How to Operate and Maintain a Home Irrigation System

How to Ensure All Your Plants Are Getting Enough Water

Some homeowners are afraid to install automated irrigation systems because they are concerned about their costs. What they do not realize is automatic irrigation systems are more efficient than watering manually.

With an automatic system, you will save a lot of water. This is because the system will water your lawn only when necessary and use the right amount of water. In fact, after installing an irrigation system, your monthly water bills will go down.

However, for you to benefit from an irrigation system, you must operate it correctly and maintain it well. Otherwise, you will lose a lot of water.

Here are a few things you need to take care of.

Testing and Repairing

The worst mistake many homeowners make is to install an irrigation system and then ignore it. They assume the irrigation systems will run on their own with no human intervention. For an irrigation system to continue to run efficiently, you must test it periodically.

There is no specific time to test your system. It is your responsibility to schedule the testing. You can do it monthly, after two to three months, or even after every season. If you do not check the system for a long time, you will start to see a change in your monthly water bills.

If the system is delivering more water, your monthly bills may increase. If it is delivering less water, your water bill may decrease. Either way, it will also affect your plants. The irrigation system will either overwater or underwater them.

When you notice any issue with the system, repair it as soon as possible. It may be necessary to replace or unclog the sprinkler heads that are missing, broken, or malfunctioning. You should also repair all the leaking lines and replace the old nozzles.

Adjust the Heads

The sprinkler heads need regular adjustments because lawnmowers or people move them. Regularly checking them ensures they have the proper alignment all the time.

By adjusting the heads, you’ll ensure the sprinklers distribute the water to the right places. If you don’t adjust them properly, they may end up watering the driveways, streets, or sidewalks, thus wasting your water.

If you notice a misalignment of the heads, twist them. You want to make sure you align the nozzles with the plants they are supposed to irrigate. Also, make sure the sprinkler heads are at the right angles with the ground. When the heads are tilted, they will only throw water to one side, leaving other parts dry.

Set the Controller

Also called the timer or simply a clock, the controller make sure your irrigation system delivers just enough water. If you have different plants in your yard, remember that each type has different water needs. Supplying them with the same quantity of water means some will get too much water while others will receive less.

The controller eliminates that problem. Before you set this device, make sure you know the water needs of each plant. Remember that you may need to adjust the setting.

You must also be aware that every season is different. Therefore, you must adjust the controller accordingly.

For example, during the rainy season, your plants will not need a lot of water. On the other hand, during dry seasons, the plants may fully depend on the water.

The wind is another factor you have to consider. Wind may carry the sprinkled water away or may increase the rate of evaporation. It means that you need to adjust the controller during windy days to provide enough water to the lawn.

Calibrate Your Sprinkler System

Calibrating your irrigation system is necessary, so you may get to know your water consumption rate. If you don’t calibrate your system, you won’t know whether you are underwatering or overwatering your lawn. You don’t need to be an expert to calibrate the system. You can do it on your own.

Here are the steps you can use to calibrate your sprinkler system.

  1. Get between five and 10 straight-sided containers, such as jars, tuna cans, or coffee cans. The containers should have diameters of between 3 and 6 inches.
  2. For an underground irrigation system, scatter the containers randomly in one zone. You can move them to the next zone once you have finished. For an overhead sprinkler, place the cans in a straight line, starting from the sprinkler’s base. Arrange them to where the water spray ends. You must space the containers evenly for better results.
  3. Turn on the water and let run until it fills the tins to about a quarter-inch. This may take about 30 minutes if you use rotors and about 15 minutes if you’re using spray heads.
  4. Using a ruler, measure the water depth in each tin. Your measurement should be very accurate for better results.
  5. Calculate the average water depth. All the depths then divide by the number of tins used.
  6. The next step is to determine the rate of irrigation in inches/hour. Convert the run minutes to hours by dividing them by 60. Next, divide the average inches you determined by the number of run hours. This should give you the rate of irrigation in inches/hour.

You can repeat the above steps two or more times to get more accurate results. Knowing your sprinkler irrigation rate can help you apply water to your lawn more efficiently. Let’s consider an irrigation system with a rate of 2 inches/hour as an example. If a lawn needs three-quarter inches of water, you’ll run the system for about 23 minutes.


Maintaining your irrigation system will ensure you don’t waste water. This will translate into low water bills. This is also the case when you use the irrigation system correctly.

Regularly checking your irrigation system will help you detect problems in time and repair them before it’s too late. Waiting until the system breaks down can prove very costly.

Use the above tips to maintain your system and keep it in good shape throughout the year.