How to Set Your Irrigation System Correctly - Tampa Bay Water Blog
12May

How to Set Your Irrigation System Correctly

Spring in central Florida is the region’s dry season and the time of the year to make sure irrigation system controllers are set correctly. Of course, having a landscape that requires no supplemental irrigation would help minimize your water bill but if you don’t, you can still save water and money by properly operating your irrigation system. Here are some helpful tips!

  1. Know when you can water. Remember, you may not need to water at all, but if you do, make sure you know the water restrictions in your area.
  2. Find your irrigation controller. Most are located somewhere in your home’s garage. If you don’t operate it yourself, give this information to your irrigation or maintenance contractor and have them go through this process:
    • Make sure you have a charged back-up battery in the controller. If the electricity goes out, your system will probably reset to water in the middle of the day – meaning you are violating restrictions and could be at risk of receiving a citation from $100 to $450.
    • Check to make sure the time of day and days of week are correct. Daylight savings time is in effect, so you probably need to modify the settings.
    • Check for multiple program settings (A, B or C for example). Make sure each program is correctly set or turned off – you might not need more than one.
  3. Check your rain shut-off device to make sure it works and is set to turn off the system when your yard receives at least ½ inch of rain. These devices are generally mounted in an unobstructed area outdoors and wired to either a specific part of the controller or the common wire of the irrigation system. If it doesn’t turn the system off when you check it, consider replacing it with a soil moisture sensor. Moisture sensors have a similar hook-up but work better and last longer than rain shut-off devices.
  4. Turn on your system manually, operate each zone for no more than five minutes and visually inspect each zone. Identify whether each zone is operating correctly. Zones include:
    1. Rotors (move and cover a large area),
    2. Spray heads (don’t move and spray smaller areas), or
    3. A combination of both. Take note of any heads that are broken, misdirected (watering the sidewalk), or blocked. If you have any zones with a combination of spray heads and rotors, you should see if you can modify this zone and put all of the same type of sprinklers in one zone.
    4. Microirrigation zones place water directly to the plants through drip or micro spray heads. These parts of your system are low volume and put out water in gallons/hour not per minute like spray heads or rotors.
  5. Fix and adjust broken, misdirected or blocked heads.  Broken, misdirected or blocked heads can create dry sections in your yard that can show up when it gets hotter and drier.
  6. Set the controller to water the right amount and frequency to cope with the spring dry season.
    1. Turf grass: Rotors generally apply ½ to ¾ inch per hour. So you would be safe to set them at 45 minutes to an hour, once per week. Spray heads produce about double the amount of water, so 20 to 30 minutes per week should do. 
    2. Shrubs: If the zone is made up of spray heads, consider skipping a week through most of April and once per week in May.
  7. Place a document in your controller that identifies zones labeled by number and the programs you are operating. You can quickly refer to this document for information on the duration of watering necessary in each zone, the frequency necessary for each zone and type (spray heads or rotors).
  8. Enjoy! You now have taken all the steps required to ensure an efficient, properly working irrigation system.

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