Friday, September 16, 2011

Low Flow Irrigation and Yard lights

I spent much of the morning and afternoon extending our sprinkler system into Robin's flower beds using some low flow sprinklers.   The advantage to them is that you can water JUST what you want, rather that the driveway, dirt, etc.

Some things I've learned over the years with low-flow systems:

  1. You have to make 3-5 trips to home depot before you're done.
  2. Run 1/2" tubing from a normal sprinkler head along the bed your planning to water.  This ensures you have enough water to go around.
  3. 8 way manifolds are useless.  4 way are just fine.
  4. No-name parts will cost you hours of wasted time.
  5. Run 1/4" tubing out to the individual sprinklers. Using T's to run long lengths of 1/4" is a bad idea.  Better to run separate sprinklers from the manifold to ensure you get enough water.
  6. Use 1/2" to 1/2" Ts, then use 1/2" cut off risers to the manifolds. This will make sure you have enough height.
  7. Having several filters between the 1/2" tubing and the sprinkler head just means less water. I've never had a clog.
  8. When you buy the little sprinkler heads, look at them very carefully to make sure they'll cover the area that you want.
  9. Use manifolds that have the ability to turn off individual sprinklers.
  10. Bury the 1/2" tubing.  Don't bother with the 1/4".  Your wife will move the sprinkler heads around anyway.

Not having to trench PVC, and the low cost of the tubing, manifolds and sprinklers made this a quick and cheap project.

A couple of weekends ago, I put in some more yard lighting.  Cost was a concern, as was power usage.  Last year we tried some solar lighting, but up here in the NW, there simply doesn't seem to be enough sunlight to power the things for longer than an hour past sunset.  So, I went with low voltage lighting.

I bought a 600 watt transformer (yeah, way overkill, but I wasn't sure how much power I'd need. MAN was it expensive, too!) When I started buying lights, I realized quickly that the nice metal ones cost at least $24 each.   Not only that, they often use as much as 20 watts each.   They DO look good though.

To save on power (and money), I ended up using some LED lights.  They're about half as bright as the 20 watt incandescent, but use 1/20th the power.  I was able to buy brinkman sets on sale through home depot online for $30 for 4 lights and 2 spots. They were partly plastic, but matched the metal lights pretty well.

One thing about the LED lights, is that they don't use the usual vampire tap connectors that the malibu type lights use.  The reason is that LEDs have polarity, and if you were to tap them in the wrong way, they just wouldn't work.  So, the special, polarity based connectors are what they come with.

Because I wanted to use them with my 12 gauge low voltage wire, I simply snipped off the special connectors and spliced them into the 12 gauge using butt-splices.  I'd have rather used T splices, but couldn't find any that were useful for the gauge I wanted to use.

Because of the polarity, I had to make sure I kept the positive leads consistent.  Since most low-voltage type wire has two leads, and one of them usually has writing on it, I tend to make the wire with the writing positive and the other one negative.  So, I simply made sure I wired up wire with writing up to wire with writing on the various pieces and it all worked like magic.

I'll post pictures of the lighting later...

Overall, the yard is starting to look fantastic.  Just in time for it to rain for 9 months...

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