Oklahoma State University Turfgrass Science

Irrigation System Checkup Tips

Irrigation System Checkup Tips for the Spring for Turfgrass and Landscape. Good for homeowners, consumers, Master Gardeners, irrigation.

Spring Irrigation System Inspection
Joshua Campbell and Justin Quetone Moss

An irrigation system is a tool to keep landscapes healthy and attractive. However, systems that are not kept in proper operating condition can waste water and damage the landscape. An irrigation system should be visually inspected regularly. Early spring is an ideal time to check your system and plan for repairs. Even minor damages or leaks can be big water wasters and can further damage your system if left unattended. It is best to address repair issues as soon as they arise; however, many automatic irrigation schedules are set for the early morning or overnight hours when they are not seen by homeowners. This typically results in many needed repairs going unnoticed. Visually checking your irrigation system each spring will help improve water use efficiency and keep your landscape healthy and attractive. 

How to inspect your system – Go to your controller and turn on each irrigation zone one at a time, or set your controller to run through each zone, using the test cycle setting if available. If you choose to run a test cycle of each zone, set a time limit long enough to observe each zone and mark needed repairs. Three minutes is typically enough time for a home irrigation system. Grab a clip board and note pad and walk through the landscape zone by zone while your system is running. Look for the following issues and make notes of needed repairs:

  • Sprinkler heads spraying a sidewalk, driveway or road
  • Geysers from missing or broken sprinkler heads
  • Sprinkler heads leaking at the base or not popping up from the ground
  • Rotors stuck in one position, failing to turn
  • Water misting from the sprinkler due to high pressure
  • Dry areas due to low water pressure or a clogged nozzle  
  • Wet or spongey areas possibly indicating a broken or leaking pipe
  • Grass, shrubs or trees blocking sprinkler spray patterns
  • Electrical issues such as broken wire, valves not turning on, or a controller error code

Many repairs are simple fixes once identified. However, more complicated repairs may require an experienced landscape maintenance professional.

If you don’t have an in-ground irrigation system, but use hoses, or drip irrigation, be sure to check your tubing for leaks. Many leaks occur at the connection to the spigot. If your hose leaks at its connection, replace the rubber hose washer and ensure a tight connection to the spigot using pipe tape and a wrench. Using these tips can help your system to run efficiently, save water, and save money over time.

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