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September 11, 2023

6 Important Diagnostics When Doing Irrigation Repairs 

Your irrigation system helps your property in a variety of ways. Keeping your property green and presentable is an important factor when attempting to gain more tenants and presenting a professional and successful business. It requires taking care of any irrigation repairs that are needed. 

Ensuring that the area around you is healthy and properly watered will also help your overall energy bill by reducing the average surface temperature by as much as 25-30 degrees in most places. It will keep your landscape healthy, and trees thriving.  

Visit this energy.gov site to learn more about how landscaping saves energy. 

Your irrigation system should work consistently every time you use it. Whether it is off-season, early season, hot season, or late season, you need to be the one in charge to set the pace for water use.  

However, there are times when there could be something wrong. You may be the one that has to diagnose issues with your system. Here are 6 observations you can use to help diagnose problems, and some recommended steps to irrigation repair.  

A sprinkler that is broken and needs irrigation repair

Water Pressure 

Water pressure is observable at each station on your irrigation controller. Watch the sprinkler heads to see if they are covering the areas that they were designed to cover. Are they rotating according to plan? Does the spray arch reach far enough?  If you have impact sprinklers, is the water hitting the deflector and then resetting appropriately? Or do they look clogged? 

If you notice that there is an inconsistency that has happened, you might need irrigation repair. One thing that could affect any of these observations is water pressure. Water pressure could happen for any number of reasons, and at any place in the sprinkler system process.  

The first place to check is the source. Do you know at which point the irrigation water main comes to your property?  

Look for obvious leaks or flooding at the water main. If the leaks are coming from a water main that is off your property, then those are not your irrigation repairs to do. It will require advanced civil engineering done by the city. Call the city water district immediately if you detect a leak that is off of your property.  

Coming back to your property, the next source to check are sprinkler heads. You can check to see if there is a clog or a blockage by removing the sprinkler head and activating the zone to see if it will flush out completely.  

A decrease in pressure could mean a blockage, leak or a crack in your system, and it might be difficult to locate. Tree roots are a notorious culprit for twisting and cracking pipes.  

Another place to check is the valve box. Valves and solenoids have O-rings that can decay over time, and leak. Is there any pooling water or obvious leaks in the valve box? Is the control panel’s electrical signal fully opening the valves? Electrical weather events like lightning striking a building or grounds can affect a control box, valve box, and solenoids.  

Other environmental factors could create an effect like this and if there has been a cold spell (near zero, or below zero temp for even an hour) during your late season, an ice blockage could make a pipe crack or burst.  

Mushy Turf 

If the property is too wet, it could be a controller timing issue. Often the watering time is overlooked when the season begins to warm up and you may be overwatering. 

If you observe pooling in the turf, or it squishes as you walk on it, chances are, you are overwatering. Are your sprinklers on even when it’s raining? Overwatering can cause pests like mosquitoes to breed on your property. Not to mention, a greater tendency for mildew and mold to form. 

Most of the time water districts will set an appropriate time to water, as well how much to water. Keeping your grass cut just a little longer when mowing helps to keep the grass greener with less water. If it is cut too short, and water is reduced by mandate, then there is a good chance you’ll start to see your turf thatch begin to brown. Sometimes this issue is less about irrigation repair, and more about irrigation management.  

Brown Spots & Irrigation Repair

Brown spots can be caused by a few things—one of which is underwatering. If your irrigation system hasn’t been on for a while, your turfgrass will begin to brown. If the turfgrass dies, then you can expect weeds to take its place. If this sounds like a property you own, the first steps of irrigation repair are to check your control box, see if your master valve is on, and give it a test to see if further irrigation repairs are needed. 

Irrigation repairs may be needed if there are lots of brown spots, as it is a tell-tale sign that there isn’t water getting to the spots that need it most. Your irrigation repair efforts should begin with ensuring there is water going through the pipes and getting to those sprinkler heads at regular intervals.  

