Tag: Sprinkler System

Starting up your Sprinkler System

Did you know that starting your sprinkler system right can help you conserve water and save money?

Sounds complicated, you say.

Trust us, it simpler than you think.

Just start off with four simple steps.

When you turn you sprinkler system on for the first time this season:

1. Inspect and repair manifolds, valves, and sprinkler lines for any leaks.

2. Replace any broken sprinkler heads or nozzles.

3. Clear any debris interfering with sprinkler heads and nozzles.

4. Adjust sprinkler patterns to prevent watering sidewalks, streets, and driveways.

These steps, along with smart watering, can help you save up to 3,000 gallons of water per watering session. To learn more about how conserving water can help you save money, check out this post.

Orbit Sprinkler System Designer

underground sprinkler head

The Orbit Sprinkler System Designer™ is a unique combination of technology and Orbit’s high-quality irrigation products and service.  It is the world’s first and only online, real-time, free sprinkler system design tool.

What does it do?

In a few easy steps the Orbit Sprinkler System Designer™ allows you to design a personalized sprinkler system based on your own property.  When your design is complete you will have a visual plan to follow in addition to a parts list, price estimate, and instillation instructions.  The parts list is compatible with all hardware/home improvement stores, so you’ll be able to find just what you need wherever you are.

What does it cost?

The Orbit Sprinkler System Designer™ is absolutely free.  This same service can cost between $20-50 if contracted to a local irrigation store.

How do I get started?

Visit the Orbit Sprinkler System Designer™ website.

Once you are on the website, you can begin planning your sprinkler system by establishing the dimensions of your property.  One of the most popular features is the ability to import a Google Maps image of your property and trace directly over it.

From there all you need to do is follow the simple steps laid out on the screen.  You will be prompted to indicate the areas you don’t want watered as well as areas with special watering needs.  The designer will help you lay out system features, determine flow rate, and let you know the number of manifolds you will need.

At this point you can immediately view your arcs, head placement, and piping layout.

When you are satisfied with your design, you can view the estimated price for your new system and print the necessary parts list.

What if I have questions?

If you have design or installation questions, you can call one of our sprinkler design experts at: 1 (866) 694-7913.  Questions concerning products or the running and maintenance of your system can be answered by our technical support associates at: 1 (800) 488-6156.

Or, you can check out some of our frequently asked questions here.

Join us!

No matter where you are in the process, Orbit is dedicated to delivering quality products and our continued support.  So join us and start designing today!

How Much do Automatic Sprinkler Systems Cost? Part IV

Do you need anti-siphon valves?

There are two basic types of valves: inline and anti-siphon. An inline valve is the most common type of valve and when it is used on a municipal water supply you must install some type of backflow prevention further up the line from it. Anti-siphon valves serve the function of a backflow prevention device and, although an anti-siphon valve typically costs more than an inline valve, it saves money on the installation by eliminating the need for a system backflow prevention device and a valve box (anti-siphon valves have to be above ground or they won’t work). Anti-siphon valves are most common in California.

Do you need a master valve?

Most of the valves in a sprinkler system are used to control the flow of water to a specific area of “zone” within the yard. The automatic sprinkler timer sends electric current to these valves to open them. In a typical residential sprinkler system only one control valve is on at any one time so that there is plenty of water pressure for the zone. Some cities recommend or require the installation of an automatic “master” valve in front of the control valves. At the start of each cycle the master valve opens and allows water to flow as the control valve for each zone opens. At the end of the cycle the master valve closes. This helps ensure that water will not be wasted in the unfortunate event that there is a leak on one of the control valves. A master valve will increase the price of your system by one valve and associated fittings and wire. It also requires that you select at least a mid-level sprinkler timer.

Do you need spray heads in medium or large-size areas?

Any area greater than 30 feet by 30 feet is typically regarded as a medium area. While spray heads can theoretically be used to water any size area, if the area is greater than 30 by 30 then spray heads are probably going to cost more than gear drive sprinklers or “rotors”. Even though rotors are cheaper to install for medium and large areas, some homeowners simply prefer having all areas in the front yard – whether small, medium or large – watered the same way. The latest technology on the market, called “spiral rotators” or “multi-stream rotators” have the advantage of providing uniform appearance and consistent water application across all areas large and small, but unfortunately installation cost for spiral rotators is still almost as much as medium area rotor, making them an expensive alternative for small areas.

Do you need pressure regulating spray heads?

Some cities require pressure regulating spray heads in order to reduce the amount of “misting” and water waste from spray nozzles and to compensate for poor irrigation designs by making sure that all nozzles in a zone operate at the same pressure regardless of design. The cost of a pressure regulating spray head is typically 3 times that of a standard spray head.  If you can afford them, it is a good idea to install them.  One of the latest trends in some markets is to use 6 inch high spray heads instead of 4 inch spray heads, which allows for today’s longer grass cutting lengths and still keeps the nozzle spray above the grass.  However, the cost of a 6 inch pressure regulating spray head, which is the “Cadillac” of spray heads, is more than 6 times a standard spray head. But it is probably outside the budget of the average homeowner https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EFeLb2FaUM.

