Intro: 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
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).
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
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.