Lawn Sprinkler Systems – All You Need to Know About It


Lawn Sprinkler Systems Introduction

Lawn with Sprinkler Systems

Do you own a lawn? If yes, then you understand the importance of owning a lawn sprinkler system too. Lawn care activities, topped by watering and fertilizing, revolve around the use of a sprinkler system. Doing these activities by hand, obviously, isn’t an option. A sprinkler system is undoubtedly the best way of keeping your lawn fresh and green. That said, to operate the system well, you need to understand the various components making up the whole sprinkler system.

 1. Components of a Sprinkler Controller System 

A sprinkler, for effective functionality, is made up of various parts. Some of the critical and most important components are mentioned before:

1.1. The Sprinkler Head

The Sprinkler Head

The Sprinkler Head

Sprinkler heads come in various designs suiting varying uses. They are the final point of the sprinkler system where water is propagated to the lawn. Different sprinkler heads are designed for specific parts of a yard. Therefore, installing a wrong type of sprinkler head reduces its efficiency and overall performance. There are two main/common sprinkler head types. They are:

  • Spray heads – they apply a continuous stream of water. They have a maximum spray radius not exceeding 15 feet. They are placed strategically around the yard and in flowerbeds. 
  • Rotary heads – they are designed for large and open space. They spray water two or three times more than the typical spray heads. When spraying, they rotate their stream of water either in a complete circle or an arc. 

Regardless of the type, sprinkler heads are designed to pop up when watering and descend below the ground surface after watering. This design helps prevent them from being damaged by mowers or people.

1.2. Sprinkler Zones 

Sprinkler Zones

Sprinkler Zones

Sprinkler system zones are a portion of the overall sprinkler system that can be turned on and off independently. Sprinkler systems have multiple zones for two main reasons. The first reason being water pressure. Note that the amount and pressure of piped water entering your home from the main street supply may limit the amount and pressure required by your sprinkler system to water your lawn.

Therefore, if all zones are turned on at the same time, there wouldn’t be enough water and pressure to run the whole system correctly. This is why watering a portion of your yard at varying time intervals eliminates this problem. Factually, you might have seen this on the big lawns and stadiums. 

The second reason for having zones is to vary the amount of water being applied to different areas of the lawn. Delivering the right amount of water to your lawn is imperative. However, remember that not all parts of the lawn have equal water requirements. Therefore, zones help in delivering the right amount of water to the right place. Zones make it easy to adjust the amount of water supplied to different components.

A good example being installing rotary heads at the front yard zone and spray heads at the bushes depending on water needs of these two areas.

1.3. Sprinkler Controller Timers 

Sprinkler Controller Timers

Sprinkler Controller Timers

A timer is the brain system of the whole sprinkler system. Technological advancements in lawn care often target timers. For instance, modern timers such as those installed in smart/WIFI sprinkler controller systems have timers which turn the water on and off sequentially in different zones. This is timed according to time and day of the week.

Timers also help the homeowner control the amount of water being applied to individual zone. Proper programming of the timer ensures that no part of the yard is over or underwatered. This enables the lawn owner to maintain a green, lush and healthy lawn while saving on water cost. 

When setting the lawn timer, make sure that you set it to water the lawn between 4 to 6 AM. These are the best times for watering a lawn. Watering at other times has negative effects on the lawn and isn’t advised. From rapid evaporation to developing a wet lawn susceptible to diseases, setting your timer at this time is prudent. 

1.4. Sensors 

smart wifi sprinklers

. Smart/WIFI sprinkler controller

This is yet another technologically advanced component of the sprinkler system. Smart/WIFI sprinkler controller systems have rain sensors which are essential in conserving water. This system prevents system operation when the ground is saturated with water and needs no additional irrigation often during and after a heavy rain. Through this, they extend the life and functionality of the system by preventing unnecessary use.
other sensors modern sprinkler controller systems have include weather and temperature sensors.

