How About an Audit?…the Good Kind, Not the IRS Kind


We all know someone who has gone through an IRS audit…sometimes with bad results and sometimes with not-so-bad results…but always with some complaining.  That’s not what we’re talking about here.


The good kind of audit involves setting aside an hour to check the efficiency of your sprinkler system.  Though you don’t need to, an audit often is best done with a friend or family member, someone to help you notice little problems and write them down while you’re looking for other flaws.


Here’s how to get started:  Grab your favorite morning beverage, head over to the controller and press the “Manual” or “All Stations” button.  This will start the system running and allow you to wander over to the lawn and start looking for big and little problems.  In between sips of orange juice or coffee, here are things to look for:


  1. Heads that don’t pop up
  2. Heads that don’t turn
  3. Parts of the lawn that receive no water
  4. Heads that pop up but are tilted
  5. Heads that spray water on the driveway or the street
  6. Heads that spray water into mailboxes, shrubs or trees


Fixing these obvious issues will dramatically raise the efficiency of the sprinkler system, probably from about 50% to 65%.  The next step is to measure the output of the newly fixed heads by using catch cans.  Collect about 10 empty tuna cans and set them randomly between the heads; turn the system on and let it run for about 20 minutes.  Then measure how much water is collected in the cans and compare.  If more than a 25% difference exists, hire a sprinkler service company to help determine why the output is not uniform.


Many possibilities exist including tree roots that have grown around supply lines, leaking valves and clogged orifices.  Fixing these problems will raise the efficiency to about 75%.

John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
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