Sprinkler System Usage and Upkeep
Irrigation Systems • Planning • Installation • Usage & Upkeep
The first thing you should do is decide how much water your plants and soil need so that you can develop a watering schedule. As a general rule of thumb, watering during the hottest part of the day should be avoided, as much of the water is lost due to evaporation. When is the best time to water? If you water just before dawn, there is less evaporation. Set your irrigation system's timer so that certain zones turn on at certain times for a predetermined amount of time.
In order to determine how much time to run your irrigation system, you can run a runoff test. A runoff test will gauge the efficiency of your system, and will tell you whether the amount of water you are using is appropriate. So how do you perform a runoff test? It's as easy as watching the zones you are testing, and keeping track of how long the system runs. When you see puddles in the test zone, note the amount of time the system has been running. That is the amount of time you can run the system without wasting water. In areas where water is scarce, it is especially important to use water wisely; in this context, the Las Vegas Valley Water District offers some helpful landscape watering tips for homeowners.
The University of Georgia has researched this area as well. The Co-op Extension Service at their College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences provides sprinkler irrigation and drip irrigation system usage and efficiency guidelines in an article entitled Using Water Wisely with Automated Irrigation Systems.
In order for your irrigation system to run well, you'll have to regularly maintain it. To clean your system, turn it off and remove the individual nozzles from one zone at a time. Then run water through the zone until the water runs clear. You'll also want to take apart and clean the nozzles, rinse out filter baskets or screens, reassemble all the parts, and then run the water again to make sure that everything is back in place. Do this zone by zone, and you will ensure a clean, well-maintained irrigation system.
Every year, at start-up, check to make sure your lawn sprinkler system is working at top efficiency. Some fine tuning may be needed if you find problems with sprinkler heads or valves, water spray patterns, or even water pressure levels. Leaking valves, clogged or broken heads, and plants blocking water spray are a few symptoms that should be addressed. Pop-up heads not extending fully and spray patterns which miss parts of your lawn may indicate low water pressure, while blown off sprinkler nozzles and overshooting spray patterns may indicate excessive water pressure.
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Using and Maintaining a Lawn Sprinkler System