1.5 Hose

Lawn Sprinkler Systems Hose

Lawn Sprinkler Systems Hose

A hose is perhaps another crucial sprinkler system component. They are responsible for supplying water. Some of the common hose types available currently in the market include sprinkler hoses, soaker hoses among other types. 

 2. How Lawn Sprinkler Systems Work 

How Lawn Sprinkler Systems Work

How Lawn Sprinkler Systems Work

Sprinkler systems work by providing necessary irrigation to the lawn. This is often determined by a number of factors. For instance, traditional systems require that you switch the sprinkler system on from the control unit. The systems, as mentioned, have zones. Therefore, you can choose to switch on a specific zone depending on water requirements of that particular area.

Overwatering and underwatering was one major challenge that affected traditional systems. This is why modern systems with integrated technological advancements are rapidly replacing them. The new systems have sensors and sprinkler controller that make lawn irrigation ease. You should, therefore, learn how to effectively water your lawn. 

Effective lawn care, including watering, involves determining how often, how much and what time your lawn needs to be watered. Understanding this will make it easy to run the smart sprinkler controller system. To replace the old system, begin by replacing the controller. This takes less than 30 minutes.

Note that control of the modern system is at your fingertips. You only need to download an Android or iOS app. The app will enable you to monitor and adjust the sprinkler system from anywhere, anytime. You don’t need to run to your basement or garage where the control of your sprinkler system is located to run it.

The smart systems can also be tailored to suit your needs. Through few and easy steps, you need to add details of your lawn. The details include your lawn soil type, level of sun exposure and plant type. The system will then calculate automatically the watering systems required and the right amount of water to be delivered. This minimizes overwatering or underwatering.

Last but not least, the systems are weather intelligent. It collects water from various local weather stations and automatically adjusts watering schedules based on weather forecast. This avoids watering before, during and after heavy rains thus saving on water.

3. How to Install a Sprinkler System 

Installing a sprinkler system can be quite a daunting task. This is due to the various processes involved. However, having these systems is important as it makes watering your lawn as simple as flipping a switch. Doing the installation process can save you money. However, it isn’t an easy task.

Before installing an irrigation system, it is important that you factor in some considerations.

  • Familiarize yourself with the yard and potential problems bound to arise. 
  • Inquire from the local utility companies to mark their utility lines 
  • Determine your water resource and how to hook it up. 
  • Having satisfied the factors above, go through the following steps to install a watering system.

3.1. Determine the water pressure 

Water pressure

Water pressure

Water pressure can be taken in two measurements. This is the working pressure – when the water supply is on, and the static pressure - when the supply is switched off. To check your water pressure, you need a pressure gauge. Plumbers don’t lack these. You can also invest in one. The gauge is attached to the outside of the faucet thus providing readings in pounds per square inch (psi).

3.2. Determine the service line size 

Determine the service line size

Determine the service line size

Identifying the service line size is important to match the size of your irrigation pipe to the existing water service line. This can be determined by a simple procedure as follows.

  • Get a piece of string or any other similar material 
  • Wrap the string once around the water pipe 
  • Measure the length and compare to the various irrigation pipe sizes available

3.3. Determining the flow rate

Water flow rate is often measured in gallons per minute (GPM). Determining this is important in identifying the time needed by your lawn to be effectively watered. Otherwise, overwatering or underwatering may occur. You can use a container to measure this. Take a container of known gallons and time how long it takes to fill. Divide appropriately to find the amount filled in a minute.

3.4. Map the sprinkler system 

Map the sprinkler system

Map the sprinkler system

After completing the preliminary research, it is time to begin laying out the system. There are various elements you ought to consider when laying out an irrigation system. They include:

  • Presence of shrubs and foundation plantings 
  • Sidewalks 
  • Areas of sun and shade 
  • Slopes in the lawn 
  • Trees
  • Fences and other human-made features 
  • Areas of sun and shade

These are the features that will determine how you will create watering zones. Remember zones are determined by the physical features of the landscape and capacity of the water supply system. Mapping the landscape is therefore important in establishing water zones. Measure and map your property to scale. Mark on the map landscape features. This provides for an easy coverage of the features and that the system waters areas only with living materials.

