SPF = Some People Fry SPM = Some People Melt


Couple of safety issues to go over today. We want to keep our customers healthy and buying stuff.

Some people fry.

No sunburn. Sunburn = bad. Too much sunburn = cancer = really bad.

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on sunscreen lotions. I do, however, know how to get a bad sunburn, if that helps. In researching this post I came across the expected advice and two more things  I didn’t know. So use sunscreen, stay in shade, cover your skin, etc.

First thing I didn’t know: SPF probably doesn’t mean exactly what you think and it’s not really mathematical. The really high SPF ratings don’t do what you would expect. Because he sums it up so eloquently I’ll quote Dr. James Spencer as reported on the very useful WebMD site.

“SPF is not a consumer-friendly number,” says Florida dermatologist and American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) spokesman James M. Spencer, MD. “It is logical for someone to think that an SPF of 30 is twice as good as an SPF of 15, and so on, but that is not how it works.”

According to Spencer, an SPF 15 product blocks about 94% of UVB rays, an SPF 30 product blocks 97% of UVB rays, and an SPF 45 product blocks about 98% of rays.”

And now, the best technical summation I have ever read.

“After that, it just gets silly,” he says. (webmd.com: sunscreens)

The other thing I learned is that, while SPF 45 is not three times as good at SPF 15, many doctors still recommend it and higher but not because of the minor increase in efficiency. It seems most people do not apply sunscreen properly, usually applying far too thin a layer. By recommending higher SPF they hope to compensate for the fact we don’t read instructions.

Oh, and wear a hat.

Some people melt.

If you don’t count holes, snakes, saws, shovels, picks, trenchers, mud, sun, mosquitoes and PVC cutters then there are very few hazards in irrigation work.  So let’s forget those and look at primer and cement.

Working with PVC primer and cement is easy and quick. With any minor precautions at all it’s pretty safe. Even with no precautions it is hard to hurt yourself unless you try. Unfortunately, people seem to try all the time.

You should wear gloves. The primer not only stinks but it will help you find every cut and scrape on your hand and set them on fire. Do you really want that stuff going in an open wound? It also tends to dry out your skin and you lose that ‘satiny smooth’ touch you’ve worked so hard for.   Then you get the great fun of telling everyone why your hand is purple. The cement can take a day or two to come off and you look like you have Rigelian Fever.

The cement is really a solvent. It loves to melt plastic. Get some on your new eyeglasses and you’ll need another pair. Get some on your contacts? Not only will your eye scream in pain but your contact is shot.

Keep cement and primer out of your eyes or your kids will hear those words they aren’t supposed to say.

Now the serious part. Primer stinks. Badly. Primer vapors are bad for you. People will pour it on rags, hold it up to their nose and breathe deeply for a dumb and dangerous high. Dangerous and you end up with a purple nose telling everyone you are less than smart. Make sure you use primer in a well-ventilated area.

Most situations are low risk: the outdoor repair, the quick under sink fix, etc. The danger lies in lots of exposure in confined areas. You will stop smelling it. Your brain will think the nose is lying to it cuz’ nothing can smell that bad that long. The brain stops registering the odor. You can stand there breathing in all the vapors without the built in alarm system your body started with. This is known as ‘not good.’

In 20+ years of working with primer and cement I’ve never known anyone to be harmed during routine use. I have seen people working in small closed rooms get dizzy from the fumes. It’s neither fun nor funny.

Have lots of ventilation when gluing pipe. Outdoors is best.

The bright spot is if you are at risk of sunburn doing repairs it’s not likely you are in a small closed room.  Keep your hat on, use sunscreen.

How we picked our team. Irrigation supplies, major league


Ever wonder why a company picks certain products to carry?  Sometimes it is obvious: if you are going to sell groceries you need to sell Kraft products. Sometimes it is not, like the Tabasco flavored tequila now on the market. Don’t try that one. Seriously.

Choosing the product lines for Sprinkler Warehouse involved both the obvious and the lesser known. The major requirement of each brand was that it was reliable, did what it said it would do and would show our pride in our company.

The obvious. You cannot discuss irrigation without involving Hunter and Rain Bird. Both of these companies are dedicated to irrigation and produce a full line of products. It would be extremely difficult to think of an irrigation requirement that they cannot fulfill.

