Fighting water waste is part of every irrigation professional’s job description. This year’s Fix a Leak Week is a great time to remind your customers of your commitment to water efficiency.
Irrigation System Leaks
One small irrigation system leak — the thickness of a dime — can waste about 6,300 gallons of water each month! Advise your customers of the importance of the spring checkup. To ensure irrigation system components haven’t been damaged by frost or freezing weather, they should always be inspected prior to startup.
Become WaterSense Certified
If you’re not already WaterSense certified, you may want to consider the following exclusive benefits:
Are you WaterSense certified? (See sidebar at right.) If so, now’s the time to let your customers know that you’ve passed an EPA program specifically dedicated to improving water efficiency. So not only can you help identify and correct any irrigation system leaks, you can also ensure their system is performing optimally.
Research has shown that the typical home wastes between 2,000 and 20,000 gallons of water per year due to leaks. Individually and collectively, the leaks in a single home can easily waste thousands of gallons of water every year, costing both the homeowner and the utility.
So during Fix a Leak Week, remind your customers to check for leaky faucets or showerheads, as well as malfunctioning toilets. This will demonstrate to them that you’re serious about water efficiency.
You can also provide them with some simple ways to pinpoint household leaks. Such as:
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Check your household water usage during one of the colder months (January or February). If a family of four is using more than 12,000 gallons per month, there are some serious leaks.
Record the odometer-type number on your water meter. Then turn off all household water for two hours. Then check the meter again. If the number has changed at all, you’ve likely got a leak.
Identify toilet leaks by placing one drop of food coloring in the toilet tank. After 10 minutes, check the bowl. If there’s color in the bowl, you have a leak.
Some Simple Fixes
Many faucet leaks can be remedied by simply replacing worn-out washers and gaskets
Got a leaky toilet? Try replacing the flapper.
For a leaky showerhead, make sure there’s a tight connection between the fixture and the pipe stem. Then secure it with pipe tape (also called Teflon tape).
The Latest Features from Hunter,
Rain Bird and Rachio
Has your business noticed an increased demand for smart irrigation controllers?
That’s because today’s young homeowners are more tech savvy than any previous generation. Having grown up around technology. they enjoy integrating various gadgets into their homes. For them, smart irrigation is a no-brainer.
As with most technology, updates to smart controllers are ongoing. Let’s take a look at some of the newest features for three brands.
Hydrawise, Hunter’s irrigation management platform, has been around since 2011, but is continually being updated with new capabilities.
The Hydrawise cloud-based software is compatible with a range of Hunter controllers, and can also be used to retrofit an existing controller.
Hydrawise technology includes a Predictive Watering™ feature that automatically adjusts watering schedules based on a variety of environmental factors, such as past, current and forecasted temperature, rainfall, humidity, and wind speed. The controller gathers this information via the Weather Underground’s live stream of forecasts and current weather data.
Hydrawise controllers offer the option of adding multiple weather stations, as well as accessing national weather stations (such as those located at airports).
Wi-Fi capability is built into the Hydrawise controller. But for homeowners who do not yet have Wi-Fi, these controllers include a touch screen that enables easy programming without Wi-Fi connectivity.
And it offers manual seasonal adjustment settings from 0% to 300% when programming offline.
Hydrawise software is available via web login, and as a downloadable app from the Apple® App Store or Google Play™ Store. And it can be voice activated through Amazon Alexa, HomeSeer, or Control4devices home automation technologies.
Optional add-on flow meters are easy to install. Every Hydrawise controller has built-in meter sensors to generate interactive reports of water usage and watering activities, as well as automatic alerts in the event of broken pipes or faulty valve wires.
An 8-zone Hydrawise HPC smart controller retails for about $330.
The ST8-2.0 is Rain Bird’s 8-zone smart controller with an improved Wi-Fi connection and app connection speed. (Note: Wi-Fi is not built in; an add-on module is required.)
