Over the last few years some clever people have come up with some clever ideas to make your irrigation installation, maintenance, and repair jobs a heck of a lot easier. Installing and maintaining an irrigation system is one of the primary jobs for any landscape contractor or grounds maintenance business.First, there was PVC pipe, followed by electric valves and controllers. Then someone invented electronic controllers and some other guy invented the PVC pipe cutter. What more could there be? A number of things actually and more new ones coming along everyday. 

In this article we’ll examine several of the products that have been developed to make your irrigation maintenance, repair, and installation jobs easier.


The most common irrigation repair is the replacement of broken risers. The elimination of this problem can be solved in several ways. Staking the riser to a piece of re-bar has long been a favorite solution to shrub riser breaks. Some have even tried encasing pop-ups in a concrete collar.
There are several products available today that aid in the solution of broken risers. AMS Plastics produces a variety of “flex” nipples. These nipples are constructed out of flexible polypropylene and polyethylene. Most are 1/2″ by 6″ and some can be shortened to 3″ by cutting off 1/2″ sections of unwanted threads. Another variety of flex-nipples are composed of a rubber body with female PVC threads at either ends coming in a variety of lengths. One company produces a nipple made of rubber with PVC threaded ends except the body is wrapped in a steel spring. These solutions are each effective in their particular environment, but what about a solution to chronic breakage?

The answer came in the form of a composite unit called the swing joint assembly. The swing joint assembly allowed a kicked nipple or stepped on head to “swing” away from the force of the impact via rotation along threaded connections. The first of these had to be constructed with four street ells and a nipple. First, the fitting in the lateral line of the irrigation system had to be installed with its threaded end pointing sideways instead of straight up. If you were installing a shrub riser the following procedure was followed: Thread a marlex street ell into the fitting, another marlex street ell into the first one , and then the nipple. If you were installing a lawn pop-up you would follow this procedure: A marlex street ell was threaded into the fitting, followed by a SCH 40 street ell, then a nipple of desired length, another SCH 40 street ell, and a final marlex street ell. The head was threaded onto the the last street ell, the whole construction was twisted and rotated to insure the head was at the desired depth, and the hole was back filled. That’s a lot of work. If you were installing a new system the vast number of extra fittings and constructions could be bothersome at least. As a solution to that “bother” KBI, (King Brothers Industries), created a product called the “Triple Swing Assembly”. This is a premade swing joint assembly. Movement in all directions is still achieved, but best of all, it comes as a single unit! The need for the handling of many extra fittings is eliminated as well as the bother of on-site construction.

The second most common head “repair” problem is the replacement of stolen or “missing” heads. You know what a “missing” head is don’t you? It’s a head that decided “all on its own” to become part of someone else’s irrigation system. KBI has two products that go a long way to reducing head theft.



The first product is called “Head-Lok”. Made of SCH 80 PVC and available in 1/2″, 3/4″ and 1″ sizes these fittings make it nearly impossible for someone to unscrew a pop-up and walk off with it. The Head-Lok is a short nipple with male/female threaded ends that swivels around it’s middle. The male end is threaded into the fitting on the pipe and the head nipple is threaded into the female end of the Head-Lok. Any attempt to remove the head causes the female threaded end to rotate while the male threaded end remains securely fitted to the pipe fitting. Removal of a pop-up requires the thief to dig a hole and remove the head with two wrenches.
The second product is called “Impact Head-Lok”. This is a short galvanized F X F threaded nipple in 1/2″, 3/4″, and 1″ sizes. The Impact Head-Lok is installed between the sprinkler head and the lateral line. Two socket set screws at the upper ends of the side of the Impact Head-Lok are tightened with an allen wrench. The socket set screws are tightened against the threads of the impact head and the head nipple thus preventing quick and easy removal by thieves or vandals.

For making repairs of lateral and main line breaks there are a series of products called compression fittings. They are available in many sizes and styles. The most common is the compression coupling. There are also compression tees with or without threads, as well as threaded and slip adapters.

KBI has developed a product along the idea of a compression coupling called “Quick-Fix”. The major difference between the Quick-Fix and the standard quick coupler is that Quick-Fix has telescoping pipe on either side with ends like attached slip couplings. You simply loosen the adjustment nuts at both ends, adjust the telescoping ends to the desired length, glue the ends to the pipe, and tighten the adjusting nuts.


