Parts Of The Sprinkler System

As you take a summertime drive through Omaha’s residential neighborhoods, you might notice that some of the homes have lush green lawns and thriving flowers while other places have brown yards and stressed shrubs. In many cases, the difference is that well-kept properties have an excellent sprinkler system for their lawns and gardens.

Smart homeowners around Omaha — Nebraska’s “Gateway to the West” — understand the benefits of installing a home sprinkler system. A residential sprinkler system for lawn and garden health saves time and the effort of manual watering. It can also save money on water costs, improve watering efficiency, and increase property values.

Anatomy of A Sprinkler System

If you’re considering sprinkler installation or even sprinkler replacement, you’re likely wondering, “How do sprinkler systems work?” or “How do irrigation systems work?” To answer those questions and more, here is a look at the anatomy of a sprinkler system so you can better understand the parts of the sprinkler system and how sprinkler systems work.

Types of Sprinkler Systems for Your Lawn

In theory, residential lawn and garden sprinkler or irrigation systems are fairly simple and quite straightforward. In practice, though, installing sprinkler systems and getting them to work flawlessly is another matter. It’s always best, in the long run, to have professional help in sprinkler services. That includes designing and putting together the interdependent components in a sprinkler system. That investment in experience and expertise is well worth the money.

Even if you’re turning over your sprinkler system design and installation to an experienced company that specializes in lawn and garden irrigation, it’s vital to know your options. You need to understand the anatomy of sprinkler systems and components for your property. That includes the differences and similarities between the various types as well as the features and benefits associated with each.

With this information, you’ll be familiar with possible applications. Then you’ll be able to make an informed decision as to the right type of sprinkler system you need. Here are the four main types of residential lawn and garden irrigation systems used across America today:

1. Drip Irrigation

Low-volume irrigation systems are also called drip irrigation. That’s because drip systems have a low-pressure or volume design that lets water slowly release or drip from the water lines rather than spray it under higher pressure. Drip irrigation system components allow a long, slow water release instead of a high-volume blast where a good portion of water gets wasted through evaporation or overspray.

Drip systems place their irrigator nozzles down low where the plant and soil intersect. Water drips into the ground and stays under the cover of shading foliage rather than being exposed to the sun and wind. Drip irrigation systems are popular in garden beds where shrubs and flowers require regular watering but don’t need the irritating force of high-pressure spray.

2. Spray Systems

Most traditional residential irrigation designs use some form of spray system. These are fixed nozzles that spray water under pressure rather than letting it slowly release as in drip designs and applications. Spray heads sit upright and above the soil, directing a water mist over a certain area. You’ll find spray sprinkler systems used across a yard servicing both lawns and planting beds.

Spray system nozzles come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some spray heads stand upright in a fixed position. Other spray nozzles pop up from ground level when the system gets pressurized. You’ll find spray heads in configurations that emit water flow in quarter, half or full-circle directions. While spray systems cover a larger area, they tend to use more water than drip systems due to wastage from overspray, evaporation and misdirection.

3. Rotor Systems

For large lawn applications, nothing beats a rotor sprinkler design. The sprinkler heads rotate and disseminate water in a uniform application rate over a big area. While rotor systems cover a large region fairly evenly, they tend to be the largest water wasters per volume.

Rotor system discharge heads have two main designs. One is the stream type that emits a tight and controlled application. The second type is impact heads that shoot water over a larger region such as an open lawn area where fewer heads need placing for equal coverage. Rotor irrigation systems are more like natural rainfall than other irrigation designs.

4. Soaker Hoses

These are the simplest irrigation systems. They let water slowly leak or ooze from a porous hose that goes through a garden bed or over a lawn. These are specialty hoses where pressurized water fills the hose and uniformly leaks along its entire length. The far end is crimped to prevent run-through and depressurizing the soaker hose.

