Winter ended quickly for us this year. Every year, I make it a point to go through the system in March to make sure that everything overwintered fine, and to give us time to fix problems before the season hits us. We typically do not have hard freezes, and do not blow our systems out in the spring. That does not mean that we have no problems in the spring. In fact, we have had years where heads froze and split at the seams. That said, it is a great time to get the irrigation back to its peak efficiency.
We do drain our system in the fall after our last use, so we need to pressurize it carefully. This year, to limit mistakes, we set up a startup program on the controller. This saved us a lot of time and is something that you could use to increase your efficiency in the spring. Our controller can turn on 15 zones at a time, so we selected these zones based on their position on the mainline. I picked one close to the pump, the high points on the looped mainline, and the terminal ends of any mainline spurs. I then turned off 2 of the 3 pumps so it would pressurize slowly. This program ran for 20 minutes and effectively removed the air from the system. I then set another program that ran each zone on the system for 3 minutes in 1 minute cycles. We set this up to run 10 zones at a time, and I turned on 2 of the three pumps. You could see the pressure building in each of the cycles, and the last of the remaining air was blown out of the system. While it took an hour to remove all air pockets, the overall effort was minimal. I used our mobile access from my phone, and hit start two times. Otherwise, we spent no time on it and were able to complete other tasks while it was working.
In earlier times, we would manually turn on valves all around the property and slowly turn them off. There were always times that we would forget some, or valve boxes would not get closed correctly. Our new method eliminates these points of contact. Also, I now have a method that can be easily completed by one person when we have to pressurize the system after breaks in the summer time. Hopefully I will not have to use these two programs until next spring… but I know it will be much earlier than that.
If you have not started your system up yet, look into setting up a startup program or two. Make sure that you do not have them set up to run every day, and you should be in business. It make our work much easier and I am more confident than ever that we have blown all of the air out. The key to running irrigation systems is to make your work efficient. If you can quickly fix problems and complete your work, you will be more apt to continue doing the preventative maintenance.