AMS Plastics has developed a product called “Slip-Fix”. It’s a telescoping coupling with slip fitting-type ends. The body of the Slip-Fix seals itself with a compression coupling-type seal. The Slip-Fix eliminates the problems of “backing off” and is available with a threaded adapter thus becoming an inexpensive union for valve replacement.
You’ve probably all had the joy of replacing valves, especially one located in the middle of a large and complex valve manifold. You probably also discovered how nice it would have been if all those valves had been installed with threaded unions or Slip-Fixes haven’t you? And how about the job of valve manifold reconstruction or even initial construction?

Well, worry no more! AMS Plastics has developed a clever product called “Pre-Set One-Piece Manifold Tee”. This product is a pre-built valve manifold available in 3/4″ and 1″ sizes with two or three outlet ports. Each of the outlet ports are properly aligned along the length of the pipe and at the proper spacing. The one piece construction eliminates the worry of leaky fittings. It also comes with a “key and groove” feature that insures proper alignment when you use two or more units in series. This is a product that can save lots of time.

Another broken pipe complaint involves pipe installed above ground, especially on slopes. Standard white PVC does not survive well in the real world of sunlight. That’s why Brownline Pipe Company developed a product they call “Brownline UVR PVC”. Brownline is PVC pipe that is resistant to the ravages of sunlight, particularly ultraviolet radiation. Ultraviolet radiation is what destroys regular white PVC. It’s what causes regular white PVC to become brittle and to fall apart. Since Brownline is PVC it’s much easier to install than galvanized and much more versatile. It’s also not subject to the myriad problems that affect galvanized such as corrosion from chemicals such as fertilizer and herbicides.

Brownline (named for its tan or light brown coloration) is Sch 40 and available in 1/2″ to 2″ sizes. A complete range of fittings is also available. To compliment the system they have also developed a Non-Drain Valve to eliminate low head drainage and a nipple and pipe stabilizer made of a heavy duty square steel stake with adjustable extensions.

NDS, (National Diversified Sales) has a unique product called “Spee-D-Drip Edge”. This product solves two problems. Made of extruded black polyethylene it can serve as border edge and a drip line. The top edge is a hollow tube, extra thick on the lawn side to withstand the punishment of line trimmers. Clever!

NIS (National Irrigation Specialists) have come up with a few clever products themselves. The first one is an irrigation system analyzer called “Checkmate II”. This product was developed to save you lots of time and trouble in locating and determining electrical system failures in valves, solenoids, and the wiring. It is basically an electronic trouble shooter. It can perform several very important tests quickly and simply.

Since the Checkmate II has a sufficient internal power supply, it can activate a properly working solenoid. By connecting the test leads to the solenoid you can determine if the solenoid is or is not working, if it’s mechanically malfunctioning, if the coil is burned out, or if it’s drawing too much power. You can also perform these tests at the controller. You can test the wires from the valve to the controller. By connecting the Checkmate II at the valve and activating the valve station at the controller you can find out if the valve is receiving current from the controller. You can also test the individual station at the controller to determine if the controller is activating the station in question. There are no switches or dials to adjust on the Checkmate II. All you have to do is connect the test leads to the appropriate connections at the valve, solenoid, or controller and let the unit do its thing.

Another clever device made by NIS is the “Switch-Hitter”. This unit is an auxiliary controller. It allows you to turn a valve station into a multiple valve station without having to run more wires from the controller to the valve box. Available in either two or four station models it allows you to upgrade a system simply and efficiently as well as bypass broken wires, thus avoiding the problem of replacing hundreds of feet of wire running under sidewalks or other obstacles.

A good example would be a typical irrigation situation. You have all encountered the problem of of an irrigated zone encompassing several lawn areas with varying water requirements. One half of the lawn needs ten minutes of water and the other half needs five minutes. The result is either a swampy area that makes mowing or maintenance difficult or a desert area which is unsightly. The Switch-Hitter allows you to install another valve to be run off the same station controller. One valve would be for the high water requirement area and the other for the low water need area. The Switch-Hitter is installed in-line between the valve and the controller. The controller is set to water for fifteen minutes. Switch-Hitter station A is set for five minutes and station B is set for ten minutes. And there you have it! Each lawn area receives the proper amount of water. Your garden and landscaping will appreciate it.

NIS also makes a universal solenoid called “Super Max”. This product allows you to replace nearly any solenoid. It comes with a threaded adapter, different length plungers, and different dimension “O” rings.

So, there you have it. This is by no means a complete review of the many time, money, and labor saving devices available for irrigation specialists and others in the Green Industry, but it should give you a pretty good idea of the kinds of things you can do to run a more efficient operation.