Part Two – How to choose an irrigation company to install a sprinkler system

Imagine if you spent a good amount of your hard-earned money on a sprinkler system…only to find out that it doesn’t work. It doesn’t water your lawn the way it’s supposed to. In Part One of this article, we talked about why it’s important to find a company that communicates well with their clients. We also talked about why it’s so important to make sure that the company does a water pressure pre-test before designing the system. If you missed Part One, no worries – you can read it here.

In this article, Phil Sarros of Sarros Landscaping is back with more helpful sprinkler tips. We picked his brain about the following questions:

  • What can be done if my pressure pre-test shows I have high water pressure?
  • What can be done if my pressure pre-test shows I have low water pressure?
  • Why can’t I save money by buying cheap components?
  • What’s the right size for sprinkler pipes installed underground?
  • What are some common flexible line and irrigation head mistakes to avoid?
  • Should I install a rain sensor?
  • What are some common service issues?
  • What is not covered by a warranty?

Let’s dive in!

What can be done if my pressure pre-test shows I have high water pressure?

Phil told us the answer may be a reducing valve. This limits the flow of water so that your equipment isn’t harmed.

What can be done if my pressure pre-test shows that I have low water pressure?

“Your system would be designed very differently,” Phil said. “Instead of a standard front-and-back zone that most sprinkler salespeople sell, we may need to add more zones for you. We also would need to limit the number of heads on each zone to maybe only four per zone.”

Won’t this cost more money? “Yes, it will at first because it’s designed for the low water pressure problem you might have,” Phil said. “This way you will have enough pressure for optimal water coverage.”

What if someone is willing to take the risk to save the money? “You pay to have it done right or you pay every month in a higher water bill,” Phil explained. “For example, a two-zone low-pressure system may cost you $400 a month to water your lawn for an hour. On the other hand, by installing four zones you only need 20 minutes to water daily. Your water bill will be closer to $175 a month. That’s savings of $225 every month.”

Take the time and do the math. If you have low water pressure, you might spend an extra $300-$400 for extra zones and heads. However, you’ll be saving $225 a month on your water bill. It’ll pay for itself after two months. Now that makes good business sense, doesn’t it?

Why shouldn’t I save money by buying cheap components?

Remember, you always get what you pay for. “There’s a huge variety of both cheap and expensive components that you can buy,” Phil said. “If you’re just looking at the bottom line, you’ll choose parts that are cheap to save money. You will also be unhappy with the performance as well as the lifespan of the parts later. Reputable sprinkler companies don’t buy their parts at Home Depot or Lowes. Instead, they invest in components made by professional companies like Hunter or Rainbird, for example. Yes, they cost more upfront. However, they’re also more durable and will last longer, too.”

So, it’s a good idea to make sure the contract specifies the name brand of the heads, timer, and components that will be installed.

What’s the right size for pipes installed underground?

Why is the size of the pipes so important? “Your contractor will install a thin-walled irrigation pipe that distributes the water underground to your sprinkler head zones,” Phil explained. “Some contractors will try to cut corners and install a three-quarter-inch PVC pipe to save money. You do not want three-quarter-inch pipes! You’ll never get the water flow that you need. Instead, you want one-inch pipes for all of your underground distribution to ensure you get sufficient water.”

Make sure that the contractor will use one-inch thin-walled pipes for your underground plumbing. Make sure this is included in your contract’s scope of work.

What are some common flexible line and irrigation head mistakes?

“Each irrigation head, whether it’s a spray head or a rotating arc head receives water through a flexible tube. The flexible tube will then tie into the main one-inch waterline pipe,” Phil explained. “The rule is only one head per flexible line. Some sprinkler guys will put several sprinkler heads on one flexible line to save money and labor. You do not want this to happen. It will cost you a lot of water pressure.”

Phil had another tip about flexible lines. “Another rule is never run more than 5 feet of flexible line to an irrigation head,” he said. “Some irrigation guys will run 20 -25 feet of flexible lines to the heads. This saves them time, labor, and money on materials. It’s easier to run a thin flexible line than a one-inch-thick rigid sprinkler pipe. You don’t want this because it will severely reduce the water pressure to your heads. They won’t be able to water your yard as designed.”

To add to your list of things to include in your contract: there should only be one head per flexible line and no flexible line runs exceeding five feet.

Should I install a rain sensor?

A rain sensor is usually not included in a basic irrigation system installation. What does the rain sensor do? Imagine a full-time gardener whose job is to water your lawn. You instruct them to never water the grass while it’s raining, or right after it has rained. You get a full-time gardener for $150 when you invest in a rain sensor. Think of all the water it will conserve! It will more than pay for itself within the first season of use.

This is a $150 upsell that is worth every penny because it will lower your monthly water bill. So be sure to ask for one.

Inspect the trench before they fill it up with dirt.

This seemed odd at first. We asked Phil to explain his reasoning on this. Phil said, “Remember, after all of the irrigation pipes are installed the trenches are backfilled with soil. What does that mean? It means that all the evidence of the work done is now buried underground.”

Make sure that the contract gives you the right to see the work installed before the trenches are covered up with dirt.

Here’s what you should look for:

  • Check to make sure that one-inch PVC was installed.
  • Make sure that there are no runs of flexible line longer than five feet.
  • Ensure that there is only one head installed per piece of flexible line.
  • Make sure that the sprinkler line is buried 6-12 inches below ground so that it doesn’t get damaged during gardening work.

What are some common service issues with sprinkler systems?

The standard warranty for a new sprinkler system is one year for parts and labor. Phil recommends getting this in writing. Implied warranties are worthless because everyone seems to, ah, forget things later on.

This is another reason to talk to the homeowner references on the phone like we discussed earlier. It’s important for you to know how the company responded to warranty issues. How long did it take for the company to show up? Were they on time? Was the problem addressed to the homeowner’s satisfaction? This also reinforces the benefits of hiring a local installation and maintenance company to install your sprinkler system. This way they can drop by on the way home from the shop.

What’s not covered by a warranty?

Phil told us that one of the biggest problems people have is broken sprinkler heads. The culprit? A renegade lawn mower. “Please understand that your warranty doesn’t cover damage by third parties,” he said. “Instead, your sprinkler contractor will be happy to repair this on a time and material basis. You might want to ask for what that hourly charge is before they do the work so that you’re not surprised later.”

That concludes Part Two of our article on how to choose a company to install your sprinkler system in Atlanta. We hope that you find this information useful in your quest for a green lawn. We also want to thank Phil Sarros of Sarros Landscaping for this interview. You can visit the company’s website here.