Soaker hoses are slow-discharge devices meant to give the ground a thorough drenching over a period of hours or an entire day. These inexpensive irrigation systems allow you to easily move the soaker hose in a region you’re watering. They’re especially effective in vegetable gardens and around delicate flower beds. Soaker hoses are also water misers, as you can manually control your pressure and soaking rate with the twist of your tap.

Manual vs. Automatic Sprinkler Systems

Besides the four main irrigation system types and designs, you have the choice of having a manual or an automatic sprinkler system. As with most options in life, there are pros and cons to each. It’s important to weigh the features and benefits you’ll get by choosing either a manual sprinkler system or an automatic irrigation installation.

You control a manual sprinkler system personally. That means getting up at the right time of the morning to turn the tap and activate it at an optimum time before the sun steals excess water, and the wind wastes it. You also have to physically shut off your water supply when it has done its job. You also have to hand-switch your water supply between zones.

With an automatic irrigation system, electronics take over. All you, or your sprinkler system installer, have to do is pre-program what time you’d like to activate your watering and on what day. Automated systems employ an electrically operated controller that uses a dedicated timer interconnected with valves regulating each zone in your system. You can program each area to be watered when it’s best for the lawn or plants — and when it’s best for you to sleep in.

Selecting an automated sprinkler system will cost a little more in the investment stage. That’s because the system components are more expensive, and there are more to install. However, an automated system will quickly pay for itself. Automated systems not only save you time and effort, but they also conserve water. If you’re on a city-metered supply like most Omaha folks, water is expensive, and you will likely notice your water savings with an automated sprinkler system.

Whether your system uses soaker hoses, rotor heads, spray nozzles, or drip irrigation devices, it’s a wise move to have them automated. Manual sprinkler systems can’t compete with the efficiency and economics an automatic system will deliver. It’s also an important investment to have a professional residential sprinkler company design and install your irrigation system.

Here’s a Lawn Sprinkler Parts Diagram

Copyright© 2004 Rain Bird Corporation 6/04
An automatic sprinkler system is made of 3 main components: a controller, valves and sprinklers.
An automatic sprinkler system is made of 3 main lawn sprinkler system components: a controller, valves and sprinklers.
The Controller is the system's brain
The Controller is the system’s brain
Each valve controls a group of sprinklers. Each group of sprinklers is called a zone or station.
When the Controller reaches a programmed start time, it sends a signal to one of the valves telling it to open. Each valve controls a group of sprinklers. Each group of sprinklers is called a zone or station.
When a valve receives the commend from the controller it opens the flow of water
The valve works like an automatic faucet. When it receives the command from the controller it opens the flow of water
When the run time for the zone is done the controller tells the valve to close.
When the run time for the zone is done the controller tells the valve to close. The valve closes, shutting off the flow of water to the sprinklers.
The process is repeated for each group of sprinklers in the system.
The process is repeated for each group of sprinklers in the system.














How Do Sprinkler Systems Work?

In essence, sprinkler systems work by containing water under pressure and then distributing it in a controlled, even manner to every plant on a property. For residential applications, that’s usually the lawn and shrub areas. Well-designed irrigation systems may also serve dedicated flower beds or containers as well as vegetable gardens. Full systems might also water trees, especially delicate and expensive ornamental species.

What Are The Parts Of The Sprinkler System?

There are three main components in the anatomy of a residential sprinkler system. Those are the controller, the valves, and the sprinkler heads or nozzles. However, each lawn sprinkler system component division has sub-components. It’s how each component and sub-component cooperatively interact that makes an automatic sprinkler system successful.

When you have a residential irrigation system properly designed and installed by an experienced and professional company specializing in automated packages, you’re sure that each component and sub-part work together. That is the key to success. Here are the main pieces to a lawn and garden sprinkler puzzle:

1. System Controller

Your controller (sometimes referred to as the timer or box) is your sprinkler system’s brain. It tells the other parts what to do, when to do it and for how long to keep at it. The controller does this electronically and with a timer. In most modern irrigation systems, the controller employs a microchip or circuit board that’s pre-programmed with the times and duration each sprinkler zone operates. The controller reacts to pre-set on and off times that instruct the zone valves that, in turn, feed water to the sprinkler heads and drip dispensers.

