Advice on spring irrigation system maintenance and startups


Photograph: Rain Fowl Company

With spring nicely underway, clients may be desirous to see their properties return to a luscious inexperienced and meaning they need their irrigation methods turned again on.

Providing irrigation startups within the spring generally is a win-win for each you and your shoppers. Clients are spared each frustration and cash as you are able to do the method correctly and you’ll make sure that the irrigation system is operating correctly and effectively, stopping callbacks throughout your busy summer season season.

“It’s crucial that clients notice the worth of a superb high quality spring activate,” says Tom Horn, a coach for the Rain Fowl Coaching Academy and founding father of All-n-One Outdoor Solutions primarily based in Jefferson Metropolis, Missouri. “The service technician goes via every zone, checks the heads, makes certain the heads are correctly adjusted and in addition makes suggestions.

Horn says the suggestions could possibly be something from altering the run time of the system as crops mature and want much less water or providing clients system upgrades like high-efficiency nozzles.

“It is sort of a routine bodily,” says Mitch Heiner, nationwide irrigation product supervisor for Ewing Irrigation and Panorama Provide. “It’s a fast checkup to verify every thing is functioning correctly. It additionally supplies the contractor the chance to offer worth and additional strengthen the connection with the property proprietor, which may translate into continued enterprise and referrals.”

Whether or not your shoppers are in hotter or cooler climates, conducting an annual irrigation upkeep within the spring is an efficient rule of thumb.

“And not using a correct startup and full system testing and adjustment, it’s inconceivable to discern the ‘as-found’ situation of the system and decide if there may be any harm that occurred,” says Russ Jundt, founding father of Conserva Irrigation, a nationwide out of doors irrigation firm. “Moreover, the system must be examined and optimized in order that it’s arrange correctly for a profitable irrigation season. Conserva Irrigation doesn’t use the vernacular ‘startup’ or ‘activate’ as a result of these phrases indicate that this step is straightforward to carry out. As an alternative, we use the coined phrase ‘summerization’ – the other of winterization.” 

When to start out up irrigation methods

As for when is the fitting time to start out doing spring irrigation startups, or summerizations as Jundt likes to name them, this depends upon quite a lot of components however crucial component is the typical temperatures at night time.

Photograph: Rain Fowl Company

“What a variety of guys will do is that they’ll search for the primary full week with out freezing temperatures,” says Chris Davey, product advertising supervisor for Toro residential and industrial irrigation merchandise. “That’s type of a standard rule, however it’s important to watch out as a result of we are able to have a sneak up winter.”

Relying in your space, having night time temperatures keep above 32 levels Fahrenheit for every week might occur wherever between March to Might. It’s also necessary to make sure that the soil is thawed at the least 12 inches deep.

Horn says that his firm tends to activate irrigation methods which have a backflow preventer sooner than methods that use pumps, as they’re extra vulnerable to break from any sudden freezes that would happen.

Horn says that he appears on the long-range forecast as a tenet to see when night time temperatures will keep above freezing constantly earlier than turning on methods. He says that when there are sudden chilly snaps, they advise clients to show their controllers off so the system received’t run.

One other component is the shopper’s notion of want. If householders are calling early on and insisting you get their irrigation system up and operating, typically it’s greatest to oblige them and easily warn them of the dangers they run if the climate has but to remain constantly out of the freezing temperatures.

“You at all times attempt to accommodate the shopper, however you do warn them, if we flip your system on in the beginning of March or the center of March, it’s important to bear in mind that if it will get down fairly chilly you may need to notify us to re-winterize it,” Horn says. “In order that normally deters them however there are some clients who’re persistent, so that you say, ‘Positive, we’ll come out and switch it on. Nonetheless, right here’s the doable penalties should you do this.’”

If a system is began up too early within the spring, panorama contractors run the chance of bursting pipes and damaging different components of the irrigation system, leading to an costly mistake.

It’s fairly a balancing act between ready out any late chilly snaps and getting a head begin early on earlier than crews turn into too busy with different jobs to do a startup completely.

“What typically occurs, what I’ve discovered in my expertise, is the primary signal of a heat up, of hotter climate, contractors and grounds administration crews get all excited they usually need to flip the sprinklers on however they discover they’re operating out of time as a result of they’ve received all different kinds of stuff to do,” Davey says. “Their clients need them to overseed and take away all of the winter particles, dethatch, fertilize, weed management and every kind of stuff, that will get on their plate so beginning it as early as doable is the important thing.”

Spring startup guidelines

When it’s lastly heat sufficient to start out an irrigation system up, its greatest to run via an intensive startup guidelines of all the most important elements to make sure all the irrigation system is working correctly and to seek out any harm or inefficiencies that should be corrected.

