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Dan Holforty 
Manager, Lawn Sprinkler Center

Drip systems are easy to install; they are like putting together Tinker Toys in your sprinkler system and anyone can do it. Drip systems are 90% efficient, are fairly inexpensive and reduce the potential for disease.  

Unlike sprinkler systems, drip systems apply water directly where it is needed. Water is absorbed into the soil before it has a change to run off and evaporate. For this reason they are highly recommended for our dry, arid climate. Even though a drip system is easy to design and install, there are a few rules that should be followed. These will help you avoid making errors that might cause problems in the future.  

Pressure Regulators:
First and foremost, you must have a pressure reducer. You can use any valve you like but in Colorado, the code is that you must have a Pressure Vacuum Breaker, I prefer putting the pressure reducer right after the valve but that isn’t really necessary.  Without one, all those little parts are going to blow themselves right into your neighbors yard.  I like a medium flow at 30 PSI (pounds per square inch).  Use a filter to remove little particles in the water system that could clog your emitters.  

Emitters come in sizes from ½ GPH (gallons per hour) to 20 GPH.  I personally see no reason to use anything less than 2 GPH.  With a 2 GPH emitter, if you run your system for 30 minutes you will be putting 1 GPH on the plant.  Also available are multi-outlet emitters but from many years of being in the industry, I find they are troublesome.  

The pipe used for drip systems is a specialized pipe called, “drip tubing.”  It is a polyethylene pipe but is a little different from the normal 80-PSI poly that is used for your sprinkler system.  Drip tubing is a thin wall polyethylene tube and is generally produced in metric sizes.  Common sizes are 12mm (3/8”), 16mm (1/2”), 18mm (also ½"), and 24mm (3/4”).  Do you see the problem? Two sizes are commonly referred to as “1/2 inch” in the USA! The fittings for these two are not interchangeable, so make sure you know what you’re getting when you buy it.  This pipe is put on top of the soil and usually under your mulch.  You need to have easy access to the pipe so you can add or do repairs if needed.  You also need to remember to put a manual valve at the end of the drip line so you can drain it in the fall.

  How many emitters are needed per plant? Think in triangles, three per bush and sometimes more for trees. If you water just one side of the plant, that is where the roots are going to grow – and you run the risk of the tree falling over under heavy snow conditions. (I learned that one the hard way).  

How long can your drip system be? I usually tell customers not over 200 feet, but if you are using a lot of emitters that may even be too long. How do you know when you have gone too far? It stops working!  

Distribution Tubing is a small diameter tube that is anything less than 10mm in diameter.  Do yourself a favor and use the good one.  The only good one that I know of is made my Maxijet and comes in a coiled box.  Don’t think you can use long lengths of distribution tubing either; you lose volume the longer it is, fourteen feet is the preferred length.  Another popular product is ¼ inch soaker tubing and there again, fourteen feet is the maximum you can use at one plant.

To learn more about sprinkler system installation or drip irrigation for your Centennial home, come to Big Tool Box today.