Protecting Sprinkler Heads
Sprinkler heads are the workhorses of your sprinkler system, and the parts most exposed to damaging elements. Replacing a sprinkler head isn't a difficult task, but does require some digging and a bit of a care. It's not expensive to replace sprinkler heads, with most running somewhere between $10 and $20 per head. Take steps to protect your sprinkler heads so that you can go for longer periods without having to replace one.
Be Sure Sprinkler Heads Are Buried Properly
You want to make sure that your sprinkler heads don't reach more than one-half inch above ground level. If the head protrudes any higher, it will mostly likely get hit by mower blades and destroyed. If it's at ground level or lower, it's going to get clogged very easily with grass clippings, sand and dirt. If you find sprinkler heads that stand up too high, carefully dig around them until you reach the pipeline, then dig below it a little so that it will sit deeper in the ground.
Winter Sprinkler Head Protection
Following the directions given by the manufacturer of your brand of sprinkler system, drain the system before your area freezes for the first time each winter. The water lines should be well below freeze level, but connected pipes could be within freezing range. Any water trapped inside the sprinkler heads can freeze and expand, causing cracks and breaks and requiring that the heads be replaced.
Automatic Drain Valves
These valves go below sprinkler heads and in certain parts of the pipeline and allow water to drain back out of the system when it isn't running. This prevents the system being full of water and breaking when it freezes. These are best added during installation. If you don't have these, be sure and manually drain the system before the first freeze of each year.
Invest in Donuts
Sprinkler head donuts are round objects with a hole in the center. You place them over your pop-up sprinkler heads. You can find these in a variety of materials, like recycled rubber or mulch, and even concrete. These donuts prevent a mower or trimmer from running over the sprinkler heads as they'll hit the side of the donut which sit just above the head, and make it less likely someone will roll over them. The natural material donuts look better in your yard or garden, but the concrete donuts stay put. Lighter materials can sometimes float up and over the sprinkler heads in a heavy rains, but heavier materials will stay in place no matter what the weather. This is inexpensive protection to help keep your sprinkler heads from being broken.
Install Swing Joints
Swing joints are fittings that let the sprinkler heads move. If the heads are run over or bumped by a vehicle or other item like a mower, the sprinkler heads can move and shift out of the way. This prevents the pipe below from being damaged as easily from a heavy item like a vehicle rolling over the head, and can prevent damage to the sprinkler heads, too.