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September 2013 Maintenance Matters
sprinkler irrigation landscaping

Tips For Irrigation System Upkeep

Ensure a healthy and beautiful landscape while eliminating wasteful water usage.

September 11, 2013

The trend in environmentally-friendly irrigation solutions can bring to mind increased equipment and maintenance expense, but when it comes to responsible water use, it is possible to go green and improve your bottom line.

Proper system maintenance can not only benefit the environment, but can also help save on overhead and incremental costs.

Efficient irrigation techniques help ensures landscapes stay healthy without straining natural and fiscal resources.

This article introduces a number of expert tips for installing and maintaining an irrigation system that works for your budget and the environment.

Consider The Facility

When considering the installation of a new irrigation system or the replacement of an old one, irrigation systems are not one-size-fits-all.

Irrigation systems should be tailored to a facility’s specific needs, especially in areas with limited water supplies or community-imposed water restrictions.

Strategically placing the correct type of sprinkler heads in locations that both avoid over-watering and maximize the water dispersal is essential to getting the most out of your system.

A poorly designed system can result in wasted water that never reaches its target.

Advice And Maintenance

Enlisting the help of an irrigation professional will help ensure that your irrigation system is both efficient and effective.

Regular maintenance will keep your irrigation system running as efficiently as possible.

In addition to complete system checks on a monthly basis, weekly monitoring can ensure that any potential problems are found before they cause significant damage that would result in higher repair costs.

Issues for which to watch include rain sensor function and moisture sensor programming.

Filters should be checked to make sure they are clean and are free of sediment.

Excessive water runoff, evaporation and deep watering below the roots are results of poorly maintained irrigation systems and can harm both the environment and the budget. 

Continual visual monitoring is essential to identifying and correcting problems as quickly as possible.

Potential Problems

A small leak can turn into a much larger problem if not addressed in a timely manner.

Further, high or fluctuating water pressure can lead sprinklers to mist or fog.

These issues, though relatively minor at first, can cause significant damage to a landscape if left untreated for any period of time.

Uneven sprays within a particular zone are another sign of pressure problems that could be the result of a leak in a valve or pipe.

While some leaks are small and difficult to see through a basic visual inspection, they can still cause significant damage, which is why it is important for regular, professional maintenance.

The most frequent irrigation system problem is when leaks occur around nozzle heads, usually due to loose connections between the pipe threads and the valves.

Nozzle issues can lead to problems such as brown lawn or areas that are inconsistently colored or regularly muddy and wet.

While among the easiest problems to identify, if left unattended they can be quite costly to repair, leading to problems such as root rot and fungal diseases.

In addition, damage caused by lawn mowers, normal wear and tear and improperly installed sprinkler heads can lead to broken or tilted heads that can cause spray disruption, resulting in uneven water coverage and high volumes of water waste.

It is important to remember that over time, soil, grass clippings and various other types of debris can build up around the heads, which can disrupt spray patterns. 

Preventing Winter Freezes

One of the most common causes of damage, and often most costly, is failure to winterize an irrigation system.

If the facility property is located in a colder climate, working with your irrigation specialist can help determine the best time to winterize your system.

When water freezes, it expands, and this hydro-expansion can cause fittings, sprinklers, valves, pumps, pipes and other parts of irrigation systems to burst and break.

In order to ensure your irrigation system is in working order in the spring, you must drain your irrigation system before the weather turns cold.

Winterizing the irrigation system will help increase the system’s longevity by ensuring that all water is removed from the pipes and heads prior to the first hard ground freeze of the season. 

Auditing Irrigation

Aside from regular maintenance, preventative action can help you avoid problems which not only cause frustration and potentially run over budget, but may also cause substantial damage to the irrigation system.

One way to ensure that a facility property is realizing the maximum benefit of its irrigation system is through an irrigation audit.

After assessing the system and identifying any deficiencies, a qualified irrigation specialist will consider a number of factors such as the property size, local climate, sun exposure and specific vegetation needs to determine the most appropriate and cost-effective irrigation program for the landscape.

Not only will improved irrigation help stretch limited water supplies and reduce the risk of plant loss, but it can also generate real savings, improving the bottom-line.

Ensuring proper irrigation management can help to improve both the environment andyour facility’s expenses.

By evaluating landscape size, local climate, area sunlight and utilizing indigenous plant varieties, a qualified landscape contractor can develop a cost-effective irrigation program designed for an individual facility.

The proper installation and maintenance of an irrigation system results in responsible water use, helps eliminate wasteful spending and further ensures that landscapes stay beautiful and healthy.


Ken Hutcheson is president of U.S. Lawns, one of the commercial landscape industry's largest and most successful companies with approximately 260 franchise locations nationwide. With over 30 years of experience in the green industry, Ken’s insight has helped shaped the commercial landscape franchise industry into what it is today. Ken can be reached at Visit the U.S. Lawns website at