There are a few others.

The one you’ve heard of but didn’t think about for irrigation.

The Toro Company. Ever wonder why it’s named “Toro”? I did. Seems it was started in 1916 to build tractors for Bull Tractors. Fits right in there, doesn’t it?  Toro is most famous for its commercial and residential lawn and tractor equipment, snow blowers and utility vehicles.  Not as well known is the fact Toro has been in the irrigation business since 1962. They produce a full complement of irrigation supplies and have one of the most innovative controllers on the market, the battery operated and waterproof DDCWP. They also produce the highly efficient Precision Series spray nozzle.

Some you may not have heard of but need to.

The K-Rain Corporation.  It’s not often you find a company started by a rocket scientist. This one is. It was founded 1974 by Carl Kah, a former manager of the U.S. Air Force’s reusable rocket engine program. According to Carl, “Thespace program set an example for all of us in business to follow. There is always something that needs to be improved.”  K-Rain keeps improving, having over 90 patents so far, including one for the Indexing valve, a Kah invention that reduces the need for five valves down to one. Their continuing quest for improvement enables them to bring quality products to market with prices noticeably lower than many of their competitors.

The DIG Corporation. DIG was founded in 1981 to do one thing and one thing only: provide efficient, cost effective low volume irrigation systems. “Low volume” is commonly known as drip or micro irrigation. That’s all they do and they are very good at it. They have anything you can think of for a drip system, whether it’s in your garden, your flower pots, under turf or in plant nurseries. They drip, spray, fog, mist and stream. They also provide the LEIT controllers. Powered by ambient light, LEIT controllers are much more sensitive than solar power, giving you more options for controller locations.

Cyber Rain Inc.  No other irrigation controller out there is as versatile, flexible, high-tech and just flat cool as the Cyber Rain Cloud controller. Need shade, order up a cloud, no problem! (sorry, couldn’t resist.) The Cyber-Rain Cloud controller does everything you can ask for and you control it from anywhere. Whip out your Android, iPhone or Blackberry phone, check your system performance, make changes and, instead of Zone 1 or Zone 4 you see a picture of the area. Why remember zone numbers when you can see what it covers? It checks the weather and automatically adjusts your irrigation schedule to match and, since Cyber-Rain uses the internet, weather updates are always free! Now folks, that’s pretty hard to beat.

Every member of our team was drafted after careful consideration. We’re glad to have them and look forward to the upcoming series/bowl.

Don’t listen to your sprinkler repair man. Better yet, don’t ask.


I’ll start by telling you that’s what I do. I repair sprinkler systems. This does cause a problem, as I’m telling you not to listen to me. Luckily, that’s handled by quantum metaphysics and we can skip ahead.

We are frequently asked: “What’s the best —?” Truth is, we usually don’t know. What we do know is what works for us. We have two basic requirements: we want to make a profit on the repair and we want the product to be good enough that we are not called back for warranty service. This defines our ‘best’ product.

We lose money on warranty repairs. This is bad.

We are also a conservative bunch. We don’t want to be the first one to try the new product and see if it lasts. We go with what we know.  We use the same rotors, the same controllers, the same pop-ups time and again.  I’ll go over a few of those and what might be better.

Pop-ups and nozzles

The Rain Bird 1800 series is one of the most popular popups out there, if not the most popular. It’s my default purchase. Why? Because in the years I was training my supervisors told me to go with the 1800s. Who am I to argue with the boss? Therefore it’s what I know and what I recommend.

What about the Hunter Pro Spray, Toro 570Z, and K-Rain 7800? All good, all in the same price range. The one you’ve never heard of, the K-Rain, might have the best seal in the bunch. Looks that way in drawings and specs. However, I install 1800s and don’t want to experiment.  See the problem here? I’m passing on a potentially better popup available at the same price just because I don’t want to try it and risk a warranty call.

How about nozzles? Rain Bird, Hunter and K-Rain are all extremely popular, pretty much same precipitation rate, all in the same price range. Which is best? Might be the Toro Precision nozzles. In a 12’ full circle spray they use about 1.3 gallon per minute less. Other sizes have similar savings.  Minimizes run off, helps with low gpm systems, and has an efficient pattern.  Why don’t I use and recommend them? They cost twice as much, if not more, than the others. People don’t want to pay for something they really can’t see and one nozzle spraying water looks like any other.

