State Requirements for Irrigators
- Irrigation in Texas is regulated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
- According to the TCEQ, a person may not be hired to maintain, alter, repair, service, or inspect a sprinkler system unless the person is licensed by the TCEQ.
- At a minimum, there must be a licensed Irrigation Technician on-site while sprinkler repairs are being conducted by repair companies.
- While connecting a sprinkler system to a water supply, a licensed Irrigation Technician must be under the direct supervision of a licensed Irrigator.
- The license number must be posted on the service vehicle by the front fender in minimum two-inch tall lettering.
- If you are not sure, ask your service person to show you their license. The TCEQ requires that any licensed irrigator or irrigation technician carry their license on them that has their name and license number on it.
- A licensed irrigator is required to stay up-to-date on the latest technology and products related to irrigation. Just like any professional license, irrigators are required to take continuing education classes in order to maintain their license.
- Warranties are required by the TCEQ for new installations of sprinkler systems; however, warranties are not required for sprinkler repairs, maintenance, alterations, or service to existing sprinkler systems. Although not required, several sprinkler repair companies will offer warranties on repair services. Typically, customary practice is to offer a one-year warranty on all parts installed at your residence and the labor/workmanship to install those parts.
- Converting to drip irrigation will allow you to water your foundation and flowerbeds any day at anytime.
- Creating separate zones for drip irrigation will allow for a more precise and frequent watering schedule.
- A drip irrigation line is physically tough, but it is no match for lawn equipment. It is important that you check drip irrigation zones often for cuts to avoid lost landscaping.
- The homeowner can do a simple check of their sprinkler system by turning on a single station at a time. We recommend that you check your sprinkler system on a monthly basis.
- The majority of newer controller models have a test function that you can utilize to check the sprinkler system.
- Most are preset to run for two minutes per station.You can simply walk through your property as each station runs and look for geysers or low pressure areas.
- If you have a station that has very low pressure and the spray heads are not popping up completely, this could indicate that you have a leak. The leak is robbing the pressure to adequately run the station properly. You would be surprised by how often a spray head or shrub riser gets broken.
- When checking stations such as flower beds, it is important to check the shrub risers against the house to verify that the risers are not misadjusted and spraying water onto the wall, or more importantly, window frames.
- There are literally hundreds of connections on a lawn sprinkler system that can spring a leak at anytime.
- Keep in mind that there are irrigation supply lines running throughout the yard, typically in the front yard and back yard. These lines can leak even with the controller turned off.
- A main line leak can usually be found by walking around the house and looking for any soggy spots.
Shutting Sprinkler System Off
- We strongly recommend that homeowners learn how to shut off the water to their lawn sprinkler systems to avoid an emergency service call and/or property damage when there is a problem.
- Keep in mind that a leak can occur even when the sprinkler system is turned off at the controller or “timer.”
- Cities require a backflow device for sprinkler systems that have shut-off valves on them.
- Newer systems are required to have a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) ball valve (discussed below) that can be a more reliable shut-off.
- Shut-off valves are typically located in the parkway in front of the house, between the street and sidewalk.
- Installing a PVC ball valve generally is about one quarter of the cost to replace the original shut-off valve. We simply install a PVC shut-off valve directly downstream from the original valve. This PVC ball valve is easy to use and will not rust out. Also the valve does not require testing.
- If the original shut-off valve looks old and rusty we do not recommend trying to turn it. It is very possible that when it closes it will be stuck closed and then it will have to be replaced, costing more than a PVC ball valve.
- Take a minute to learn where these items are located and how to operate them.
Rain and Freeze Sensor
- Please make sure that your sprinkler system is equipped with a rain and freeze sensor.
- A rain and freeze sensor prevents the sprinkler system from running after a substantial rainfall or during freezing temperatures.
- Numerous cities in our service area have requirements regarding rain and freeze sensors listed on their websites and also have the requirements outlined in their respective City Ordinance documents.
- Most cities in the Pearson Sprinkler Company service area require that a rain and freeze sensor is installed on all new sprinkler system installations.
- Several cities require that a rain and freeze sensor is installed when a sprinkler system controller is replaced on an existing system, if the system was not already equipped with a sensor.
- Some cities even offer a rebate program when a qualified rain and freeze sensor is installed on an existing system that does not already have a sensor installed. Please check with your respective City to determine their specific requirements and possible rebates.
- A rain and freeze sensor is a wireless sensor that is mounted to your house and communicates with your sprinkler system’s controller.
