Components of Sprinkler Systems

Sprinkler heads. Different types of heads are designed for different parts of the yard. Spray heads apply a continuous stream of water and have a maximum spray radius of 15 feet or less; they are strategically placed in flowerbeds and around the yard. Rotary heads, designed for large, open spaces, spray water about two to three times as far as the typical spray head. They rotate the stream of water in an arc or complete circle. Both rotary and spray heads are designed to pop up for watering and descend below the surface after watering is complete; this prevents damage from people and mowers.

Installing the wrong head type in the wrong place or installing the heads too far apart reduces system efficiency and performance. Unfortunately, these practices also reduce the cost and work associated with installing the system. Some less-reputable contractors routinely install cheaper systems with too few sprinkler heads and/or the wrong type of sprinkler heads. When comparing two sprinkler system proposals, make sure you are comparing apples to apples.

Zones. A sprinkler system zone is a portion of the overall system that can be turned on and off independently from the rest of the system. Most systems are made up of multiple zones for two primary reasons. The first is water pressure. The amount and pressure of the water entering the home from the street main limit the amount and pressure of water a sprinkler system can apply to the yard. If all zones of the system were turned on at the same time, there would probably not be enough water and pressure to run the system correctly. Watering a portion of the yard at a time eliminates this problem. The second reason for using zones is to vary the amount of water applied to different areas. To keep the yard looking its best and limit wasted water, it is very important to deliver the right amount of water to the right place. By designing the zones around the yard’s landscaping, one can adjust the amount of water supplied to different components. For example, the rotary heads in the front yard can be one zone, while the spray heads for the bushes can be another.

Timers. The timer or controller is the brain of the sprinkler system. Most modern timers turn the water on and off in different zones, according to the time of day and day of the week. Additionally, most timers allow the homeowner to control how much water is applied to each zone. By properly programming the timer so that no area of the yard is over- or underwatered, the homeowner can maintain the beauty of the landscape while minimizing the water cost. Unfortunately, many homeowners never take the time to fully understand their sprinkler system and timer and end up wasting water.

The best time to water your lawn is between 4 and 6 AM. Because a wet lawn is more susceptible to disease, you should take care to limit the lawn’s wet period. The wet period begins when dew first forms on the lawn and ends when the lawn is dry. Watering in the evening before dew forms extends the wet period and encourages disease. Because of rapid evaporation and wind, watering the lawn in the middle of the day is not effective.

The metro-Atlanta area is subject to watering restrictions due to drought conditions. In many areas, residential outdoor water use is prohibited, and in others, it is limited to certain times of day. However, restrictions are local and subject to change on a regular basis. Contact your local water supplier for the most recent information.

Rain sensors. Rain sensors conserve water by preventing system operation during or following a heavy rain, when the ground is saturated and needs no additional irrigation. These sensors will also extend the life of the system by avoiding unnecessary use. Georgia state law requires that all new residential sprinkler systems in metro Atlanta have a rain sensor.