The Basics of Lawn Irrigation in Florida
Here’s the basics: you get an irrigation system installed. You stand on your porch for hours just watching the spinning sprinkler heads, mesmerized by the sound and giddy with happiness.
OK, so there’s more to it than that.
An irrigation system is a cool combination of hydraulics and electricity, with all kinds of pipes, valves, and heads efficiently whirring away to get the job done.
Here’s a quick look behind the scenes.
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Zone in on Irrigation Zones
Sprinkler systems are divided into areas called zones, so different parts of your yard with different needs can get the right amount of water.
Each zone can be equipped with different types of sprinkler heads or set to water at different times for a customized Florida lawn sprinkler system.
Trees and shrubs need less water than your lawn or flower beds. Shady areas need less water than spots in full sun.
Zones also help ensure all parts of your landscaping have good coverage, without overspray that wastes water.
Irrigation Heads, Valves, and Other Gizmos
Among the key parts at work out there:
- Controller. The brains of the operation, it tells the rest of the system when and how long to water.
- Valves. Each valve in your sprinkler is like a faucet, which shuts off and turns on water flow.
- Sprinkler heads. Placed underground, heads rise up when the water turns on and water your lawn.
- A rain sensor. It communicates with your sprinkler system's controller and will stop it from watering once it’s collected approximately 3/4 inch of rain, and keep it turned off until the sensor dries out.
Drip, Drip, Drip Irrigation
If you’re getting a lawn sprinkler system in Florida, consider drip irrigation for plant beds.
Unlike a typical sprinkler system that sprays water from irrigation heads, drip irrigation uses hoses pierced with tiny holes that allow small quantities of water to trickle slowly into the soil.
The hoses are installed on top of your soil, then covered with mulch to hide them. They’re designed to efficiently water planting beds. It’s not meant for lawns.
Drip irrigation uses less water than typical sprinkler systems because it goes directly to the plants. There’s no water waste from evaporation because water isn’t spraying into the air.
Bonus drip irrigation tip for Florida: It’s great for planters.
Tired of hand watering all those planters? Irrigation pros can run tubes up through the bottoms of your planters that tie into your irrigation system. Tiny emitters connected to the tubes water your plants. Pretty cool.
Should I Have an Irrigation System Installed? Do I Need a New Irrigation System?
When it comes to reasons for installing an irrigation system in Florida, don’t get us started.
Oops, too late!
An Irrigation System Protects Your Precious Lawn and Landscaping
Plants here in Central Florida are amazing, right?
Fluffy Foxtail Palms. Dramatic strands of vivid Croton. Hedges of pretty Chinese Fringe Flower. Plus expansive lawns of lush sod.
It all adds up to thousands of dollars of greenery. An irrigation system protects that big investment, with targeted sprayers and water-saving nozzles that hit every inch of your landscaping.
No More Dragging Sprinklers and Hoses
Ugh, who has time for that?
Irrigation in Florida is really time-consuming. Wouldn’t you rather be streaming episodes of “Yellowstone” or baking chocolate chip cookies or, actually, doing just about anything else?
Peace of Mind
No more worries about parched brown grass, wilted flowers, and the embarrassment of unsightly, struggling landscaping. (If your neighbors are going to stare and make fun of you, let it be for something more exciting than a crappy lawn.)
A Big Boost in Curb Appeal
Maybe you’ll be selling your home someday. Maybe you’ve invested in three pricey Sylvester Date Palms so now you’re never leaving. Either way, you want impressive curb appeal.
A Florida lawn sprinkler system keeps everything thriving.
Water Savings, Woo Hoo!
Watering your lawn with a cobbled-together system of hoses and sprinklers isn’t really an exact science. A professionally installed irrigation system actually is, especially if it’s a smart irrigation system. (More on this in a bit.)
An irrigation system puts just the right amount of water exactly where it needs to go, with no waste.
Time for a Sprinkler System Upgrade?
Maybe you’ve been ignoring the fact that your Florida irrigation system is so old that AARP keeps sending it stuff.
Is it time for an upgrade? Here are some signs:
Your Water Bill is Too High
Older irrigation systems in Florida don’t have all the cool water-conserving gizmos available in today’s newer systems.
