Installing a Drip Irrigation System
Installing Drip Irrigation System
Connecting to Water Source – All Types
Also known as the head assembly, the starting point of your drip irrigation system will consist of assembling your water source connection components. The parts you need will be based on the type of water source connection you have available. The majority of connections will fall into two categories: hose bibb, and irrigation valves.
Hose bibb: For most backyard drip irrigation systems, connecting to a hose bibb is the most common connection. First, determine if this connection will be dedicated solely to your drip system or if you will still need access for a garden hose. Installing a Y style ball valve will split you existing connection into two. Be sure to install each component in order and in the proper direction of flow.
Use Teflon tape to make watertight connections between components with pipe threads and o-rings or hose washers with components with hose threads. Hand tighten each part to make a water tight seal. Be sure not to over tighten any hose thread connections, over tightening can cause the threads to strip and become damaged.
Irrigation Valves: For an above ground installation, start with installing anti-siphon valves. An anti-siphon valve combines a valve and vacuum breaker in one device, so there is no need to install a separate vacuum breaker. On the downstream of the valve, you will need to install a filter, pressure regulator and hose tubing adapter. These parts can be installed just below the valves outlet or in a valve box for access to the filter.
Inline valves need to be installed in conjunction with a back flow preventer. Back flow preventers are larger versions of the vacuum breaker and are mainly installed in large residential or commercial installations. Check with your local municipality for any code requirements concerning the use of backflow preventers. Inline valves will require a filter, pressure regulator and tubing adapter. Irrigation Direct offers preassembled drip zone kits.
Layout Main & Branch Lines
Before rolling out your drip tubing, it’s best to lay it out in the sun for at least 30 minutes or more. This helps to soften the tubing and makes unrolling it much easier. When laying drip tubing, it’s best to roll it out in the same way you would roll a tire. This prevents the tubing from spiraling and kinking.
Begin unrolling by weighting down the end of the tubing with a heavy object or tubing hold down stake to keep it in place. Roll out the tubing in the desired areas according to your design sketch. Keep some slack in your tubing runs to allow for expansion and contraction due to temperature changes in weather. Install tubing hold down stakes every 5 to 10 feet to hold the tubing in place.
If you need to bury your drip tubing, it’s best to sleeve it in solid PVC pipe. This will prevent the drip tubing from compressing and reducing or cutting off the flow of water. When you need to make 90° turns in tubing, use an elbow. If you need to branch off mainline tubing, use a tee. When cutting drip tubing, simply use a pair of tubing cutters, garden shears or scissors.
Connecting Hose & Tubing
With your 1/2” drip tubing laid out, it’s time to connect all the separate ends together to create one uniformed run of tubing. Make sure you have all your couplings, elbows and tees handy. It helps to order a few extra of each fitting in case you need to add or change your drip tubing layout for any reason.
If you’re attaching your tubing with compression fittings, begin by scoring the tubing about an inch up from the end of the tubing. Next, make sure you have a straight cut across your drip tubing, cut tubing if needed. Then take the fitting and place the tubing squarely against the compression opening and press inward. As the compressing fitting bites into the tubing, gently rock the tubing and fitting back and forth until one inch of drip tubing is inserted into the fitting. Repeat this process for all compression fittings. The trick to installing compression fittings is to apply even constant force as your insert the tubing. Compression fittings are designed for a more permanent installation and are not recommended for reuse.
Direct-Loc fittings work a bit differently than their compression fitting counterparts. Direct-Loc fittings have a 1/2” barbed end that you place your drip tubing over and a lock nut that spins over the barb which locks the tubing in place, creating a water tight seal. Direct-Loc fittings are perfect if you need to reuse your fittings, remove your drip tubing or reconfigure your drip irrigation system.
Installing 1/4” micro tubing is not unlike installing its bigger brother. But unlike the bigger tubing, the only connectors available are in the 1/4” barbed 250 series. Attach micro tubing end with connectors, elbows and tees. To install, simply place one end of the micro tubing over the barbed end of the fitting and apply firm even pressure until the tubing sits against the fittings collar.
