. Many people view sprinkler systems as a waste of water, especially when the system is running during a rain storm or the heads are misaligned and watering the sidewalk instead of the lawn. Maintaining healthy turf does require water, but if a sprinkler system is “out of tune” then water can end up going down the drain, either by poor spray head placement, wrong nozzles or not using moisture sensors or smart controllers.

Many people also don’t realize that nozzles can wear out over time. The nozzles and spray heads that were installed with the system 10 years ago can be inefficient and out of balance. Sprinkler companies have made tremendous advances in spray head and nozzle designs that supply water in a manner that promotes good plant growth, but limits the amount of water loss.

Jay Guthy, Business Development Manager for Toro states, “Toro Irrigation has a handful of innovative, award-winning products that easily retrofit into your existing system and can save you water and money. Precision™ Spray Nozzles can fit any spray body on your lawn, and apply up to 40% less water than traditional spray nozzles, but are much more uniform in their distribution of water. Today, it’s all about applying less water more uniformly, and allowing the water to infiltrate to the root zone versus being wasted through runoff and evaporation.”

Another important aspect of an efficient sprinkler system is the use of a smart controller, moisture sensors and rain sensors. And Toro even has a unit that easily retrofits to most any controller installed. These three components are critical for any sprinkler system. Using them can save up to 40% on water usage. With the cost of water and possible restrictions on water use, these components are well worth the investment.

If you have never had your sprinkler system evaluated, then you could be wasting a lot of water and money. Contact Spring-Green for a tune-up today. You will be glad you did.

Water Conservation Strategies

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Dwindling supply, higher costs and eventually governmental regulations have led to innovative products to help homeowners conserve water and save money at the same time. Have you ever witnessed a lawn sprinkler system running in the middle of a rain storm? It’s one of those sightings that causes you to scratch your head and wonder how someone could be so wasteful. Well, back in the day when control options were limited, there were few irrigation system accessories that were both affordable and efficient. Thankfully that time has passed, and today homeowners have several options to serve their interests in maintaining a healthy lawn and landscape without wasteful use of water.

Today we have irrigation system accessories like rain sensors and moisture sensors that come in both hardwired and wireless technologies. Rain sensors are now capable of not only detecting the presence of rain and signaling the sprinklers to shut down, some are sophisticated enough to work in combination with a smart controller to monitor weather conditions and make adjustments accordingly. Rain sensors are typically mounted on the eves of a home in a location that receives unobstructed exposure to rainfall. Moisture sensors have the added capacity to monitor the presence of moisture in the soil and override the irrigation schedule programmed into the controller when adequate moisture is available to support the needs of grass and ornamental plants.

In a recent article appearing in Irrigation and Green Industry magazine, Brian Muller marketing manager for new product development at Rain Bird Corporation, is quoted as stating “The savings typically associated with a rain sensor is about 30%, versus an irrigation controller that is just a timer, doing schedule-based irrigation. A soil moisture sensor gives you about 45% water savings against a schedule-based controller.” “So if you install both a rain sensor and a soil moisture sensor on the same controller, you can save up to 70%.” That’s pretty clear evidence that water conservation is achievable with today’s irrigation system technologies.

But it’s not as simple as install it and forget it. Rain sensors do require an annual check to be sure the system is functioning properly and if you have a wireless device the batteries should be replaced annually to ensure uninterrupted performance. On the other hand, soil moisture sensors may only need to be relocated as the landscape matures to ensure good performance.

Maintaining Your Sprinkler System

Spring-Green is now offering sprinkler system services in select markets. We will be providing spring start ups, mid season system evaluations and repairs as well as fall blowouts of the system in markets where this is a requirement in the fall to prevent damage to the water lines when it freezes. I was very interested in a recent article in Lawn and Landscape magazine that referenced seven reasons why people hate sprinkler systems. I never thought about why someone would dislike having a sprinkler system since it seems like such a good idea – being able to water one’s lawn and landscape automatically without having to drag around hoses and setting up sprinklers.

In the article, the author, Alan Harris of ValleyCrest, describes issues, such issues as controllers that are more than 5 years old that do not offer the latest technology and are inefficient, replacing broken heads, and shrubs that have grown and now block spray patterns from reaching the intended area and leaking valves.

In regards to leaking valves, Mr. Harris explained that a valve that is leaking, allowing water to ooze out through the lowest spray head at the rate of ½ gallon of water per minute can ultimately end up wasting over 5,000 gallons of water per week. Even if you are losing only a cup of water per minute, this still equates to water losse of about 630 gallons per week. You multiplye that out by 30 weeks, which is about the average amount of time that a sprinkler system is active, that means adds up to 19,000 gallons of water that is wasted, as well as a good deal of money paying for water that is not providing a benefit.

If you have a sprinkler system, one of the best upgrades that will provide the most cost effective benefits is to invest in a new “smart” controller. These controllers can accurately determine how much water your lawn and landscape requires on a daily basis. Adding a rain sensor to the system along with in-ground soil sensors are well worth the money. Even something as simple as making sure the spray heads and rotors are properly working can save water and make your system more efficient.

Many people set their system to start early in the morning, so they will rarely know if it is truly functioning properly. That is why it is important to have it checked by a professional at least once during the summer. Spray heads and rotors can get clogged or go out of alignment. Sometimes this can be determined when a portion of the lawn does not stay green. It could also mean that the wrong type of head is installed. Having your system checked on a regular basis can save water and can save you money.

If you wish to read Mr. Harris article, you can click here. Look for more information regarding Spring-Green’s new irrigation service from your local Spring-Green Professional.

Watering Trees and Shrubs

Spring was very wet for much of the Midwest, but now we have entered into a hot, dry spell, which is not that unusual for summer.  All that rain this past spring allowed trees and shrubs to grow well and produce lots of leaves.  Now that the rain has stopped and the heat has increased, many plants are dropping leaves.  This could be the result of the recent hot and dry weather.

If the leaves on your plants are drooping, it usually means that they are in need of water.  The best way to water a larger tree or shrub is a slow, steady trickle from a garden hose directed at the base of the plants.  Leave it at the base of the plant for 15 to 20 minutes and check the soil to see if it is getting wet more than an inch or so.  The goal is to keep the soil wet down to 8 to 12 inches.  Move the hose and water different areas under the tree to get the entire area watered.  Most sprinklers are designed to water large areas, so they usually don’t work well to water established trees or shrubs.

If, after watering, your plant is still drooping, that could be a sign of a bigger problem, such as a disease or insect infestation.  This may require you to contact a tree care service to have them come out and check your plants.  There are numerous other possibilities that could cause a plant to lose its vitality.  It is better to have someone who can identify these problems and provide the best recommendation to help your plants grow.