While a low maintenance approach might appeal to some it isn’t best to look for a property manager to reclaim a property overrun with weeds. If lower maintenance is something that interests you, consider making a portion of the property into a bed for native grasses. It will require less water, and when properly made with ground cover, it will prevent weeds and be a very attractive addition.  

Perhaps you are very diligent about watering, and you still have brown spots. Horticulturists will advise that your next step would be to check for grubs and other bugs that eat the roots and thatch of turf. If you notice the brown spots in circles and oval shapes, then there is a good chance you have grubs. Contact a pest control specialist or a lawn care treatment company. Ensuring that you’re giving the area enough water in tandem with a suggested professional grub removal treatment can help reduce or eliminate brown spots. 

Water Use Increases 

After observing that the sprinklers are running and there are no observable issues that require visibly detected irrigation repair, hidden problems may still exist. If you have access to the water bill and you’ve noticed that the water utility cost is increasing—at a rate that is unreasonable for the season—you could have a leak in an underground pipe. Check your valve box and look for water build-up. Leaks from cracks can still happen, even if the stations are turned off.  

Performing rigorous testing may be necessary to discern where an issue is originating. It can be costly to let the leak be. Not only could it cause erosion which can lead to other problems, it can also kill plants, cause fungus or pest increase, or even damage part of your property.  

Efficient Spray Patterns 

A common issue to investigate that is often overlooked, is when sprinklers are positioned in the wrong direction. Sometimes an irrigation repair can be as simple as aiming a perfectly good sprinkler head to spray in the right direction or adjusting or replacing it so that it will spray at an angle slightly less than 90 or 180 degrees. That way the spray will avoid things that aren’t intended to get wet. 

Water on walkways, buildings, cars, and parking lots can be caused by sprinkler heads being broken or knocked by foot traffic, lawnmowers, etc. While it is common to expect some run-off, if it is a constant thing then it should be addressed. Wet walkways can also cause a mess which then gets tracked into buildings.  

Another issue to consider is that wet walkways can become slippery. If there is enough water on heavy-traffic paths, it can build up slippery microorganisms that can cause the walkway to become a hazard for patrons to the building or for employees. Issues like these can become a liability. Irrigation repairs will be needed to ensure that only the areas that require irrigation are receiving it.  

Check the areas where leaks or overspray may be having issues like run-off or not fully evaporating. Consider watering the area less if it is prone to these kinds of issues. Paths, greenways, parking lots, pavilions, nature trails, and gardens can be areas to look for these kinds of issues requiring irrigation repairs. 

System Replacement 

Irrigation repair should be a regular practice to ensure you’re getting the desired effect and conserving water. Yet, you should ask the question, “Is it time to get a new system?” 

Even sprinkler systems have a lifespan. An average irrigation system’s life expectancy is 20-25 years. If the controller has a circular dial, has sun-faded parts, no digital interface, or parts which have been damaged, there’s a good chance it needs to be replaced.  

It’s hard to imagine but the first time that Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the super bowl was 20 years ago. You wouldn’t even believe which songs were popular then. So, if your sprinkler system has been around longer than your house pet, then you should probably think about replacing it. The sprinkler system… not the pet. 

Smart Irrigation 

A smart irrigation controller, like the ones that Smart Rain has engineered, will be able to adjust itself automatically to provide the most optimal amount of water year-round. A Smart Rain SmartController™ can tell you if there is a problem, as well as where it is—saving you hours of time performing irrigation repairs yourself, guessing where leaks might be.  

Also, every SmartController™ device has a lifetime guarantee, so if a replacement is needed, we’ll take care of that for you. It is part of the Smart Rain SmartSolution™, and that is a lifetime solution.  

A property is a responsibility, but taking care of it doesn’t have to be a full-time job. Smart Rain uses advanced technology to take the guess work and error out of irrigation repairs. With weather-based technology, Smart Rain can be a facility manager’s best sidekick for getting the job done right, every time.  

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