Automated Sprinkler System Anyone Can Do!

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Posted in HomeGardening

Introduction: Automated Sprinkler System Anyone Can Do!

I hate watering my yard and did not want to drop thousands on a permanent sprinkler system. So, I came up with this solution using regular garden sprinklers and faucet timers.

I use regular lawn sprinklers and make custom-length garden hoses. I "permanently" place the sprinklers and hoses in areas that are out of sight and set them on timers. Once the system is in place a set on the timer, I can leave it and forget about it. The system is completely modular and can grow with your needs. The best part is, if you ever move, you can take it all with you and use it at your next place.

Step 1: Plan

So, the idea is to place regular lawn sprinklers in "permanent" locations. Ask yourself the following questions:

How much of your yard do you want to water?
Where can you put a sprinkler to reach the maximum amount of area, yet remain out of sight?
Where are your outdoor faucets located, and if needed, can you add another one? (that's an instructable for another day)
Where will hoses need to be run, and can they be hidden in flower beds, under a deck, etc.?

Browse your Home Depot or Lowe's to figure out what sprinklers will best fit your needs. Sketch out your yard. Get creative! This is the most fun part.

Step 2: Split Faucet

Purchase a 2, 4, or 5-way hose manifold for your faucet to allow multiple hoses to be hooked up. Get one of the good brass ones- don't go for zinc or plastic. Connect the manifold to your faucet. Leave the faucet in the "on" position. You then use the levers on the splitter to turn the water on/off.

Usually the 4 and 5-way manifold come with a metal brace, which attaches under the manifold and then screws against the wall (if you have a wall mounted faucet). Use this brace if you can. If your faucet comes right out of the ground, pound a wooden stake into the ground and attach the brace to it. You're going to be adding some weight to the faucet, and the brace reduces some of the pressure you are putting on your plumbing fittings.

Step 3: Position Sprinklers

Lawn:
For the yard, I use an adjustable impact sprinkler. I like the Gilmour Pattern Master impact sprinkler. It is fully adjustable- the throw pattern can be customized to meet your yard's shape. I put the sprinkler just in front of my flower bed so that it is out of sight. Then I spray-painted it black to make it less visible. Finally, I used metal tent stakes to hold the sprinkler in place (water pressure tends to make them wander).

Flower Beds:
For the flower beds, I used adjustable shrub misters that are normally used for in-ground sprinkler systems. They are adjustable in height and in pattern. They can be used with regular garden hoses by connecting them to a flow-thru spike base. You just push them into the ground and connect them in a series. I've connected 5 in a series without losing much water pressure.

Step 4: Make Custom Length Hoses

Run a garden hose to each sprinkler. I prefer black hose because the dark color makes it less visible. Goodyear makes a great heavy-duty black rubber garden hose that will last for years. I run the hoses through my flower beds to keep them even more out sight.

To make custom length hoses, use female and male hose mending pieces. You can buy plastic or brass mending pieces, but I prefer the brass ones because the plastic ones will break after a few years. You simply cut the hose, jam the mending piece into the hose (some dish soap will help here), and tighten with the included clamp.

Hose guides will help keep the hoses in place and out of sight. My Home Depot stopped selling the inexpensive ones, so I purchased a whole box online for about ten bucks.

Step 5: Install Timers

Melnor makes automated water timers. You simply hook it up to your faucet, then hook your hose to it. You leave the faucet in the "on" position. Then you set the timer to go off every 12hrs, 24hrs, every 2 days, 3 days, etc.. The newer models have digital displays and can be programmed in greater detail than the "dial" electronic version pictured here, but I prefer the old "dial" version because it is less bulky. Some can even control 2 or more separate sprinklers.

Step 6: Finished Product

Here you see my 4 way splitter, with 4 connections broken down as follows:

Main Sprinkler: Gilmour Pattern Master adjustable impact sprinkler on a timer to water the grass. Timer set for 30 minutes every 3 days.

Flower Beds: 2 shrub mister sprinklers in a series with a timer. Timer set for 30 minutes every 2 days.

Soaker Hose: Soaker hose which runs around half the house six inches from the foundation (I cover the other half of the house from a different faucet). We live in Texas, and you've got to keep the ground moist around the foundation to prevent movement. I don't have this on a timer, I just turn it on once a week for about an hour.

Hose Reel: Hose reel connected with 50 feet of hose to use for misc stuff.

Step 7: Maintenance & Winterization

In the winter, remove the sprinklers, timers, and 4-way manifolds and keep them indoors, or in a garage or shed. Remove the batteries from the timers. I leave the hoses in place and attach everything back together in the spring. If your part of the world gets really cold, you may want to roll the hoses back up and store in a shed or garage.

Every couple of years a sprinkler may break or you may need to replace a timer. Hoses sometimes fail, but now that you know how to mend them, that's no problem either. I've had a permanent underground system before and it is no different. Parts fail. We fix them. It gives us an excuse to go to Home Depot.

Step 8: The Final Talley

I'm watering both sides of my front yard, my back yard, and flower beds in the front and sides of the house. To accomplish this, I am using the following:

3 4-way splitters@ $12.99.................................................. $38.97
3 Gilmor Adjustable Impact Sprinklers@ $19.99............$59.97
7 Shrub Sprinklers & Flow-Thru Spikes@$10.99............$76.93
2 50ft Goodyear Black Heavy Duty Hose@$24.99...........$49.98
3 Melnor Single Faucet Timers@$24.99...........................$74.97
1 Melnor Double Timer..........................................................$39.99
15 Misc Hose Menders Male/Female @$2.99..................$44.85
1 Box Hose Guide Spikes.....................................................$12.99
6 Tent Stakes@$0.50.............................................................$3.00
TOTAL $401.65
Wow, I can't believe I spent that much!!

