Start your New Year off on the right foot by refreshing your knowledge on some irrigation fundamentals that will keep your systems in shape all year long.
Last year, we covered irrigation basics and reviewed the components of a system. Here’s a refresher:
Mainline: How an irrigation system accesses water.
Controller: Sends commands to each valve signaling when it’s time to open or close.
Sensors: Rain or soil moisture sensors can be added to many systems to prevent overwatering or watering when it’s unnecessary.
Master valve: Shuts off the water supply to broken water lines or blocked valves to prevent wasted water.
Backflow prevention device: Keeps water from your sprinkler system from being sent back into the main water supply protecting potable water from contaminants.
Valve: Open or closes water to a sprinkler zone, and a valve manifold allows you to control a series of valves from a single water source.
For more in-depth information into an irrigation system’s components, check out this Ewing post.
Know the systems
Depending on the site and watering needs, you could be dealing with a few different types of irrigation systems.
Residential: A typical residential irrigation system will have sprinklers, drip or both. Most residential irrigation systems will have no more than a few zones that need watering and use a pumping system, where water is pulled from a static water source or a metered water system tied to the house’s existing water line.
- Sprinkler system: A traditional sprinkler system has rotating or fixed spray heads. This type of irrigation waters quickly and broadly. Fixed spray heads are typically used for smaller areas, while rotating heads are used for larger grass areas.
- Drip system: Drip irrigation is used most often to water flowerbeds, shrubs, agriculture crops or landscapes with drought-tolerant requirements. Drip systems are characterized by small emitters that apply a low volume of water directly to the plants. Watering times are usually longer with drip systems, because of the low-volume of water, but drip is regarded as one of the most water efficient methods of irrigating because of the lack of runoff.
Two-wire: Two-wire systems are most commonly found on sites with 50 or more zones, think golf courses or large residential or commercial sites. In a two-wire system, rather than having a single wire-connection for all valves, pump rely or sensor, decoders are used to connect everything to a single two-wire strand. This Ewing video goes into more detail about two-wire irrigation systems.
Agriculture: While many agriculture sites use a variety of irrigation methods, one common irrigation system for agriculture is flood or surface irrigation. This system uses ditches and canals to soak the area with water and let the water slowly seep into the ground rather than water more frequently. Flood irrigation is an older, less water efficient way to irrigate than drip or spray irrigation methods, but some areas still utilize it because it can be a way to save on equipment, installation and pumping costs.
For more on the different types of irrigation you might run into while in the field, check out this Ewing post.
Tips for troubleshooting
When issues in an irrigation system arise, you’ll want to start troubleshooting at the simple source first: the water. First, verify the water is turned on completely, if a rain sensor is broken or faulty or if a valve is damaged or broken. Next, check out the system’s controller and whether it’s working properly.
If you’ve checked into these potential malfunctions and haven’t found the problem, test the transformer, the stations and valves with a multimeter. The transformer should put out 19 – 30 VAC. If not, verify that the incoming voltage is around 110-120 VAC in order to determine if the problem is actually in the transformer. The reading for the stations and valves should be 19 – 30 VAC.
For more information on troubleshooting an irrigation system, read this Ewing post.
Looking for more irrigation tips and solutions? Check out Ewing’s YouTube channel for videos and advice on common irrigation questions or sign up for one of Ewing’s irrigation classes through Ewing Education.