Springtime Sprinkler System Start-up Checklist


 

shutterstock_140861632If you have a home sprinkler system then you know it must be maintained in order to remain dependable and functional when you need it. That means taking proper precautions in the winter to prepare the system for the pending freezing temperatures and conditions. Similarly, when it comes spring time, the sprinkler system needs to be taken through a series of procedures to ensure that it is a ready to begin watering again and also to ensure that it’s ready and able to function properly throughout the upcoming season.

Depending on the part of the country where you live, you may (or may not) have to fully winterize your system each year. This checklist will take your through all the steps necessary to perform a thorough and complete startup process.

 

 SpringTime Sprinkler Start-up Checklist

 

  1. Make sure it’s safe to start: You don’t want to start your system up too early. A system that is started too early can lead to damaged pipes and or backflow preventers. Check your local weather forecast to ensure there is not going to be any more freezing temperatures or consult this chart for a regional guideline on frost.
  2. grassInspect Backflow Preventer: Locate your backflow preventer and inspect it thoroughly for damage (i.e. cracks, splits, leaks, etc.) before introducing water into the system.  Winter can be especially rough on irrigation equipment, freezing water expands and can crack pipes, valves and even backflow preventers. In the northern areas of the country, it’s a common practice to winterize sprinkler systems by “blowing out” the remaining water from the lines, using high-volume, low-pressure compressed air.
  3. Visually Inspect Sprinkler Heads: Look for damage in and around sprinkler heads throughout the system. Remove any debris, dirt, gravel or vegetation that’s collected on or around sprinkler heads. If you have rotor style sprinkler heads, it’s best to remove the nozzle from each rotor to clean out any debris which may have collected. If any nozzles are missing or damaged, be sure to replace them with an appropriate replacement part.
  4. Spring backflowCreate a flush point: Remove last sprinkler head at the end of each zone to provide an escape for any unwanted debris which have collected over past season(s) to escape freely. It will also eliminate the risk of over pressurization and water hammer effect as the air which currently fills the pipes is replaced by water.
  5. Visually and physically inspect valves: Locate the valve box(es) for your system and carefully inspect the valve assemblies for damage and/or leaks.
  6. Visually inspect the controller: Most controllers are located inside a garage or shed. Carefully inspect the controller, looking for any damage. (Replace the batteries if necessary.) Turn controller on and confirm the buttons are functioning properly and the controller is functional. Ensure that the correct time is set on the controller.
  7. valve solonoidPrepare the backflow preventer for mainline turn on: The handles on the backflow preventer should have been set to a 45-degree angle from the winterization process. Open the handles to allow for water flow by aligning the handles parallel with the pipe they are attached to. Locate the test-ports on the backflow preventer. Turn the screw located on the side of the test-port from the 45° position and turn it slightly back to the 90° (up and down) position.
  8. Locate the main water turn on: Often found in the basement or crawlspace of the structures foundation. Turn on the water slowly (take at least 30-seconds to move the handle from closed to open. Check Pressure coming through backflow preventer to the valves (should be around 45-60 psi ideally)
  9. Inspect Mainline, master valve and backflow preventer: With water in the pipes, visually inspect the system for leaks or damage not previously visible. (I.E. wet spots or puddles, misting, spraying etc.)
  10. et_modManually Open Each Valve and flush each zone: With water in the system open up each zone manually by turning the solenoid on top of the valve very slowly, once you hear water begin to flow stop turning. Allow enough time for the system to flush. Ensure that water is coming out through the flush point you created in step 4. Close the solenoid by hand. And repeat for all zones.
  11. Close all the flush points:  Replace the end-caps and/or rotors at the end of each zone.
  12. Check Controller function: Cycle through each zone one at a time using the controller to open and close the zone. Leave each zone on long enough for you to go walk around the zone and ensure the sprinklers are working properly.
  13. Adjust the watering schedule for the early spring/summer season: Reset the controller to accommodate the needs of your lawn based on the season.  If you are not sure what to set it to, consult this guide.

  14. Uncover and adjust rain sensors or other accessories:
    If you controller is equipped with a weather sensor or rain collector uncover it and ensure it’s clean and unobstructed.

