Sprinkler Irrigation: Everything you need to know
Sprinkler irrigation is the method of irrigating a landscape with a system that provides rainfall-like water to the area, and these systems are called sprinkler systems. When we say ‘landscape irrigation,’ the first type of irrigation system that comes to most people’s minds is a sprinkler system, as it is one of the most commonly used irrigation methods for landscapes.
Edenapp explains everything you need to know about sprinkler irrigation in this article – what exactly it is, how it works, its functions, where sprinkler irrigation can be used, the different types of sprinkler irrigation, the advantages of using sprinkler irrigation, and the possible cost of installing sprinkler irrigation.
What is Sprinkler Irrigation?
Sprinkler irrigation is the method or practice of applying water to a landscape or farmlands in a controlled manner that resembles rainfall. In sprinkler irrigation, water is distributed throughout the designated area by pumping water via a system of pipes. These pipes have outlets where sprinkler heads are present, and they spray the water into the air, which then falls to the ground like raindrops.
How does Sprinkler Irrigation Work?
A basic sprinkler irrigation system consists of a pump unit, pipes, laterals, sprinkler heads, and a controller. The pump takes water from the source (this is generally the city water line) and discharges it with pressure into the pipe system. The pump is set to discharge water at a pressure level that is appropriate for an optimum rate of supply and volume to the landscape. The pipe system consists of principal and secondary pipes which carry the water discharged by the pump to the laterals present in specific sprinkler zones. Laterals or lateral pipes that are directly connected to the sprinklers.
The pipe system can be installed above the soil surface depending on the type of system it is, and the preference of the property owner. The most common materials used for manufacturing these pipes are aluminum alloy or plastic.
The lateral pipes transport water from the principal and secondary pipes to the sprinklers. These pipes can be both permanent and temporary. Temporary lateral pipes can be moved from one place to another.
Once the laterals bring the water to the sprinklers present in different sprinkler zones, the sprinklers disperse the water into the air in the form of a spray which then falls to the ground like tiny rainwater droplets. The sprinkler heads are placed in such a way that they provide complete coverage to the area and distribute water uniformly.
The controller is the core of any sprinkler system, and through the controller, you can program the sprinklers in different zones to turn on and off at certain times of the day.
Some other components of a sprinkler system are shut-off valves and a backflow preventer. Shut-off valves allow you to turn off the water supply when you are not using it, and these are especially helpful when there is a leak or if the pipe system is damaged in any way. A backflow preventer blocks the water of the sprinkler system from entering your potable water supply and contaminating it.
What are the functions of Sprinkler Irrigation?
Different irrigation systems have different functions and goals. The functions of sprinkler irrigation are given below.
- Sprinkler irrigation should provide uniform irrigation coverage to the entire area. There should not be any dry spots or puddles on the lawn after the irrigation system is turned off, as this implies that the sprinkler system is not irrigating the area evenly.
- Sprinkler irrigation should use water efficiently to prevent runoff due to excess watering. Runoffs cause loss of nutrients and topsoil due to erosion, and these happenings are common with manual irrigation. Therefore, the function of sprinkler irrigation is to water efficiently to preserve soil quality.
- Sprinkler irrigation should also water the area at a fast rate in order to save time and energy. Manual irrigation takes a lot of time and effort, and the function of sprinkler irrigation is to minimize this.
- A side function of sprinkler irrigation is to cool the area and reduce and control airborne dust.
Where can Sprinkler irrigation be used?
Sprinkler irrigation can be used to irrigate residential and commercial lawns and landscapes, golf courses, agricultural land, and other green areas. For agricultural lands, they can be used to irrigate most of the field, tree and row crops, and water can even be sprayed under or over the entire crop canopy as required.
Golf courses have large green areas that require a fast and efficient irrigation system that is not labor-intensive. These requirements make sprinkler irrigation the best choice for golf courses as other systems are either slow, like drip irrigation or require too much physical effort like surface irrigation systems.
Residential and commercial lawns can also be irrigated with sprinkler irrigation as these systems can be automated to turn on at certain times of the day. They can also be programmed to run for a determined time and supply a particular amount of water according to the requirement of the lawn grass.
What are the different types of Sprinkler Irrigation?
Sprinkler irrigation systems have various types, and Edenapp has listed some of the most common ones below.
- Handheld/ Portable Sprinkler Irrigation System: A handheld or portable irrigation system has a lateral handheld aluminum pipe that is connected to the water source. You can irrigate the designated area by moving across the lawn while holding the pipe. These lateral pipes can also be placed on the area of the lawn you want to water after connecting a sprinkler head to the pipe riser. After one location has been watered with this setup, the lateral pipe is disassembled and taken to the next spot. This type of sprinkler irrigation is cheaper than other systems, but it is more labor-intensive. A portable sprinkler head that needs to be attached to a garden hose costs around $10 and portable sprinklers already attached to a hose cost around $37 on Amazon.
- Solid Set or Permanent Sprinkler Irrigation System: In a solid set sprinkler irrigation system, the principal and secondary pipelines are buried under the lawn and installed permanently. The sprinklers of this irrigation system operate from a fixed position. Solid set sprinkler irrigation systems are not labor-intensive and can be used to water lawns efficiently if the sprinkler heads are positioned correctly. Since these sprinklers are fixed permanently, Edenapp recommends installing retractable sprinkler heads to avoid damaging them when mowing the lawn or performing other landscaping tasks. The cost of installing permanent solid set sprinklers varies depending on the extent of the system, mode of operation – manual or automated, the type of equipment, etc. Based on the factors mentioned, all the costs can add up to a total that lies between $1200 to above $5000, based on the factors mentioned.
