How Does A Sprinkler System Work?

Wondering how does a sprinkler system work? We all know that these amazing devices can keep your garden looking healthy and green during the hot summer months, but how are they designed? Can you install a lawn sprinkler system yourself? 

Learn more about how a sprinkler system works with our handy guide below.

Sprinkler Systems Components & Design

Curious about all the moving parts that make up a sprinkler system? Below we list the main components and design features to help you learn how a sprinkler system works.

Main Line

This is the main pipe that is connected to a water source. Water will be drawn through this pipe and dispersed across your yard depending on how many additional pipe ramifications you need. 

You’d only need this line if your yard were small enough to be fed by a single spigot. However, most yards or lawn areas require diverging pipes to cover the full area.

Pipe Ramifications

These are pipes that are connected to the main pipe and are fed with water through this line. These pipes define the zone lines of your sprinkler system, meaning that they are laid out to cover the area that needs watering perfectly.

When designing how a sprinkler system works, it’s important to ensure that pipe ramifications are measured exactly to the dimensions of your yard. This must be calculated against the power of the sprinkler heads to ensure even coverage and prevent patches of the lawn from becoming double-watered. This can cause waterlogging or uneven growth.

Shut-Off Valves

Shut-off valves are installed in the main pipe. The main shut-off valve fully cuts off the water being fed to the unit. This is an essential safety device in the case of leaking pipes. If a pipe is leaking and water continues to seep through, it could cause damage to your lawn. The shut-off valves in additional pipes can be used to prevent water from flowing to a certain zone, which means that you can address leaky pipes locally instead of shutting down the whole unit.

Backflow Preventer

This is an important part of the unit that stops residual water in your pipes from flowing back to the water source. This could cause contamination of the local water supply. Knowing how to install an effective backflow preventer is vital to understanding how a sprinkler system works and is a major reason we suggest hiring a professional.

Sprinkler Zones

These are the areas fed by pipe ramifications. Your contractor will draw up sprinkler zones according to the size of your yard and use them to measure the length of pipes that need installing.


The controller is used to turn the unit on and off. Depending on how advanced your unit is, the controller could turn the water on and off on a clock or perform other useful functions.

Sprinkler Heads

sprinkler system

These are the spigots that distribute the water. They will be installed centrally in the sprinkler ones in your yard. It’s important to routinely inspect these heads for damage or blockages, as they could cause uneven distribution.

How Do Irrigation Systems Work?

Irrigation refers to the network of pipes that channel water around your yard. They are connected to a primary water source used for other applications in your area, which is why the backflow preventer is so important. You don’t want water that may have had contact with soil or been sitting stagnant in pipes running into the local drinking water supply.

So how do garden sprinklers work using this water? When the unit is switched on, a valve is opened. Water is then pulled through the pipes and distributed across your lawn through spigots. It’s the same method used to provide water through a tap, just with a few more pipes and spigots.

The pipes are typically buried 6-12 inches beneath your lawn. This is partially why installing the unit yourself is not always a good idea: a neat installation isn’t as easy as it sounds. Lawn care is as much about not tearing the lawn up as keeping it watered!

Related: Who To Call For Drainage Issues?

Can I Set Up a Sprinkler System Myself?

You might be wondering whether you can install one of these fixtures in your yard by yourself. The answer is that it’s almost always best to have a professional service install them for you. Setting up irrigation is complicated and challenging, and you could do a lot of damage to your lawn without the proper knowledge and training.

The goal of the unit is to disperse water evenly across your yard to keep your lawn healthy. This means:

  • Setting up pipes that divert water to the right places
  • Ensuring there are no spots that are left dry or get doubly soaked by overlapping spigots
  • Making sure there are shut-off valves and a backflow preventer in place to control the volume and quality of the water
  • Installing the right kind of controller for your yard

Your best bet is to contact a professional who will survey your yard and draw up a bespoke solution. Acquiring and installing the right parts is difficult and costly, and you’ll likely end up with better results if it’s done professionally.

How to Work a Sprinkler System

How Does A Sprinkler System Work

Knowing how a sprinkler system works is interesting, but the practical question is how to work a sprinkler system. Many controllers allow you to turn it on and off manually but also have a timer function. This can provide water at the ideal time of day (often early morning) without requiring you to wake up and switch the system on yourself.

When determining how long you want your sprinklers to be on, it’s important to consider:

  • What you’re using them to water (lawns have different requirements from other plants and trees)
  • Whether there are any local regulations on how long you can have the unit on. Areas affected by drought or water shortages may have regulations in this area.

How a Sprinkler System Works: A Simple Way to Maintain a Beautiful Lawn

Every homeowner knows it can be difficult to maintain a healthy lawn by hand, especially for larger properties. The luxury of keeping your lawn perfectly watered on a set schedule is a huge advantage of having a sprinkler system. There’s less pressure to maintain your grass and more time to enjoy your property with your family.

However, you must be familiar with how a sprinkler system works to ensure that your lawn receives amazing care every day. So keep our sprinkler system guide in mind as you prepare to give your lawn the hydration it deserves! If you’re in the Sacramento area and want more help with your sprinkler and landscape needs, be sure to give us a call!


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