Rain Bird’s downloadable app is available from the Apple® App Store or Google Play™ Store.
The Rain Bird app is fully customizable, so every zone can be set up with a different name, photo, frequency, start time and run time.
The controller’s automatic seasonal adjust feature takes into account season, local weather, temperature and humidity. Forecasts are based on zip code averages and on-site weather stations.
Architecture Lab rates the Rain Bird ST8-20 as one of the best for its water-saving features.
Extensive testing and EPA certification ensure a minimum of 20% water savings over other conventional devices available on the market.
The ST8-2.0 also has a Rain Delay feature, which allows homeowners to manually stop scheduled irrigation for up to 14 days. Afterward, irrigation will begin again according to the automatic schedule. It also can enable manual watering for a single zone or all zones.
The Rain Bird app also enables notifications to be sent regarding watering events, freeze warnings or whenever watering has been delayed. And it can provide water usage reports to maximize efficiency.
The ST8-2.0 uses manual controls with an LED display as well as voice control via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. It’s available in both indoor and outdoor models for around $160.
Rachio is a relative newcomer to the irrigation industry, having been founded in 2013. As a result, the company produces only smart irrigation controllers; conventional controllers are not available.
The Rachio 3 8ZULW-C is an 8-zone smart controller that can be Installed in 30 minutes or less without the use of special tools. As with Hydrawise and Rain Bird, the Rachio downloadable app is available from the Apple® App Store or Google Play™ Store.
The 8ZULW-C uses a system called Weather Intelligence Plus to provide “hyperlocal” weather scheduling, by combining Weather Underground data (from national weather stations, satellites and radar) with data from 270,000 personal weather stations, so forecasting is accurate to the location of the controller. The Weather Intelligence Plus system includes a self-healing feature that will automatically switch to the closest reporting station if the selected weather station stops reporting data for three or more days. Rachio will then send a notification of the change via email.
With the Rachio 3 series, setup is a snap. Pop off the magnetic cover to expose the wire clip terminals. Then, using your fingertip, easily slide the wire leads into the connectors – no tools required.
Once the leads are connected, plug in the controller, pop the lid back on, and continue setup via the Rachio app.
This Rachio controller has an operating temperature range of -31 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and includes both rain and soil sensors. In addition, it offers multiple “skip” features that allow users to automatically skip unnecessary watering due to rain, wind or freeze. Water usage and savings reports provide both real-time and historical data.
The 8ZULW-C controller works with most major smart-home platforms, such as Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Assistant. The Rachio 3 8ZULW-C retails for about $250.00. (A weatherproof enclosure is sold separately for $29.) Optional flow meters are available as an add-on.
Do You Have Ready Answers to These
Frequently Asked Questions?
Both customers and potential customers have a lot of questions when it comes to landscape irrigation systems. Here are some of the most common, along with our best answers.
Q: Why do I need an irrigation system? My area gets plenty of rain.
A: In Ohio, turf grass needs about an inch of water per week. So unless your property receives at least that much rain regularly each week, you probably need to irrigate. But nature doesn’t work that way. Even areas with rainy climates can experience dry periods. Your landscape can suffer damage after only a few days without water. You simply can’t count on annual rainfall to adequately meet your landscape’s needs.
Does Your Website
Need an FAQ Page?
Most digital marketing experts believe that an FAQ page can improve your website’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and also help convert first-time visitors into customers.
Here are three reasons why you may wish to consider adding an FAQ page to your site:
It improves user experience. Users looking for a quick answer to an easy question do not want to comb through pages of information. An FAQ page offers them a central place to find their answers. Be sure to keep answers concise and include links to more detailed information elsewhere on your website.
It helps establish customer trust. An FAQ page demonstrates to customers (and potential customers) that you are invested in helping them find solutions. It also helps to distinguish you as an authority within your industry, contributing to customer confidence.
It provides customer insight. By identifying common questions your customer may have, you’ll develop a deeper insight into their needs, desires and challenges.
