Tips for Maintaining Your Automatic Sprinkler System

leaking sprinkler head

Like many homeowners, you probably don't think about your sprinkler system until it's not working. But keeping your sprinkler system in good working condition will help you get the most out of it. These few tips will help you save time and water, which is better for the environment and results in a lower bill. Not to mention avoid potentially costly repairs down the road.

What is an automatic sprinkler system, and how does it work? 

An automatic sprinkler system is a network of irrigation pipes that are controlled by a timer or sensor that deliver water to the plants in your landscape. Most automatic sprinkler systems are programmed to deliver water to specific areas or zones of your landscaping for a set duration at certain times of the day. 

How do you maintain your automatic sprinkler system? 

Maintaining your automatic sprinkler system is essential for keeping your lawn healthy and looking great all season long. Some common problems with sprinkler systems include leaks, clogged or damaged sprinkler heads, and broken pipes. But with regular inspections and a little DIY maintenance, you can identify and fix these common problems yourself to keep your sprinkler system running smoothly and avoid expensive repairs.

Here are some quick and easy tips for maintaining your automatic sprinkler system:

Check for leaks

Perhaps the most common problem with sprinkler systems is leaks. Leaks can be caused by a variety of factors, such as damaged pipes or fittings, loose connections, or improper installation. If you notice water pooling in your lawn or a sprinkler head that is bubbling water when your system is turned off, it's important to repair it as soon as possible to avoid wasting water waste and possibly damaging your lawn.

Check your sprinkler system regularly for leaks, especially during the dry summer months when your landscaping needs more irrigation. A single leaky sprinkler can waste hundreds of gallons of water each month. By taking just a few minutes to walk around your lawn, you can spot potential problems and keep your sprinkler system in good working order, your lawn healthy, and avoid unforeseen expenses on your water bill.

Inspect sprinkler heads

Another common problem with sprinkler systems is clogged sprinkler heads. This can be caused by dirt, debris, or even grass clippings. If a sprinkler head is clogged, it will not deliver water to your lawn and can cause water waste. To fix this problem, clean the sprinkler head with a brush or hose or trim away any overgrowth with hand shears to remove the obstruction.

Pop-up sprinkler heads are designed to be inconspicuous when not in use, so it’s easy to damage one by accident. Do not be intimidated by the prospect of replacing the damaged sprinkler head with a new one as this is typically an easy DIY project.

Check your sprinkler heads to keep the spary in alignment so that the water is not over-spraying your lawn onto the sidewalk or street. This will help to conserve water and prevent runoff, which can damage your lawn. Another tip to improve the efficiency of your sprinkler system is to water your lawn early in the morning or early evening when evaporation is less likely to occur.

Inspect the sprinkler system

Check that the controller powers on. The controller is the brains of your automatic sprinkler system that turns on and off the water to different parts of your landscaping. If your sprinkler system's controller is not working, it may be due to a power outage, a faulty connection, or a problem with the timer. If you're experiencing this problem, you'll need to troubleshoot or replace the controller. Often, the solution can be to reprogram the irrigation schedule. The new Rain Bird ARC 8 WiFi smart controller is easy to install yourself as a replacement inground sprinkler controller and is fully programmable with the Rain Bird mobile app.

If the controller is working and water still doesn’t flow, check that the valves are not damaged. An old or damaged solenoid can fail and prevent a valve from allowing the flow of water to your sprinkler system in a particular zone. The valve box houses the valves that control the flow of water to each sprinkler head. Be sure to keep this area clear of any overgrowth so that you and your irrigation professional can easily access the valves when it’s time for maintenance or repairs. 

Inspect the rest of your sprinkler system, from the controller to the underground piping. Over time, the mechanics of your irrigation system, such as underground pipes, valves or wiring can break down. Look for unusual puddling in your lawn that could indicate a problem with the underground sprinkler system. Fixing these problems is often a larger job best left to a professional.

Winterize your sprinkler system

As the seasons change, it's important to take some time to winterize your sprinkler system. Doing so, especially in cold-weather climates, will help to prevent damage from freezing temperatures and ensure that your system is ready for the next growing season. The first step is to turn off the water supply to your sprinkler system. Next, drain all the water from the pipes and sprinkler heads, typically a task performed best by your local professional irrigation contractor. Finally, insulate exposed pipes or valves to help protect against freezing. Winterizing your in-ground irrigation system, and re-opening it again in the spring, is also a good opportunity to have your local irrigation professional fully inspect your sprinkler system.

By following these simple tips, you can keep your sprinkler system in good working order, which saves water and helps avoid potentially costly repairs to your irrigation equipment or your landscaping.