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Irrigation Installation & Maintenance Time Savers

Irrigation Installation & Maintenance Time SaversArticle by Jack StoneCopyright 2003 by ProGardenBizProGardenBiz, an online magazinehttp://www.progardenbiz.comOver the last few years some clever peo...

Irrigation Installation & Maintenance Time Savers
Article by Jack Stone
Copyright 2003 by ProGardenBiz
ProGardenBiz, an online magazine

Over the last few years some clever people have come up with
some clever ideas to make your irrigation installation,
maintenance, and repair jobs a heck of a lot easier. Installing
and maintaining an irrigation system is one of the primary jobs
for any landscape contractor or grounds maintenance business.

First, there was PVC pipe, followed by electric valves and
controllers. Then someone invented electronic controllers and
some other guy invented the PVC pipe cutter. What more could
there be? A number of things actually and more new ones coming
along everyday.

In this article we'll examine several of the products that have
been developed to make your irrigation maintenance, repair, and
installation jobs easier.

The most common irrigation repair is the replacement of broken
risers. The elimination of this problem can be solved in
several ways. Staking the riser to a piece of re-bar has long
been a favorite solution to shrub riser breaks. Some have even
tried encasing pop-ups in a concrete collar.

There are several products available today that aid in the
solution of broken risers. AMS Plastics produces a variety of
"flex" nipples. These nipples are constructed out of flexible
polypropylene and polyethylene. Most are 1/2" by 6" and some
can be shortened to 3" by cutting off 1/2" sections of unwanted
threads. Another variety of flex-nipples are composed of a
rubber body with female PVC threads at either ends coming in a
variety of lengths. One company produces a nipple made of
rubber with PVC threaded ends except the body is wrapped in a
steel spring. These solutions are each effective in their
particular environment, but what about a solution to chronic

The answer came in the form of a composite unit called the swing
joint assembly. The swing joint assembly allowed a kicked
nipple or stepped on head to "swing" away from the force of the
impact via rotation along threaded connections. The first of
these had to be constructed with four street ells and a nipple.
First, the fitting in the lateral line of the irrigation system
had to be installed with its threaded end pointing sideways
instead of straight up. If you were installing a shrub riser
the following procedure was followed: Thread a marlex street ell
into the fitting, another marlex street ell into the first one ,
and then the nipple. If you were installing a lawn pop-up you
would follow this procedure: A marlex street ell was threaded
into the fitting, followed by a SCH 40 street ell, then a nipple
of desired length, another SCH 40 street ell, and a final marlex
street ell. The head was threaded onto the the last street ell,
the whole construction was twisted and rotated to insure the
head was at the desired depth, and the hole was back filled.
That's a lot of work. If you were installing a new system the
vast number of extra fittings and constructions could be
bothersome at least. As a solution to that "bother" KBI, (King
Brothers Industries), created a product called the "Triple Swing
Assembly". This is a pre-made swing joint assembly. Movement in
all directions is still achieved, but best of all, it comes as a
single unit! The need for the handling of many extra fittings
is eliminated as well as the bother of on-site construction.

The second most common head "repair" problem is the replacement
of stolen or "missing" heads. You know what a "missing" head is
don't you? It's a head that decided "all on its own" to become
part of someone else's irrigation system. KBI has two products
that go a long way to reducing head theft.

The first product is called "Head-Lok". Made of SCH 80 PVC and
available in 1/2", 3/4" and 1" sizes these fittings make it
nearly impossible for someone to unscrew a pop-up and walk off
with it. The Head-Lok is a short nipple with male/female
threaded ends that swivels around it's middle. The male end is
threaded into the fitting on the pipe and the head nipple is
threaded into the female end of the Head-Lok. Any attempt to
remove the head causes the female threaded end to rotate while
the male threaded end remains securely fitted to the pipe
fitting. Removal of a pop-up requires the thief to dig a hole
and remove the head with two wrenches.

The second product is called "Impact Head-Lok". This is a short
galvanized F X F threaded nipple in 1/2", 3/4", and 1" sizes.
The Impact Head-Lok is installed between the sprinkler head and
the lateral line. Two socket set screws at the upper ends of
the side of the Impact Head-Lok are tightened with an allen
wrench. The socket set screws are tightened against the threads
of the impact head and the head nipple thus preventing quick and
easy removal by thieves or vandals.

For making repairs of lateral and main line breaks there are a
series of products called compression fittings. They are
available in many sizes and styles. The most common is the
compression coupling. There are also compression tees with or
without threads, as well as threaded and slip adapters.

KBI has developed a product along the idea of a compression
coupling called "Quick-Fix". The major difference between the
Quick-Fix and the standard quick coupler is that Quick-Fix has
telescoping pipe on either side with ends like attached slip
couplings. You simply loosen the adjustment nuts at both ends,
adjust the telescoping ends to the desired length, glue the
ends to the pipe, and tighten the adjusting nuts.

AMS Plastics has developed a product called "Slip-Fix". It's a
telescoping coupling with slip fitting-type ends. The body of
the Slip-Fix seals itself with a compression coupling-type seal.
The Slip-Fix eliminates the problems of "backing off" and is
available with a threaded adapter thus becoming an inexpensive
union for valve replacement.