Davey has damaged the startup course of down into the next 5 predominant steps.

1. Vent the system

“In the event you did an ideal job within the fall winterizing, then venting the piping system typically is the best one of many 5 steps since you just about did that within the fall,” Davey says.

This step makes certain the system is obvious of particles and opening up the drain valves within the system. In any respect excessive factors, there ought to be an air vent or a fast coupler and they need to be opened as nicely. The sprinkler heads also needs to be turned to the on place. This enables the system to be open if you begin to fill.

2. Modify the strain

Adjusting the strain previous to filling the system is necessary to forestall a water hammer from occurring and it additionally ensures the protection of the technicians engaged on the system.

“As you fill a system, you need to regulate the strain of the water entering into there,” Davey says. “In the event you’ve received a pump system with 110 kilos, for instance, you don’t need to open that up absolutely and crash that water via the system. Most textbooks and coaching periods will educate you on startup to manage the strain to 50 psi or much less.”

Most methods have a settable strain that contractors can alter.

3. Filling the system

Beginning closest to the supply, have crew members monitor open drains, sprinklers and fast couplers. As soon as the water has reached these factors, technicians can shut these drains and switch the sprinklers off to maintain the water within the pipes. Transfer from the very best location to the following one till the air is totally evacuated and all venting areas have been closed. At this level, the system is charged. Davey says the slower you fill the system, the safer it’s.

“Primarily, you’re doing backward what you probably did within the fall,” he says. “As an alternative of evacuating the system, you’re refilling it.”

4. Activate the sprinklers

Keep the 50 psi throughout this step and activate the sprinklers one after the other or zone by zone, relying on how they’re managed to permit extra air to flee.

“You begin to take heed to how these sprinklers or different elements within the system are working,” Davey says. “You’ll be able to hear if one thing is unsuitable. You’ll be able to hear a leak. You’ll be able to hear if there’s a break within the pipe. You’ll be able to see if there’s water gurgling up across the sprinkler as an alternative of popping out of the nozzle. You’ll be able to see if there may be particles trapped within the sprinkler over the winter season they usually aren’t sprinkling proper. Through the section of activating, you need your staff of technicians to be looking out and identification all and any system element points that come up in order that they will make repairs at the moment.”

5. Verify all of the air has been eliminated

That is merely a verify to verify after all of the system elements have been repaired the system operates on the regular working strain. Observe the system and ensure every thing is working appropriately.

If there are issues with the system that crews discover throughout startup, these are usually fairly apparent such because the backflow preventer leaking or if the principle line received’t pressurize.

“Considerably decrease strain to a number of heads on a line normally factors to a pipeline break,” Heiner says. “Geysers coming from nozzles and different emission units are straightforward methods to find out harm as nicely.”

Frequent errors

There are lots of errors that may occur throughout a spring startup from inflicting a water hammer to dashing via the method and overlooking system issues.

“Our service technicians typically get in a rush and don’t let that system undergo an entire cycle so far as observing every head as a result of I’ve gotten calls after we’ve performed turn-ons the place the shopper says the sprinkler head solely goes to at least one place after which stops,” Horn says. “Nicely, I do know what occurred. Our guys most likely received in a rush and solely did a one- or two-minute take a look at and didn’t observe that head do its full sample, so it’s caught at a sure level they usually don’t catch that.”

Photograph: Rain Fowl Company

Davey agrees that when crews turn into hurried, they have an inclination to finish up spending more cash, time and power fixing the problems as a result of they didn’t observe the method correctly the primary time.

Whereas it’s necessary to not rush, it’s additionally essential to make sure there are sufficient technicians for the job. Some residential websites will want two to 3 staff, whereas industrial methods may need wherever from six to 10 technicians.

“Most of those methods are large enough the place one particular person can’t do an efficient job themselves, so it’s normally a bunch of those that do it,” Davey says.

Among the frequent errors that Jundt says can occur embody not finding or using an isolation valve on a looped mainline, not double checking that the water shut off/gate valve is absolutely closed and never correctly turning all ball valves and take a look at port valves to a 45-degree angle.

One other main mistake to keep away from will not be fixing the issues after discovering them.

“If one thing wants repairing, it ought to be performed instantly, and in the event that they don’t, a variety of contractors in the event that they discover a damaged sprinkler, they’ll cap it off and say I’ll come again later,” Davey says. “Nicely, a variety of instances they don’t come again later and so their clients find yourself complaining as a result of when the irrigation methods begin up, they don’t see a leak as a result of it’s capped off, however they see a brown spot within the grass as a result of it’s not getting watered.”

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