A quick note about something you’ve never heard of: K-Rain. K-Rain makes good products, has 90+ patents in the industry, is very competitively priced and apparently has one of the worst marketing programs around. Have you ever heard of it? People who don’t have irrigation systems know of Rain Bird, Hunter and Toro. There are many pros who don’t know about K-Rain. It’s hard for someone to recommend something they’ve never heard of.

Rotors

The most popular rotor out there is the Hunter PGP. Sells by the tens of thousands. Is it the best? Don’t know.  I sure put in a bunch of them. To be honest I like the Rain Bird 5000 “Rain Curtain” spray coverage better. The Toro T5 and the K-Rain 11000 series are in the same price range but you get a 5” pop-up instead of a 4”.  An extra inch for nuthin’. But people know Hunter and it works so I stay with it.

Controllers

I like and install Hunter. Good and reliable. That’s not the main reason I install it. Look at the face of Hunter controllers. They all look the same. I don’t have to worry about going to service a system and having to remember different brands or carry manuals with me. And, of course, I tend to recommend Hunter for the same reason.

Now look at  K-Rain series. Their controllers  are usually lower than both Rain Bird and Hunter, they also have a standard front and they are reliable. I could save you money by installing them if I were a bit more adventurous. Unfortunately, I’m a coward when it comes to money and warranties.

The point to all this is that your repairman will give you a safe answer. He works in the field all day, knows what works for him and  makes his life easier. The product might or might not be the best but it will be safe for him to recommend and it will work.

There are a lot of products out there that don’t get the exposure they should. Check our site for ideas. At Sprinkler Warehouse we try to give you all the details along with links to different manuals. A lot of information there to help you make a better choice and far more variety than many repair people have ever seen.

It’s the little rotors’ turn to turn, turn, turn…hmmm…I should put that to music.


Like the Little Engine that Could, some rotors just refuse to accept limitations. There is a whole bunch of over-achiever rotors available for smaller systems or smaller areas just eager to show you what they can do. Retro-fitting an old system? Need to cover a smaller area? Only have a ½” supply line? Listen! You can hear them yelling “Pick me! Pick me!”

Take a look at the K-Rain MiniPro, the  Hunter PGJ, the Toro Mini-8  and the Rain Bird 3500. Designed for smaller areas and retrofits these rotors fit areas too small for standard rotors but too large for standard spray heads. Coverage on these range from a low of 15’ to a high of 37’. Since most spray nozzles stop at 15’ and most rotors start at 25’+/- this fits right in.

Since they use a ½” connection you don’t need to run new pipe to get the same type coverage as their bigger siblings and you can match their precipitation rate. Have an older system that no longer provides the head to head coverage it should? Simply use these to regain coverage and possibly eliminate a head or two. For example, if your spray heads are 15’ apart you can replace each head with one of these set for 15’ or you could replace every other head with one of these set for 30’, eliminating the middle head.

For mid-range coverage they do everything the bigger rotors do and do it just as well.  And they are far more enthusiastic.

Once again I want to say that our talented graphics department had nothing to do with these graphics. Don’t want to embarrass them.

Specialty nozzles to nuzzle.


Ok. Not nuzzle. Couldn’t think of a good title. Some people say I never do.

I’ll get down to business. Most people know about the average, used everywhere nozzles. If you don’t then check out sprinkler nozzles. These generally do the job and are all most people will ever need.

There are a number of specialty spray nozzles available for increased water efficiency, problem areas or special applications.  Normally I avoid naming particular brands and products, preferring to give general information. This is the exception.

The first is the Toro Precision Series spray nozzle. While this is not technically a specialty nozzle it has some advantages over competing spray nozzles. The Precision Series has something they call H²0 technology which puts an oscillation on the spray . I’m sure the H20 name has nothing to do with the scientific name for water. Pure coincidence.  Anyway, quoting Toro, “Using patented H²0 chip technology – and no moving parts – each Precision Series Spray nozzles creates one or more high frequency oscillating streams to achieve the desired arc and radius with 1/3 less water usage.”  Yup. Sounds cool. But looks even better.