All irrigation controllers require a breaker-protected power source. The vast majority of American sprinkler systems operate on household current, although their distribution wires send signals to the zone valves and distribution parts are low-voltage. Because of 110-volt power requirements, your controller normally mounts on the side of your house, garage or garden shed if it’s properly wired.

Programming a controller isn’t difficult. Usually, your system installer will pre-program your controller for optimum operating times. This greatly depends on your yard size, plant varieties, and seasonal changes. Your system installer will also show you how to change the controller settings and will leave you with a simple-to-read owner’s manual.

2. Sprinkler Zone Valves

Zone valves in your automated sprinkler system are like traffic cops. They get their orders from central command, the controller, and then they direct pressurized water flow out into their respective jurisdictions about your yard. Zone valves work on a simple on-and-off mode. When the controller tells them to open, they do. The same goes when the controller orders them to turn off.

Zone valves work at ground level. Most zone valves in a professionally designed sprinkler system sit in a polycarbonate box that’s near the controller. It’s an out-of-sight, out-of-mind landscaping feature where the valves are hooked to a water-supplying manifold as well as connected by direct-burial wires to the controller.

How many zone valves there will be in your sprinkler system depends on your particular property. Dividing your grounds into workable zones takes skill and understanding. Your system designer knows how to distribute a finite water flow over areas that best use the existing pressure and flow. It’s common for residential sprinkler systems to use between three and six sprinkler zone valves.

3. Sprinkler Heads

These are the workhorses in your lawn and garden sprinkler system. When the controller tells the zone valves to open, the sprinkler heads get instant pressurization and deliver water to your grass, shrubs and flowers. They sprinkle, spray, or drip according to design. If your system is designed right, you’ll get uniform and conservative watering throughout your property.

Not all sprinkler heads are made equally, by any means. The secret to successful watering is having the right sprinkler heads in the right place. A balanced irrigation system uses rotor heads to serve large regions of lawns. It uses spray heads to cover specific zone areas where quarter-circle, half-circle or full-circle coverage works best. You also have drip heads or dribblers delivering precise water amounts to exact spots.

Some sprinkler heads are specialized inventions. Pop-up heads are popular for placing in lawns where mowers could damage or destroy them. Pressure-regulated sprinkler heads do an excellent job of regulating flow. They greatly reduce overwatering where unregulated, high-pressure volume causes mist and overcasting to waste water and run up the bills.

4. Support Components

Although an automated sprinkler system works by delivering a pre-programmed water supply to your grounds through cooperation by the controller, zone valves and sprinkler heads, there are supporting components involved. An effective system is a balanced system. To make it happen, irrigation designers make sure all components are compatible.

Your water supply source is a primary sprinkler system component. Depending on your location around Omaha, you might be served by city water through a meter. Or, you might be on a rural property where you have a well, pond or another water source. Either way, you want your irrigation system supply to start before your residential pressure-reducing valve. Sprinkler systems need a full street or pump pressure to work effectively.

Supply lines or piping is another highly important irrigation system component. They need proper sizing to ensure the right amount of water gets delivered under the proper pressure. Most irrigation supply lines start at either a 1-inch or ¾-inch diameter to feed the zone valves and high-consumption parts like rotor heads. Then they’re decreased to ½-inch and ¼-inch sizes as the water feed progressed to less-demanding components like spray heads and dribblers.

5. Safety Components

Your irrigation system is an interconnected network of hydronic and electrical parts. If it’s designed and built properly, you’ll rarely have any problems with its performance. That includes its reliability and its safety.

