Time to think about lawn sprinklers?

As Spring approaches, we are getting close to the last freeze opportunity for Mother Nature. That means it's time to think about checking your sprinkler system. Although the Memo yard men will check your Sprinkler Controller approximately monthly, we as homeowners are ultimately responsible for being sure that it's working properly.Here are some things to do:


First, some explanation. Each homeowner here in Roseheart has a sprinkler system. That system is independent of everybody else's, and so it has to have a Sprinkler Controller, an anti-siphon valve, an electric valve for each zone, and of course, the pipe and the sprayers and rotors for your yard. 


The Controller. It's in a box. It's a gray box, about 9" by 12" and is located on an outside stucco wall of your home. Usually it's near your gas meter and electric meter. Inside that box, the controller has a little 9 volt battery that is backup electricity for the Sprinkler Controller in case the power to your home is interrupted. Since the controller is electronic, it has programmed into it the current date and the times for the sprinklers to come on and go off. Everybody ought to check to be sure the battery is in good condition. That's because these batteries (which are the same as the ones in your Smoke Alarms) do wear out. If the battery is run down and you somehow have a power interruption, the programming to the Sprinkler Controller can be lost. The result would be that your sprinkler might not work at all because the program has been lost. That could lead to a dead-appearing yard.


One way to check is to go out and look inside the gray box. If the time on the display is correct then you are likely OK. If it is not or if it is just sitting there, blinking, then you may need to put a new battery in and reprogram the Sprinkler Controller. You should have received the Instruction booklet as part of your documents when you moved in. If however you no longer have the instructions, they're available at http://www.irritrol.com/controller_manuals/pdfs/manual_raindialplus.pdf


Anti-siphon Valve. Get it tested as soon as you get notice from the city. Out at the street, near your water meter, is an anti-siphon or backflow preventer valve. This valve is there by law. It keeps water in your yard from flowing back into the San Antonio water system during an emergency period where water pressure goes to near zero (like a water main break). This valve MUST be tested biennially (every two years) and the results submitted to the city. You'll get a notice from the city about this testing. And the city will turn your water off if you don't comply. People who do the testing are not required to be plumbers, but they have to first go to backflow preventer school and also must have some expensive testing equipment. Testing costs $50 - $100.


Electric valves. Nothing to do, but you should take a look at one so you know what and where they are. As you look around you'll see round, green covers around your yard. Open one and you'll see a valve with wires running to it. Those are the "gates" for supplying water to each zone of your sprinkler system. They are controlled by the 'Brain," the sprinkler controller box described above. You need "zones" because you don't get enough water to sprinkle your whole yard all at once. So the controller tells each valve or gate to open discreetly so all the water pressure goes to one zone of your yard at a time. (My yard has six zones.)


Sprayers and rotors. Raise the spring-loaded tubes with your fingernails or little screwdriver, and spray some WD-40 on them. You will likely have two types of "heads" that throw the water onto your yard. The sprayers put out a mist, and the rotors send out a stream. They both do the same thing, but rotors put out water in a larger arc. You may have as many as twenty sprayers in a zone, while a zone only has 4-6 rotors. That's because the rotors require a lot more water per head. Since rotors have a lot more territory to cover they will run longer during a cycle of your system. Prying up each head and spraying it with WD-40 will help ensure it retracts properly after running. That means a reduced chance of a mower lopping it off. As these systems age, the tubes get scratches on them and tend to stick in the up position, so lubrication is a really good thing.


So, happy hunting. And remember that a little maintenance attention now can save you a lot later.