Ok. Pretty pictures and lots of marketing fluff don’t mean much without the facts. Comparing the Toro Precision nozzle to two major competitors:

Radius/ Feet Pattern GPM @ 30 psi Difference GPM
Toro 15 Full circle 2.31 —–
Brand A 15 Full circle 3.72 +1.41
Brand Z 15 Full circle 3.70 +1.39
Toro 15 Half circle 1.16 —–
Brand A 15 Half circle 1.86 +.70
Brand Z 15 Half circle 1.85 +.69

You might ask “If these are so good, why aren’t more people using them?”  Good question. Thanks.  The only downside to these nozzles appears to be the price. The Toro Precision sells for roughly 2.5 times the cost of standard nozzles. That can make noticeable difference in installation costs for an entire system. However if you are in a retrofit or repair situation and need to have better control over your precipitation, fix a zone that has been expanded beyond capacity, or control run off on slopes they offer you some valuable options.

Let’s talk about Rain Bird Rotary Nozzles.  These cover a radius of 13 to 24 feet. Their big advantage is the ability to match these to the Rain Bird 5000 rotor series and get the same precipitation rate.  Let’s say you have a large area that will be covered by rotors and a small area next to it, say 20’ x 20’. Normally the smaller area would require its own zone using spray heads on pop ups. With Rain Bird Rotary nozzles you can now cover the area with one zone and get the same precipitation rate. Use the 5000 rotors for the large area, the rotary nozzles for the small one. You’ve eliminated one valve, the wiring and one zone requirement on the controller.

Because of their low precipitation rate they are very good for watering slopes. The slower precipitation rate gives the soil more time to absorb the water, minimizing run off.

Next is the Rain Bird U-Series.  In a perfect system you have head to head coverage. Most sprays do well on the far  coverage but lack real coverage in the first couple of feet out from the nozzle. Head to head coverage means that the area missed by head A is now covered by head B. In many cases, due to poor design, changing landscape or deteriorating systems, this no longer occurs and you get dry areas around the head. The U-series has a second nozzle for greatly improved close in coverage. While not as good as head to head coverage it sure comes close.

This is beginning to sound like a Rain Bird advertisement. Not intentional, it’s just the way the nozzle sprays…

Now we have the lovely and talented Rain Bird SQ series nozzles. The SQ stands for square pattern. These put out a true square or rectangular pattern with edge to edge coverage. Most square pattern nozzles aren’t. On that I can speak from experience.

The SQ offers two settings so one nozzle throws 2.5′ or 4′, changeable with a simple twist of the top ring. It has a pressure compensator built in and fits standard pop ups and risers. It is also pretty low flow, using only .46 gallons per minute at its largest setting. Having a square pattern helps eliminate the waste that occurs when you try to match half and quarter circles to cover a narrow rectangular pattern.

And remember, if you are getting enough rain you need to muzzle your nozzles. Get a sensor.

The sprinkler rotor keeps moving and the spray head won’t budge. Which one is right?


Congratulations. You just bought a football team. Now you have a football field to water. You decide to use pop up spray heads with a 15’ radius. You can get a very efficient pattern of coverage with only 147 spray heads. Of course, you’ll constantly repair them as the players will stomp them into the ground. If, after a tackle, a player comes up with a spray nozzle in his nose I extend my sympathies to you.

How about planting a flower garden? Oh, about 6’ wide x 20’ long. Now I’ll use a rotor to irrigate it. For highest efficiency I’ll plant the rotor about 20’ past the end of the garden, spraying back in. I’ll also set it’s rotation to the standard minimum 40o angle, which means it also waters an extra 21’ of yard at the end of its arc. Hope that doesn’t hit your sidewalk.

People get confused about which type of sprinkler to use. On the one hand rotors put out a lot of water and move all around. Must be good, right?

Spray heads have a fixed radius, usually 15’ or less, and just serenely apply this efficient fan of water. No wasted movement, no back and forth agitation. Must be good, right?

The decision on which to use is simple. Answer these questions and the answer falls into place.

