Even with the new products on the market today, many irrigation experts agree that efficiency is found in more ways than just installing the latest technology.
Jeff Westphal, a product manager at Rain Bird, one of the leading providers of irrigation products and services, has worked in irrigation for 12 years. In all that time, however, his opinions on how to irrigate with the most efficiency have not really changed.
For Westphal it has always been about putting the design before the products. Today’s irrigation market has had such a tight focus on products and innovations in recent years that contractors have had the tendency to overlook the fundamentals of efficient irrigation. And any true expert knows there is no point to irrigation if you don’t do it efficiently.
Efficiency is the key to successfully managing irrigation. It saves you time and resources, protects the environment and helps you retain your client roster. Achieving efficiency, however, is not a one-step process when it comes to irrigation. Westphal, along with a couple other industry irrigation experts, narrowed down the top tips for efficiently irrigating.
1. Always examine the system
As Westphal states, by taking the time to survey the property and study the products, you will be taking a step in the right direction of irrigating efficiently. While efficiency with irrigation is of the utmost importance, all the experts agree that it starts with one key step: understanding the design of the irrigation system. According to Westphal, if you don’t start with the design of system, there is no point in worrying about new products.
“It really starts with the design of the system,” Westphal discusses. “New products are great, but the system rules.”
Carl Eggleston has a very similar process as Westphal when it comes to setting up an efficient irrigation system. Eggleston is a manager at Spartan Irrigation, a Michigan-based company specializing in irrigation installation. Spartan has been working with irrigation since 1980, and since the ’80s, setting the system up properly has always been the first step for ensuring efficiency.
“Efficiency should start at the planning and installation phases, using these basics: The system must be designed using manufacturer’s specs on sprinkler head spacing, the sprinkler heads must have nozzle selections that are match precipitated, never mix fixed spray sprinklers and rotary sprinklers on the same zones, and try to zone sprinklers in like areas,” Eggleston explains.
Above all else, before you move on to step two, be sure the system is “fit for duty,” which, according to Orion Goe, residential and commercial irrigation marketing manager for Toro, means no leaking pipes, no misaligned nozzles or rotors, and no broken spray heads.
2. Know the property
Once you have studied the irrigation system, you need to understand the kind of property with which you are working. Pay attention and check if the area has perennials, mixed plants or lots of trees. Check and see if some parts of the terrain are flat or if you will encounter other sections of the yard that may be rockier.
Also, you simply cannot irrigate efficiently if you are not being wise about your water usage. Having a firm grasp on the types of plants and foliage at the property helps you know exactly where to irrigate, an important factor for efficiency.
“We want to understand what land to irrigate,” Westphal explains. “We don’t want to just throw water into the leaves.”
Once you note the type of land you are dealing with, you can determine the most efficient devices for that particular area. Toro has been in the underground irrigation market since 1962, and Goe noted some of the best products for specific terrain.
“Ensure that the most appropriate emission devices are being used for the landscape. High-efficiency nozzles or gear-driven rotors for turf areas, landscape drip or correctly sized micro-sprays for shrub beds or slopes, and pressure-regulated valves,” Goe explains.
3. Invest in new products… but do so wisely
Unfortunately, a lot of people forget about these first two key steps. When considering how to irrigate more efficiently, many people jump to looking at the newest innovations on the market. Take it from the experts, however, and make that the last step in your path to efficiency.
First of all, if you do not understand the irrigation system or your clients’ properties, these kinds of tools will never work. These types of innovations are impressive and helpful, but only if they work for your customers and their systems. Eggleston has found that if contractors and companies do not ensure that their customers’ systems are compatible with these new products, it results in a complete waste of money with no resulting efficiency.
“The big issue in our industry is that many people and manufacturers are pushing efficient and smart products, but they are being installed on systems that have not been designed or installed to meet the basic efficiency requirements of design,” Eggleston explains. “When this happens the new smart and efficiency products will do nothing to increase efficiency.”
That does not mean to forgo researching or investing in these products, however. Using the right innovative products can help you manage irrigation anywhere, anytime. These products now let you look at irrigation systems from computers, phones and tablets.
Knowing how and when the system is operating will always be helpful in managing irrigation wisely. These devices also help you keep a keen eye on if your device is working on an efficient schedule, one of the keys to efficiency, according to Goe.
And these products do an amazing job of helping you always stay in tune with your irrigation and its efficiency, Westphal says.
“Some of these things we can use to keep in touch with our irrigation systems” he says.
So while Westphal may be a firm believer in the basic essentials for efficiency, he knows the future is also in incorporating these innovative products.
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