How Does a Sprinkler System Work?

A sprinkler system is basically an active, automatic fire protection system, consisting of a series of water mains pipelines, connecting a water source to a standing water supply system, giving sufficient flow and pressure to a standing water supply pipe system. In a sprinkler system, the main water supply system regulates the quantity of water released by the main water supply plumbing system. The standing supply system gives water to the sprinkler system. Sprinkler heads, or controllers, in a sprinkler system can be turned by a remote control switch, or they can be manually moved through a hose to the sections of the sprinkler system that need them. Sprinkler heads can be made out of either brass copper or plastic, depending upon the nature of the application, and the ease with which they can be cleaned. Brass and copper heads tend to be more easily cleaned and maintained.

The main components of an irrigation system are the irrigation pumps, the water pipes and valves, and the sprinkler heads. The irrigation pumps function to move water from an area to where it is needed. The pumps can be motorized or manual. Most often they are motorized. The pipes and fittings necessary to connect the pump supply system to the pipes and sprinkler heads are calling ‘point of use’ or ‘point of entry’ pipes.

The most common problem with point of entry (POE) pipes is that they become clogged with tree roots or other forms of debris. This results in freezing damage to the pipes, and to the pump itself. As a result, the water drains gradually from the pipes, stopping only when the blocked drain can be manually removed using a wrench or a sharp pair of pliers. A frozen pipe can also freeze over completely, leaving no option for water extraction. The best way to deal with these types of frozen pipes is to have the water flowing into the pipes cleaned out using a high pressure jetting system. A large labour force is necessary to accomplish this task, since the pipes must be moved quite a distance away from the house.

Next, the sprinkler heads need to be set up in the correct zones. Sprinkler head placement plays an important part in the proper functioning of the irrigation system. The zones are designed to water the area that needs it. The sprinkler heads should be at the correct angle, water pressure, and water capacity needed to adequately water the areas in question. This is best achieved with the aid of an irrigation timer or programmable logic system.

To assist in the efficient watering of the lawn and gardens, special nozzles, known as rotary nozzles or rotating nozzles, can be employed. These types of nozzles are used to atomize the soil to remove lime, magnesium, and calcium from the surface of the ground. They then pass the liquid soil through a valve, which then limits the water flow in the irrigation lines. In modern methods, a very fine mist of water is released through a valve control valve, which further atomizes the soil for more effective irrigation.

Sprinkler systems can also be installed in conjunction with other types of equipment such as an automatic sprinkler system or the automatic fire sprinkler. A fire sprinkler is usually activated by a switch on the control panel. Either an electric or a gas line is used to supply the water to the sprinklers, depending upon the type of sprinkler system. Automatic sprinkler systems are operated by the homeowner through a wired control system or an electronic control panel. Installing these automatic systems is fairly simple, but care must be taken to prevent accidental fires.

Sprinkler lines come in two different formats: first, in line and then in lieu of laterals. First line sprinklers are the conventional type, which sends a spray of water either forward or backward. Second line sprinklers uses a solenoid device, which activates the sprinkler by detecting any motion. Solenoid units are also commonly referred to as laterals. The first lateral is the most commonly installed, however; the second line has become less common in recent years due to the rising cost of installing them.

A third option available is the direct vent, or direct vented, system. In this type of system, the solenoid detects the heat loss from the pipes and directs the flow of water to a drain fitting. Once the drain is full, the valve shuts off the flow of water. This option is most commonly used in residential homes. Installation takes a little more time than with laterals or first lines, but it is more efficient.