How Much do Automatic Sprinkler Systems Cost? Part III

smart flood sensor laying next to a leaf

Do you need certified backflow prevention to protect the municipal water supply?

Depending on your part of the company and the rules of your local water district, backflow prevention can a significant part of your system cost. Because protection of the municipal water supply from possible contamination through sprinkler systems is so important, the general trend is for communities to adopt codes that require a $300 or more in equipment, professional installation, and independent certification of the backflow device.  This can put backflow prevention out of the realm of the do-it-yourselfer and, for a small yard in a high cost part of the county, could mean that backflow prevention is as much as half of the cost of the entire sprinkler system. Of course, that is worse case. Many communities still allow less expensive types of backflow prevention that are well within a homeowner’s ability to install. Before you make any decisions on whether to install a sprinkler system yourself you should check with your water supplier to find out exactly what they require.

Do you need a pump or filter for the system?

If you are not taking your water from a municipal drinking water (“culinary”) source, then you will need to consider the costs and complications of pumps and filters. Since having the right amount of water available at the right pressure is the biggest key to a good sprinkler system, specifying and installing a pump and any associated filter is an area where you either need to be expert of make sure than you get expert advice. If not, you could end up needing a lot of extra time and expense to get your sprinkler system up and running right. The costs of the pump and filter will be very specific to your system.

Do you need PVC or poly pipe?

The costs of PVC pipe and polyethylene (“poly”) pipe systems are very different, so you need to be careful if you are comparing bids that don’t use the same type of pipe. The per foot cost of PVC pipe and fittings is less than half of poly pipe, so if a contractor were using the same design the material cost of poly would be significantly higher than PVC. However, many contractors use design and installation shortcuts with poly that significantly reduce materials and labor, so their total cost of poly may end up being lower than PVC. Orbit Sprinkler System Designer uses the exact same state-of-the-art design and installation for both PVC and Eco-Lock (a poly-based system), so the cost of the Eco-Lock system is higher when compared to PVC. But the small premium is well worth it when you consider Eco-Lock’s ease of use, performance and low impact on the environment compared with PVC.

How Much do Automatic Sprinkler Systems cost? Part II

Modern Home

Do you live in an area with high labor and overhead costs?

Different cost of living from region to region is the main reason why there is no hard “average” cost for installing a sprinkler system. If you live in the suburbs of Detroit where there are plenty of sprinkler contractors and business overhead is moderate, all else equal you will find a lower average bid than you will in Long Island where overhead is high. If you live in a high cost part of the country you could end up saving significantly more by installing yourself.

Do you live in a cold weather climate where you need deeper trenches for pipe?

In cold weather markets it is generally a good idea to bury pipes at least 12 inches deep to reduce the possibility of early or late season freeze (in any freezing market, prior to deep winter you should blow pipes out with compressed air or otherwise drain them to avoid freeze breaks in the pipe. For winterization instructions click here) Sprinkler System with Pop Up Spray Headsand the deeper the trenches the more time you need to allow for trenching and cleaning. In many northern markets contractors avoid trenching altogether by “pulling” poly pipe through the ground with something called a “vibratory plow.” While you could theoretically rent one and pull poly pipe yourself, this is not a project for the novice. Options would be to pay a contractor to pull pipe or dig trenches for you, or dig the trenches yourself. For less than $200 a day most equipment supply stores will rent a “trencher”, which makes shorter work of digging trenches.

Do you have rocky, clay or “hardpan” soil that is difficult to dig?

The type of soil that lies below the surface will be a major factor in how long it takes to pull pipe or dig trenches for a sprinkler system.  A trenching machine will have a tendency to hop or buck in rocky, clay or hardpan soil, and this could increase pretty dramatically the time and effort required to get the trenching done. Regardless of how you want to do it, you should grade the entire landscape to finished level before installing the sprinkler system. After the grading is complete one way that you can test how hard difficult trenching will be is to make sure the ground is moist (but not wet) and then use a shovel to dig the holes for your sprinkler manifolds. If it is impossible to dig even those holes, you can assume that even with a trencher digging trenches will be hard work, which may tip you in favor of hiring a contractor to do the trenching and then you do the rest.

Do you have several distinct small areas to water or do you have just a few large areas? 

The size of the different areas in your yard makes a surprisingly big difference in how much automatic sprinklers cost. Perhaps it’s not intuitive, but it is typically costs much less to install sprinklers in a few large areas than it does to install sprinklers in many small areas, even if the total square feet of the large area is significantly more than it is for the small areas. This is because of two main factors: first, large areas generally require a lot less pipe and heads than small areas; and, second, several small areas can significantly drive up the number of zones that are required and this increases the cost of valves, wire, and sprinkler timers. So, as a general rule, the more small areas that you design into your landscape – especially if they have different watering requirements – the higher will be the cost of your installation.

Visit orbitonline.com to try one of our FREE sprinkler system design programs. This will allow you to draw your property and get an estimate in determining how much your sprinkler system will cost.

