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Inground lawn watering systems

Lawn watering is one aspect of maintaining a beautiful, healthy lawn all season in all weather conditions.
If you are serious about your lawn and want to do all you can to maintain its attractive, green quality, an automatic lawn irrigation system may be the best thing.

Benefits of an Automatic Irrigation System

The reason people get lawn watering wrong is partly because it's so easy. How many times have you turned on the sprinkler with every intention of coming back in fifteen minutes to turn it off, only to remember the sprinkler is still running 2 hours later? Unless you're really careful about lawn watering it's easy to over-water or even underwater your lawn. Basic mistakes happen and can end up damaging your lawn.

How an inground lawn watering systems work

A typical inground lawn sprinkler system delivers water by a system of underground tubing to designated areas. The system consists of multiple control valves, each of which can stop and start the water to a particular zone.

The system is divided into zones so the entire system isn't running at one time. If all the sprinkler heads were turned on at one time, there wouldn't be enough pressure to operate all of the heads properly. It's like when you're taking a shower and someone flushes a toilet in the house and in some neighbors, it may be someone down the street flushing their toilet.

Depending on your water pressure, you may have 5 different zones to cover your lawn and garden area. The number of zones depends on the total number of sprinkler heads required to cover your lawn and garden and the total water pressure you have in your home.

The brains of the watering system

Each zone has a number of sprinkler heads attached to the buried tubing running from the control valve. Each zone has one control valve. These valves are controlled by wiring connecting to the main control panel which is usually located in the garage or some other protected area on your property. This is the brains of the entire inground lawn watering system.

Sprinkler heads

When the brain activates a particular zone, a control valve opens, the system becomes charged and the sprinkler heads begin to work. There are different heads available depending on specific requirements for a specific location. Sprinkler heads are arranged to provide uniform coverage to the area it covers without wasting water by spraying on sidewalks, driveways or into the street.

Sprinkler headThere are many types of lawn sprinkler heads, including sprayers that deliver a fine, mist-like spray, rotary heads that throw water in a wide circle, much like a portable rotary sprinkler does, and various drip type heads for specific landscape areas.

Spray-type heads are specified for systems when accuracy of coverage is critical. Rotary heads deliver water to larger areas, so fewer are required. Pop-up varieties of each type of sprinkler head, spray and rotary, rise several inches above grade level when water pressure is introduced. This ensures that groundcovers and low shrubs don't interfere with water delivery.

Is an automatic watering system worth the expense?

Automatic lawn irrigation systems may be expensive, but it completely erases all these watering worries. One of your central gardening chores disappears overnight. If you live in an area requiring frequent supplemental watering because of your climate, then an automatic system may well be worth the expense. If you only have to water your lawn a few times during the growing season, then this type of system may only be just a convenience. However, in those areas that do require frequent watering, the automatic system is definitely worth the expense and it is definitely worth the additional expense to get a system that measures actual rainfall to conserve our water resources. There's nothing worse than to see an automatic watering system running in the middle of a 3 day downpour.

Impact sprinkler headInground lawn watering systems actually can save water

One of the main benefits of an inground lawn watering system is that you do save water. Watering is carefully managed on a timetable so all parts of your lawn receive the right amount of water at the right time. You're sure the exact amount is going to the exact right place without waste. Combined with the inexpensive sensor option that measures Mother Nature's contribution, and you'll definitely be doing the right thing.

Installing a system yourself

Inground lawn watering systems are probably best installed by irrigation system professionals. This of course, costs extra than doing it yourself, but you'll be assured of the results. Doing it yourself is more than just a weekend project, but it can be done with a lot of physical effort, calculations to determine coverage, and measuring water pressures and understanding how many heads can be installed and have the system still work efficiently.

Irrigation InstallationInstalling your own home irrigation system can save you money. However, it's not one of the easiest do-it-yourself projects. Planning and purchasing the correct components are the keys to success.

Most manufacturers of home irrigation systems have design and plan guides that simplify the job considerably. These planning guides are available at your local home supply stores that sell the fittings and hoses and are an excellent resource to study before deciding on the do-it-yourself route. Pick one up, take it home and follow the instructions. Then decide whether the do-it-yourself installation is a good option or maybe you should hire a pro. Maintaining an improperly installed system can be difficult to say the least, so take the time to do it right from the beginning.

Preliminary installation steps

Before installing a permanent lawn irrigation system, you'll need to take a few precautionary steps:

  • See if your locality requires a building permit for an automatic lawn sprinkler.

  • Check for underground utilities before digging. Before you begin any excavation (that means even digging just one hole), you've got to call and check for underground utilities. This isn't just a good idea, it's the LAW. The North America One Call Referral Service at 1-888-258-0808 connects you to a national directory of utility companies.

  • Research your local municipal watering ordinances to make sure you'll be in compliance before purchasing your system.

In order to purchase the right components, you'll need to determine your own property's specifics since some materials depend on individual variables including:

  • Water pressure in pounds per square inch (psi).

  • Water meter size (for a municipal system) or well pump size (for a well).

  • Water service line size.

  • Water flow rate in gallons per minute (GPM).

  • Type of back flow prevention required by local code.

Water Pressure GuageHow to check your home's water pressure?

There are two measurements of water pressure, working (when the water supply is turned on) and static (when the water supply is shut off). You'll need your working water pressure number before you can making final decisions and purchases.

Checking your water pressure requires a pressure gauge. If you can't borrow one, you can buy one. The gauge attaches to the outside faucet and provides a pressure reading in pounds per square inch (psi). Make sure all other water faucets (indoors and out) are turned off when you take this reading.

You can also get your water pressure from your local municipality, but it's likely to be an average for the neighborhood, rather than for your home specifically.

Determining flow rate

This is measured in gallons per minute:

  1. Get a container that has a measurable or known capacity.

  2. Turn on the water.

  3. Record the time it takes to fill to a measurable level.

  4. Divide the filled container size (in gallons) by time (in seconds) it takes to fill it.

  5. Multiply it by 60 seconds.

  6. The number you get is the flow rate in gallons per minute (GPM). (Multiply that number by 60 if you need to determine gallons per hour).

Examples:
  • A 3 gallon bucket takes 15 seconds to fill.

    3 ÷ 15 = 0.2

    0.2 x 60 = 12 GPM or 720 GPH.

  • A 4-gallon bucket takes 30 seconds to fill.

    4 ÷ 30 = 0.13

    0.13 x 60 = 7.8 GPM or 468 GPH.

Get the right heads for the right location

A well-designed sprinkler system will deliver water evenly to all areas that need irrigation. Select heads that provide the right spray pattern for your needs but also avoid over spray. Avoid placing a sprinkler heads where it will spray directly onto the trunks of trees and maybe damage the bark. The sheer force of the water pressure can score the bark, and constant wetting weakens it, making it more susceptible to pests and diseases.

Installing and inground lawn sprinkling system is a job requiring careful planning, considerable wiring, and lots of excavation. Errors in design or execution will be costly to fix.

Already have an inground sprinkler system? Read this article on how to do a routine checkup of the system.