If you have installed a drip irrigation system in your home, you may be wondering if you need a pressure reducer. The last thing you want is your system to fail because of too much pressure. So, do you need a pressure reducer for your drip irrigation system?
You need a pressure reducer for your drip irrigation system if the water pressure in your home is higher than 30 psi. A pressure reducer helps regulate the water pressure in the system, ensuring your plants get the right amount of water while also protecting your drip irrigation system from damage.
The rest of this comprehensive guide will explore other topics related to pressure reducers in drip irrigation systems, including the right pressure level, types of pressure reducers, and how to install one. I’ll also discuss other ways to reduce water pressure in your home if you don’t have access to a pressure reducer.
What Pressure Is Needed for Drip Irrigation?
Drip irrigation requires a water pressure of 15-25 psi to function efficiently. Water companies supply water to most homes at 40-60 psi. This is too much pressure for a drip irrigation system and can cause severe damage, including burst hoses and broken emitters.
A pressure reducer lowers the water pressure to a safe level for use. While some systems can work with pressures as high as 40 psi, they experience premature wear and tear, causing leaks and costly repairs.
It is best to use a pressure reducer with your drip irrigation system to protect your investment and ensure it lasts for many years to come. When in doubt, always err on the side of safety and opt for too little pressure rather than too much.
How a Pressure Reducer Works
The principle behind a drip irrigation system is to supply a small amount of water directly to the roots of plants at low pressure. As the name suggests, a pressure reducer reduces the water pressure in your drip irrigation system. It does so by using a valve to restrict the water flow. This reduced flow of water causes the pressure to drop.
When water from your home’s main supply enters the pressure reducer, the valve opens just enough to allow a small amount of water to flow through. This flow of water creates backpressure that opposingly forces the valve closed, which in turn reduces the water pressure.
As the water pressure decreases, the valve slowly opens until it reaches the preset level. The pressure reducer then maintains the water pressure at this preset level, regardless of changes in the water pressure from the main supply. This consistent water output at a safe pressure prevents damage to your drip irrigation system and reduces leakages that can drive your water bill up.
Types of Pressure Reducers for Drip Irrigation
Pressure reducers are the driving force behind drip irrigation systems, reducing the high water pressure from your home’s main water supply to a safe level for use. There are two main types of pressure reducers depending on their working principle:
Piston Pressure Reducer
Piston pressure reducers, as their name suggests, use a piston and spring system to control the water flow and reduce the pressure. This type of reducer relies on balancing two opposing forces, the force of the spring and the force of water pressure, to function. The downward thrust of the spring allows the water to pass while the upward thrust created by the water pressure reduces or stops the water flow.
When water flows through the piston pressure reducer, the piston is forced down. The spring above the piston pushes back against the water flow, slowing it down and reducing the pressure.
As the water pressure decreases, the spring is compressed further, and the flow of water slows even more. Conversely, as the water pressure increases, the spring expands, and the flow rate speeds up.
Piston pressure reducers are durable, reliable, and maintain constant output pressure, even if the input pressure fluctuates. They are also relatively easy to install and maintain. As a result, they’re very popular among gardeners.
Diaphragm Pressure Reducer
A diaphragm pressure reducer utilizes a flexible rubber diaphragm to reduce the water pressure. It relies on the water pressure to keep the diaphragm in place and seal the housing. The water pressure also sets the predetermined output pressure of the unit.
The diaphragm is connected to a control valve that regulates the flow of water. As water flows into the diaphragm pressure reducer, it fills the housing and creates water pressure. This pressure pushes against the diaphragm, forcing it downward. The downward force on the diaphragm opens the control valve and allows water to flow out at reduced pressure.
As the water pressure decreases, the diaphragm moves upward, closing the control valve and stopping the water flow. Similarly, as the water pressure increases, the diaphragm moves downward, opening the control valve and allowing water to flow out.
Diaphragm pressure reducers are highly efficient in high-pressure systems, significantly reducing strain and stress on your drip irrigation system. However, they require more maintenance than piston pressure reducers as the diaphragm is susceptible to deterioration and damage over time.
Factors To Consider When Selecting a Pressure Reducer for Your Drip Irrigation System
Now that you know the basics of pressure reducers and their working mechanisms, it’s time to select the right pressure reducer for your drip irrigation system. Consider the following:
Water Pressure and Flow Rate
The first thing you need to do is determine the water pressure and flow rate of your home’s main water supply. This will help you narrow down the list of potential pressure reducers as different units have different maximum flow rates and water pressure capacities.
Type of Drip Irrigation System
The type of drip irrigation system you have will also dictate the type of pressure reducer you need. A low-pressure piston pressure reducer should suffice if you have a simple system with just a few emitters. However, if you have a complex system with numerous emitters, you’ll need a high-pressure diaphragm pressure reducer to ensure constant and reliable water flow.
