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Drip Irrigation Component Names

The Parts of a Good Drip System

Drip irrigation, also known as low-flow irrigation, micro-irrigation, and trickle irrigation, is the slow, metered delivery of water through special watering emitters. A correctly working drip irrigation system conserves water by reducing runoff and evaporation, and delivering the right amount of water at the right time. This kind of irrigation also encourages healthy plant development, inhibits weed growth, and lowers insect issues. Drip irrigation systems may save a lot of time and water, especially when water conservation is required. However, if the system is left alone after installation or is poorly installed, it can be a large water waster rather than a water saver.

Understanding drip irrigation systems isn’t difficult if you learn the basics, and there are a ton of great resources online on just about every topic.

There is a vast range of equipment available to fit most budgets and watering requirements.  Here is a quick cheat sheet to help identify system components and perform maintenance activities in your own yard and landscape.

Controller/Timer: This gadget turns on irrigation valves on certain days. It determines when, how long, and how frequently the system provides a flow of water to the system. Watering intervals of up to 30 days are possible with good timers. Water established low water usage plants no more regularly than every 2-3 weeks. Water for at least one hour to allow water to penetrate to a root depth of one, two, or three feet for small plants, shrubs, or trees, respectively. Change the frequency of irrigation on a monthly or seasonal basis. Most controllers’ budgeting function should not be used since it just affects the duration of watering time, not the frequency.

Backflow Preventer: This device stops water from being sucked back into the irrigation system and the domestic water supply. The installation of backflow preventers may be regulated by your water supplier or source.

Control valves: Manually or mechanically controlled control valves turn on and off the water. A controller is connected to the automatic control valves. Watering tiny plants, shrubs, and trees individually is controlled by several valves, that break the system into watering or irrigation zones, in a good drip system.

Filter: A filter is required in all drip systems to prevent dirt and debris from clogging the tubing and the emitters. At least once a year, replace or clean the filter. Filters that are clogged are frequently the source of a poorly operating drip system.

Pressure Regulator: The majority of drip systems run at low pressure, often less than 20 psi. Incoming water pressure is reduced by pressure regulators to the optimal pressure for the drip system. Water providers are required to furnish water at a minimum pressure of 30 psi, with levels above 80 psi permitted. Excessive water pressures can cause emitters to burst off, causing water to be spewed at a faster pace than planned.

Pipe: The two most prevalent forms of irrigation pipes are polyethylene tubing and rigid PVC. Pipes transport water from valves to irrigated areas. Pipes can become twisted, broken, or pierced over time. Excessive plant growth or hissing noises when the irrigation system is turned on might indicate an underground leak.

Micro-tubing: Micro-tubing, also known as 1/4 inch or spaghetti tubing, transports water from the pipework or mainline to or from the emitters.  Check for micro-tubing leaks on a regular basis.

Emitters: These attach to the pipes or tubing and provide water at a steady, consistent rate, often 1, 2, or 4 gallons per hour. The output of the emitter determined by how fast the water will drip and how deep water will penetrate the soil. Compacted and clay soils cannot absorb water quickly and are typically watered in short intervals over a long time period.

Because of this, lower amount emitters are the best alternative for reducing run-off. Check pipes and tubing on a regular basis for missing or blocked emitters. Do not keep the emitters at the plant’s base as it grows. Move them to the drip line of the plant. “Goof plugs” are used to close off unneeded emitters or mistakes in your system.

Cap/Flush Valve: Flush valves, which are found at the end of each irrigation line, cap the pipe and allow it to be flushed of dirt and debris. 

Drip irrigation can irrigate nearly all of your landscape, and help you conserve water and deliver the proper amount of water to plants and trees. Drip systems are ideal for arid environments, regions where runoff is a concern, and tiny, narrow spaces such as entryways.  Drip irrigation is also an excellent method for watering veggies, flowers, and potted plants. For more on this topic see our 10 Tips for Drip Irrigation Installation.

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