Cold Weather: Prepare or Repair


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The backflow preventer is a costly part of your sprinkler system, and despite its tough looking construction, it can be surprisingly fragile under freezing temperatures. If you live in a part of the country where freezing temperatures are common, you should take the time to prepare & protect your backflow preventer (and other components) from freeze damage. The good news is that backflow preventers are surprisingly easy to winterize or even repair! In fact, most can be winterized in less than 5 minutes or repaired in under 15 minutes using tools any home owner would have on hand!

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Step One

Start by first shutting off the water supply to the sprinkler system.

Step Two

 Next, ensure that the ball-valve controlling the incoming water is closed and the ball-valve controlling the water going out to the sprinkler system open.

backflow freeze prev diag

Step Three

Locate the test cocks (i.e. test-ports) located on the side of the backflow preventer and remove any caps of protective covers from the ports.

Step Four

Locate the adjustment screw on the side of the test cock and using a flat head screwdriver, turn that screw (to the right) approximately one quarter turn and leave the screw in the 45° position. (Repeat this procedure for the remaining screw(s). As you do this some valves will expel water, others may not, this is normal).

Step Five

Finally turn the ball-valves to a 45 degree angle. This ensures that water will not become trapped behind the ball valve while in the fully open position, while at the same time allowing for continuous flow in and out of the backflow preventer.

Step Six

INSULATE-INSULATE-INSULATE!!! If you are unable to winterize your Backflow preventer or just want another layer of protection, be sure to insulate your exposed devices (hydrants, Backflows, pipes etc)  from direct exposure.

(Directions apply to the common pressure vacuum breaker style of backflow preventer)

 

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The process to repair your backflow preventer if it has sustained freeze damage is very easy, so long as the housing of the device did not crack under the pressure. It’s most likely that the bonnet and poppet assembly within the device broke under the pressure from the frozen water. They are designed to give way under pressure to protect the backflow preventer from more extensive, expensive damage. 

Step One

Start by turning off the water to your sprinkler system. This can be done at the primary shutoff valve. It is not uncommon for this valve to be located underground, in which case you would use a long metal key handle to turn the valve and shut the water off. If this valve is by chance located in an area where it can be exposed to the cold temperatures be sure it is insulated and/or protected from the cold.

Step Two

At the backflow protector, find the valve handle controlling the incoming water. This is usually locate on the pipe coming up from the ground into the base of the backflow preventer. Turn the handle ro-degrees to the right, shutting off the flow of water into the device. You will know the handle is in the off position because it will be positioned horizontal and parallel to the ground. Next locate the valve handle for the water coming out of the backflow device. Turn the handle 90-degrees just as you did the previous handle. When closed this handle will be vertically aligned, going up and down.

backflow partsStep Three

Using a flat head screwdriver locate the Test ports (i.e. test cocks) located on the side of the device and turn the screw slightly, allowing any pressure being held inside the device to be relieved. Repeat this for both screws.

Step Four

Using an adjustable wrench, carefully remove the nut on top of the bell cover. Lift off the bell cover d to access the bonnet and poppet assembly. Remove the nut on the top of the plastic bonnet and remove any and all plastic bits and pieces that have broken. Once the inside of the device is clean and free from any debris, carefully take your new bonnet and poppet assembly and screw it down into the place where the old one was. Be sure to only tighten the new parts down into the device hand tight.

Step Five

Replace the nut on top of the bonnet and poppet. Next replace the bell cover and nut. Additionally replace the bell cover on top of the the backflow preventer and tighten it moderately.    Also close the test ports on the side of the device using your flat head screwdriver.

 Step Six

Cover your backflow preventer pipes with insulating tape and take time to cover the entire device with some kind of insulation. Perhaps an insulation sleeve or a decorative cover 

 

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Even if your backflow preventer is not damaged, you may want to have a bonnet and poppet assembly on hand just in case your get caught off guard! Surprisingly, backflow repair kits are an item that is highly susceptible to the supply and demand curve. When they are in demand, they are in HIGH demand. Which means you may not be able to find one locally or they may be severely overpriced as a result of the demand.

Buy a bonnet and poppet assembly to keep in case of emergencies. You never know, it may just save the day when you least expect it! Or perhaps you can help to save the day for one of your neighbors in distress. Nevertheless, its a good idea to have one on hand and be prepared with a backup plan. 

