Irrigation Installation & Maintenance Time Savers Article by Jack Stone Copyright © 2003 by ProGardenBiz ProGardenBiz, an online magazine http://www.progardenbiz.com
Over 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 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 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 products that have been developed to make your irrigation maintenance, repair, and installation jobs easier.
The most common irrigation repair is replacement of broken risers. The elimination of this problem can be solved in several ways. Staking 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 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 body is wrapped in a steel spring. These solutions are each effective in their particular environment, but what about a solution to chronic breakage?
The answer came in form of a composite unit called swing joint assembly. The swing joint assembly allowed a kicked nipple or stepped on head to "swing" away from force of impact via rotation along threaded connections. The first of these had to be constructed with four street ells and a nipple. First, fitting in lateral line of irrigation system had to be installed with its threaded end pointing sideways instead of straight up. If you were installing a shrub riser following procedure was followed: Thread a marlex street ell into fitting, another marlex street ell into first one , and then nipple. If you were installing a lawn pop-up you would follow this procedure: A marlex street ell was threaded into 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 last street ell, whole construction was twisted and rotated to insure head was at desired depth, and hole was back filled. That's a lot of work. If you were installing a new system 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 "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 handling of many extra fittings is eliminated as well as bother of on-site construction.
The second most common head "repair" problem is 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 fitting on pipe and head nipple is threaded into female end of Head-Lok. Any attempt to remove head causes female threaded end to rotate while male threaded end remains securely fitted to pipe fitting. Removal of a pop-up requires thief to dig a hole and remove 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 sprinkler head and lateral line. Two socket set screws at upper ends of side of Impact Head-Lok are tightened with an allen wrench. The socket set screws are tightened against threads of impact head and 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 compression coupling. There are also compression tees with or without threads, as well as threaded and slip adapters.
KBI has developed a product along idea of a compression coupling called "Quick-Fix". The major difference between Quick-Fix and standard quick coupler is that Quick-Fix has telescoping pipe on either side with ends like attached slip couplings. You simply loosen adjustment nuts at both ends, adjust telescoping ends to desired length, glue ends to pipe, and tighten adjusting nuts.
AMS Plastics has developed a product called "Slip-Fix". It's a telescoping coupling with slip fitting-type ends. The body of Slip-Fix seals itself with a compression coupling-type seal. The Slip-Fix eliminates problems of "backing off" and is available with a threaded adapter thus becoming an inexpensive union for valve replacement.
You've probably all had joy of replacing valves, especially one located in 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 job of valve manifold reconstruction or even initial construction?