However, there are times when you might experience a stuck zone valve or a sprinkler head that refuses to stop. To intervene, you need a shutoff valve placed in your system ahead of the controller and zone valves. With the twist of a tap or turn of a handle, you can isolate your irrigation system without affecting your home’s water supply.

You also require a backflow preventer. This is mandatory when you’re on a city supply and highly advisable if you have an on-site water source. Backflow preventers stop any chance of contaminated irrigation system water leaking back from your yard and into your main potable water supply.

Today, no proper residential lawn and garden sprinkler systems are complete without smart devices. These additions are well worth your investment. Smart components include on-site weather monitoring that watch and record actual conditions right on your property. They tell the controller to take a day off if necessary. This avoids watering when it’s already raining or the humidity is high. Wireless rain sensors accomplish much the same thing, but at a lesser expense.

One other important component to consider when investing in a new residential sprinkler system or upgrading your old one is acquiring the correct permits. Most areas in the Omaha region require plumbing and electrical permits for irrigation systems. You’re not allowed to tap into water or power supplies without permits and inspections. The safest way to make your entire sprinkler system work is by having a professional irrigation company do it for you. They’ll ensure all system components work properly and legally.

Benefits of Installing an Automatic Sprinkler System for Your Lawn

Investing in a new residential sprinkler system or upgrading your existing one brings you many benefits. Your lawn, shrubs and flower beds are expensive investments you take pride in. It goes without saying that water is the source of your plant life, and it’s absolutely required to keep them healthy. Here are the main benefits you’ll get through having a safe, reliable and effective irrigation system:

  • Grow Healthy Lawn and Plants: No matter how much time, effort and energy you put into manually watering your lawn and plants, you simply can’t achieve the results you’ll get with a professionally designed and installed sprinkler system. A sprinkler system delivers the exact amount of water your grounds need, when they need it. You won’t experience poor plant health due to over or under-watering, and that is worth every part of your investment.
  • Save Time and Effort: A professionally built irrigation system saves you enormous time and tremendous effort. Once your sprinkler system is up and running, it practically takes care of itself. You don’t have to rise at daybreak and turn it on, nor do you have to rush home at midday to turn it off. You also don’t have to drag hoses from place to place and dodge sprinkler attachments.
  • Save Money: Although you’ll have an initial output to have your sprinkler system installed or upgraded, you’ll quickly see a return on your investment. Without question, professional irrigation systems use less water than manual systems. You’ll experience an immediate drop in your water bills and start saving money from the day it’s turned on.
  • Increase Property Value: A quality sprinkler system is both a feature and a benefit to your home. Irrigation systems immediately improve your property value, and it’s something prospective buyers notice. You’re protecting your sprinkler investment by improving property value. Even without knowing there’s a sprinkler system in place, people see the benefit through your display of healthy plants and great colors.
  • Improve Energy Efficiency: Being energy efficient is an ethical responsibility. Water is a life-giving energy source, and it needs to be respected. Having a well-balanced and professionally built irrigation system shows you’re aware of water conservation and conscientious in its use. Using water, and all energy forms, wisely is the right thing to do. You can do your part by investing in and benefiting from a residential sprinkler system.

Nature’s Helper is Omaha’s premier sprinkler professional. For over 25 years, we’ve been a full-service provider of advanced irrigation systems to homes and businesses throughout the Omaha region. We take pride in helping customers keep their lawns, shrubs and flowers lush and colorful. It shows in their grounds and in our reputation.

At Nature’s Helper, our mission is to design and install your underground sprinkler system, so you’ll benefit from saving time and effort while increasing your property value through your investment. We also keep current on the latest technology while providing outstanding value in customer service and quality components.

We’re Here to Answer Your Irrigation Sprinkler System Questions

Our goal is to support the lawn and garden of your dreams. The first part to achieving a lush lawn is understanding the anatomy of sprinkler systems which you’ve learned in this article. To get started with a system of your own, call Nature’s Helper today at 402-334-2625. You can also reach us through our contact form