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Know when to upgrade an irrigation system

Tendering for a project is best done during winter trade show season


February 8, 2017
By Myron Love

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For more than 25 years, Tim Fredericks has been designing irrigation systems. On Friday, Nov. 18, the partner in Fredericks McGuire Ltd., based in Bolton, Ont., shared his experiences in the field with the members of the Manitoba Golf Superintendents Association as one of a roster of speakers at the annual Manitoba Golf Superintendents Association annual general meeting.

“Over the past 20 years, there has been a lot of improvement in technology,” he said in his opening statement.  “Often, though, what hasn’t change in irrigation systems is what’s currently underground. That is why a lot of golf courses need to upgrade their systems.”

How do you know if it is time to upgrade your system? Among the warning signs that Fredericks points out are pipe failures caused by excessive pressure or surges, fittings failing on a regular basis, poor splices or nicks that are leading to costly repairs, and wiring issues leading to loss of turf, to mention a few.

Fredericks’ presentation focused in turn on each of the components – pumps, fittings, pipes, valves, sprinkler heads and more – that make up an irrigation system.

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“The first thing you need to do in designing a new irrigation system or upgrading your current system,” Fredericks noted, “is to identify your specific needs and criteria. How long do you want your system to last? That will determine what hardware you require.

“Do you want polyethylene piping or PVC? PVC joints have a longer life than polyethylene. High-density polyethylene is more effective in challenging terrains such as heavy soil, but there can be a lot more difficulties with polyethylene as the pipes age.”

If a sprinkler system is providing inadequate coverage, he suggests trying a two-headed sprinkler system for more efficient watering. One must also consider how much water is available and how long the system should run.

“The industry norm is six to eight hours at a time,” he said.  “If you want to run more water in a shorter time period, you will need larger pipes.”

Topography also has to be taken into consideration, Fredericks noted. Topography will affect water pressure, he pointed out.

“The ideal is 10 psi,” he said. “Depending on topography and at what level the piping is placed, you can gain or lose 10 pounds of pressure that can affect the efficiency of the system.”

The skill set of the golf course maintenance staff should also be taken into consideration when determining the choice of components in upgrading an irrigation system, he noted.

“It can make a difference in future costs if you have staff with the ability to do repairs on parts of the system as required,” he said.

Fredericks recommends that when designing an irrigation system, the superintendent price out the different components to help meet his budget. He should also look for contractors with a lot of experience, especially in installing PVC piping.

The best time of year to tender an irrigation project, Fredericks said, is in the winter during golf shows.

“Only accept complete tenders and evaluate the tenders for experience and quality of previous work.

“Do not let prospective contractors know what your budget is,” he adds. “Do not let cost be the only criteria in contractor selection. Do not try to play contractors against each other. And do not use neighbouring clubs’ project costs as a guide.”

In terms of budgeting, Fredericks recommends getting unit costing for larger projects, and he warns against underestimating inflation and currency fluctuation.   –