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Polar Vortex the New El Nino ?


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When I moved to the great state of Texas from the Pacific Northwest, I was excited to escape the cold weather and all the icy annoyances that made life in Idaho really cold and really dangerous! And wouldn’t you believe it…the first winter I have in Texas turns out to be one of the coldest on record!

The reason the nation is experiencing colder than usual conditions is largely due to a phenomena called a Polar Vortex.

But we are not out of the woods just yet!– Meteorologists are predicting another polar vortex experience in the near future.

What the heck is a polar vortex!?

The first thing to know is that (ironically) it has to do with global warming. That’s right, the recent nationwide cold-spell…the same exact cold spell responsible for blizzard like conditions and freezing temps in all 50 states…is an indirect consequence of global warming!

I will do my best to explain this as simply and accurately as possible, here we go…

The far north is warming at a rate nearly twice as fast as the middle part of the planet.  The result is a diminished difference between the Arctic temps and the temperature of the central part of the planet where continents such as North America are located.

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Directly above the arctic north pole is a giant mass of swirling cold air moving above it  in a counter-clockwise direction. This circular motion is created by the difference in temperatures between the arctic and the central part of the planet.

However, as the average temperature of the Arctic is rising at nearly twice the speed as the rest of the planet the difference in these values is changing the way the cold air mass over the north pole behaves. The larger the difference in temperatures the

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tighter that swirling pattern stays. But, as that temperature difference grows closer together, the pattern grows wavy and more erratic. Occasionally the mass of air shifts further beyond the norm and we experience a cold spell like what happened during the first week of January.  

In other words, we experience a Polar Vortex.

We can expect to see this kind of thing happening more and more frequently, because it is directly related to global warming.

Prepare your home for the cold weather.

Whether you live in Texas like me, or you live in another part of the country…last week’s polar vortex experience proved that NO ONE is safe from the freezing temperatures (Hawaii included!)

Take special care to put your animals indoors during potentially cold days, or prepare a warm place for them to weather the storm.

Make sure you have a first aid kit and some supplies with you in your car at all times…cold weather can cause your car’s battery to be as much as lose 33 percent of its power when the temperature dips below freezing, and over 50 percent of its power in subzero conditions! So be sure to have a warm blanket or sleeping bag inside your car just in case you are stuck in the cold longer than you plan to be!

Lastly, prepare your home for the cold. Where we are outside of the growing season, it’s unlikely that you have flowers or plants that need protecting, but if you do, be sure to cover them  to prevent the frost from damaging them. If you have any exposed pipes, be sure to wrap them with insulating tape or buy a insulating cover for them.  If you have a sprinkler system installed in your lawn you need to locate your backflow preventor and protect it by winterizing it! (a broken backflow preventor can cost you hundreds in parts and labor if the housing is cracked)

Backflow and the Polar Vortex



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Almost every lawn in the United States is subject to severe winter weather, especially the new Polar Vortex that has hit the states. This Vortex has caused many people to rethink their pipe protection and backflow prevention devices. In order to make sure that your home is prepared for when the polar vortex is over and everything starts to melt, you might need to run out and do some shopping.

Recent history shows that areas most vulnerable to damage from sudden frozen temperatures are those in the southern portions of the country because they are not prepared or acclimated to long periods of freezing temperatures. For this reason, it is critical that every home owner prepare for problems during the winter weather.

As you might expect, the most common types of sprinkler problems during the winter months are freezing water in your pipes. Two problems that are most prevalent: water accumulating in sprinkler systems from the compressed air in the sprinkler pipes, and improper insulation of backflow devices.

When a backflow device is not winterized and freezes, it will expand along with the frozen water inside of it, causing a few different things to happen; the bonnet and poppet assembly could freeze causing it to blow apart and water will run all over until it is shut off, if your valve brakes, it will be another problem and will be extremely costly to fix.  When you go to turn on your irrigation, water will flow freely from the broken backflow and you might even have non-potable water rushing into your potable water inside of your home. If you do not become aware of any breakage with your backflow, this will lead the way for a very unsatisfactory year of lawn maintenance and possibly health care bills if you ingest any water from the backflow device.

