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Buying a Sprinkler System? 14 Terms to Know

Buying a Sprinkler System? 14 Terms to Know

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For most households, between 30% and 45% of household water consumption is used outdoors, but on an individual basis this varies greatly based on the time of year and region. The primary uses are watering landscapes and gardens, maintaining swimming pools and washing cars.

Whether your goal is to make landscape maintenance easier, reduce water use or both, it helps when you’re in the market for a new sprinkler system to understand these common terms:

  1. Absorption or percolation rate. Defines the speed at which your soil accepts water without producing runoff. As soil becomes wetter, the absorption rate declines and it reaches zero when soil becomes fully saturated.
  2. Anti-siphon valve. Describes the valve that protects the household water supply by incorporating an air gap to prevent water from moving back into the system.
  3. Application rate. Refers to the volume of water distributed by the sprinkler heads during a specified timeframe. Rates are usually cited as inches per hour (iph), gallons per hour (gph) or gallons per day (gpd).
  4. Backflow preventer. Works like the siphon valve to block water from siphoning into and contaminating your household water supply.
  5. Cycle. Refers to the length of time and sequence of scheduled watering sessions.
  6. Evaporation. Refers to the rate at which water converts from a liquid to vapor state. Wind, warmth and sunlight accelerate water loss through evaporation.
  7. Fan spray head. Describes sprinkler heads that distribute water in a fan-shaped or semi-circular pattern.
  8. Head. Serves as the generic term for the different types of mechanical nozzles that spray water.
  9. Head-to-head coverage. Describes well-designed systems that deliver an even, gap-free distribution of water across the landscape. Sprinkler heads are positioned so the spray from one ends where the spray from another starts.
  10. Main line. Refers to the primary water pipe that supplies water from the street to the house and from the house to the sprinkler system.
  11. Pop-up head. Designates sprinkler mechanisms with spring-activated spray nozzles. They project 2 to 3 inches above ground level during use and drop flush with the surface when inactive.
  12. Rotor head. Describes spray nozzles mounted on a motorized riser that moves side to side.
  13. Riser. Refers to the small pipe or spray body that delivers water to the sprinkler head. Common versions include fixed, pop-up and rotor risers.
  14. Session irrigation. Refers to a series of shorter watering cycles usually timed about an hour apart. This method is particularly effective for compacted or clay-based soils that must absorb water slowly to avoid runoff.
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