Now that the weather will soon be getting warmer, it’s time for your irrigation system’s spring tune-up. Catching any problems that may have developed over the winter, and ensuring a proper start-up of your system, will keep your sprinklers operating at peak performance over the summer months.
Here’s a spring tune-up checklist that will help you maintain a healthy lawn and prevent high water bills.
Do a visual inspection of all your sprinkler heads for obstructions, such as rocks, dirt, mulch, or overgrown grass. Make sure shrubs or bushes haven’t grown to the point where they’ll block the water flow.
Look for any cracked or broken sprinkler heads and replace them with the same model and brand within each zone. Adjust sprinklers that are too low or too high and straighten any that are leaning. As well, check that the tops of sprinkler heads are on the correct angle for the lawn’s slope.
If you haven’t run your system all winter, remove the sprinkler head at the end of each zone to create a flush point. You’ll want to sweep out any accumulated debris and insects when the system is first turned on.
Locate the valve boxes. It’s a good idea to always keep them clear of debris and overgrown grass so you can easily find them. Check the valve assemblies for damage, such as broken or loose wires, or cracked valves.
Backflow Prevention Assembly
Check your above-ground backflow prevention assembly (BPA) for damage, even if you irrigated during the winter. If the isolation valve was closed, open it slowly to prevent water hammer (a high-pressure surge that can damage valves and burst pipes). Close the test cocks if they were half closed during a freeze or for the entire winter, open the ball valve handles fully, and tighten the bolts on the relief covers of RPZs (reduced pressure zone BPAs).
Make sure the controller is showing the correct time and date. If the controller has a back-up battery, change it. This should be done approximately every six months, in the spring and fall. Some high-end controllers with built-in battery chargers can maintain their batteries for years.
Many new smart controllers feature memory to retain current programming information during a power outage, and a back-up battery that maintains the date and time. Some of these batteries are long-lasting, and rarely have to be changed. Other new controllers don’t have a battery, but during a power failure maintain the programming, date, and time within the memory.
Check that sensors are working properly, and in the correct position. With rain or rain/freeze sensors, look for debris inside the housing, and clean out any leaves, dead bugs, etc. Next, check the condition of the discs. If they’re moldy or misshapen, they’ve lost their ability to expand and contract, and you need to replace them. Many wireless rain or rain/freeze sensors, as well as soil moisture sensors, have batteries that need to be replaced per the manufacturer’s instructions.
If your system wasn’t used during the winter, run each zone separately to sweep out any debris and insects in the pipes. Run each zone long enough for a thorough flush, and verify water is running out of the flush points created during your earlier inspection. When finished, replace the sprinklers you removed at the end of each zone.
Check for any operating problems by manually activating each zone one at a time, and looking for the following:
- Leaks in pop-up sprinkler heads. To fix, clean out any debris, and tighten the caps. Replace any worn-out or damaged parts (e.g. worn-out seals), or the whole sprinkler if the riser is broken.
- Pop-up sprinklers not extending fully. Clean out debris in the sprinkler heads and filters or replace if the head is damaged. The heads might not completely extend if the water pressure’s too low. In this case, make sure the valves on the backflow prevention assembly are fully open. Also check for any leaks in the pipes affecting water pressure.
- Pop-up sprinklers not fully retracting. Clean out dirt or debris between the sprinkler heads and risers.
- Pop-up rotor sprinklers not rotating or distributing water the correct distance. Clean the filters. Replace any rotor that doesn’t work properly after cleaning.
- Pop-up spray heads with uneven gaps in spray pattern. Clean dirty filters and remove and carefully clean nozzles. Since nozzles are inexpensive and scratch easily, it may be faster to replace them.
- Sprinklers producing a small water flow, or a flow that looks misty or foggy. The water pressure is either too low, or too high.
- Water from one sprinkler not overlapping area watered from next sprinkler (known as head-to-head coverage). Turn the radius adjustment screw on spray and rotary nozzles to reduce or increase the radius. Rotors also have a radius adjustment screw. You may have to change nozzles or sprinkler layout to achieve 100 percent overlap.
- Leaking and broken pipes. Look for water bubbling up from the ground. When you’re back on your regular irrigation schedule, watch for very soft, wet, or depressed ground areas.
- Water in a valve box. Look for a ruptured valve, or water leaking between fittings. Check for debris in the valve, diaphragm or solenoid. Clean the valve and diaphragm of any debris, but replace the diaphragm if damaged, as well as the solenoid if the plunger won’t move. You may have to replace the whole valve.
- Zone not shutting down when inactivated. The valve may not be shutting off, or there’s a problem with the controller.
- Sprinkler heads draining at lower elevations when system off. Install check valves into the current sprinklers at lower elevations, or replace with sprinkler heads with the check valves built in.
When you’ve done your inspection and any repairs, program the controller with proper irrigation times based on the season and local watering schedules
Hire a Professional for Your Spring Tune-Up
For those who don’t have the expertise for a spring tune-up, hiring a licensed irrigator is the best option. The pros at South Austin Irrigation can perform a thorough inspection, as well as other services:
- Consultation on any current and potential problems
- Locating and repairing system leaks
- Main and lateral line repairs
- Electrical troubleshooting
- Pop-up and rotor replacement
- Unclogging and adjusting heads and nozzles
- Broken PVC and copper pipe repairs
- Valve locating, repair, and replacement
- Backflow repair and installation
- Controller replacement and upgrades (including sensor installations)
- Sensor testing
- Reroutes for mature trees and patio additions
- Custom water scheduling, and programming assistance for water restrictions
- Water pressure checks
- Upgrading system for proper coverage and water conservation
Call us at (512) 534-7449 or fill out our online service request form to book your spring tune-up now.