Getting Your Automatic Sprinkler System Ready for the Season

With spring just around the corner, it is almost time to get your automatic sprinkler system up and running.  Still pulling hoses around the yard?  Try using our free sprinkler system designer to help you layout a system for your yard.  Don’t want to dig?  There are many hose faucet watering options to choose from to provide automated watering without the digging.

It is a good idea to test your sprinkler system each spring to ensure that everything is working properly.  Here are some things you will want to look for as you fire up your sprinkler system:

  1. Freeze damage in your sprinkler lines, valves or heads
  2. Sprinkler heads that may have been hit by a snowblower or shovel and need to be replaced
  3. Timer is set and functioning properly
  4. Nozzles are adjusted properly and are free of debris

Check out our how to videos for more tips on sprinkler system maintenance.  Wondering how to replace a solenoid on your sprinkler valve?  Click the following video for how-to instructions.

How does an automatic sprinkler system work?

The following diagram provides a simple look at the anatomy of a sprinkler system. The starting point is the source of water for the system. In this case there is an existing supply from a city meter to the house. Local codes may regulate who and how you can tap into your source. A mainline pipe carries water from the water source to a backflow prevention device which helps keep the sprinkler system from potentially contaminating or polluting the drinking water.

Except for very small yards, the water pressure from the source is insufficient to allow watering of the entire yard at one time, so the yard is broken up into smaller areas called zones. An automatic sprinkler valve controls the flow of water from the mainline to each zone.  The sprinkler valves are often grouped together in an arrangement called a sprinkler manifold which makes them easy to locate and reduces the amount of sprinkler wire required. The sprinkler wire connects each automatic valve to the sprinkler timer or controller. The sprinkler timer tells each valve to open at a specified time, run for a specified time, and then close. Some sprinkler timers can be connected to smart devices which automatically calculate when and how long the system should run and shut the system off when it is raining. The ability to precisely control watering according to specific conditions in the yard is the key to how an automatic sprinkler system conserves water. Lateral line pipes carry water from the automatic valves to the sprinkler heads. Drip zones, which use very low flow sprinkler devices called emitters to deliver water garden, shrub, and flower beds, are becoming more and more common as a water-conserving replacement for traditional sprinkler heads. The easiest ways to design a professional, water-conserving sprinkler system are to use the Orbit Sprinkler System Designer.

Winterize Your Sprinkler System

How do I winterize my system?

A common question for those with yard, garden, or lawn irrigation systems.

There are several things that must be done to winterize a sprinkler system.

The first step is to determine if the system uses auto-drain valves. If auto-drain valves are present, then all you need to do is turn the main water supply off, and then loosen the solenoid on each valve to let air inside. The water should flow down hill and out of each zone through the auto drain valve. You may have a manual drain for the main line between the shut-off valve and the valve manifolds.

If a valve is present open it to allow all water to drain.

If your system does not use auto-drain valves, then an air compressor must be used to blow the water out of the zones. Turn off the main water supply to the sprinkler system, and hook up an air compressor to the system. Pressurize the tank to about 60 psi and then open on of the valves manually. Run that station for 2 to 3 minutes to allow all the water to be removed from the system. Shut that valve off and pressurize the tank again. Repeat for the next zone. After all zones are empty, loosen the solenoids to allow air to enter the top of the valve.

This is a general guideline for winterizing a system. You system may require additional steps depending on the particular installation. There are professionals who can offer this service for you.

Please look under Sprinkler Installation if you need someone else to do the work.

Note: Air Compressors will also need an air flow rate between 4 and 8 cubic feet per minute.

Does Orbit offer a sprinkler winterization guide?

Yes we do.

winterization kit 51028

Drip Irrigation Systems: The basics

orbit drip manifold

Ever walk by a house after the sprinklers are done irrigating and see the sidewalks wet with overspray?

How about seeing a small flower garden where a large area sprinkler head is not only watering its intended target, but everything around it (the fence, the rocks, the neighbor’s yard) as well?

These are just two examples of poor water conservation practices.

One way to help curb the use of water and drop it more accurately on the spots that require it is to use drip irrigation.

Drip irrigation is also known as micro-irrigation. It combines a low-volume of water and a low-pressure release of that water so that it is more accurate with its irrigation delivery mechanism.

Drip irrigation systems can easily be camouflaged under bark, mulch, or decorative rock; they can also be on top of the ground.

So, why consider drip irrigation systems? View the video below and read the tips that follow.

Conserve water:
Drip irrigation systems manage water. A sprinkler can often deliver too much water for the soil to hold and runoff can occur.

Water precisely:
Certain areas won’t be over- or under-watered because you can focus the water exactly where it is required for plant growth.

Curb diseases:
Fungus (and resulting diseased) are less likely to occur in soil that is not constantly saturated with water.

Reduce erosion:
A fast release of water will often be disruptive to soil. A slow drip, on the other hand, can help the moisture penetrate the ground in a same and non-disruptive manner.


Install easily:
Orbit drip irrigation systems are sold in kits and are available online and in many retail outlets. These kits make it easy to install yourself, and you can also use the drip components to customize your irrigation system.

Do you have a drip irrigation system installed?

What other benefits do you see to having a drip system installed in your yard, lawn, or garden area?
Please leave your comments below.