1. Is your distance less than 25’? If so, go with popup spray heads. The most popular rotors can’t get any closer than 22’, usually 25’ plus.

2. Wide open area? More than 25’ each direction? Rotors would work.

3. In a planter? Spray head

4. Following the curve of a walkway? Spray head

5. Narrow strip between houses? Spray head

6. Open area now, as in question #2, but you intend to put in planters later? Spray head

7. Football/baseball/soccer field? Rotors

8. Around your deck and pool in back yard? Spray head

The differences

Rotors are designed for open areas. They spray a large volume of area in a back and forth motion, either full or partial circle. Typical distances for residential are 22’ to 50’. There are some that will go down to 15’ but these aren’t normally used in good efficient designs. They are usually used to fix a problem somewhere or to help compensate for a bad design.

Spray heads are usually used on pop up bodies. They spray a consistent amount of water over a fixed area. They are available in various radii and patterns, along with adjustable pattern spray heads. This makes them very adaptable to any situation. In the eight questions above, notice that only two indicate rotors. Also that #2 and #7 are essentially the same thing, so only one situation fits rotors. After that, it’s spray heads.

Or drip. But there is already an article on that.

The Fourth of July and what I can’t do.


Well, I tried and couldn’t do it. Couldn’t figure out how to tie the Fourth of July into irrigation systems.

You’d think this would be easy. I’ve tied in zombies, Corvettes, the Bellagio and the Nile river into some aspect of irrigation: stream rotors, insecticides, nozzles and water barrels.

These have, admittedly, been a stretch at times.  Big stretch.  Can’t do it this time.

Instead, the staff at Sprinkler Warehouse hopes that you and yours have an enjoyable holiday. This is the day that started our country. On July 4th, 1776 the Second Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, one of the most important documents in history. It’s the reason we are here. It’s a great day to enjoy and celebrate our freedoms.

Be careful with the fireworks. From experience I’ll tell you that you don’t want to hold bottle rockets in your hand, firecrackers going off in an open palm DO hurt, you don’t want to bend down to see if the rocket fuse is really lit, if you drop your sparkler don’t try and catch it by the wrong end and the best way to enjoy fireworks is to sit back and let someone else do the work.

Y’all have a good holiday.

Pipe Dreams? Or PVC Pipe dreams? There is a difference.


If you don’t know the difference we can’t help you here. This is not that kind of a blog. If you have nightmares about figuring out which pipe to use for your irrigation then we can help.

PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride. PVC is easier to say. PVC pipe accounts for about two thirds of the water distribution market, including drinking, irrigation and waste. So far the material has been found to be inert, meaning it doesn’t absorb or release harmful chemicals. Unless you burn it. Don’t sniff burning PVC.  It’s no fun, painful and the smoke can be hazardous.

The most common question we get is a two-parter: what size pipe should I use and what kind: Schedule 40 or Class 200? Knowing the differences can help you create an efficient system.

Remember the old “a picture is worth a thousand words” quote? I’ll give you a picture now and you can decide if you want to skip the other 476 words.

Let’s talk about Schedule 40 pipe first. It is the simplest. Schedule XX designates the wall thickness at a certain size. For example, a 1” pipe in schedule 40 has a wall thickness of .133”; schedule 80 has a wall thickness of .179”. Higher schedule = thicker wall.

You will care about this later. It does get more interesting, hopefully.

“Class” pipe is different and the original definitions go back to steam boilers. We’ll skip ahead. Class 200 pipe, the most common class pipe used in irrigation, is rated for 200 pounds per square inch pressure (psi) and has a wall thickness of .063” for a 1” pipe. Notice that is a lot thinner than schedule 40. This is about to become very important. Schedule 40, in comparison, is rated for 450 psi. This is not as important.

The average irrigation system is designed for about 30 to 50 psi. Plenty of safety factor built in. It is not, however, as much as you think. A poorly designed system can experience water hammer and a 60psi line can experience frequent surges of pressure up to about 170 psi. Still within safety range.

Now we can get into the “why do we care” part.  Everything in irrigation ties into gallons per minute. Your spray head puts out a certain number of gallons per minute (gpm). Your design revolves around it. If you have 13 gpm you can put six 2 gpm heads on that zone. Or four 2gpm and four 1 gpm. (Never design to the absolute max gpm.)