But an irrigation system also prevents you from overwatering your landscape. Too much water can be harmful to your soil, drowning your plants, encouraging root rot and other diseases, and causing weeds to germinate. An irrigation system puts you in control of the amount of water used on your landscape.
In addition, irrigation systems support hydrozoning, the grouping of plants with similar water needs into irrigation zones. These zones not only encourage a healthy landscape, but they can save both water and money.
Q: Will I save money by installing my own irrigation system?
A: Perhaps, but only in the short term. A professional irrigation contractor has years of experience designing and installing the most cost-effective and efficient landscape irrigation systems. Most have received specialized training and certifications, and they utilize specialized equipment to significantly reduce installation time.
Most homeowners are not knowledgeable about the numerous factors that must be taken into account when designing and installing an irrigation system. Soil conditions, land grade, plant location and sun exposure all must be considered for proper installation. Are you proficient in PVC piping, valves, controllers, drip lines, sprinkler heads, and all the other system components? Probably not.
A properly designed and installed landscape irrigation system requires a professional in order to save money (and headaches) down the road.
Q: Why do I need to shut down my irrigation system for winter?
A: When water freezes, it expands. Irrigation system pipes are not buried beneath the frost line. If all of the water is not removed from your system’s pipes, valves, and sprinkler heads before the first deep freeze, your pipes will crack, resulting in costly repairs.
Winterizing your system is a job best left to the professionals. Attempting to blow out your own sprinkler lines using an inadequate air compressor can result in water left in pipes. When this happens, you can expect freeze damage that must be repaired before spring startup.
Q: What’s the advantage of a smart irrigation system?
A: A smart irrigation system will you save you both time and money. Smart systems optimize your sprinkler run time. That means they always water at the right time of day for the right duration and according to weather conditions. They keep you from overwatering, which not only wastes water and money, but can damage plants.
With a smart system, you won’t have to make manual adjustments to your irrigation system due to unpredictable weather. A smart irrigation system can also shut itself down whenever a leak is detected.
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Q: Will I have to shut off my irrigation system when it rains?
A: Most irrigation contractors will recommend installation of a rain sensor. This device will automatically turn the irrigation system off whenever rainfall occurs. Once the rain ends, the sensor dries out and is reset. So, even if you’re away from home, your system knows what to do.
Q: How does a drip irrigation system compare to an above-ground sprinkler?
A: As opposed to sprinkler heads which spray a planted area above ground, drip systems soak the ground via tubes that are buried just below the surface. The emitters within the tubes slowly deliver water directly to the base of the plants.
Drip irrigation is ideal for landscape beds with plenty of plants and shrubs, as it can help reduce the risk of plant disease associated with high levels of moisture. Drip lines can be incorporated as a separate zone within a larger overall sprinkler system.
Join Us November 16 at the
Ohio Statehouse for Advocacy Day!
Ohio Green Industry Advocacy Day is hosted by the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association (ONLA) and the Ohio Irrigation Association.
Don’t miss this unique opportunity to network with green industry colleagues, meet with your state legislators, and make your voice heard on issues critical to irrigation professionals.
This year, our participation in this grassroots effort is more important than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic has stretched the state’s resources to the point where some agencies will have to resort to raising their fees. Since 2021 is a budget year, we can influence these discussions.
House and Senate term limits mean there will be many new faces in the state legislature, as well as in committees and chairs. Let’s make ourselves known to them!
Free to Ohio IA Members
Ohio Green Industry Advocacy Day is FREE to Ohio IA members who register by October 25 ($89 for non-members).
As one of the events sponsors, we’re counting on you. Legislative and regulatory advocacy is one of the key benefits of Ohio IA membership which is strengthened by your active participation.
Advocacy Day provides a unique opportunity to build relationships with both green industry business partners, and members of the Ohio legislature and their staff. After all, who can tell our story better than you?
