It’s the mainstay of any American lawn: the ubiquitous garden sprinkler. Kids love to play in it, and us adults need it because it saves us a lot of time.
Having a way to water your lawn automatically is a godsend. Imagine having to use only a water hose and nozzle to spray down an entire garden for a whole afternoon in the middle of summer.
But did you ever wonder how yard irrigation systems work?
Most lawn irrigation systems are made up of four components.
1. Sprinkler Heads
This feature is the part that’s responsible for actually spraying the lawn with water. There are generally three types of sprinkler heads: bubbler, rotary, or spray.
Bubblers have long narrow tubes that gently supply water in a constant “bubbling” stream. This type is useful for watering the soil beneath flower beds and other plants.
Rotary sprinklers turn around in set degrees and intervals to make sure a particular area is sufficiently watered.
Spray sprinklers spray out water evenly around them. They are usually depressed in the ground and only pop out when activated.
2. Underground Piping
An underground piping system is used to supply water to the sprinkler. These run through the heads to your house’s primary water supply. The pipes are buried underground for the most part.
How a piping system is designed is crucial for making sure all parts of your lawn are adequately covered. Underground piping is usually set up in zones with dedicated piping serving each one. This layout allows you to control the watering needs of a grass lawn, which is different from the needs of a rose garden, for example.
The most common material used in piping is polyethylene or PVC. This type of pipe is relatively inexpensive to work with, plus it’s durable and can withstand harsh weather conditions.
3. Valve System
In between your sprinkler heads and the main water supply sits the valve system. This system is usually outdoors and is contained in a protected box. All of the piping of your sprinkler system converges here.
The valve system’s main job is to supply and restrict water supply to each sprinkler as needed. It opens and shuts off its valves based on the electrical commands from the timer controller.
4. Timer Controller
The timer controller is the whole brains of the operation. This feature is the part responsible for controlling which sections of the lawn to water, and for how long. The timer itself connects to each valve system via your house’s main electrical panel.
You can access most timer controllers via a rotary dial panel. This panel can either be located on the inside or outside of your house. You can set everything once, and the controller will automatically control the sprinklers for you. Some advanced ones even adjust their watering schedule based on the season.
At specified times, the controllers will send electrical signals to the valve systems. The signals, in turn, will open or shut off the valve, supplying or cutting off the water supply as needed.