Many home and business owners know that spring is prime time for an air conditioning check—no one wants to have the A/C breakdown when summer temps hit triple digits. But many people may not realize that it’s also a perfect time to do an irrigation check.
Irrigation systems across the nation are relied on during the hot summer months to keep landscapes alive and healthy, so a spring inspection can keep your clients free of irrigation issues when they should be enjoying their outdoor spaces.
Whether it’s part of your regular maintenance or an add on service, following these irrigation checks can help prevent problems and even help clients save water this summer.
“You’ll want to have the right gauges, adaptors, adjustment tools, fresh batteries and a soil probe to perform most of the checks you need, so take a few minutes to prep your tool bag before you head out,” said Tom Glazener, Ewing Education Services instructor.
Ask About the Water Bill
The first sign of any major issues can show up on the water bill. Does it seem high compared to the previous month or year? Is it comparable to other properties in the neighborhood?
Even if the system seems to be performing well, find out if your client is at all concerned about how much water they are using, so you can look for potential solutions to offer to them.
Do a Walk Around
Are there signs like soggy turf or erosion? Are the plants and turf healthy?
“A quick walk around the property can help reveal any obvious leaks or issues,” said Glazener.
Make sure to bring your soil probe to see if water is reaching the roots of plants and turf.
Inspect Each Zone
Head to the controller and run and inspect each zone, one by one. Check for missing or clogged emitters, or sprinklers that are broken or out of alignment.
“If you see any odd spraying that could indicate broken or chipped nozzles,” said Doug Donahue, Ewing Account manager.
Perform a Pressure Check
“Measure the pressure at the first and last heads in each zone—there should be no more than 10 percent difference between the two,” said Glazener.
If the water use is high, but the turf seems dry, water pressure may be an issue.
“The number one culprit is pressure. That’s always the first thing I check for,” said Donahue.
A rainbow that appears as the zone is running can be telltale sign of high pressure, added Donahue. Spray heads are meant to run at max of 30 PSI and will begin to fog or mist at higher pressure.
A pressure regulator, or pressure regulating spray bodies or rotors, or another device may be necessary to get the pressure right.
Check the Irrigation Schedule
Whether the property has a smart irrigation controller or a traditional controller, it’s always good to double check the schedule.
If a controller was left to its default settings, someone meddled with the settings or there were any recent site changes (new plants or removals), then adjustments may be necessary.
For smart controllers, check that the right zip code and settings, sensors and Wi-Fi connection (if applicable) are all correct and in working order.
To get the right schedule dialed in, make sure you understand the controller, system outputs, plant water needs, soil type and seasonal evapotransporation (ET). But if in doubt, call your local Ewing or a certified irrigation tech for assistance.
Double-Check the Drip
It’s smart to check out the drip filter, even if it was cleaned at the start of the season, recommends Glazener. If it’s loaded up with debris, you may need to clean the filter more frequently.
Pay special attention to drip irrigated areas. When water is applied more slowly, it can be more difficult to tell when overwatering is occurring, so check the area for signs.
A Quick Win to Save Water
Most spray heads are really inefficient, with a distribution uniformity (DU) of 40 percent, meaning only 40 percent of the water gets to the plants roots. The problem is how fast they put out water.
“Hurricane Harvey put sixty inches down in some parts of Texas over 72 hours. That’s a precipitation rate of 0.83 inches per hour,” said Glazener. “Most fixed sprays apply water at twice that rate.”
This usually leads to ponding, runoff and a lot of wasted water. Swapping fixed spray heads with high-efficiency spray or rotary nozzles can double the efficiency on most systems, saving hundreds of gallons each week.
“In most cases all you have to do is change the nozzle—how easy is that!” said Donahue.
In the meantime, make sure any spray nozzles are scheduled for short run times with delays in between to allow water to soak in, not run off.
If you do upgrade clients to high-efficiency or rotary nozzles, take some time to educate your client about what makes them more efficient. They water more slowly, so the water reaches its target.
“If they aren’t aware of the difference, they will often turn down the run times because it seems like too much water, leading to radical underwatering and dying lawns,” warned Glazener.
Just Ask for Summer Success
Start the season off right with these checks to help your clients save water and enjoy their landscape all summer long.
Not only is it a chance to remind clients of your value, it can also give you an opportunity to discuss potential landscape upgrades with them as well.
Have they considered landscape lighting for safety and security; an outdoor sound system, kitchen or fire pit for entertaining; or a water feature for relaxation?
Take some time to start asking and reach out to your local Ewing for assistance on growing your business with services like these for your clients.
Irrigation Inspection Checklist
- Come Prepared: Bring gauges, adapters, tools, batteries and a soil probe.
- Ask About the Water Bill: Are there any water use concerns.
- Walk the Property: Inspect plant health and signs of issues.
- Inspect Each Zone: Check sprinkler alignment.
- Perform a Pressure Check: And watch for misting!
- Check the Schedule: Adjust controller as needed.
- Double-Check the Drip: Check filter and signs of overwatering.
- Save Water: Upgrade sprinkler nozzles to high-efficiency models.
- Ask About Upgrades: Find out if your client wants landscape lighting, water features, or other upgrades.