Now You See it, Now You…Wait! Where Did it Go? Your backflow disappeared!

It used to be that the only things certain in life are death and taxes.  I’m going to add a third thing: someone wants your backflow.  Not in the manner of   “I want to buy Girl Scout cookies.”  This is in the line of “I want to steal that backflow and sell it for money.”  Someone is looking to you to pay their bills. After all, charity starts at home. Your home, your backflow, your expense.

Three things are combining to cause trouble. The economy is down, which means unemployment is up. Besides the standard, everyday crook, people who would never consider theft before now turn to it to pay bills. The second thing is continuing global population growth. More people means more resources are needed to support them. That means metal for tools. The final thing is the growth of formerly agricultural economies into modern, technology driven countries. Technology requires metals of all sorts.  Roll all this together and prices for scrap metals are high and rising. Your backflow is worth noticeable money to someone.

You lose in two ways. The most obvious is you have to pay to get the backflow replaced, parts and labor. The second is the water you have to pay for when they steal the backflow and your system starts pouring thousands of gallons out to the street.  Not to mention the inconvenience of going without household water if you don’t have a cut off valve on your system.  The best thing to do is stop the theft from ever happening.

Artificial rock backflow preventer coverOne way is to use the Jedi mind trick: “you only thought you saw a backflow here…you are obviously wrong…there is no backflow here…” This trick works best if you supplement it with a Dekorra rock enclosure. These are fake boulders designed to cover your backflow and make it blend into the landscaping. Who notices a rock? There’s not a lot of demand for stolen boulders. The enclosures cover the backflow, are available in standard, insulated and heated options, two finishes and a multitude of sizes. Since rocks are used in landscaping already it doesn’t scream out “hidden backflow.”  It says “landscaping feature.”

If you want the cover and/or insulation but aren’t a Jedi you can use the standard backflow enclosure. They provide the same weather protection as the rock enclosures without the camouflage effect. They do add the option of a side grid for quick visual inspections.

These also add one more step to getting to your backflow. This adds time and your average thief wants a short, quick job. Adding time discourages theft.

If adding time and effort discourages theft, then the other option is making the backflow very hard to get. Use the Gorilla Cage. Sounds like a visit to the zoo, doesn’t it? Except this cage keeps animals (crooks) out and peace and serenity in. The cage is made of strong steel tubing, angle and expanded metal with a guard to prevent the padlock from be cut by bolt cutters. Notice how the lock guard completely surrounds the lock? You don’t  The cage is bolted down to a concrete pad making for strong unitized construction. The form is even provided with the cage. Once unlocked they allow easy access for servicing or testing of the back flow.

No one will open these with a simple hammer or hacksaw. Bolt cutters won’t work. A cutting torch will but that’s a little more obvious than crooks want to be. Most crooks will pass these by and go to the next unprotected backflow they can find.

Whether you protect your backflow by hiding it or locking it away, the important things is that it stays in your yard, not someone’s truck.

Designed to Fail? Ooops…Don’t let your irrigation system laugh at you.

If you are old enough you remember the Pinto.  New Coke?  The Newton?  Zune? Mars Needs Moms?  Trying to cover all bases here. These are all products that failed due to poor design.  The strange thing about a good design is you don’t notice it.  A bad design slaps you in the face, causes trouble, often costs money and talks bad about your dog.

Ok. Irrigation designs don’t talk about your dog but a bad one will cost you time and money, along with increasing your stress level. Dry spots, swamps, water runoff, irrigating your neighbor’s yard and watering in the rain are all problems caused by bad design. To quote someone, somewhere “It don’t ever have to be that way no more never.” (I put the ‘never’ in to cancel the double negative.)

Irrigation planning is involved and challenging and simple and logical. The great thing about residential planning is so much of the work is done for you and there are companies that will do it absolutely free. They send you a drawing, instructions and a parts breakdown. If you want to go that route check out Rain Bird and Toro.