Outdated sprayer heads, leaky valves, and old controllers can pump out more water than your property needs or spray it haphazardly where water isn’t even needed.
That’s a big waste of water — and money.
Can Your Irrigation System Legally Drink?
An irrigation system’s life expectancy is about 20-25 years, depending on the quality of the system. How old is yours?
Florida sprinkler systems go through a lot out there. All those pipes, sprinkler heads, valves, and fittings work hard year after year. They don’t last forever.
Backflows stop working. Valves get stuck open. Sprinkler heads break. Lines bust.
If you need frequent expensive repairs, or your system is so outdated it’s wasting water and money, consider upgrading your irrigation system to a new one that will save water, save money, and save you a lot of stress.
What Exactly is Smart Irrigation?
No offense, but your current Florida irrigation system might be dumb.
It’s tough to hear, right? But if your lawn is struggling, your plants are wilting, and your water bill seems higher than it should be, that dumb irrigation system (again, sorry) needs to be smarter.
Here’s what a new smart irrigation system will do for you:
No More Wasting Water
Smart irrigation controllers use data from sensors and local weather forecasts to deliver exactly the right amount of water just where your property needs it — with little waste.
Meanwhile, you can relax, knowing your Florida irrigation system is watering your property accurately and precisely, based on your property’s specific needs.
They Find Problems
Smart irrigation systems go beyond perfect watering, too. They detect any problems with your Florida lawn sprinkler system and take action.
Say your current, outdated irrigation system has a broken line. Water can gush out all over your property for hours, without you even knowing. Yikes.
When a smart irrigation controller detects a broken line, it turns your system off, right away.
Then, it’s better than a nosy neighbor, alerting your Florida irrigation service company about the problem, so they can fix it before your grass gasps its last dying breath.
They Know When It’s Raining
Smart irrigation systems also include moisture sensors that know when it’s raining and tell your system to turn off. Why water the lawn when nature is doing it for you?
They Know the Flow
Flow control sensors will learn how many gallons of water your system typically uses. If you’re suddenly using more — maybe a line is leaking — you’ll get an alert on your smartphone.
Timing is Everything
How are you supposed to know exactly how much to water? It’s complicated. Too much water is bad. Not enough water is bad.
Different trees, shrubs, and plants on your property often have different water needs. And your lawn has its own water requirements.
Smart irrigation timers work with your controller to give everything just the right amount of water.
Smart irrigation saves you money. It saves water. It keeps your lawn and garden happy and healthy.
How Much Does an Irrigation System Cost in Florida?
An irrigation system in Florida isn’t a luxury. You really need one to keep your lawn and landscaping thriving.
But naturally, you want to know the cost.
Here’s the rundown:
First, the Basics
The basic sprinkler system cost for a four-zone system is about $3,000.
What does this include?
- A Rain Bird controller
- A Hunter rain sensor
- 6-inch sprayers in turf
- 6-inch rotors in turf
- 12-inch sprayers in plant beds
- A one-year guarantee on defects, workmanship, and materials
Additional Irrigation System Costs
A basic, four-zone irrigation system offers thorough, targeted watering for your entire yard.
But, just like you can add sprinkles, hot fudge, and a salted caramel drizzle to your bowl of ice cream, you can add extra features to your irrigation system too, for an additional cost.
Maybe you want a WiFi controller that allows you to control your irrigation system remotely, using your smartphone or laptop.
Or that cool drip irrigation we mentioned earlier, that targets your watering slowly and directly to plant roots, saving water and money.
Challenges That Can Boost Sprinkler System Costs
When irrigation installers come to your house for your initial consultation they might spot conditions that can add to your sprinkler system cost.
- Paver driveways. If your paver driveway installer didn’t install a PVC sleeve beneath your driveway to hold a sprinkler line, irrigation technicians may have to lift up and reinstall a 10”- 12” section of your driveway. That will increase the cost.
- Large, old tree roots. If these tough old roots are in the way, it takes considerable ax work to clear the way for irrigation lines. That extra labor adds to the sprinkler system cost.
Is it Hard to Maintain an Irrigation System?
