A well-maintained irrigation system is essential for keeping your gardens and lawns healthy and lush, but going through maintenance is not always an option during irrigation season.
If left unattended, your irrigation system can suffer from various malfunctions, resulting in your plants getting too little or too much water. Leaks can inflate your water bill, clogged systems can lead to entire areas drying out, and a malfunctioning controller can spell doom for a whole garden or lawn.
Luckily, preventing most of these issues doesn’t take a lot of time and effort from you, as it needs to be performed once or twice a year, usually.
General Maintenance Tips
Regardless of whether it is the beginning or end of the season, there are a few general maintenance steps you should take.
If this is the first time you’re starting-up the system after it has been installed, it’s highly recommended to run a full flush of the entire system. The installation process itself often introduces various contaminants to the system, such as mud, pebbles, bits of plants, and so on. Allowing these contaminants to stay in the system can clog your filter, sprinklers, and drip system.
If your filtration system has a downstream valve, you should open and close the valve before you run the system. It is a common misconception that opening this valve cleans the filter, instead, it is done to release any built-up pressure in the filter.
Make sure the filtration system and control box area are not overgrown. You always want to have easy access to the system, so remove or trim any plants that are in the way. Remove anything that may obstruct movement and watering systems (sprinklers, drip, etc.) – you want your areas to be easily accessible and your plants and lawns to get proper hydration. Collect any trash that may have accumulated all around. Trash can block sprinklers and the openings in the drip system, preventing areas from getting enough water or create swampy areas that serve as breeding grounds for mosquitos.
Inspect the control cabinet to make sure everything is intact and working properly. Run a test of the system to make sure everything is running smoothly. Finally, open the filter (follow the instruction manual if you’re not sure how to) and visually inspect the filtering element for any damage. When closing the filter, it’s highly recommended that you use silicone-based grease, and avoid water-based or petroleum-based grease. If your filter closes with a nut (the plastic ring that holds the top and bottom of the filter’s body) – close it all the way, and then give it a quarter-twist back so it will not become stuck once pressure is introduced into the system again. If your filter is held by a clamp – make sure that you fastened it all the way, and if it has a screw-on lid – be sure to close it all the way through.
At the Start of the Season
Before the beginning of the dry season, there are a few checks and maintenance steps you should take, in order to keep your filtration system running smoothly.
Inspect the integrity of the surface the system is installed on for any damage, and repair as needed.
If your filtering system is manual or semi-automatic, it’s highly advisable to open the filters and check that the filtering element (screen or discs) are intact and clear of particulate. Close the filter and test the system’s seals for leaks – replace as needed. (For semi-automatic filters run a manual flush to clear any remaining particulate)
If you use automatic filters, make sure that the differential pressure to begin the automatic flush is set to the recommended value. Test the control unit(s) and replace batteries if needed, then manually run a test flush from the control box, followed by flush valves, air valves, any pressure-altering equipment, and water gauges. If your equipment requires servicing, contact your field-service experts and have the peace of mind that you’re starting the season well prepared.
At the End of the Season
If you live in a region where you do not necessarily need the irrigation system to run year-round, you will want to take the following steps to keep your system prepared for the next time you need it:
In an automatic filtration system, you’re going to want to run the system once more and test the pressure to and from the filter, test the control units, including running a manual flush from the control box and see that any additional units (such as air valves, pressure reducer/release/sustainer) are working correctly, as well as the water gauges and finally, fully drain the system.
For systems with manual or semi-automatic filters, run a manual flush/drain to clean them out to prevent any residue build-up during the months of nonuse. Once drained, open the filter cover as per the manual, and visually inspect the filtration element for damage, if you need to replace the discs or screen, contact your local field representative. Don’t forget to close the filter cover once you’ve finished.
If you live in a region where temperatures drop below freezing, another very important action to take is to empty out the water system. When water freezes it expands, and that can lead to burst pipes and serious damage to the filtration system.
Troubleshooting Your Filtration System
Trying to understand what might be causing the problem in your system? Follow these six steps and you’ll be able to isolate the location of the issue. Start by checking the irrigation system itself – leaks, bursts, obvious clogging elements, etc.
Next, check to see if the valve is properly open, and then check if your filter is clogged. Once you’ve verified these aren’t the causes, check to see if the main valve is open, and then check the water meter (water meters usually have a coarse filtration net that can get clogged). Finally, if the issue persists – it is most likely related to the water source (municipality/water pump/etc.)
Follow these steps at the beginning and end of the season to extend the life of both your irrigation and filtration systems. If any parts need professional maintenance – contact your field-service experts.
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