Make Sure Your Lawn Irrigation System is Ready for Summer
Follow these tips to safely restart sprinkler systems and prevent damage
Spring showers will soon give way to warmer, drier weather, so now’s the perfect time to make sure irrigation systems are in good working order to keep lawns hydrated through the summer.
Before getting started, keep in mind that the greatest threat during initial startup is the surge of air pressure caused by water suddenly rushing into empty pipes. Pressure spikes can burst fittings and crack pipes, valves and sprinkler heads.
“This is the time of year when we see an increase in water line breaks related to irrigation systems,” said Nicholas Papas, customer service manager of Starkville Utilities. “We thought it would be helpful to remind customers of steps they can take to prevent damage and make sure their systems are operating efficiently throughout the watering season.”
The following are general tips to start up irrigation systems after they’ve been dormant during winter months. Systems vary, so it’s smart to review the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific model.
- Check the control panel. Review settings for scheduling, date and time, and irrigation zones. It’s also a good idea to replace batteries at the beginning of the season. If necessary, override automatic settings by turning on the manual cycle so you can slowly let water flow throughout the irrigation system.
- Tightly shut the backflow preventer. This will prevent herbicides, pesticides or lawn fertilizer from flowing into your home’s water system. Do this before turning on the water.
- Close off the sprinkler valve. Inspect and clean all sprinkler heads to prevent blockages from interrupting the spray pattern, which can make certain areas of your lawn too wet or too dry. If there’s damage, unscrew and replace.
- Slowly open the main valve. Avoid pressure spikes by slowly opening the valve a few degrees so water begins to lightly flow and wait a few minutes until it reaches the main line. Then continue opening it a few degrees at a time. If your system includes multiple branches, repeat this process for each.
- Test the system. It’s a good idea to make sure the entire system is working as planned by testing each zone separately using the control panel. Activate a zone and then monitor spraying patterns. Keep an eye out for low pressure and over-watered wet spots in the lawn, which could be signs of a water line break.
- Inspect the system monthly. Create a monthly reminder to inspect the system to make sure spray heads are popping up, spray patterns are consistent and nozzles are free from debris. Also check that your sprinklers aren’t watering the sidewalk, driveway or hardscapes—direct all water to your lawn or landscaped areas.
It’s a good idea to water for the first time when you can keep an eye on the system to make sure everything is working properly. Afterward, it’s usually the most water-efficient to operate irrigation systems at night or very early in the morning.
Starkville Utilities is a public utility serving 14,000 residences, businesses and industries in Starkville, Mississippi as well as Mississippi State University. Its mission is to supply safe, reliable, and cost-effective electric and water service of superior quality and value that improves the lives of its customers.