This is a tricky question.
Here in Orlando, our irrigation systems get a real workout, so regular irrigation system maintenance is a must.
Is it hard? Depends on who does it.
If you’re the handy type with a garage full of tools who wakes up Saturday mornings itching to tackle a project, you’ve probably got this.
But if you heave a big sigh at the idea of changing a lightbulb, then, yes, irrigation system maintenance will seem hard.
Here’s a look at what’s involved. Take a look, and decide for yourself:
1. Check Your Irrigation Controller
The first stop is your garage, or wherever you keep your controller.
Is it plugged in firmly?
Make sure the sensors and wires are connected properly.
Check all the run times and update the watering schedule for the season. Is your Florida irrigation system watering your landscaping too much or too little for the time of year?
2. Check Sprinkler Heads
Look closely. A lot can be going on here.
Over time, your hard-working sprinkler heads can get clogged, hit by a lawnmower, or sink too low into the ground. One or two might get misdirected, spraying water on your driveway instead of your flower bed.
Inspect each one to make sure they’re getting the job done. It’s a key part of irrigation system maintenance.
3. Flush the Irrigation System
Your Florida sprinkler system needs clear pipes and steady water pressure to do its job.
Turn on the water at the beginning of the season to flush any debris or dirt trapped in the lines. Let the water run until you see clear water coming out of each sprinkler head.
4. The Two-Minute Sprinkler Test
Run each zone in your system for a couple of minutes to make sure everything’s working well.
What are you looking for as the water sprays? A few things:
- Are any heads leaking or broken?
- Are any spots too wet or too dry? If so, you’ll need to adjust the watering time for those zones.
- Is water hitting only where it should, and not over spraying on pavement or hitting buildings? Maybe a nozzle is too big, spraying 12 feet when it only needs to spray eight.
- Are any nozzles clogged with debris?
- Does anything look like it needs repair?
5. Check the Irrigation Backflow Device
What the heck is this? It allows water to go through your irrigation system in one direction but prevents it from going backward in the opposite direction.
Make sure the handle on your backflow is on. When it’s off, it restricts any water from flowing past the backflow and to your sprinkler system valves.
There’s a lot involved in sprinkler system maintenance, but somebody needs to do it. Here in Central Florida, it doesn’t take long for a healthy green lawn or landscape to turn brown and die without proper irrigation.
If all this sounds like a big hassle, turn it over to the professionals, who love this kind of stuff. They’ll also give you tips on saving water, and fix any issues that could turn into big expensive problems later.
What if My Irrigation System Breaks?
Let’s be honest. If your irrigation system breaks, you panic. It’s a logical reaction.
After all, you have a lot invested in your lawn and plants. That stunning variegated Asiatic Jasmine is practically a member of the family, right?
But sometimes things go wrong. Did we mention lawn sprinkler systems in Florida work really hard?
Here’s a look at some common reasons to call your irrigation system maintenance company:
Your Sprinkler System Won’t Start
You can probably blame this on a weird little part you likely never heard of — the solenoid.
What’s a solenoid? Every sprinkler valve has one — a coil component that uses electrical signals from the irrigation controller to open and close each valve, letting water move through the system.
If a valve is worn out or damaged in one zone, or a solenoid is bad, that zone of your Florida irrigation system won’t turn on.
Or, Rats, It Won’t Turn Off
A broken valve is usually the culprit here. The diaphragm in the valve could be sticking or broken.
Also, that solenoid could be putting out constant power to the valve, or the timer has malfunctioned and is putting out constant power to the valve.
Your Sprinkler System is Leaking
This calls for some detective work. There are several reasons your irrigation system could be leaking water:
- You might have a cracked irrigation system line.
- A valve seal might be worn out.
- You might have a broken irrigation head.
- Or it could be as simple as a controller mistake. Maybe you’ve set more than one time for your sprinkler system to turn on.
An irrigation tech can inspect your line and diagnose the problem.
Speaking of irrigation techs…
A Plug for Regular Irrigation System Maintenance
Sure, irrigation system problems happen, but if you set up an irrigation system maintenance program to stay ahead of repairs, you’ll save yourself from worry, higher water bills, and (insert gloomy organ music here) dead lawn and plants.
