Considering an Underground Sprinkler System?

June 1st 2009
Considering an Underground Sprinkler System?

Did you know ... watering your lawn for just one hour uses about as much water as...5 dishwasher loads, 5 loads of laundry AND 25 flushes of the toilet (500 litres in total).

Most of us are facing increasingly more restrictive regulations for the watering of our lawns and gardens. And, now that many of us are on metered water and pay for what we use, we have an incentive to use this precious resource more responsibly. To use less water outdoors, more homeowners are purchasing rain barrels and selecting plants for their landscaping more carefully; replacing lawns with low maintenance native plants and ground cover. Many are choosing to have sprinkler systems installed to avoid all the hassles that come with watering your lawn and garden and control the amount of water that is used.

Complying with water restrictions means you have to be home at the right time, you have to be there throughout the watering process to move the hose and sprinklers around and you might have to ask a neighbour to help if you are away on vacation. With increasing demands on everyone's time, and ever-present local concerns about water conservation, watering restrictions and a natural desire to increase property values through attractive landscaping, today's automatic underground sprinkler system has become more popular for Canadian homes.

Irrigation systems have come a long way since manufacturers started making sprinklers in the 1930's. Manufacturers have been very efficient in responding to a growing need for water conservation as well as practicality.

There are several important questions to ask when considering the purchase of a sprinkler system:

Q. What is an automatic underground sprinkler system?

A. It is the finest man-made method of watering your garden available in the world today. Each system is specifically tailored to meet the irrigation needs of the individual homeowner. Major components of a typical residential sprinkler system will include:

A controller, either mechanical or solid state that functions as the brains of the system. Its responsibility is to store the watering schedule in its memory and to turn the system on and off automatically as the watering program indicates.

Valves, on command from the controller, open to release water through buried pipes to any of several different types of sprinklers.

Sprinklers, parts of the system that actually distribute the water to your lawn and garden areas, are available in a variety of sizes and shapes. Rotor pop-up heads distribute water up to 40' away; other pop-up spray heads (commonly called misters) that reach 2", 4" 6" and 12" above the ground, deliver water to a more localized area. Bubblers and drip emitters are ideal for watering small areas and single plants.

Q. What are the advantages of owning an automatic underground sprinkler system?

A. Saves time. Saves water. Saves plants. And yes, it's even a good financial investment. Let's look more closely at each of these reasons for installing a sprinkler system.

They can be set to the current local watering restrictions.

How many times have you forgotten the water running outside, only to remember an hour or more later and find that hundreds of gallons have drained onto the street, wasting a lot of water, a prized natural resource! All because you forgot to turn the water off! An automatic underground sprinkler system never forgets. It can save you literally thousands of gallons of water a year simply by remembering to turn itself off at the right time.

Most plants, like people, thrive on a steady, well-regulated schedule of nutrition. An automatic underground sprinkler system will provide your plants with a carefully timed, precisely measured amount of water, when they need it. You can count on it - they can, too!

The appearance of your home is an important factor in determining its market value. An automatic underground sprinkler system can help your house keep a fresh, well-maintained look. Lush growth, healthy plants and an attractively landscaped exterior tell the prospective buyer that your house has been cared for.

Owning an automatic underground sprinkler system means that the hours you are now spending watering your garden with a hose can be devoted to more enjoyable activities. Also, there is no longer a need to remember to move the hose every 20 minutes. Your new system will do all the remembering for you. It will turn the sprinklers on and off automatically, according to your instructions.

Q. Can a system be installed without damaging my existing landscaping?

A. Yes. One of the benefits of using a professional irrigation contractor is that it can be installed with minimal disturbance to your existing foliage.

Q. Can flowerpots be watered with a sprinkler system?

A. Yes. It's very common to install a system to water your flowerpots. In fact, it's possible to have automated sprinkler irrigation for flowerpots only.

Q. I have an old sprinkler system. Can I upgrade it?

A. Yes you can. It is possible to add components to an existing irrigation system. Be sure to let your irrigation contractor know of any future additions to the system you may be planning. A properly designed irrigation system fully utilizes every drop of water, and to expand the system once it's installed may substantially reduce its efficiency.

Q. How will the system help me conserve water?

A. Excessive runoff from over-watering is a common problem experienced when using either a hose or a poorly designed and installed automatic system. Field studies have shown that a properly designed and programmed automatic underground sprinkler system is the most efficient method of watering your garden while using a minimum amount of water.

Q. Is the automatic underground sprinkler system easy to operate?

A. Yes. Once the controller is programmed with your individual watering schedule, a task easily accomplished in only a few minutes, all you have to do is sit back and let the system do all the work. Want to change the watering schedule? Easy. In just a few steps, any part of the schedule can be changed to meet your new watering requirements. Your contractor will familiarize you with all your irrigation system's components after the installation is complete.

Q. Who will operate the sprinkler system while I'm away on business or vacation?

A. The correct answer is THE SPRINKLER SYSTEM! Remember, your new AUTOMATIC system is designed to operate on a set schedule (your schedule), regardless of whether you are home or thousands of miles away on vacation. One of the real benefits of this type of system is that once it's programmed, it will continue to operate on schedule until you tell it to make a change.

Q. How long will a sprinkler system last?

A. Remember, a sprinkler system is one of the few things you buy, bury and rarely think about again. A good system should serve you well for the life of your house. But, it's important to remember that you don't trade it in for a new model every few years. That's why you should use a contractor that firmly believes that good system design; quality products and professional installation are vital.

Q. Is it necessary for sprinkler patterns to overlap?

A. Yes. Because more water is applied close to the sprinkler head, it is important to overlap the patterns so that the outer edges receive sufficient water for healthy growth.

Q. We have 50" of rainfall a year. Why do we need a sprinkler system?

A. You probably wouldn't need a sprinkler system if it rained 1/2" of water every 3 1/2 days, without ever missing a day. Unfortunately, nature doesn't work that way and in many parts of the country receiving 50" of rain a year, there are long periods when NO rain falls. For healthy, lush plant growth, it is important that they receive an evenly measured, regularly timed application of water. In the blistering heat of summer, often as few as two days without water can be damaging to plant growth. And, if it does rain, your irrigation system can be equipped with a rain sensor that will tell the system to skip the watering session so it doesn't water when it doesn't need to.

Q. Who should install my new system?

A. A qualified irrigation contractor is always your best choice for installing an automatic underground sprinkler system. An installer should be an IIAABC Certified Class A Contractor and should be certified in Cross Connection. Once the contractor meets with you, he/she can recommend high quality components that suit your needs.

Q. How may I contact other irrigation system owners?

A. We strongly believe that speaking to other homeowners who own sprinkler systems is an excellent way to discover the benefits of an automatic irrigation system and to find out more about a particular contractor. Feel free to ask any contractor for a list of their satisfied customers in your vicinity.

Q. How much will a new system cost?

A. Of course, the price will vary depending upon individual needs such as property size, special designs, and type of landscape, but you can rely on a qualified contractor to recommend the right system at the best possible price to suit your needs.

Q. Can I save money by installing my own system?

A. Not likely! In fact, it could cost you more money in the long run! A professional irrigation contractor will design an optimum system and install the most cost-effective and energy-efficient system possible. You can be certain that they will select the appropriate equipment for the job, while streamlining the maintenance required to keep your landscaping in top shape. They will pay special attention to such important factors as sprinkler patterns (remember, it is important to overlap the patterns so that the outer edges receive sufficient water) and backflow prevention (which is necessary to protect your drinking water supply as required by municipal codes). They can do the job faster, with less disruption to existing landscaping, and will guarantee their work.