Look at the cross section of ¾” and 1” pipe both in schedule 40 and class 200. Check the comparative flows in the picture above. This difference in flow can make a big difference in how you design your zones. There are friction loss/flow charts available to help you.

So what do you choose? The rule of thumb is to use schedule 40 for the main line. Run it from the water meter, through the backflow and to the valves. Then use class 200 for the laterals, or after the valves.

Why schedule 40 when it allows fewer gallons per minute? Because the thick wall makes it tougher, harder to break. Your main is under constant pressure; the laterals are under pressure only when they are active and it is an open-end system. Before real pressure can build in your laterals the water is shooting out the sprays, keeping pressure down. Schedule 40 is more resistant to shovels (its sworn enemy), tent stakes, car tires, kids, dogs and other puncture/crack pressures.

There are exceptions to everything. There are situations where an entire system should be done in class 200 pipes. Same for schedule 40.  Now that you know the difference you can make a more informed decision and start dreaming about better things, like a 1973 Norton Commando.

Backflow = upchuck? Eeeewww…


Most people know they need a backflow for their irrigation system. They just don’t know why. I’m going to work this backwards. First I’ll show what can happen if a backflow is missing or broken. Then I’ll tell you how they work and why you want one for your system.

From the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources: “One of the most highly publicized cases of a backflow incident occurred in 1969 at Holy Cross University. The football season was canceled due to a large outbreak of infectious hepatitis among the team members. It was determined that backflow through an unprotected lawn sprinkler system at the practice football field caused the epidemic. Children carrying the hepatitis virus routinely played in puddles around the sprinkler heads. Fire fighting demands in the vicinity caused negative pressures at the sprinkler heads backsiphoning the contaminated water into the drinking water supply to the field.

One of the most famous cases of backflow occurred in California. A laborer had been using an aspirator attached to a garden hose to spray a driveway with weed-killer containing arsenic. At sometime during his work, the water pressure reversed. The man then disconnected the hose and unwittingly drank from the hose bib. Arsenic in the waterline killed him.”

Thirsty yet? Try this from the Environmental Protection Agency: “In 1991, an atmospheric vacuum breaker valve intended to protect a cross-connection between an irrigation system and the potable supply malfunctioned, allowing backflow of irrigation water into the public water system. The water system, located in Michigan, was contaminated with nematodes, rust, and debris.

In 1981, chlordane and heptachlor were backsiphoned through a garden hose submerged in a termite exterminator’s tank truck in Pennsylvania. An undisclosed number of illnesses occurred, and 75 apartment units were affected.”

THE BASICS If you lose water pressure to your house, for whatever reason, the water in the house will flow out to the main line. Because pressure is now reversed, going from house to main line, it creates a siphon effect and will pull anything in the sprinkler system and in the puddles around the sprinkler system with it. If your garden hose was on at the same time it becomes a siphon hose. Now all the fertilizer, insecticide, animal waste and many other things you don’t want are pulled into the drinking water.

GARDEN HOSE Notice the two involving garden hoses? How many of us drink from a garden hose when working outside on a hot summer day? Ever use that same hose to put out pesticides or fertilizer? Have a backflow preventer on the hose bib? Cheap, cheap protection.

I think it is important at this time to note that our very talented graphics department has absolutely nothing to do with the illustrations in this article. I stole their work and added my own touches.  I get the blame.

IRRIGATION SYSTEM Same principal. Have another bad drawing. A backflow works by shutting down the irrigation water line when you lose water pressure. The simplest works just like a stopper in your bathtub: a plug falls down, blocks the line. They get far more complicated, depending on application.

Don’t listen to your neighbor, me, anyone else on what type of backflow you should get. Ask your city or county or your water provider. In my area a pressure vacuum breaker is plenty. Two miles away a new jurisdiction starts and they insist on double-checks. Always verify local code requirements first.

To find out the different types of backflows look at the backflow section on sprinklerwarehouse.com. To learn more about how they work check out backflows in Sprinkler School.

And stop drinking from your garden hose until it’s protected. Lemonade sounds better anyway.