A properly designed and installed sprinkler system does not need too much maintenance. However, as time passes, you may find that you have to perform seasonal adjustments and updates on it. Sometimes, the sprinkler heads get turned due to foot traffic or you might decide to add new flower beds.
In any case, it becomes necessary to adjust the sprinkler heads so that you can maximize your lawn watering system. In this guide, we will discuss how to adjust lawn sprinkler heads in order to optimize your garden irrigation system. We will also cover some tips how to adjust rotating sprinkler heads, automatic sprinkler heads, and in-ground sprinkler systems as well. Let us take a look at lawn sprinkler adjustments.
Table of Contents
- How to Adjust Rotating Sprinkler Heads
- Carry Out Preliminary Checks
- Keep the Same Precipitation Rate Throughout Zones
- Adjust the Overlap Between Heads
- Watch Out for Misting and Fogging
- Ensure That Your Sprinkler System is Adapting to Changing Needs
- Modifications to Above Ground System
- Adding to Sprinkler Systems
- Re-arrange PVC Plumbing Carefully
- Change Nozzles if Needed
- Place Sprinklers on Tall Risers
- Winterize Your System
- Spring Startup Adjustments
- Final Adjustments
How to Adjust Rotating Sprinkler Heads
The best way to make sprinkler head adjustment is while the system is running. This way, you can understand exactly which sprinklers need adjustment.
Carry Out Preliminary Checks
At the beginning of each growing season, turn on the system and check that easy sprinkler head is providing the necessary coverage. Sometimes, foot traffic, lawn mowers, or snow ploughs may have disturbed the sprinkler’s alignment, causing it to spray sidewalks and other undesired areas. This can leave your garden un-watered or unevenly watered.
Reposition the spray heads so that they are flush with the surrounding ground. If needed trim away grass blades and other foliage from the sprinkler’s nozzle. Of all the head types, fan sprays are easiest to adjust. Simply change the nozzle on the pop-up sprinkler.
For those on pop-up sprinklers, pull up the riser and hold it in place. Unscrew the old nozzle and replace it with a new one. For shrub heads where the nozzle is stationary, all you have to do is unscrew the nozzle. Sometimes, it may be necessary to change the filter when switching nozzles.
Keep the Same Precipitation Rate Throughout Zones
This is important when you adjust the sprinkling pattern. Precipitation rate is the rate at which a sprinkler delivers water to the ground. It is important to use matched precipitation rate sprinklers in all your zones to ensure that all the patterns are watering at the same rate as any other.
Adjust the Overlap Between Heads
Sometimes, there may be too much or too little overlap between the sprinkler heads. To adjust this, move the nozzle to redirect the spray and then turn the spray-adjustment screw on the top of the nozzle. If you have a ratcheting riser, turn the riser.
These days, most sprinkler systems come with rotary heads having rings at the bases of the spray heads. These adjust the pattern of spraying. There is also a diffuser screw that lets you adjust the distance of throw. In case of micro sprinklers, simply twist the head to change its direction.
Watch Out for Misting and Fogging
Sometimes, spray heads produce a misting or fogging action rather than the larger drops necessary for watering. This indicates a ‘too-strong’ water flow. Adjust the water flow at the zone control valve. In case of a manual system, turn the zone shut-off clockwise.
Do this until you get larger droplets. Sometimes, there may be an automatic valve with a special knob for adjustment called a flow control. This knob is also useful for controlling misting and fogging.
Ensure That Your Sprinkler System is Adapting to Changing Needs
If you make changes or additions to your garden each season then you may also have to update and adjust your sprinkler system. Adapting to changing yard needs can be as simple as adjusting the sprinkler’s spraying patterns or as involved as adding an entire new sprinkler head zone to the existing system. It helps if you have left some space in your manifold; this can make connections easier.
Modifications to Above Ground System
Sometimes, you may add new beds or radically later the use of a part of the yard. In this case, major modifications may be necessary. It helps if you have left room for expansion in each drip zone. Simply add a line and punch in emitters and micro-sprinklers with units of higher or lower GPH (gallons per hour) rating.
