A win-win situation

High-efficiency nozzles save time and money for you and your customers.

Here’s a heads-up for landscapers who install irrigation systems: Using high-efficiency nozzles instead of traditional models provides the proverbial win-win situation for you and your customers.

On the customer side, high-efficiency nozzles can reduce water usage, decrease water bills and provide better, more consistent coverage, which translates into nicer-looking lawns and landscapes. On the contractor’s side of the equation, the high-efficiency models aren’t significantly more expensive and offer better watering coverage. This results in fewer profit-killing callbacks to keep readjusting inconsistent sprinkler systems.

“From my experience, our customers average about a 10 to 15 percent savings in water usage with high-efficiency nozzles,” says Darren Nosseck, account manager at Jensen Landscape Services in San Jose, Calif. In fact, in one test installation for a client who owns a shopping mall and needed to meet a local mandate to reduce water usage by 30 percent, converting from older nozzles to Rain Bird 5000 series high-efficiency nozzles resulted in a 41 percent reduction in water usage.

“It was a huge success,” Nosseck says. “I was quite ecstatic about that and so was the client.”

A key benefit of high-efficiency nozzles is minimal misting, so less water is lost to evaporation. With traditional nozzles, Nosseck estimates that misting causes clients to lose 10 to 20 percent of their water to evaporation because the water droplets are so small they never hit the ground. Moreover, older nozzles can leak after the sprinkler system is turned off, but Rain Bird technology features check valves that create a strong, leak-proof seal after the sprinkler heads pop down, he says.

Better pressure control.

With traditional systems, the water pressure at each sprinkler head decreases incrementally the farther they’re located from a water valve, and coverage consistency decreases accordingly.

“But the Rain Bird heads are pressure-compensating,” he says. “All the heads put out the same pressure and flow, so you won’t have a burnt spot at the end because there’s less pressure, which we used to see a lot. That’s important because commercially, you can’t have a dead-looking lawn. It’s just not acceptable.”

Nosseck says he doesn’t have to worry about different nozzle sizes to increase the pressure at the end of a row, making installation faster and adjustments fewer.

It wasn’t unusual for Jensen crews to go back and spend two or three more hours making sprinkler-system adjustments on a job the company had already invoiced. “You can’t invoice the customer for that time,” he says. “And the fact that you have to keep going back and forth doesn’t look good to the client, either ... It makes it look like we don’t know what we’re doing.”

More effective coverage.

At TerraWorks Landscaping in Salt Lake City, owner Paul Sannar says the use of high-efficiency nozzles has become more commonplace in his market, for both new installations and upgrades.

“When we retrofit existing systems, we almost always use high-efficiency nozzles,” he says. “For new installations, about 60 percent of customers go with high-efficiency nozzles. We’re in the third year of a drought, so people are realizing they need to be better stewards of water.”

Sannar also cites less misting and more consistent and accurate spraying coverage as primary reasons to use or convert to high-efficiency nozzles. “With traditional nozzles, we often had to install more nozzles to get more coverage,” he says. “But with high-efficiency nozzles, the spray patterns are more consistent – and lawns are healthier when they get the right amount of water.”

Another consideration: Over-spraying or leaky valves that produce excess water runoff can damage clients’ assets, such as driveways and parking lots. “Water is one of the worst things for asphalt,” Nosseck says.

“If water sits in low spots before evaporating, it breaks down the asphalt and eventually destroys it.

“So when you’re making a repair, do you want to replace a broken sprinkler head with another leaky head without a check valve, or replace it with one that has a check valve and a pressure-compensating feature that prevents the head from leaking onto their asphalt?” he asks.

“It’s a no-brainer. If you’ve been over-spraying for years and not giving a client suggestions about how to fix it, and they need $200,000 in asphalt repairs that a contractor says was caused by years of over-spraying, that can get you fired in an instant.”

Still not a slam dunk.

Despite all the benefits, high-efficiency nozzles aren’t always an easier sell, Sannar says. In his market, for instance, about 80 percent of people use what’s known as secondary water (unfiltered water from holding ponds) to irrigate their yards.

For about a $50 to $80 annual flat fee, homeowners can use as much water as they want, which diminishes the motivation to spend a little more on high-efficiency nozzles.

Nosseck says he sometimes encounters clients who don’t have money budgeted for an irrigation system upgrade. So he asks them to consider including it in the next year’s budget, and emphasizes that reducing water usage will help pay for the upgrade. Moreover, manufacturers often offer a better warranty for a complete sprinkler system replacement compared to nozzle replacement, he says.

On the other hand, with more and more municipalities levying fines for excess water runoff and approving drought-induced watering restrictions, Nosseck says he’s also seeing more clients upgrade their sprinkler systems even if the cost is not in their current budgets.

“Now it’s all about being proactive with customers, not waiting for them to get a fine or a warning,” he says.

Sannar also observes that environmental awareness and municipal water restrictions are motivating customers to make the switch.

“We’ve even seen some cases of ‘water shaming,’” he says, in which people call a local radio station to complain about neighbors who water their lawns during the middle of a day or a day after a rainfall.

In addition, Sannar says local government agencies are offering rebates to customers who convert their sprinkler systems to more advanced technologies.

Little training required.

Both Nosseck and Sannar say there’s very little additional training required and no need for additional equipment in order to make the switch to high-efficiency nozzles.

In the end, lower water bills and increased eco-consciousness are paving the way for conversions, Sannar says. “Instead of over-watering, people are giving their lawns what they need, when they need it – and their water bills will be lower, too,” he says.

“If we don’t manage water effectively, it affects all of us. We don’t want to get to the point where we’re tearing out landscapes and going to xeriscaping. It’s much better to just be smart about how we use our water.”


Ken Wysocky is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee.

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