What To Do:

Turn the water off

Replace broken part

Drain the backflow

Turn the valve handle at a 45 degree angle

Wrap the device with a towel

Wrap everything with a plastic bag then tape or secure in place.

backflow parts

Winterization Time


Cold WinterOh Boy, here at Sprinkler Warehouse we have people running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to make sure that everyone is able to winterize their irrigation systems before the first freeze. Fortunately here in Houston we might go the entire winter not having to winterize, but do you really want to take that risk??

I will go over exactly what you will need to do in order to get your pipes and backflow devices prepared for the cold weather that may or may not lie ahead… you know with that global warming maybe we will all be sitting by the beach sipping cold drinks in January!

In Cold Climates:

Insulating your irrigation system’s backflow preventer will be the most important step to take when winterizing in a cold climate. In cold climates, occasional late and early season freezes occur and can damage your equipment. Using a small amount of self-sticking foam insulating tape – without blocking the drain outlets or the air vents – should be sufficient. Otherwise, try using some R-11 fiberglass insulation. Wrap it around the backflow preventer, then use duct tape to secure a plastic bag around the whole thing. Don’t secure it too tightly – just tight enough to keep it from blowing off.

In Moderate Climates:

Far fewer steps are required in a moderate climate where it does not freeze, or only freezes for a few hours at a time. The water supply must still be shut off and you will also need to shut down the timer or controller as well. The timer may be set to “rain mode,” especially if it is a solid state, digital display controller. Doing this can save you a great deal of time and means that you won’t have to reprogram the entire thing when spring rolls back around. Gear-driven rotor sprinklers that are above ground must be drained, or the water can freeze, expand and damage them. If the water doesn’t drain out on its own, a drain valve will need to be installed on the sprinkler supply line. Otherwise, you can remove the rotors and shake them out thoroughly; in that case, you should then store them for safekeeping until spring.

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Difference Between the Three Methods of Winterization?

The most important step of the winterization process is removing the water from the system’s pipes and sprinklers so that it doesn’t freeze, expand and burst everything. There are a few different ways of approaching the problem: using a shop vacuum to suck all of the water out (a very time-consuming and aggravating process), draining the water out via the system’s drain valves or using air to blow all of the water out (also known as a sprinkler system blow out)

  • Manual Drain Valve- This method is required if your manual drain valve is located at the lowest point. Your manual valve will either be a ball valve, stop and waste valve, or a globe valve. Make sure that after the water has drained out of the mainline you drain the water that is between the shut off valve and the backflow device. This will not remove the water from your backflow device or your sprinklers. Open the test cocks on your backflow device to enable the water to flow out. If your sprinklers have check valves make sure to raise them so that the water drains out.
  • Automatic Drain Valve Method- Drain Valves are typically located on the ends and low points of your sprinkler system. They drain the water when the PSI is below 10PSI. Activate a station to release pressure and to get the automatic drain valves going. This method saves a great deal of frustration. As with the other methods you will need to drain the water out of the backflow device and your sprinkler heads. In some instances you might have both a manual and an automatic drain valve. If this is the case you have to follow the above method for manual drain valves as well.
  • “Blow Out” Method- Extreme caution must always be taken when blowing out an irrigation system with compressed air. Compressed air can cause serious injury from flying debris. Always wear approved safety eye protection and do not stand over any irrigation components (pipes, sprinklers, and valves) during air blow out. Serious personal injury may result if you do not proceed as recommended! It is best for a qualified licensed contractor to perform this type of winterization method. For a complete step-by-step guide on how to use the “blow out” method follow this link: http://www.sprinklerwarehouse.com/How-to-Winterize-in-Cold-Climates-s/7950.htm

*Sprinkler Warehouse recommends contacting a professional for any winterization tips and deals for blow outs since this is the most dangerous method if done without a professional.

Now that you know the steps to winterizing your irrigation system, it is important to take the necessary steps for your home and budget. Before I leave y’all, here is a picture that we won’t see down south but basically gets the point across as to why you should winterize everything this is in someone’s garage!

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The heart of your irrigation system: the irrigation valve.