Actually, my system has expanded over the years, and I used some of the sprinklers and timers in my previous house. So, it really didn't hit my wallet all at once. When you take into consideration that I've been able to avoid buying a permanent sprinkler system at two different homes, it really isn't that expensive.

So there you have it. That's my first instructable. I hope you liked it.

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    25 Comments

    Might I recommend using soaker hoses intertwined with your bushes instead of mister heads? The soaker hose can be hidden under the gravel or mulch and will water the bushes very nicely.

    What is the easiest and cleanest way to cut the hose?

    1 reply

    I used a serrated kitchen knife and sawed at it.

    Live in NC, on county water in sub with insufficient outdoor faucet pressure to use 2,3,or4 split manifold effectively. Is there a small booster pump available to buy that can be added pre-manifold to step up pressure to use multiple hoses? Excellent concept. Thank u.

    1 reply

    You wouldn't run 2 or 3 at once. You set the timers so that they go off at different times. That way you aren't splitting pressure.
    I don't think anyone's public water is highly pressured enough to run more than one sprinkler effectively.

    Brilliant concept easy to install and cost effective as well. i have installed the same system in my garden but with a slight difference where you used timers i have instead used a Bluetooth receiver module which i am able to control via my cell phone allowing me to choose when i want the system on or off, my reason for doing this is due to rain if it rains i don't want the system to come on if i used timers its a mission to program.

    AWESOME!!!

    I don't want to say I am being cheap but I am doing this SAME method.

    I can't see spending $2k to an in ground sprinkler system when I can do this method and hide everything as far as the hoses are concerned under the mulch! (They only need to spray the front lawn and not that big of one at that...)

    I was going to ask about the hose and custom length and glad I saw how you did it. I couldn't find anything under 25' in the stores, making custom length run of hoses would be ideal for this!

    I was initially going to use the spike lawn sprinklers and hide them behind or beside a bush so you wouldn't see them... now I am thinking of buying two in ground units and then simply attaching them like the above and turning on the water manually... It's only for the front yard, nothing huge and only needs to go to the front and sides.

    This has given me so many ideas!!

    -Nigel

    i would use the lawnbelt system i just found.

    Can I use that same type of HOSE while burying it under ground? I want to use your concept but to install pop-up sprinklers

    I have been thinking about how to water my front and back yard without incurring in big expenses (I can't afford it) and I thought about doing what you did (right now I have something similar above ground) but I notice there is not enough psi in one faucet to connect more than two sprinklers. Would a manifold solve my problem? or would I need more faucets? I moved to Texas from Florida five years ago and I it worries me the separation of the soil from the foundation thus watering more often is urgent. Any advice will be appreciated.

    2 replies

    stagger the times, I agree with jchlimoun.
    Sorry for the late reply. These replys go to an old email address

    Your best bet is to use multiple timers at the outlets of a manifold and stagger the times so that no more than two are on a time. The manifold alone will do nothing for you, and adding more faucets doesn't give your house's water supply more pressure... it's like you're trying to drive a 10A load with a 2A power supply... running more wires doesn't change anything.

    Commercial sprinkler systems do this using zones. The installer is supposed to size the zones and partition them off, and set up the timers in such a way that no more than X number of zones operate at a time, based on how much pressure each zone requires and how much is available.

    Here's an update. After a few years, none of the timers work anymore. The system is still convenient as I don't have to drag sprinklers everywhere and hook/unhook hoses, but the timers are not made to last more than a few seasons. What a disappointment there.

    Very cool Instructible! Thanks for sharing. I love the idea for my lawn, but I like to hand-water the garden since I only have a few warm months up here in North Dakota and I like to check on all my veggies and flowers constantly!

    thanks for the comments. @cookiemonster- you wouldn't want to put the timer in the middle of a hose, because you would be leaving the garden hose under constant pressure up to the timer, and the hose would eventually burst. Garden hoses aren't designed for constant pressure. I've had one burst on me before. thanks for the other tips everyone.

    Ahahha!

    Hey; I like your instructable; I have one question though: My garden will only require one sprinkler (it's very small), do I still need a faucet to set up my system; or can I just split the hose and install the timer in the middle?

    I've done something similar, using a quiet-type rotating sprinkler that throws water way across my lawn, but very quietly. It's yellow, about 10 inches tall, the top half can spin 360 degrees and Bob Vila advertised it on TV years ago. I don't know what it's called and the labeling is all worn off, but I like the fact that it is quiet because my neighbor's watering system wakes me up before dawn when it comes on. The only thing I can add to your instructable is to test how long you can get your hoses before you lose too much pressure to water the area you're trying to water. I can only get 3 of those sprinkler heads that go so far and then 'snap back', on one hose, and sometimes the snap-back part gets stuck and I get one area flooded if I am not watching. So use any other kind of sprinkler head than that kind and test how it will all work before you make any 'permanent decisions' involving cutting hoses, glue or nailing supports-- ha

    One improvement would be to add a water hammer arrester (shock absorber) to your system. It will help with the pressure being placed on your splitter and even hoses that maintain pressure when sprinklers are not on.