- If you have a rain and freeze sensor, you will usually have a receiver mounted in the vicinity of the controller and a sensor mounted on a gutter or eve on the exterior of your house.
- If your Plano sprinkler system is already equipped with a rain and freeze sensor, check to make sure that it is still working. It is easy for your sensor to become clogged with cobwebs and debris, which you should remove.
- To check to see if your sensor is functioning, spray it with water and then look at the sprinkler system controller. If the controller indicates that it will not water (usually a red light), then the sensor is functioning.
- If you have an aging lawn sprinkler system and you have one spray head blow apart, it is good practice to replace all of the original sprinkler heads at the same time.
- When sprinkler heads are over 20 years old, they turn into little “ticking time bombs” and need to be checked very often for geysers. Replacing all heads at the same time avoids multiple service calls.
- When you have a broken sprinkler head, it not only wastes water, but it causes a low pressure situation resulting in the rest of the sprinkler heads on the particular station to get inadequate coverage.
- It is important to observe the sprinkler head on each station to verify that they are spraying in the correct direction. It is very common for a loose spray nozzle to turn and start spraying into the street or neighbor’s lawn. One misguided nozzle can cause a large area of the lawn or foundation to stay dry.
- If you notice a misguided sprinkler head, try to simply tighten the nozzle. This usually restores the spray nozzle to its original position. If this does not work, you can try turning the stem of the sprinkler head until it is spraying in the proper direction.
- Another common occurrence is for snails to migrate into the top of 360º spray nozzles. When this happens, it blocks a large portion of the spray nozzle, resulting in a loss of coverage. If you see this, the best way to solve the problem is to poke the snail shell with a piece of a coat hanger or marking flag while the system is running in order to break up the shell so that it blows out the top of the nozzle. This will allow the spray nozzle to achieve proper coverage again.
- Check your sprinkler controller to make sure that you are not over watering. It is very easy to forget about your sprinkler system and how often it is operating.
- With restrictions in most local cities limiting watering to twice a week, watering for 30 minutes at one time is understandable; however, applying 30 minutes of water at one time is not a very efficient way to water the native clay soil in our area.
- When clay soil dries out, its ability to absorb water decreases. Most sprinkler systems apply water at a much greater volume than our local expansive clay soils can absorb.
- We highly recommend that you use a method called “Cycle & Soak.” For example, if your yard needs to get 30 minutes of precipitation, instead of watering once for 30 minutes, try watering four times for 7 to 8 minutes with a 30-minute to one-hour gap in between each watering. This allows the clay soil to absorb the water that is applied to it without the water running off. After about 7 to 8 minutes, the clay soil’s ability to absorb the water decreases and that is when your system should cycle to the next station while the previous area has time to absorb the water that was just applied. Once the system comes back around to this area, the area will be ready to absorb more water. Repeat this process three to four times and your yard will retain and actually use much more of the water that you are applying.
- Most newer model timers have the ability to “Cycle & Soak” with three or four start times. If your controller is hard to use or is limited in scheduling capability, you may want to consider an upgrade.
- We believe that watering restrictions for landscaping are here to stay in one form or another. It is even more important to learn how to use your sprinkler controller and is features to maximize our restricted watering schedule. If you do not have an owner’s manual for your controller, you can download one from the manufacture’s website.
Typical Problems Encountered in “Thrown In” Sprinkler Systems of New Residential Developments
- Sprinkler heads are spaced too far apart, causing dry spots, or spray over the sidewalks, wasting water.
- The incorrect adhesive and/or turning technique has been used when bonding the pipes together, causing the joints to become lose over time.
- Frequently, the systems are installed prior to the installation of landscaping, thus numerous sprinkler heads and even some full zones of the sprinkler system do not adequately irrigate the property.
- Our most unbelievable find was one that involved two next-door neighbors. A trench along the property line was used for both systems, rather than a separate trench for each system!
- We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to check the pressure on your sprinkler system. A homeowner can do this simply by attaching a pressure gauge that can be purchased at your local hardware store, to your house’s water system.
- Attach the gauge to a hose bib at your house and turn the water on. If the pressure exceeds 80 pounds per square inch (psi) on the gauge, you will need to regulate the pressure to your sprinkler system.
- If the pressure is below 80 psi at the hose bib; however, you notice excessive misting or fogging at the spray heads, determine if your house has a pressure regulator. A pressure regulator on a house typically corrects the high pressure water entering the house, but not the high pressure water entering the sprinkler system. In this case, you would need to attach the pressure gauge to a component of the sprinkler system.
