Things to Consider When Installing a Drip Irrigation System
Micro irrigation helps landscapes thrive while conserving water. Read more for tips on installing these systems.
March 17, 2022
Drip irrigation, also called micro irrigation, is a simple and smart solution for landscape watering needs. This method provides the exact amount of water plants need to thrive while reducing waste and saving money. These systems use tubing and emitters to direct water flow. Emitters can be added anywhere on the lines, making drip irrigation a customizable option.
There are two main types of emitters- drip irrigation emitters and micro sprinklers. Both are installed in tubing and control the rate and amount of water released but differ in size.
Choosing the emitter to fit your customers’ needs is important. There’s porous piping, also called drip hose, which has small holes throughout the line and is easily installable and adjustable. This tubing type can have difficulty regulating water pressure. There’s also piping with pre-installed emitters inserted into the pipe at regular intervals, which are less prone to clogging than porous piping. Punch-in emitters allow you to place emitters anywhere by piercing the pipe. This kind of emitter is easily interchangeable if location and flow rates change. Drip emitters are one of the most popular types as they deliver a targeted and slow flow of water that seeps into the root system. Micro sprinkler heads and micro bubblers, or low-volume sprayers, water landscapes with a fan-like spray. These are less efficient compared to emitters, but more efficient than high-pressure head sprinklers.
Benefits of Drip Irrigation
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that micro irrigation systems use 20-50% less water than conventional sprinkler systems. Since the water goes directly into the ground in targeted locations instead of in the air or on walkways, there is very little water waste. These systems also require less water pressure, which can help save customers’ money. The EPA also states that a drip irrigation system can save a typical home over 25,000 gallons of water a year compared to a traditional system.
Additionally, with a drip irrigation system, you can work on other landscaping projects while the system is running, opening more time for your team to work on the jobsite. No trenches are needed; supply lines can sit on the ground or under a layer of mulch. They are also customizable and give customers flexibility to adjust as planter beds grow and change. Goof plugs can be used to stop holes if you need to reposition or terminate one of the lines. Using these systems, the water is absorbed deeply into the soil, so runoff issues and erosion risk is greatly reduced. Drip systems are typically operated with an irrigation controller for ease of use.
Things to Consider Before Installing
Irrigation flow rate needs will depend on soil type. Use ½ GPH (gallon per hour) drippers in clay soil, 1 GPH drippers in loam, and 2 GPH drippers in sandy soil.
Different plant beds have different needs depending on size and spacing of vegetation. Use spot water emitters with a higher flow rate for large shrubs and trees. Use medium flow-rate emitters for medium sized bushes around 24” wide. Use low-flow emitters for starter shrubs and flowers.
Spacing is important to recognize as well. If plants are close together, micro bubblers are a good choice. These have a larger coverage area that is easy to adjust if needed. For dense plantings, consider using ¼” emitter tubing. Gardens need more durability, so ½” tubing is recommended. For flowers and small plants, use staked micro sprayers, as these are gentle and adjustable for distance. Misters should be used for delicate flowers and tropical plants.
To save time and money, drip irrigation systems can be outfitted into existing irrigation systems. Cap off old sprinkler heads and develop new points of connection for your customer’s drip system through existing piping.
Note that laying drip tube is easier before the spring season when plants are not fully blooming.
Start by choosing the type and flow rate of your customer’s system based on soil and plant needs. Build a plan to cover all root zones. Divide the yard into groups of plants with similar watering needs (hydrozones) and add a separate system per zone.
Begin your project at the end of the planter bed closest to the water supply. Install a backflow preventer to avoid contamination in potable water lines. Install a control valve or valves, then assemble a filter and a pressure reducer (which ensures constant water pressure) and attach these to the mainline pipe. Filters in drip systems are vital to ensure optimum performance. Set up drip emitters where necessary, then connect these to the mainline pipe also. Install manual flush valves to prevent debris blockages. Stake the drip line wherever needed and add tee or elbow fittings if piping needs to change directions. Purge the system to clear out any soil lodged during installation, then cap off the ends of the tubing. Set up an irrigation controller to provide a simple, regular watering schedule.
Increase Profits with Smart Irrigation
Like all other irrigation systems, micro irrigation systems require annual maintenance to ensure efficiency, creating repeat business. Visit SiteOne.com/irrigation or your local branch for more information on micro irrigation and to pick up tools for the job.