Free to Ohio IA members; $89 for non-members (includes lunch)
What to Expect
The morning session will feature key legislative speakers, after which attendees will be briefed on discussion issues for the legislative meetings scheduled in the afternoon.
The afternoon meetings with elected officials provide an opportunity to discuss key irrigation issues (like water quality, water quantity, and environmental reforms) and state policymakers. Our legislators must hear from us in order to make informed decisions about issues critical to our industry.
Save Water by Avoiding These Design and Installation Errors
To err is human. But that doesn’t mean some errors can’t be avoided. Irrigation mistakes often result in wasted water, and that reflects poorly on the industry.
Here are some of the most common missteps that can occur when designing and installing landscape irrigation systems.
#1. Mixing Sprinkler Head Types Within a Single Zone
Installing different types of irrigation heads within the same zone to operate at the same time is not a good idea. The precipitation / application rates of the various emitters used for rotors, sprays, bubblers, and drip systems are entirely different.
For instance, nozzles for rotor heads have a much lower IPH (inches per hour) rate than those for spray heads. So if you install a rotor head in a zone with spray heads, you’ll create a dry spot. Then, you’ll have to run this irrigation zone longer in order to apply enough water to cover the dry area, wasting both water and money.
#2. Setting the Same Running Times for All Zones
It’s important to program the irrigation controller so that the different zone types (rotor, spray, drip, etc.) have different running times. Again, because the precipitation rates differ for the various types of irrigation heads, the operating times should also be different. A zone with 0.20 IPH heads, for instance, will obviously need to run longer than an irrigation zone with 1.60 IPH heads.
According to the experts at Irrigation & Green Industry (IGIN) magazine, it’s a good idea for contractors to periodically assess their design and installation techniques in order to avoid irrigation mistakes. IGIN suggests asking yourself three questions:
Am I meeting — or exceeding – my customers’ expectations?
Am I doing so in such a way as to maximize my own profits?
Am I a responsible member of my community and setting a good example for the green industry?
Whenever the answer to any of these questions is “no,” it’s time to stop and reevaluate your methods.
#3. Failing to Achieve Head-to-Head Coverage
Regardless of whether you’re using sprays or rotors, all zones should provide head-to-head coverage. That means the maximum distance between heads/nozzles in each irrigation zone should match the nozzle manufacturer’s maximum throwing distance (10 feet, 15 feet, 25 feet, 35 feet, etc.) for that nozzle at your working pressure.
Do not attempt to increase the distance between heads in order to save on design, installation, operational or maintenance costs.
#4. Failing to Match Precipitation Rates
Some irrigation professionals incorrectly assume that they should use the same gallon per minute (GPM) nozzles in every head within a zone if they want to evenly water that area. Not so. There’s a reason system manufacturers produce so many different GPM nozzles.
By matching precipitation rates of the nozzles, you can save between 10 and 40 percent of the water used in any given zone. For instance, a rotor head that covers 1/3 of a circle should apply approximately 1/3 of the GPM as a rotor head in the same zone which covers a full circle. (For a more detailed explanation, see “Matched Precipitation Rates: Key to Water Efficiency.”)
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#5. Incorporating Planting Beds in the Same Zone as Grassy Areas
Improper zoning is one of the most common irrigation mistakes. Grassy areas should always be irrigated separately from shrub and planting beds. Almost all landscape plants have larger root systems than grass. This means they can exist on half of the amount of water that grass requires. Separate shrub/planting zones should be scheduled to irrigate more deeply but less often as turf zones.
#6. Neglecting to Install or Retrofit Rain Sensors
A rain sensor may be a contractor’s most valuable tool for reducing water waste. (After all, irrigation should always be regarded as a back-up for natural precipitation, not the other way around.)
Since most rain sensors can save between three and 15 percent of a system’s annual operating expenses, they generally pay for themselves in less than one season. In fact, these devices are so effective that, in several areas of the country, they are required on all new irrigation systems.