Drip Irrigation conversion

With California’s drought continuing through its 4th year now, we are all being asked to conserve water and cut our usage by 20-30% from a couple of years ago. One of the biggest areas of usage for most folks is landscape irrigation (i.e., sprinklers).
When we did the landscape revision in 2008, we weren’t really thinking about this and everything put in was a spray head. There was some duplication in areas, although not a lot. And, of course, we now have mature plants, which don’t need as much water. So we’ve combined 5 spray circuits into 2 drip circuits. It’s been interesting learning about the tools and options out there.

We have a mixture of Rainbird’s 1800 heads and Unispray heads.  The Unisprays are mostly in areas where we wanted a really short throw (2′ or so). I didn’t want to have to dig up all of these sprinkler heads, so was happy to learn that Rainbird makes caps for the 1800 heads (part# 1800CAPOFF), although they are often hard to find.  Most stores geared towards retail customers won’t even know that they exist.  Unfortunately, they don’t make caps for the Unispray heads.  Nor do they make “blank” nozzles that don’t actually deliver water when under pressure.  Rainbird also makes some nice drip conversion pieces and sets, with “Easy Fit” connections.  More on this below.

My limiting factor was which sprinkler heads I could cap off.  I started with just reducing the number on one circuit by capping half.  Then I went to a circuit where we only had a couple of plants left (and no plans to replace the others), just to reduce the volume used when watering.  And then I thought it would make more sense to convert to drip.  Our local Orchard Supply Hardware store had the Rainbird conversion kit (RCKIT1PK), and we had some leftover parts from when we first bought the house, so I figured it would be easy.  It mostly was.   I converted one circuit along the fence, with the star jasmine and some other shrubs.  The biggest problem was finding the 1800 heads, buried now under leaves and ground cover that had blown up to the fence line.  I capped all of those heads, except the one that I put the conversion on.  It worked well.  And then I realized that it would be easier to extend that line to cover the entire fence and I wouldn’t have to worry about how to cap off the Unisprays – I could just turn off that entire circuit.  I did the same thing around the side and back of the house, which converted three spray circuits into one drip circuit.


Now to figure out what to do with the “back 40” area, which is three more circuits.  Some of the plants there are looking pretty over-grown, so we may replant to something a bit more drought-tolerant and switch to drip at the same time.


Rainbird Easy-Fit Connectors – a mini-review:

These include straight, elbow and T connectors, as well as 1/2″ and 3/4″ adapters (male and female, designed to screw on to the kit or onto the end of a pipe), and a Flush Cap adapter.

RainbirdEasyFitPartsYou can easily slide your 1/2″ hose onto the connectors.  The nice thing here is that you are basically wedging the hose between two layers, so the increased pressure when there is water in the pipe actually helps to keep the connection tight and leak-proof.  But you can also take it all back apart as you wish.

However, the adapters “click” into place and cannot be easily removed.  This does not seem to be what they had intended (especially given the flush cap adapter).  Perhaps there is a separate sort of tool that is needed to be able to separate the parts, but if so, it’s not something they have information about on their website.  Basically, you need something that will slip down between the adapter and the connector wall that will push apart the two pieces so you can pull them apart.

The kit is relatively easy to find, which includes the replacement body (which you don’t have to use), the filter, a T connector and the 1/2″ female adapter (MDCF50FPT).  The rest of the pieces are available through Rainbird, some on-line retailers, and some commercial landscape supply stores.