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A guide to installing your own garden irrigation system

 

Ensure sure you are up to the task, because installing a DIY irrigation system is not easy. A well designed system is complex and the installation phase can prove to be a time consuming activity. Even a small 4 zone system can require as much as 100 meters of trenching and can take several days, even weeks to install if you don't have the requisite experience. It requires a significant amount of research and planning and if done incorrectly, can be very costly. Before tackling a DIY project of this magnitude, make sure you read the following tips carefully..

 

 

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Ensure sure you are up to the task, because installing a DIY irrigation system is not easy. A well designed system is complex and the installation phase can prove to be a time consuming activity. Even a small 4 zone system can require as much as 100 meters of trenching and can take several days, even weeks to install if you don't have the requisite experience. It requires a significant amount of research and planning and if done incorrectly, can be very costly. Before tackling a DIY project of this magnitude, make sure you read the following tips carefully..

 

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Step 1: Check your water pressure.

  • Before begining you will need to take an accurate pressure reading from one of your garden taps. For this you will require a pressure gauge. These can be purchased from a reputable irrigation supplier, they may even offer you a loan unit if they have one available. 
  • If your water pressure is below 3 bar or above 8 bar you WILL REQUIRE PROFESSIONAL ASSISTANCE.  
  • If your water pressure is too low (below 3 bar) you will not be able to operate most types of sprinklers and may require a booster pump. 
  • If your water pressure is too high (above 8 bar) you will need a pressure regulating valve to guard against burst pipes and potential damage to your irrigation equipment. 
  • In either of these instances a professional contractor will have the requisite experience in dealing with these sorts of problems. Your system will then also come with a waranty so if there are any problems after your system has been professionally installed, having these taken care of will not be an issue. This step is crucial as it will help you determine if installing your own system is possible.

Step 2: Design your system.

  • Draw a property plan to scale marking out your flowerbeds, lawn, the positioning of trees and other features.
  • Take cognizance of the size and complexity of your garden. DIY Irrigation is better suited to smaller, less complex gardens.  Large gardens with many elevation changes and planting areas often require special equipment and design techniques to ensure efficient operation of the irrigation system.
  • Installing an irrigation system can be quite invasive so a well prepared plan will minimise potential damage to your garden and lawn. Take time to prepare the layout before you start digging.
  • Do online research into the various types of irrigation equipment available in South Africa. Some items such as piping is generic to all irrigation systems, but for the different products there are different capabilities and warranties available. As most of these are competitively priced, warranties should give you an indication as to a brand's superiority.
  • Do a head layout - decide where sprinklers are going to go. The critical thing to remember is that sprinklers are spaced at their radius - if you have a sprinkler that sprays a 3 meter radius (this is half of diameter) then you must have a sprinkler every 3 metres. This means the sprinklers will overlap completely, i.e. every sprinkler sprays to the base of the next sprinkler. This is called "head-to-head" and it gives you uniform precipitation, saving water.
  • Zone your system by working out how many sprinklers you can run at once. Using the technical specifications for the brand of sprinkler you have chosen (check online or ask your supplier), split the system up into zones. Ask for some literature such as catalogues and technical information from your chosen supplier which you can familiarize yourself with at home. The more information you have the better prepared you will be.

Home Irrigation Plan

 

Step 3: Work out a bill of materials. 

  • Draw up a bill of materials by adding up the sprinklers and calculating the amount of pipe you will need.
  • Select a supplier and take along both your design and bill of materials for them to double check for you and offer advice.
  • See here for how Wetec can help you with steps 1, 2 and 3.

Step 4: Install your system.

  • First identify where you are going to connect your irrigation system. The best pressure will closest to where the mains enter your property. Dig a hole to find the main water supply inside your property - if there is a tap nearby then you can connect the system to the bottom of the riser that holds the tap up. Never connect an irrigation system to the outlet of a tap because it severely restricts the water flow.
  • Begin by working out where your trenches will go - the more pipes you can run in the same trench the less labour you will need to dig trenches. A carefully laid out trenching plan can save time and money.
  • Dig your trenches 400mm deep and a spade's width. You may want to hire some labourers to help you with this step as it is very labour intensive.
  • Install sprinklers, zone by zone. If you are not 100% sure of your flow rates, test the zone before backfilling. The system is working correctly if a sprinkler sprays the correct radius, as per the technical specifications.

Step 5: Commission your system.

  • Once everything has been installed, check each sprinkler and make arc and radius adjustments to make sure every sprinkler waters where it should be.
  • Update your irrigation plan to make sure you know where all pipes run to avoid damaging them in the future.
  • Set your irrigation controller to run for 12 minutes, 3 times a week for sprays, and 40 minutes, 3 times a week for rotors. During Autumn reduce this by 50% and in Winter by 75%.
  • Install a weather monitor to convert your controller into a smart water management system that automatically adjusts run times to take into account seasons and daily microclimates. Find out more about smart irrigation controllers.