Prevailing winds affect coverage. Besides, slopes in your lawn should be clearly indicated as they affect water pressure. This ultimately affects the amount of water delivered by the sprinkler system. Note that you should be prepared to make more than one version of the map. This provides alternatives which can be better explored on paper rather than on the actual ground.

3.5. Planning for coverage 

Sprinkler Coverage

Sprinkler Coverage

Ensuring that 100 percent sprinkler coverage is essential to avoid dry spots in your lawn. To achieve this, ensure that you overlap the spray pattern. For instance, head to head coverage sprinkler layout alloys the sprinkler to spray up to the head of the adjacent sprinkler, ensuring overlap.

As mentioned before, sprinkler heads are designed for specific watering needs. Others are adjustable to achieve targeted spot watering. This avoids irrigation of inorganic objects such as driveways, houses or sidewalks. Therefore, you should select sprinkler heads basing on the coverage required by your lawn. The number of zones, sprinkler head sizes and style often depend on the location of sidewalks, shrubs, and trees in relation to the lawn. 

Large areas require one style, areas under shrubs need another and corners need another. Therefore, your irrigation guide should have an inclusive list of sprinkler head types. When planning for coverage, remember the following: 

  • Pressure loops within the system may cause uneven watering. Therefore, avoid the unnecessary pressure loss by planning a pipe layout with as few turns possible. 
  • Long extensions reduce water pressure. Therefore, create another zone rather than an overextended single one. 
  • Mixing sprinkler head types within one zone may decrease efficiency. To avoid this, always use the same head type in each zone. 

3.6. Knowing the primary parts 

After completing the planning phase, it’s time to go out shopping for parts. Remember to select the components based on predetermined water supply and water pressure. A mismatch will stress you out and cause insufficient irrigation.

Some of the vital parts include:

  • Valves which open and close pipes which allow water to each zone. 
  • Valve box which protects valves and provides an easy access.
  • Head styles which are based on water requirements.
  • Risers which connect pipes to sprinkler heads. 
  • Fittings such as tees and elbows which connect and redirect pipes. 
  • Backflow preventer – is an anti-siphon device 
  • Timers which provide an on/off function. 
  • Pipes and valve manifold.

3.7. Identifying the pipe to use 

 Identifying the pipe to use

Identifying the pipe to use

There are various pipe types available for use. However, polyvinyl chloride, also known as OVC, are preferred as they are stronger compared to polyethylene. Polyethylene is preferred in cold regions as they adapt to the extended freezing cycles. Connections are made using specialized clamps and adhesive tapes.
Tip: Apply heat to the ends of the pipes to make them easier to connect.

3.8. Digging for The Sprinkler System 

Digging for The Sprinkler System

Digging for The Sprinkler System

Once the design is done and parts selected, you are ready to dig and install. Begin by laying out the location of lines using stakes and strings. Place a mark or flags to positions where sprinkler heads will be located. Shallow trenches are required for the system. They could be 6 – 12 inches deep depending on the frost severity and freeze cycle of your area. However, the trench should be deep enough to allow the sprinkler heads enough depth to retract underground.

To save time, use a trencher. Digging by hand can also be done. Ensure that the trenches are at the same level to avoid gravitational effects which may reduce efficiency.

3.9. Assembling the Sprinkler System 

Assembly becomes a snap once pre-planning and other steps are complete. Begin by laying out pieces first. Always begin connecting components working outward from the manifold. Follow the steps below: 

3.9.1. Connecting PVC pipes

Connecting PVC pipes

Connecting PVC pipes

Cut the pipe to a required length using either a hacksaw or pipe cutter.