To install 1/4” micro tubing as a feeder off of 1/2” solid drip tubing, begin by making a hole in the 1/2” tubing with a hole punch. Then attach one end of the micro tubing onto the end of the 1/4” barbed fitting. Then insert the other end of the 1/4” barbed fitting into the 1/2” drip tubing until it snaps into place.
QUICK TIP: To help with installation, dip the tubing in warm water for a few minutes to soften the ends before inserting the tubing into the fitting.
Installing Different Water Devices – all types
Drip Emitters: Drip emitters are installed using one of two different methods. The first method is installing the emitter’s barbed end directly into the 1/2” drip mainline buy using a hole punch.
The second method is to attach the drip emitter into 1/4” micro tubing then attaching the micro tubing to the 1/2” mainline with a barbed connector and hole punch. The second method is used when plants are away from the 1/2” mainline. Use a micro tubing stake holder to hold emitters in place.
Soaker Hose Dripline: Install soaker hose dripline as you would your mainline. Before unrolling, it’s best to let the tubing sit in the sun for 30 minutes or more. Unroll the tubing as you would unroll a tire down the lengths of your garden rows or through your shrubs and ground cover. For 1/2” size soaker hose, use compression or Direct-Loc fittings to attach the soaker hose to the drip mainline. For 1/4” size soaker hose, use barbed fittings to connect the soaker hose to 1/2” drip mainline. Use soaker hose dripline to create drip rings around medium and large shrubs and small to large trees.
Sprayers and Bubblers: Sprayers and bubblers can be installed using three different methods. The first method is installing sprayers and bubblers with barbed ends directly into 1/2” drip mainline.
The second method is attaching sprayers and bubblers with threaded ends onto fixed stakes with preinstalled vinyl tubing or onto rigid risers with a clip stake to make an adjustable height sprayer.
The third method is installing sprayers and bubblers that come preinstalled on a 6” stake. Each stake comes with a 1/4” barbed inlet that attaches to micro tubing and then attaches to 1/2” drip mainline.
Final Preparations and Start up
Before operating your drip system, it’s important to do a complete walk thru and check all your drip tubing and connections. Verify that the water source connection components are installed and each connection is hand tight. Be sure that all drip lines are securely attached to their fittings and that all drip tubing end caps have been installed.
If everything checks outs, it’s time to turn your water on. Begin by turning on you water and letting the system fill up for several minutes. You may hear a hissing sound coming from several locations on your drip system. This is the air that is being expelled from the drip emitters, soaker hose dripline, sprayers or bubblers. Once your drip system is fully filled with water, this hissing will stop. After the system has been running for about 15 minutes, check for any leaks with the water source connection components and with any drip tubing connections. Check that each drip emitter, sprayer or bubbler is working properly. If there is excessive leaking around any installed drip emitters or where any 1/4” barbed connectors are attached to 1/2” drip tubing, remove the emitter/connector from the 1/2" tubing and insert a goof plug to seal the hole. Then use your hole punch and reinstall the drip emitter or 1/4” barbed connector at least 1-1/2” away from the goof plug.
It’s important to remember that some leaking around drip emitters or barbed connections is normal with a system startup. As the tubing fills and expands, the connections will seal over time.
Make any adjustments to sprayers, bubblers or flow control valves that might be needed. Add any drip emitters that may have been missed during the installation or extra emitters, sprayers or bubblers to supply more water to a given area.
Flushing out the System
Now that you’ve rolled out all your drip tubing and installed the drip emitters, soaker hose dripline, sprayers and bubbles, it’s time to flush your drip system. This is done to flush out any dirt, dust, insects or debris that may have made its way into your drip tubing during installation. To flush your drip system, simply turn on your water source and let the water run freely for a few minutes.
End of Lines
With your drip lines fully flushed, it’s time to install the drip tubing end caps. End caps come in three styles; figure 8, compression and Direct-Loc.
The figure 8 end of line hose clamp simply doubles over the drip tubing to make a water tight seal. It’s easily removed if you need to flush your drip system.
Both the Compression and Direct-Loc style end caps have removable threaded cap to aid with flushing your drip tubing.