If the controller is the brains of your system the valves are the heart. They control the flow of water through the lines. They are very simple in both principle and design.

This is an example of a typical valve. Details may vary but execution is the same.

Valves have water both above and below the diaphragm. The upper chamber pressure is greater than the lower due to the combination of spring pressure and trapped water. They also have an air space under the solenoid with a bleed hole that is opened when the solenoid plunger is retracted (zone turned on).

Opening this hole lowers the pressure above the diaphragm, the water below forces the diaphragm up and water flows through. Most valves will not open with less than 15 to 20 pounds per square inch of pressure. This is only a concern with extremely low pressure; usually on gravity feed water tanks.

Picking a good valve is simple: stay with a name brand. After that you have few decisions to make. Most people use 1” valves. Simple reasons are they are the most economical, readily available, both new and parts, and provide the flow most residential and small commercial designs need. Even if your design calls for a ¾’ valve use 1”. It doesn’t cost more and if you make changes or expansions in the future you won’t be restricted by the smaller size. A 1” valve will allow up to 25% more flow than a ¾” valve.

The next choice is flow control. Flow control is separate knob or screw on top of the valve and allows you to regulate the water going through the valve. In most cases flow control is not necessary but it does have advantages. If a valve sticks open, one of the more common valve failures, the flow control allows you force the valve closed. If your water pressure is low, either because of supply problems or overlapping valve operations, partially closing the flow control will help the valve close faster and more reliably. It’s cheap insurance to have.

Valves fail in consistent ways. It may not close completely. This could be due to debris, the most common reason, or worn diaphragms. Check out FILTRATION for how to prevent debris. Diaphragms do wear and age, generally resulting in a tear in the diaphragm. Just replace. For a very short video on how to do a repair look at VALVE REPAIR. Valve bodies rarely fail unless suffering freeze damage or shovel hit.

Solenoids will fail over time or the connections to the control box could have become corroded. Check the connections; make sure they are clean. For a simple way to test the solenoid:

 Steps in Creating a Portable Valve Activator.

  1. Take three 9-Volt Batteries
  2. Connect in a series
  3. Connnect one valve wire to the negative pole
  4. Then connect the other wire to the positive pole to activate the valve
  5. If the solenoid is functioning properly, you should hear a “click”

For a more involved but very easy and thorough way to test the solenoid and all wiring look at USING A MULTIMETER.

It’s just neat.


Had trouble coming up with a topic and started browsing the Sprinkler Warehouse website.

        Found out we sell some interesting things.  Some are just interesting, some are downright useful and one made me look twice and then start laughing. You get to figure out which one.

        Superman’s x-ray vision has nothing on these. The TurfSpy glasses let you see problems early, long before they are visible to mere mortals.  The earlier you treat turf disease the faster it goes away. Not only do you stop disease and infestations before they start, you look good doing it.

         Next is the mobile garden planter. It has wheels!  Now, you might wonder why that is exciting. I’ll tell ya’. I live in Houston, Texas. There is a law here that says we cannot get freezes unless it is a year in which I bought my wife new plants for the entry and walk. Then the freeze comes and I have to move all the plants inside. I have been told that, while my efforts are appreciated, the rusty Little Red Wagon does not really go with our décor.  These will.

          I want one: the Magnum Hose Nozzle. I am far from gentle using tools. When I am through watering I just drop the hose and nozzle. Doesn’t matter if I’m on grass or concrete, on the ground or on the ladder. Later I go to the hose bib and start pulling in the hose. Across the yard. Through the gate. Did you know that when pulling a hose and nozzle through the yard and around a corner that the nozzle handle acts like a grappling hook? Did you know that when it’s 100 degrees outside I have little patience and just pull harder? Did you know that most nozzles have many or are all plastic parts? Between dropping the nozzle on concrete and catching it on the gate I replace the nozzle every year. This is better. It’s all metal, no handles to catch and will survive my abuse for years. I’ve already proven I can’t learn new tricks. Might as well buy something that puts up with my old ones.

              Ever notice that no matter how much you try to clean your back yard there is always something that really doesn’t fit anywhere? Especially if you have kids. There’s always that one toy, that one tool or hose or gas can or just general clutter that never seems to go away. Now you don’t care if it goes away. You won’t be able to see it. Look at the Storage Rock. Open it up, fill it up, close it. No clutter, no problem.