  • Cut the pipe to a required length using either a hacksaw or pipe cutter.
  • Smoothen out and bevel, the edges using a fine file or knife. 
  • Insert the pipe to the fitting and adjust it to its correct position. Mark the pipe to make it easy in finding the position again after. 
  • Remove the pipe from the fitting and clean the surfaces with a solvent primer.
  • ​​​​Brush the outside of the pipe and inside the fitting with cement. 
  • Push the pipe into the fitting using your reference marks. 

3.9.2. Connecting polyethylene pipes

Cut the pipe to a required length using either a hacksaw or pipe cutter.

  • Cut the pipe to required length using a hacksaw or pipe cutter.
  • Place a clamp on each end.
  • Insert fitting into the pipes
  • Tighten the clamps.

3.9.3. Connecting sprinkler heads

Connecting sprinkler heads

Connecting sprinkler heads

Sprinkler head systems often vary depending on the manufacturer. Heads usually thread to the riser. However, you should follow the installation instructions in your model carefully. Ensure that you flush debris completely from the line before connecting the sprinkler heads.

3.10. Connecting the System to Service Line 

You can connect your irrigation system to water supply in two ways:

  1. The system valve can be connected directly to an existing outdoor faucet located directly outside your house. 
  2. Connecting directly to the service line. Here, you will have to shut off the water supply between the main shut off valve and house. You may need the services of a professional for this. 

3.11. Installing Backflow Prevention 

 Backflow Prevention

Backflow Prevention

Backflows in an irrigation system can be caused by:

  • Water being siphoned back to the water supply 
  • Reverse pressure within the system 

Backflows may lead chemicals from the lawn to the water supply which may cause serious problems. This is why backflow prevention measures are essential. This system closes the system when not being used.

3.12. Controlling the Sprinkler System 

In an irrigation system, each zone usually has its own controlling valve. You should, therefore, note specific valves belonging to specific zones in case of future repair and maintenance reasons. Manifold groups all the valves in one area. This allows all zones to be routed to one control.

The timer controls the zones being watered. Therefore, you should have timers based on the number of zones present in your system. Automatic timers can be programmed to run and shut off for a specific time. Moving on, rain sensors, features in Smart/WIFI controller systems detect water levels and automatically shut on/off. This is a great investment when you aren’t at home. 

 4. Sprinkler System Maintenance 

If the sprinkler system had been installed exemplarily, maintenance wouldn’t often be done. Shoddy installation practices and poor-quality items may call for frequent maintenance practices. However, if you reside in freezing areas, you can’t escape one major sprinkler maintenance routine during winter. 

4.1. Winterizing Your Sprinkler System 

Winterizing the sprinkler system means preparing your sprinkler system to avoid winter damage such as breaking pipes and connections. Those living in warm or temperate regions may get away with this by simply covering the piping with insulation. This is because the ground doesn’t get cold enough to freeze. Winterization process is a must-do in cold climates.

To winterize:

  • Check the system if it has auto-drain valves. If auto-drain valves are present, simply turn off the water supply and open the valves to allow excess water to drain off the system. 
  • For manual drains, an air compressor is required. Applying pressures ranging between 50 – 100 psi is enough to clear water from the system. 
  • You should also open valve manifolds to allow any remaining water to drain off. 
  • Ensure that you run through each zone until you are sure all water is cleared. 
  • Lastly, ensure to turn off the timer to prevent additional water from entering the system. 

Tip: If you are using an air compressor, ensure that you wear protective eyewear to prevent injuries.


Healthy Lawn with Spinkler System

Healthy Lawn with Sprinkler System

Having a healthy lawn not only feels good but a source of pride. This is why, as a homeowner, you should all it takes to maintain your lawn as green and healthy as possible. Your way to achieving this involves owning a sprinkler system. You should not only own one but understand how it works.

Going through the outline mentioned above will provide answers and guides to all you require in a sprinkler system. You will also get insights on maintaining the irrigation system, especially the common problem occurring during winter.

Hannah Ross

My name is Hannah. I have one handsome son and I love him so much. Gardening is my greatest hobby. I always want to turn the garden behind my house into a relaxing place.

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