How Do I Use My Irrigation System Once It’s Installed?
So, the irrigation company trucks are driving away and you’re already happily planning a backyard cookout to show off your new well-watered green lawn. (And, let’s be honest, your famous grilled fish tacos.)
Now what? How about a few quick irrigation tips for Florida?
Water While You Sleep
Water between midnight and 4 a.m.
That’s when your lawn and landscaping can best absorb the water, and it will saturate well.
If you wait until the sun is shining, much of that precious water will evaporate, and be wasted. Why water the air?
How Long to Run Your Florida Irrigation System?
Here at Ground Source, we recommend 3/4 inch of water per zone, both for your lawn and your planting beds. (If your beds are planted with drought-tolerant plants, they’ll need less water than the rest of your yard.)
How long does it take to deliver 3/4 inches of water?
It depends on the type of irrigation head. Here’s a guide:
- Spray heads: 30 minutes
- Rotors: 50-60 minutes
- MP rotors: 1-2 hours
- Drip irrigation: 1.5 to 2 hours
Adjust Watering with the Seasons and the Weather
Irrigation systems in Florida shouldn’t just chug away exactly the same month to month. Your lawn’s water needs change with the seasons.
In December, for instance, most Florida lawns only need irrigation one day a week.
Summer months obviously require more water. But if your lawn is in the shade, and it’s a rainy week, you won’t need to water as much.
Make sure you change your controller with the seasons.
How Do I Choose a Company to Install My Irrigation System?
Should you make it easy on yourself and hire the first Central Florida irrigation system company that answers the phone?
“Hello, Gary’s Irrigation. We’ll make it spray, you pay.”
Hmmmm. There are better ways to choose irrigation system installation in Florida.
Here are a few tips:
Will They Answer the Phone?
Yes, you want them to answer the phone. But not like Gary. This sounds basic, but it’s pretty important. When you call them, does somebody answer?
When you need irrigation repair, you’re in a hurry. You have valuable lawn areas and landscaping to protect.
Find a company that puts customer service first.
Ask About Their Experience
You don’t want a newbie. How long have they been in business? Look for a company with a history of excellence and good reviews that dates back several years.
Go to Google
Check their reviews. How many stars out of five do they have? And just as important: how many reviews?
If a ton of people left reviews and the company also has close to five stars, they’ve made a lot of lawn owners happy.
When you check the Google reviews for Ground Source, you’ll like what you see.
Is Their Website Helpful?
Good irrigation companies invest time and money in their websites to make it easier for potential customers to learn about them.
- Look for testimonials from satisfied customers.
- Do they explain all their services and how they make it easy and comfortable to work with them?
- Do they provide educational and informative blog articles?
- Do they make it easy to sign up and contact them?
Make Sure They Won’t Dig and Dash
A great Central Florida irrigation contractor won’t just install your irrigation system then run. They want you to be comfortable using it and have the knowledge to get the most from it.
And they’ll be there for you down the road if you have questions.
Ask for the names and phone numbers of recent clients so you can ask them about their experiences with the contractor.
Ask What Sets Them Apart
Why are they special? They should love to tell you.
We sure would. At Ground Source, we offer several features you won’t find everywhere else.
- We use 6-inch irrigation heads, but not every installer does. They pop up out of the ground 2.5 inches higher than standard heads, which means they clear your lawn, and water more efficiently. (That’s especially important here in Central Florida, where the popular St. Augustine grass grows higher than other varieties.)
- Our installation of underground sprinkler heads in turf areas includes 12-18 inches of flex pipe, greatly decreasing the odds of a broken pipe when a lawnmower or car hits the irrigation heads.
- Expect irrigation system repairs in 24-48 hours. It’s an emergency, right?
- Expect your lawn sprinkler system installation within 10 days of our estimate. Why wait? This is exciting!
- Once we install your new irrigation system, we’re behind you throughout the one-year warranty period for any defects in materials and/or workmanship. (On top of our one-year warranty, manufacturers typically offer 3 to 5-year warranties on parts.)
Ask us anything. You’ll love our answers.
Let’s get started.
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