4372 Wilmette Living April 2021

Spring is an exciting time of the year. The weather starts to get warmer, parks become more crowded, and people are beginning to plan fun outdoor activities with family and friends. Spring is also an exciting time for your landscape and outdoor space. Your turf and plants will need help to obtain their pre-winter healthy condition. As you can imagine, our tough Chicago winter creates havoc and stress on our landscape. An efficient and well-designed irrigation system will speed up the health of your lawn and plants during the spring season, and keep your landscape looking fabulous during the hot summer months. A lawn sprinkler system will typically be opened between April 15 and June 10th depending on the homeowner’s preference. American National Sprinkler and lighting does not recommend opening the system before April 15th based on historical weather patterns. The Chicagoland area unfortunately can still have freezing and snowy conditions the first 2 weeks of April. Currently, in our 35th year we have seen many homeowners open their system too early and pay the price with costly repairs and leaks. The lawn sprinkler opening consists of 6 important steps that need to be completed for an efficient and leak free system. While a homeowner can open their own sprinkler system, we highly recommend using an irrigation professional to prevent costly water bills, unnecessary water leaks, and inefficient watering of your landscape.

The first step is to connect the backflow preventer correctly. Depending on the year the device was installed and village requirements there are a variety of types of state certified backflows that have been utilized all around the Chicagoland area. However, most importantly the backflow set up needs to be flawless to prevent leaking and potential pressure issues. The second step requires access inside the home to turn on the lawn sprinkler inside shut off valve. Typically, the shut off valve is labeled with a tag by most irrigation companies. The water should be slowly turned on over a timeframe of about 7-10 seconds before the valve is completely open. This process of slowly opening the water to the outside is crucial to prevent unwarranted connection point and main line leaks in your yard. After the valve is turned on completely a couple of important safety features should be implemented. The inside plumbing should be reviewed closely for leaks - including the drain valve which is above the inside shut off valve. The Drain valve should be closed tightly and completely.

Secondly, now that the water flowing through the backflow preventer to the outside components, the backflow should be reviewed closely for leaks at all pertinent connection points. Next the controller needs to be powered up allowing the technicians to review the entire lawn sprinkler system. The technicians will review each zone separately adjusting heads, checking for leaks, and lastly notating and/or fixing broken sprinkler heads and fittings. After the system has been reviewed the controller should be programmed according to city guidelines (if required) and on a deep soaking watering schedule. Please note, turf and plant watering should be on different schedules as they require different amounts of weekly water. Most turf requires approximately 1 inch of water per week. Watering your landscape properly is a more sophisticated process than one might think. Watering guidelines will change depending on season, complexity of landscape, sun and shade areas, grade changes, and lastly understanding your plant, flower, and turf needs. Each lawn sprinkler system should be equipped with a rain sensor. The Sensor will shut down the system after a rain in the area. The Technician should review the sensor for proper functionality.

Lastly, double check the backflow preventer for leaks which sometimes can occur 20 -40 minutes after pressurization – the leaks may not present themselves once the device is initially installed. In addition, walk around your home and double check the valve boxes and other areas for unusually high accumulation of water. A lawn sprinkler system allows a homeowner peace of mind that their beautiful landscape will be watered automatically and efficiently. Understanding a few of the dynamics and potential pitfalls will only help you and /or your landscape professional maintain your property effectively.