Be sure to re-calculate the zone’s capacity before adding any component to avoid overloading it. You might even have to remove lines and emitters. In such cases, install new barbed fittings and hole plugs as needed. Under-ground micro-irrigation installations might need digging but the connections are the same.
Adding to Sprinkler Systems
This is not a complicated process as long as you have left space in each manifold and zone. This allows for future expansion. Check the water pressure before adding an extra sprinkler head or lateral line to a zone.
Dig carefully when making trenches for the new additions so as to not break any pipes and fixtures that are already in place. It helps if you can mark these new additions on your plan for future changes.
Re-arrange PVC Plumbing Carefully
PVC connections cannot be taken apart and reused. So, be careful before rearranging PVC plumbing and make sure you have everything you need. Polyethylene plumbing is better because they can be reused.
Change Nozzles if Needed
If you are planning to reuse the sprinklers and risers, make sure the nozzles do not need replacement. Sometimes, changing the nozzle may be the only adjustment needed. A full-circle nozzle can be replaced with a part circle or even a strip nozzle in a matter of seconds.
Place Sprinklers on Tall Risers
If you are converting lawns to shrubs or flowerbeds, the system change may be as simple as placing the sprinklers on tall risers. Just make sure that the sprinklers are compatible with others in that zone.
Winterize Your System
To cope with sustained freezing temperatures, you may have to drain and dry your system. This is essential to prevent damage to the system. You can use a drain valve for the purpose. Try to fit in at least one drain valve per zone. In case of poorly drained soils, you may need to dig a dry well below the drain valve to ensure no water collects and freezes there.
To Winterize Your System:
- Shut off irrigation supply.
- Open all manual drain valves downward from the zone valves to allow the lines to drain.
- Leave valves open for a few days to be sure all water has escaped then be sure to close them again.
- If you have automatic drains, simply close the main water supply valve. The lines from the automatic zone valves will drain themselves.
- Check if the drains are working; remove a sprinkler from the riser and check there is no water in the pipe.
Spring Startup Adjustments
Neglecting to properly startup a sprinkler system in spring will cause damage to your irrigation system and cost a lot of money on the repairs. Thankfully, a few tips and precautions can help prevent many potential problems.
The number one threat to a sprinkler system in the beginning of spring is an issue called water hammer. This occurs when a pressure spike occurs due to the rushing of water in an empty pipe. This spike is enough to burst fittings and even blow sprinklers out of the ground.
- To avoid this, use a shovel and dig around the sprinkler to ensure there is no frost accumulation.
- Filling your pipes when the ground is still frozen can cause damage to the pipes. If your system isn’t equipped with automatic drain, you need to remove the nozzle or sprinkler head located at the highest point of each zone and start filling the system very slowly.
- Slowly open the shutoff valve and make a quarter turn.
- Take your time-let the water travel slowly along the entire length of the main line.
- Next, fill each zone by manually opening the zone valve. When the water pouring out of the open riser runs free of air bubbles, close off the zone valve. It could take about 30 minutes to fill each zone. Once the zone is filled, adjust the sprinkler heads. Repeat the process for each zone.
- Once you have filled the entire irrigation system, run each zone for two minutes. This will do three things: help you test your automatic timer, flush out any remaining air, and also help you ensure that all heads are spraying properly.
If you have an automatic controller, make sure you replace the batteries. Also, ensure that your timer programs are still accurate.
With a properly installed and regularly adjusted sprinkler system, little can go awry. Malfunctions are an exception rather than the rule in such cases. And even if things do go wrong, simple adjustments can help. Most malfunctions are also quickly noticeable and simple adjustments can help overcome them.
It is a good idea to keep spare parts such as PVC pipes and/or poly pipes, primer, and some cement on hand. If something more involved occurs such as leaks or non functional zones, be sure to contact an experienced technician to help you out.