If you want to design your own Hunter has a very good guide. There are countless references and books available and all the math has been worked out. The answers are in a chart somewhere. Check here for a sample. At first glance you may get dizzy, but don’t worry, the numbers make a lot of sense once you start designing a system.

Whichever system you use, make sure you mark and consider all trees, fences, storage sheds, etc. You can’t blame Rain Bird if you forget to tell them about the pool.

If you decide to have a professional design your system, which I strongly recommend, be sure to check their credentials. In Texas you must be licensed to charge for a system design. In other states you must either be a licensed irrigator, a licensed plumber, or a licensed architect. Some states don’t have any restrictions on who can design a system. That makes it tough. Ask for references. Ask to see their work. As a professional I’d be glad to let anyone see any system I’ve ever designed. They should be also. If not, something is wrong.

A good design should have a drawing showing you the locations of the spray heads, the piping, the controller, the backflow, the valves and the areas covered by each head and the flow.

Sprinkler system design layout on graph paperIn this sample you see the spray head location, the radius and pattern (10H= 10 foot radius, half circle, Q = quarter), zone number, size of pipe (1”) and gallons per minute. The pipes are shown, coverage is shown and the valves are located.

Very important: a good design will also include a parts list of all pipes, fittings, heads, wire, valves, etc. Do not accept a design that does not.

Now for the hard part: when you have a good design, follow it. Don’t decide in the field that digging 3 more feet is just too much effort. People get tired and figure anywhere in the general area is close enough. It’s not. You’ll realize that before too long.  Digging is hard work. Lots of digging of little trenches is real high on the “I’m sick of this” list. Keep telling yourself “the shovel is my friend. The shovel is my friend…”. It will be well worth it when that good design lets you forget all about it as your lawn and gardens flourish and you save money with efficient water usage.

Valve Manifolds and Why You Want Them

Think about your average irrigation system. Say five zones made up of spray heads and  rotors. Front yard, back yard, side yard. Pretty much what you see everywhere.sample diagram of where to place valves in a property This means that there are five valves in the system. Now, there are two ways you can install valves. Both work. You can install them in each zone, as illustrated:

This works fine but someday, when you need to find the valve for repair, it may be overgrown, have a dog house on it or have simply disappeared.  Plus you are spending money on seven valve boxes and all that wire to go to all those valves.

sample diagram of where to place valves in yard
This is another way to place your valves. This keeps all the valves in a simple to find and maintain area and you would only need two valve boxes. This is called clustering. It makes long term maintenance far easier. You can also cluster them in out of the way, low traffic areas, minimizing risk of damage.

The easiest way to install this is with pre-made manifolds. Two of the most popular are the Action Machine and Dura brands. They are both available in different sizes and are expandable for future growth.

So what’s the difference? Why is one labeled Premium and one Standard?  There are two main differences. The first is the pressure rating. The Premium has a pressure rating of 235 psi @73o. The standard has a rating of 150 psi. Again, either will work for the vast majority of installations.

The second difference is more practical. Understand that once these are installed you don’t touch them again until something goes wrong, usually years down the line. At that time they will be dirty, wet, muddy and possibly underwater. Now you want anything that will make it easier to work on the system. The Action Machine coupling has a much larger and more defined grip on the ring. The larger grip makes a world of difference when it’s wet and slippery. Saves time, skin and frustration.

Either manifold will work fine.  You might wonder at this time why you can’t just build your own. After all, PVC is cheap and you will be working with it already.  No reason you can’t and it will work. However, the premium manifolds are made of Schedule 80 PVC, much stronger than the Schedule 40 you will be working with. Add the fact that the manifold backbone is one piece and you gain both rigidity and a guaranteed straight line.  Finally, the time and effort you spend measuring, cutting and gluing your parts together is worth something. Save that time for relaxing after the job is done.   Pre-made is best by far.


For any irrigation system questions please visit us at Sprinkler Warehouse.