          Remember those woven finger traps you had as a kid? Put your fingers in and the harder you pull the harder it holds. Well, they grew up, just like you did. The Wire Mesh Grips work the same way. Put the pipe in, start pulling and the grip just gets tighter and tighter. Wire Mesh Grips are used for pulling irrigation pipe, insulated wire, wire rope, tubing, PVC, and bare conductors. Far easier than pulling by hand and automatically adjusts to the size of the pipe. No programming needed.

    Well, playtime’s over. Gotta go back to work.

You filter your coffee, you filter air. Really should filter your irrigation water.


The water going to your irrigation system is probably not as clean as you think. Even if you have municipal water from the best city supply in the country (Austin, TX, Des Moines, IA, Sioux Falls, S.D.) that water has to get to you through old pipes. Many cities still have cast iron pipes as their main lines, some dating back over 100 years. Most homes built before the 1960s have galvanized piping.  Pipes tend to fail from the inside, losing minute rust and other particles into the water. Add in the occasional sand particles that get in the water when pipes or pumps break and are fixed, plus the minor debris caused by cutting and repairing pipes, and there is a whole flotilla of little particles floating in your water.

At this point you are probably thinking “Wait a minute! I drink that stuff! All that garbage goes into me!” Yes, it does. However, your body is better adapted to handling it than your sprinkler system. Besides, didn’t your doctor always tell you iron was good for you? Back to the pipes…

All of these particles go into your irrigation system and accumulate in valves, sprays and emitters. This causes decreased performance and a steady increase in maintenance. It also costs you money in ways you might not expect.  The thing to do is stop it before it happens.

A common problem with irrigation valves is failing to close completely. This leads to water seepage through the spray heads, wasting a great deal of water. Many times the problem is just grit or debris keeping the diaphragm from seating.

What you didn’t know it cost you: paying to fix something that is not broken. When you call a service tech (me) out for a leaking valve chances are good the first thing I will do is replace the valve. Generally I won’t even bother to see if it just needs cleaning. This is not done to save time. It is far quicker and easier to open and clean a valve than it is to cut the pipes and replace the valve.

I do it because people tend to be unhappy paying for service. People get really unhappy when charged for a service call and I look at them and say,  “Nah, I didn’t have to replace anything. I just wiped it off with a rag. It’s fine. Please pay me for one hour labor.” People like seeing things replaced. New is always better, right?

The debris also accumulates in your spray nozzles, causing pattern changes, reduced coverage distance and eventually complete blockage. These are easy to clean: tooth pick, tooth brush and running water. A tech will never clean them. It does take longer to clean these than to replace them.

The best thing to do is avoid these problems all together. Install a T-style filter.

The Vu-Flow screen filters keep out sand and debris. The body is clear so you can instantly see when the filter needs purging or cleaning. To purge, just open the valve on the bottom. The trapped dirty water flows out. If the filter needs washing unscrew the body, remove the screen and clean. You don’t need to dry it off, it’ll get wet anyway.

Various screen sizes are available for different debris sizes.

Sediment
In Water

Use
To Protect

Type To Use:
(Mesh; Micron; Inches)

Coarse Sand; Shell

Sprinkler heads

30 mesh; 533 micron; .021″

Medium
Sand/Grit
Pipe scale;
Well Cuttings

Solenoid Valves
Gear Drive Sprinkler
Domestic Water

60 mesh; 254 micron; .010″
60 mesh; 254 micron; .010″
100 mesh; 152 micron; .006″

Fine Sand/Silt

Poultry drinkers
Household well water
Drip Irrigation
Fogger Sprayer

140 mesh; 104 micron; .004″
140 mesh; 104 micron; .004″
250 mesh; 61 micron; .0024″
250 mesh; 61 micron; .0024″

T-filters are easy to install and maintain. Filtering your water extends the life of your valves and nozzles. Maintenance becomes less frequent, saving time and money.  All in all, a relatively minor investment with pretty good return.

Silly you. You thought ½” tubing measured ½”.


