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Ground Sprinkler System Costs
Even in areas that receive higher-than-average rainfall, the inconsistency of rain makes it necessary to manually water lawns and landscaping in order to keep them full and verdant. The alternative to time-consuming hand watering is a lawn sprinkler system. Not only will a sprinkler system save you time, but it also conserves water (up to 25%) through its more efficient delivery system. Sprinkler system installation is cheaper than most homeowners think and DIY installation can save homeowners 30 to 40 percent over professional installation.
How a Lawn Sprinkler System Works
The “perfect lawn” is a bit of an American obsession. The Lawn Institute estimates that Americans spend around $6.4 billion each year on lawn care in an effort to ensure that the grass isn't greener on the other side of the fence.
One major step towards the best lawn on the block is a sprinkler system. We've all seen (and some of us have been the unwitting victims of) water-spitting sprinkler heads, but these are just the visible portion of an irrigation system. The entire system consists of:
- The controller: a small computer that's installed in the garage or other out-of-the-way place and controls the activation and timing of the sprinkler system.
- Valves: connected to the controller is a system of valves—set in underground, easy-to-access boxes—that open/close to release/stop water flowing through underground pipes to the sprinklers.
- Piping: PVC pipes buried 1-2 feet below the lawn's surface carry water to the sprinklers heads.
- Sprinkler heads: Each sprinkler system “zone” has around 5-10 sprinkler heads that pop-up when activated and distribute water to the surrounding area.
Lawn Sprinkler System Average Costs
The actual cost of a lawn sprinkler system depends on a variety of factors, including:
- Property size, shape, and slope
- Soil condition
- The number of zones
- Type of landscaping
- The quality of the system components
- Local labor and material costs
Bearing in mind these cost factors, the average cost of a professionally-installed lawn irrigation system is $500-$1,000 per zone, or around $2,500 to $5,000 for a typical ½ acre lot.
Note, however, that zones are, proportional to the entire system cost, cheaper to install. This means that sprinkler system installation on a 4,000 sq. ft. lawn, for example, isn't necessary twice as expensive as on a 2,000 sq. ft. lawn.
Installing a sprinkler system as a do-it-yourself project can result in significant savings. Popular Mechanics provides this step-by-step how-to guide. This Old House also shows you how to install in-ground sprinklers.
There is some maintenance associated with a sprinkler system. Parts must be periodically replaced (plan on $100-$150 for a new timer, $25-$35 per zone for valves, $20-$25 for a valve box, $20-$30 per rotor head and $10-$15 per spray head, plus labor charges if hiring a professional.) You can perform repairs yourself, as explained by The Family Handyman.
During the fall you should also winterize the sprinkler system. Professional sprinkler winterizing costs roughly $75 to $150.