A Stitch In Time: 3 Ways To Monitor Your New Drip Irrigation System To Prevent Problems

Installing a drip irrigation system will help you provide a consistent supply of water to landscaping, saving you time on watering and money on wasted water or plants that have been over-watered.  It would be easy to simply let the drip irrigation system run on its own as soon as it's installed, but this could leave you unaware of easily fixed problems that grow out of control over time.  In the first few days you have your drip irrigation system, be sure to check take the following measures to ensure your drip irrigation system is working properly to save yourself from trouble down the line.  

Measure #1: Monitor Your Timers Closely

A timer on your drip irrigation system allows you to water your landscaping throughout the day, even if you're not home to do so.  It'll also save you from over-watering should you forget to manually turn the irrigation system off.  

After you've first installed the timer, make sure you're home while it's running the first few times.  You may find that the irrigation system isn't shutting off after the timer has shut off.  If you notice water continually coming out even after the timer has turned off, you likely have an issue with too low of water pressure.  

The likely culprit is that the timer turns on and opens the valve, but then the pressure is too low to close and the valve doesn't shut off at the end of the cycle.  You can fix this by either changing the diaphragm to match the suggested settings for your timer or changing the direction of your tubing to increase flow.  

Measure #2: Check Output Readings 

Your drip irrigation system will come with a water output meter, which can give you a quick read on how much water your system is actually using and is often the first step in troubleshooting your system.  Look for two different kinds of issues when you first get your system to analyze the effort and output of your new tubing.  

  • Water meter doesn't match the amount of water leaving the supply: This most likely means you have too much air in your tubing, so the meter is misreading air output for water output.  If you don't already have an air bleed valve, which releases vacuumed air that was sucked in at shut-off, it's time to install one at higher elevation in your landscaping.  If you do have one and your meter is still reading incorrectly, ensure the air bleed valve hasn't been clogged with dirt or debris. 
  • The water meter is reading high and excess water is gone from the supply: You likely have a problem with one or more of your emitters.  Tubing could be leaking at a slow rate, even if you haven't yet noticed it pooling on the ground.  You likely need to readjust or install an emitter or two to keep water flowing at its intended rate. 

Measure #3: Walk the Perimeter

You'll want to check the landscaping during and after a cycle of irrigation to ensure all areas are getting the appropriate amount of water.  Although the previous two measures will alert you of hidden problems, watching the ground will be far more obvious. 

During the first few cycles of your new system, you'll want to watch for areas that should be getting wet but remain dry.  This could be due to either lack of water pressure or clogged tubing.  Clogged tubing will be simple to fix yourself, but a lack of water pressure may require the help of a professional to ensure you're using the right size tubing for the level of terrain.  

An area of your landscaping that's getting too wet, on the other hand, is most likely due to leaking emitters that have come apart from being jostled or from water pressure.  Try putting the emitter back together.  If that doesn't fix the problem, insert a goof plug to keep the tubing from leaking.  

It would be easy to sit back and let your new drip irrigation system run and enjoy all your new found free time.  However, ignoring the system in the beginning will keep you ignorant of small but potentially hazardous malfunctions.  After installing the system, monitor your timer, water meter, and ground around the tubing to keep yourself aware of how efficiently the system is working.  

Contact a company like H2O Lawn Sprinklers if you have specific questions about how drip irrigation should work.