You've probably all had the joy of replacing valves, especially
one located in the middle of a large and complex valve manifold.
You probably also discovered how nice it would have been if all
those valves had been installed with threaded unions or
Slip-Fixes haven't you? And how about the job of valve manifold
reconstruction or even initial construction?

Well, worry no more! AMS Plastics has developed a clever
product called "Pre-Set One-Piece Manifold Tee". This product
is a pre-built valve manifold available in 3/4" and 1" sizes
with two or three outlet ports. Each of the outlet ports are
properly aligned along the length of the pipe and at the proper
spacing. The one piece construction eliminates the worry of
leaky fittings. It also comes with a "key and groove" feature
that insures proper alignment when you use two or more units in
series. This is a product that can save lots of time.

Another broken pipe complaint involves pipe installed above
ground, especially on slopes. Standard white PVC does not
survive well in the real world of sunlight. That's why
Brownline Pipe Company developed a product they call "Brownline
UVR PVC". Brownline is PVC pipe that is resistant to the
ravages of sunlight, particularly ultraviolet radiation.
Ultraviolet radiation is what destroys regular white PVC. It's
what causes regular white PVC to become brittle and to fall
apart. Since Brownline is PVC it's much easier to install than
galvanized and much more versatile. It's also not subject to
the myriad problems that affect galvanized such as corrosion
from chemicals such as fertilizer and herbicides.

Brownline (named for its tan or light brown coloration) is Sch
40 and available in 1/2" to 2" sizes. A complete range of
fittings is also available. To compliment the system they have
also developed a Non-Drain Valve to eliminate low head drainage
and a nipple and pipe stabilizer made of a heavy duty square
steel stake with adjustable extensions.

NDS, (National Diversified Sales) has a unique product called
"Spee-D-Drip Edge". This product solves two problems. Made of
extruded black polyethylene it can serve as border edge and a
drip line. The top edge is a hollow tube, extra thick on the
lawn side to withstand the punishment of line trimmers.

NIS (National Irrigation Specialists) have come up with a few
clever products themselves. The first one is an irrigation
system analyzer called "Checkmate II". This product was
developed to save you lots of time and trouble in locating and
determining electrical system failures in valves, solenoids, and
the wiring. It is basically an electronic trouble shooter. It
can perform several very important tests quickly and simply.

Since the Checkmate II has a sufficient internal power supply,
it can activate a properly working solenoid. By connecting the
test leads to the solenoid you can determine if the solenoid is
or is not working, if it's mechanically malfunctioning, if the
coil is burned out, or if it's drawing too much power. You can
also perform these tests at the controller. You can test the
wires from the valve to the controller. By connecting the
Checkmate II at the valve and activating the valve station at
the controller you can find out if the valve is receiving
current from the controller. You can also test the individual
station at the controller to determine if the controller is
activating the station in question. There are no switches or
dials to adjust on the Checkmate II. All you have to do is
connect the test leads to the appropriate connections at the
valve, solenoid, or controller and let the unit do its thing.

Another clever device made by NIS is the "Switch-Hitter". This
unit is an auxiliary controller. It allows you to turn a valve
station into a multiple valve station without having to run more
wires from the controller to the valve box. Available in either
two or four station models it allows you to upgrade a system
simply and efficiently as well as bypass broken wires, thus
avoiding the problem of replacing hundreds of feet of wire
running under sidewalks or other obstacles.

A good example would be a typical irrigation situation. You
have all encountered the problem of of an irrigated zone
encompassing several lawn areas with varying water requirements.
One half of the lawn needs ten minutes of water and the other
half needs five minutes. The result is either a swampy area
that makes mowing or maintenance difficult or a desert area
which is unsightly. The Switch-Hitter allows you to install
another valve to be run off the same station controller. One
valve would be for the high water requirement area and the other
for the low water need area. The Switch-Hitter is installed
in-line between the valve and the controller. The controller is
set to water for fifteen minutes. Switch-Hitter station A is
set for five minutes and station B is set for ten minutes. And
there you have it! Each lawn area receives the proper amount of
water. Your garden and landscaping will appreciate it.

NIS also makes a universal solenoid called "Super Max". This
product allows you to replace nearly any solenoid. It comes
with a threaded adapter, different length plungers, and
different dimension "O" rings.

So, there you have it. This is by no means a complete review of
the many time, money, and labor saving devices available for
irrigation specialists and others in the Green Industry, but it
should give you a pretty good idea of the kinds of things you
can do to run a more efficient operation.

About the Author:

Jack Stone is a Contributing Editor for ProGardenBiz Magazine,
an online magazine for professional gardeners and landscape
contractors. Visit ProGardenBiz to find out how you can get a
free subscription, start-up guidance, business ideas and
inspiration at

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Jack Stone is a Contributing Editor for ProGardenBiz Magazine,
an online magazine for professional gardeners and landscape
contractors. Visit ProGardenBiz to find out how you can get a
free subscription, start-up guidance, business ideas and
inspiration at

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