- Side Roll or Wheel Line Sprinkler Irrigation System: In a side roll sprinkler irrigation system, the lateral line is mounted on wheels, and a pipe performs the function of an axle for the lateral pipe. The wheel’s radius is chosen with care to ensure that the lateral line goes over the crop line and does not damage the crops. This irrigation system is best suited for rectangular agricultural fields and can be moved from one location to another using a drive unit.
- Traveling Gun Sprinkler Irrigation System: In the traveling gun sprinkler irrigation system, water is supplied to high-pressure sprinklers (guns) via a flexible hose that is connected to a trailer. This sprinkler system can be operated from a fixed position or while moving. Generally, a part circle sprinkler is used to get maximum irrigation coverage. This sprinkler system is best suited for farmlands with large acreage and should be used for areas with coarse soil and good drainage due to its high-pressure application and large droplets.
- Rotor Systems: Rotor systems deliver water at a slower rate compared to other sprinkler irrigation systems, allowing the lawn enough time to absorb all the water. This slow delivery makes them similar to drip irrigation systems as like drip irrigation systems, rotor systems are also efficient. Rotor systems allow more control over landscape irrigation as their nozzles can be adjusted to deliver water upto certain distances as per your requirement. There are various types of rotor systems such as impact, popup spray, large turf, and gear driven. The cost of rotor systems varies depending on their type.
Solid set irrigation systems can be further categorized according to the type of sprinkler heads. Edenapp lists the different types of sprinkler heads below.
- Spray Irrigation Heads: Spray irrigation heads are best suited for small to medium-sized lawns. They distribute water evenly and should not be placed further than 15 feet from each other to ensure proper coverage. These sprinkler heads provide a fast and fine spray that can be blown away with the wind. Therefore, if you live in a windy region, Edenapp does not recommend installing a spray irrigation head.
- Rotary Sprinkler Heads: Rotary sprinkler heads are best suited for medium to large-sized lawns, and they require a water pressure above 30 PSI. Rotary heads supply water at a slower rate compared to spray irrigation heads, and this water is in the form of a stream and not a spray. This type of water application reduces water loss due to wind and runoff.
- Bubbler Sprinkler Heads: Bubbler sprinkler heads are best suited for irrigating shrubs and the area around trees as they deliver water quickly. This water pools in these small spaces before getting absorbed, and this is why bubblers should not be used to water lawns or in soils that have poor drainage.
What are the advantages of using Sprinkler Irrigation?
Sprinkler irrigation is one of the most popular methods of irrigation, and for a good reason. There are various advantages of using a sprinkler irrigation system, and they are given below.
- It is suitable for all soil types except for heavy clay soils.
- It applies water uniformly throughout the area without creating dry spots or puddles.
- Sprinkler irrigation systems can also be used to apply fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, etc., by dissolving or mixing the product into the irrigation water supply before turning on the sprinkler system.
- Sprinkler irrigation systems reduce manual effort.
- It allows you to control the amount of water you supply which helps preserve water by withholding irrigation on the days when rain is forecasted or reducing water quantity according to the need of the plant or grass.
- Sprinkler systems can also be used to provide a cooling effect during the heat of summer.
- Sprinkler systems are easy to set up and operate.
How to use Sprinkler irrigation?
Understanding how to use a sprinkler system is not a difficult task as sprinkler systems are easy to operate. Edenapp lists the procedure for using sprinkler irrigation below.
- Install the right irrigation system. This is the first step. Edenapp recommends consulting a professional to install the sprinkler irrigation system as a lot of factors like water pressure, size of the pump, watering requirement of the lawn, size of the pump and water meter, placement of pipelines, etc., need to be considered when installing an irrigation system.
- After installation, open the main valve slowly and run the sprinkler system on a manual timer to check the position of the sprinkler heads and their arc and make any adjustments as required.
- Program the controller of the sprinkler system to operate only according to the need of the lawn. To decide the running time of the sprinkler system, you need to know how much water your lawn needs. This will allow you to set the timer according to how long it takes the system to provide that volume of water.
- Winterize your irrigation system before winter sets in, to avoid damage to the pipelines due to the freezing of water in the pipes.
- Dewinterize the system and turn it back on slowly after the last frost passes. You need to be slow and careful while doing this to avoid damaging the pipes due to the high pressure and velocity of the water supply.
- Sprinkler heads can get clogged due to sediments, and therefore they need to be checked and unclogged regularly to ensure complete efficiency.
How much is the possible cost of when installing Sprinkler Irrigation?
The possible cost of installing a sprinkler irrigation system can be as low as $500 for a basic system and as high as above $4500 for a high-end sprinkler irrigation system with additional features. The installation cost varies a lot due to the factors that need to be taken into consideration like permits, local labor costs, if trenches need to be dug, the terrain, the size of the landscape, the type of sprinkler irrigation system that needs to be installed, etc.
Irrigation system installation requires knowledge of electricity, plumbing, zoning, etc. Therefore, Edenapp recommends consulting a professional for installation. Edenapp provides professional irrigation installation services that promise expert installation and maintenance to ensure your landscape receives the right amount of water with efficient delivery.