Operating Pressure and Flow Rate
You also need to consider your drip irrigation system’s operating pressure and flow rate. Most systems have an operating pressure level of 15-40 PSI and a flow rate of 0.5-4 GPM. Select a pressure reducer that can comfortably handle your system’s operating pressure and flow rate without putting too much strain on the unit.
The quality of your water supply will also dictate the type of pressure reducer you need. For example, if you have hard water, you’ll need a pressure reducer with an internal filter to prevent sediment and minerals from buildup and clogging the unit.
Finally, you need to consider the cost of the pressure reducer. Pressure reducers can range in price from $30-$200, depending on the features and specs. Choose a unit that fits your budget but also has the capabilities to meet the demands of your drip irrigation system.
There are multiple good ones available online or at your closest hardware store. On Amazon you can find multiple good ones, sometimes specifically for irrigation systems. Besides Amazon, Home Depot has a great variety of pressure reducers.
Installing a Pressure Reducer in Your Drip Irrigation System
Once you’ve selected the correct pressure reducer for your drip irrigation system, it’s time to install the unit. The installation process will vary depending on the type of pressure reducer you have, but here are the general steps:
- Turn off the water supply to your home and open all the faucets to release any residual water pressure in the system.
- Cut into the main water line using a pipe cutter and solder a fitting onto the end of the cut pipe.
- Connect one end of the pressure reducer to the main water line fitting and secure it with pipe dope or Teflon tape.
- Connect the other end of the pressure reducer to your drip irrigation system and turn on the water supply.
- Adjust the pressure reducer until it delivers the desired flow rate and pressure.
However, if you don’t have the time, patience, or skills to install a pressure reducer in your drip irrigation system, you can always hire a professional plumber to do it for you. They have the tools and expertise to do the job quickly and efficiently. They can also advise you on the best type of pressure reducer for your particular drip irrigation system.
Tips for Maintaining Your Pressure Reducer
Once you have a pressure reducer installed in your drip irrigation system, it’s essential to maintain the unit to ensure it continues to operate properly. Here are a few tips for maintaining your pressure reducer:
- Check the unit regularly for leaks and ensure all the connections are tight.
- If you have a filter on your pressure reducer, clean or replace it as needed to prevent sediment and mineral buildup.
- Check the pilot diaphragm and relief valve regularly to ensure they work correctly.
- Replace the pressure reducer every few years or as needed to ensure it continues to operate effectively.
By following these tips, you can keep your pressure reducer in good working condition and prevent costly repairs down the road.
Other Ways To Reduce Water Pressure
In addition to installing a pressure reducer, there are other ways to reduce water pressure in your drip irrigation system. Here are a few other approaches:
Use a Flow Control Valve
Flow control valves regulate the amount of water flowing through your drip irrigation system. As the water flows through the flow control valve, the valve automatically adjusts the flow rate to maintain consistent pressure.
This is ideal if you have an extensive drip irrigation system with multiple zones. Flow control valves are available in different shapes and sizes, so you’re sure to find one that fits your needs.
Install an Adjustable Pressure Regulator
An adjustable pressure regulator is similar to a pressure reducer but doesn’t reduce the water pressure in your system. Instead, it maintains a constant low water pressure in your drip irrigation system, regardless of changes in the main water supply.
This is an ideal solution if you live in an area with fluctuating water pressure. While pressure regulators vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, most units are easy to install and don’t require any special tools or skills.
Install a Backflow Preventer
Installing a backflow preventer is another excellent way to reduce water pressure in your drip irrigation system. Backflow preventers are devices that allow water to flow in one direction only.
When water hits the backflow preventer, it loses a bit of pressure, which reduces the overall water pressure in your system. However, backflow preventers can be tricky to install, so it’s best to hire a professional plumber to do it for you.
Important: Check out my article with legal info about backflow preventers installed in irrigation systems.
Control the Water Pressure at the Source
Reducing the water pressure at the source is another effective way to reduce water pressure in your drip irrigation system. There are a few different ways you can do this, depending on the type of water supply you have.
If you have a municipal water supply, you can install a pressure-reducing valve (PRV) at the main shut-off valve. PRVs are devices that automatically reduce the water pressure coming into your home or business. Consult a qualified plumber to assess whether a PRV suits your needs and have them install the valve for you.
If you have a private well, you can install a submersible pump with an adjustable pressure switch. You can regulate the water pressure by adjusting the pressure switch. This is a relatively simple installation, but it’s always best to hire a professional to do it for you.
Installing a pressure reducer in your drip irrigation system is an excellent way to reduce water pressure and keep your system running smoothly. It also prevents water leakage, which can significantly drive your utility bill up.
However, there are a few other ways to reduce water pressure in your system, including installing a flow control valve, an adjustable pressure regulator, or a backflow preventer. If you’re unsure which method is most suitable for you, consult a qualified irrigation specialist. They will assess your individual needs and recommend the best solution.