- Pressure regulation will save wear and tear on the various components of the sprinkler system as well as minimize misting from the spray heads.
- If the actual spray head pressure is higher than the manufacturer’s operating range for that particular spray head, then some form of pressure regulation would be required.
- Another easy way to tell if pressure regulation is required is to observe the system in operation and see if there is excessive misting or fogging at the spray heads.
- If the sprinkler system is operating at optimum pressure, then the water being emitted from the spray head will be in a droplet form, resembling rain. The droplets will have enough weight to fall to the ground, to penetrate the soil and to reach the outer edges of the spray head’s radius before being evaporated by the sun and/or light wind.
- By regulating the pressure of the sprinkler system, you will also be saving a substantial amount of water.
- For every 5 psi above the manufacturer’s recommended pressure, there is an 8% increase in water use. Many homes that we find are 50 to 60 psi above the recommended psi. The result, a higher water bill and an inefficient sprinkler system that requires frequent repairs.
- Check your sprinkler system regularly for leaks and improperly directed heads spraying on streets, walkways, etc.
- Make sure to use the rain switch on your controller, when necessary, to avoid over-watering during a rain. A rain and freeze sensor can be an invaluable irrigation device to install.
- Don’t cut grass too short during the summer months. A higher lawn gives shade to the root system, helps hold more moisture in the soil and encourages deeper root growth.
- Water during the early morning hours (2:00 am to 3:00 am) to promote healthier landscapes. The water pressure is higher since you’re not competing with other watering activities and temperatures and wind speeds are lower. Consequently, evaporation will be lower. Avoid watering plant material during the night. It stays wet during these night hours and is more prone to disease.
- Group like plants together (hydrozones) that will require similar watering.
- Consider drip irrigation if the landscape permits. Drip irrigation administers water directly to the roots, does not stimulate weed growth, promotes healthier plants and is allowed under most watering restrictions.
- Use mulch in your shrub beds. It helps retain moisture, retards weed growth and controls soil temperature.
- Don’t over-fertilize your lawn. Landscapes require more watering after the application of fertilizers.
- In our service area, we generally do not need to winterize sprinkler systems by draining the pipes in the winter, as the soil insulates them enough to prevent the water from freezing.
- Any aboveground equipment will need insulation installed to prevent freezing during the nights.
- Wrap the aboveground pipes with foam or fiberglass insulation, extending down underground to below the typical freezing depth. Where exposed to sunlight, wrap the insulation with a high-grade pipe wrap tape that is UV resistant, or with metallic tape.
- For aboveground valves and backflow prevention devices, you can purchase insulating covers that can be placed over them like a bag or you can wrap them in fiberglass pipe insulation wrap. Make sure that water can drain out the bottom in case there is a leak. The fiberglass insulation must be wrapped with plastic tape or something else waterproof to keep it dry.
- Problems arise when our area experiences hard freezes that last for several days. In situations such as this, insulation does not work well as the cold air has time to penetrate through the insulation, cooling the pipes and water inside. In areas where freezing weather lasts longer than overnight (rare in our area), but you still need to keep the irrigation system operational, it is a good idea to install electric pipe heaters on backflow prevention devices and aboveground valves.
- Before you invest in a new lighting system, verify with your contractor that you will be provided with a design of the system, as well as a chart that illustrates the light fixtures, bulb size and electrical calculations.
- The design should also have the bulb wattage and type labeled. This way, when a bulb needs to be replaced, it is replaced with the correct bulb.
- Different areas of your outdoor spaces require different amounts of lighting. Conversation areas tend to have lower levels of lighting to help set the mood. Brighter lighting is usually preferred to illuminate eating areas, and bright, direct task lighting is recommended over grills, kitchen and serving areas. Consider using dimmable fixtures to enable you to control the amount of light.
- Use low voltage spotlights to highlight features in the yard that you can see from your outdoor room, such as an ornamental tree, a water feature, sculpture, etc. The play of light and shadow often gives you a completely different view than what you get during daylight hours.
- In areas where there are safety considerations, such as along walkways, stairs, driveways, and parking areas, outdoor lighting should provide enough illumination to make your family and guests feel safe. Low-level path lighting spreads circles of light on the ground to illuminate walkways while accenting adjacent flowerbeds.
- To maintain energy efficiency, consider using features such as timers, motion sensors and photo sensors to control the lighting so it’s not on full output when it’s not being used.
- Consider upgrading to light-emitting diode (LED) lamps, they save money and last longer.