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Irrigation System Maintenance Strategies




September 3, 2014 - Grounds Management

Comprehensive maintenance of an irrigation system will help grounds managers determine the system's health. If problems exist, it will provide information to help managers determine whether repair or replacement is the wisest decision to ensure the system does not waste water. Effective maintenance should focus on key system components.

Controllers. When an irrigation system is not working correctly, the first component technicians need to check is the controller, which tells the system when to turn on and for how long it should run. In most cases, a programming error is to blame. The most common controller issues involve the controller starting over after it has finished and the irrigation operating at strange times of the day. In both cases, a simple programming error is the cause.

Technicians should check the controller's programming to be sure it contains only the desired start time. They should delete unwanted start times and make sure the start times are correct as to a.m. and p.m. In some cases, the controller reverts to its default settings. The remedy is to reprogram it to the desired start and stop times.

Sprinklers. Irrigation systems feature two types of sprinklers — rotary and stationary. A rotary sprinkler is designed for use on large areas and sends a spray of water rotating in a circle. A stationary sprinkler is used for smaller areas and sends a mist in all directions simultaneously. It is hidden in the ground until the system is pressurized, which makes the sprinkler head pop up.

The most visually obvious problems with irrigation systems are associated with sprinkler heads and result in uneven water coverage and high volumes of water waste. Nozzle heads should pop up completely when the water is on and fully retract when the water is off. If the noticing spray is uneven or intermittent or non-existent, the sprinkler head might be clogged. Dirt, grass and other debris can build up on sprinkler heads and block or redirect the water. Spray nozzles also can get knocked out of adjustment and require regular inspection.

Valves. Water leaks in irrigation systems can result from weather — freezing and thawing — damage from shovels and other sharp tools, vandalism, invasive tree roots, and normal wear and tear. Large leaks are obvious to spot, but smaller leaks might not show up immediately and require careful investigation of system components.

Technicians can look for several common electrical problems related to valves. The wiring connection at the valve has been corroded from failing to use waterproof connectors. The solenoid has failed. Or the wiring between the valve and the controller is damaged. Among the common hydraulic problems with valves is that dirt or debris has gotten inside the valve, or that the diaphragm has a hole or tear.

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