Half inch tubing is literally the backbone of many drip irrigation systems. It is by far the most popular size used.  The only problem is half inch tubing isn’t half inch.  It’s close! Closer than ‘hand grenade’ close. More like ‘electric razor’ close.

 

Piping has specific dimensions. Steel, iron, copper, pvc all have set standards set by ASTM International.  This means that the steel pipe you buy in Maine will fit the fittings you buy in Nebraska and connect to the existing pipe in Alaska.

Plastic tubing? No, no real standards.  The size can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer or even within the same manufacturer.  The term ½” is known as the nominal size, or the industry trade description of the product. As they say in the diet commercials, your results may vary. A lot, actually.

Irrigation 1/2-inch polyethylene tubing is available in different configurations:

1/2-inch – .570″ ID x .670″ OD     1/2-inch – .580″ ID x .700″ OD
1/2-inch – .600″ ID x .700″ OD    1/2-inch – .620″ ID x .710″ OD

Why do you care?  Honestly, the sizes are so close they won’t have much effect on water flow, especially the two biggest. You care because fittings don’t always fit. It’s easy to buy a ½” fitting that won’t fit a ½” tube.

It is important when building a drip system to check the internal diameter of the tubing against the size of the fittings you need. While always buying the same brand of tubing and fittings help it is not a guarantee of fit. The two fittings in the picture are from the same company.  They are not interchangeable. If you put the .520” in a .600 ID tube and clamp down tight enough it should hold. You can’t put the .600” in a .520” tube without deforming the tube.

Before you buy your system take a moment and verify dimensions. Look at the barb fittings  and you see the specs are given for each piece. All you need to do is match them to your tubing.

Fortunately, ½” tubing seems to be the only product with this problem. The ¼”, ¾” and 1” are all consistent in sizing.

In the Time Before Plastic there was Brass.


There was a time when brass nozzles where all you saw in irrigation systems. Why? Well, there were no plastic ones. Hard to imagine pre-plastic, isn’t it?  You had brass, zinc and steel. Brass dominated because of its looks and durability.

The first generation or three of plastic nozzles were rough. Manufacturing technology was not at the level needed to produce a truly efficient, uniform pattern spray nozzle. If you wanted quality and efficiency you went with brass.

Today’s plastic nozzles are very efficient and provide good, uniform coverage. Many of them provide coverage as consistent as brass nozzles. They are also cheaper than brass. Why, then, would people continue to buy brass? There are a number of good reasons.

Normally about now I’d start throwing some numbers and statistics at you to show you why this product is so much better. Not today.  I will note that brass nozzles are available with a 24’ radius. Plastic nozzles tend to stop at 15’.

Our wonderful graphics group had absolutely nothing to do with this graphic.

Why buy brass?

Well, if you are designing a system and can space heads every 24’, as opposed to every 15′,  you save on parts and labor. Parts may be cheap but labor is not. Eliminating heads while maintaining coverage can make a noticeable difference in your costs.

Durability. It’s easy to find brass nozzles 50 years old still in service. Brass is corrosion resistant, withstands hot and cold easily, and resistant to abrasion from debris.  If you see a plastic nozzle 15 or 20 years old you have found an exceptional system.

Abrasion resistance. As clean as it is, your water can still carry sand and other debris. Even with municipal water there can be fine sand and, in some areas, metal particles from inside your old galvanized supply line. When metal pipes break down they tend to do it from the inside out, releasing abrasive metal particles into your water. This fine abrasion can have a cumulative effect on any nozzle. Plastic, being softer than brass, will show wear far earlier. The particles will also adhere to the side more readily, causing a build-up that has to be cleaned more often than brass.

Hot and cold. REAL hot and REAL cold. Extreme temperatures: brass has survived them just fine for centuries. Get cold enough and plastic can get brittle. Fine if no one bothers it until it warms up again, not so fine if someone steps on it.

And the main reason people still buy brass nozzles: they look good. Architects don’t recommend brass for door handles, desk trim, railings, faucets, lighting, fountains and more because it’s the latest thing. They use brass because it looks good and stays looking good for a long time. Brass gives everything a classic, finished look.

You work hard to make your place attractive. Very few parts of your irrigation system show to the public. Shouldn’t those parts reflect the pride and work you have in the rest of your home and last just as long?