Choosing the right and efficient sprinklers for the job in the past year hasn’t been as much about picking a contractor’s preferred features.
Instead, irrigation professionals have had to work with additional points of stress such as increasing pressure regulations and high demand due to the pandemic.
Water use rules are becoming a major concern for irrigation professionals, especially in some areas of the U.S. where pressure-regulating spray bodies are required, says Jack York, national irrigation product manager for Ewing Irrigation and Landscape Supply, Phoenix.
“We’ve seen an emerging trend of states enacting the PRS legislation, which prohibits distributors and retailers from selling irrigation equipment that does not have pressure regulation,” he says. “Specifically in California, Washington, Colorado, Hawaii and Vermont, spray body sprinklers must now be sold with pressure regulators.”
Not only is it important to have the correct sprinkler, an irrigation design with efficient sprinkler placement is key as the industry focuses more on water savings over all, says Kelsey Jacquard, senior product manager, Hunter Industries, San Marcos, California.
Even if those regulations aren’t active or imminent in your state, it could be a good idea to start moving in that direction with equipment choices. Not only would that line up with future statewide water use guidelines, it could work as a way to increase revenue, York says.
“By switching to these pressure-regulating sprinklers, contractors are getting ahead of possible local legislation, which shows a lot of foresight to the industry,” he says. “It’s a great opportunity for the contractor to offer their customer a far more efficient irrigation system with significant water savings.”
It’s also a chance for contractors to build revenue with past clients by showing their industry expertise, says Jacquard.
“These new trends allow contractors to revisit existing projects, perform water audits and then become ‘water managers’ for the sites,” she says. “This service not only includes assuming management of the controller but also changing and upgrading the irrigation parts to models that increase efficiency.”
Pressure-regulated sprinklers typically use about 25% less water than standard sprinklers, says York. If a nozzle breaks, pressure regulators can save about 70% of the water that might have been lost in a leak. The small incremental cost to homeowners will bring lasting return on investment as water bills decrease.
Sprinklers are seeing some competition from increased installations of drip irrigation, squeezing sprays and rotors out of a job, says Chris Rigby, senior contractor account manager for Rain Bird, Azusa, California.
“Rotary nozzles are becoming more popular due to smaller spaces and worsening soil conditions that require slower precipitation rates to prevent wasteful runoff,” he says.
In the past year, contractors have been trying out new practices with sprinklers, sometimes out of necessity, says Greg Dougherty, director of sales for North America, K-Rain Manufacturing, Riviera Beach, Florida.
“Contractors experimented with more ‘featured’ products because that’s all they could get,” he says. “They were trying products with features that they might never have bought otherwise and sticking with those products.”
Once those new features had been incorporated into their designs, many contractors were more willing to add those options on an ongoing basis, which is good for the industry because it enhances the overall irrigation knowledge base, he says.
Especially in states where pressure regulation has been mandated, more contractors are looking for spray bodies that make both the spray nozzles and multiple-stream nozzles more efficient by ensuring sprinklers operate at the design pressure, Jacquard says.
York says many contractors have been looking beyond the standard rotor for their equipment in the past year, looking for more features in a single offering, such as check valves, pressure regulation and pre-installed nozzles.
Rotary nozzles in sprinklers are also picking up in popularity, with manufacturers recommending that they be installed on pressure-regulating spray bodies for efficient irrigation, York says.
“We’re also seeing irrigation designs that are including more subsurface irrigation in shrub beds, where it would have been spray bodies five years ago,” he says.
To assist irrigation professionals trying to hold onto more inventory, distributors have been offering longer dating and flexible credit terms, says Dougherty.
Pop-up height is a major factor in selecting the right, efficient sprinkler for the job, says Jacquard.
“Make sure that its pop-up height is sufficient to get the nozzle into an unobstructed position, allowing it to be as efficient as possible,” says Jacquard. “If the nozzle is blocked by tall turf, no matter if the body is the correct pressure and the correct nozzle is selected, it will still perform poorly.”
When planning for pop-up height, remember that the lawn height will change between visits to the property, says Rigby.
“For example, you may need a 6-inch pop-up height rather than a 4-inch, because grass will be tall before mowing,” he says.
Also, when working with reclaimed water, make certain that the heads you’re using are rated for that use, he says.
Keeping the overall irrigation design in mind is also important to get the most out of your equipment, York says. “Even if it’s a rough sketch of the property, a proper irrigation design can save the contractor headaches and also prevent multiple trips between the job site and the distributor,” he says. “By determining the turf area and plantings as part of the design process, contractors can develop a properly designed irrigation system that’s water-efficient and leverages the right sprinklers for the project.”