3 variables that can affect your sprinkler system

3 variables that can affect your sprinkler system

When many homeowners get an automatic sprinkler system, they have the contractor set the controller and then they forget about it. This approach does not always work, as there are several variables that affect the watering times set on the controller. 

1. Grass type

Cool season grasses and warm season grasses need different amounts of water. Bermuda, St. Augustine, centipede and zoysia all need between one and one and one-quarter inch of water per week. Fescue needs as much as two and a half inches of water per week to maintain its green color. 

Just "setting" the controller can either be drowning your grass or dehydrating your grass. Knowing your grass type can help in avoiding this problem. 

2. Soil type

This is probably the most important factor in setting a controller. If your soil is clay, clay-loam or clay-silt, it will only allow 10 minutes of watering per zone at any given time. This is true whether you have cool season grass or warm season grass. 

If you have this type of soil, it is better to run each zone twice at shorter periods of time than one long run time. This avoids run-off and wasting water that is not being used efficiently. Separating or splitting the time on the controller allows the clay to soften and allow the roots to penetrate the clay. Roots in this type of soil should reach five to six inches.

The opposite is true if you have loam (topsoil) or sand. For these, you will want to run the irrigation for longer periods of time rather than shorter periods of time. Loam benefits from 25 to 30 minutes of watering per zone, while sand benefits from 40 to 45 minutes per zone. 

This is where you want to promote root growth. The roots in this type of soil should reach 10 to 12 inches long. This will provide a beautiful and healthy lawn.

3. Proper equipment

Having the proper equipment on the system is also important. The controller should work properly and be attached to a surge protector. Just by plugging the controller into a GFCI outlet does not protect it from power surges. 

One item that should be on every irrigation system is a rain delay or rain sensor. The rain delay is important for conserving water. The dial on the rain sensor can be adjusted from one-eighth inch to three-quarters of an inch of rain. 

The rain sensor will “turn off” or suspend the controller once it gets wet from rain. When the rain sensor dries, it will activate the controller to turn on at the next start time. 

The rain sensor’s setting is also based upon the type of soil you have. Clay soil will have the rain sensor set at one-eighth inch of rain, loam will be set at one-half inch of rain and sand will be set at three-quarters of an inch of rain. Having a rain sensor is a great way to conserve water and you will see the result of adding one to your system on your water bill. 

It is important to check you system periodically. Checking these three variables is vital in helping you conserve water and put extra dollars in your wallet. Check Angie’s List for a reputable irrigation contractor and have your system serviced to maximize your savings. 

About this Angie’s List Expert: David McClard is the owner of McClard & Son Irrigation, providing lawn irrigation services in Willow Springs, N.C. Since 1998, McClard & Son has specialized in the installation, repair and maintenance of irrigation systems and was a recipient of the 2012 Angie’s List Super Service Award.

As of July 24, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.