Drip Irrigation: PSI And Pressure Regulators

Drip irrigation is the one of the most efficient plant-watering methods out there. However, many people may feel a bit intimidated when they find out that regulating water pressure is a necessary step for success with a drip irrigation system. Fear not! Managing your system’s water pressure is actually very simple.

A standard drip irrigation system has a water pressure somewhere between 15 and 35 PSI. For starters, it’s recommended that you begin at 25 PSI and then adjust based on the results. Even if your garden’s water source flows at low city pressure naturally, it’s still advised that you use a regulator.

Now that you’ve got the general idea, let’s take a closer look at the need for a pressure regulator in a drip irrigation system as well as some important tips you may need before picking out a pressure regulator for yourself.

Does Drip Irrigation Need a Certain PSI?

Blueberries field drip irrigation system

Yes, in order for your drip irrigation system (on Amazon) to operate properly, your water should be between 15 and 35 PSI. A standard drip irrigation should be around 25 pounds per square inch (PSI) in order to function optimally. We say “around” 25 PSI because many emitters rated at 25 PSI will still work well at pressures all the way down to 15 PSI.

The emitters will output water at a slightly slower rate if the pressure is below 25 PSI, but you can make up for this by just letting them water for longer periods.

You want to stay around this golden number of 25 PSI. If your pressure is too high, your fittings may pop off, and your drippers may start squirting water instead of dripping. However, if your pressure is too low, your water flow will be inconsistent, and your system won’t be running optimally.

It’s recommended that you find the perfect water pressure for your drip irrigation system in order to have your garden running at 100%

Is Pressure Regulation Necessary?

Yes, pressure regulators are a necessary addition to your pressure regulation system. Pressure regulators will work to insure that your drip irrigation system is safe from leaks, premature system damage, emitter blowouts, and inconsistent water application. You need a pressure regulator (on Amazon) if you want a properly working drip irrigation system.

Even if your water naturally flows at a PSI that falls between 15 and 35, you’ll still want to use a pressure regulator. Water flowing from your home likely doesn’t have a consistent flow. It will have both sudden spikes of water pressure and sudden drops in water pressure. Pressure regulators will regulate this water pressure and thus protect your system from any damage these spikes and drops would’ve caused.

Things to Know When Picking Out a Pressure Regulator

New drip irrigation system in greenhouse

By now, you’ve probably been convinced that buying a pressure regulator is a necessary step to setting up your drip irrigation system. However, there are a few things you need to consider before picking one out. Here are a couple of important tips to learn before you go hunting for the perfect pressure regulator.

Regulators or Reducers

The most important thing to remember when you’re out looking for a pressure regulator for your drip irrigation system is to make sure that you buy a pressure regulator and not a pressure reducer. Both are intended for use in drip irrigation systems, but they don’t do the same things.

The pressure regulator is the device you want. A pressure regulator helps you by maintaining a consistent level of water pressure, even under the influence of potential surges or drops in water pressure. This is where pressure reducers fall short. A pressure reducer just takes water and reduces it to the pressure you set it to. It will not adapt to any potential surges or drop in water pressure.

This means that if you make a drip irrigation system using only pressure reducers, your system is vulnerable to damage in case of any water surges, and your drip emitters will have an inconsistent water flow. However, as mentioned earlier, pressure reducers are made for use in drip irrigation systems. If they can’t be used here, then what are they used for?

Pressure reducers are useful if your garden has plants with different water needs. If you have a plant that needs less water than the plants on the same watering system, you can simply put a pressure reducer before it, and it’ll have water coming at it at a slower pace.

For people with gardens like this, it’s recommended that you buy a pressure regulator as well as one or more pressure reducers depending on how many different kinds of plants you have. However, for most gardeners, just buying the pressure regulator will get the job done.

Maximum Inlet Pressure

Every pressure regulator you buy will have a value listed as its maximum inlet pressure. This value can usually be found on the packaging. Inlet pressure is the pressure of the water that flows into your pressure regulator. Before you buy your pressure regulator, make sure to compare this maximum inlet pressure with the water pressure of your garden’s water source.

If your garden’s water pressure is higher than the maximum inlet pressure of your pressure regulator, that pressure regulator will not work in your system. If you use that pressure regulator in your garden, not only will it not work, it’s also extremely likely to break altogether. Once again, it’s highly recommended that you check these values before buying a pressure regulator.

It’s also worth noting that there’s no real minimum inlet pressure. As long as you provide it with enough water, your pressure regulator should be able to work with any water pressure below its maximum inlet pressure.

Adjustable and PreSet Pressure Regulators

When looking for the perfect pressure regulator for you, there’s one more thing you need to think about: There are actually two different kinds of pressure regulators — adjustable or preset, and it’s very important for you to check which one yours is before you buy. Despite the fact that they’re both pressure regulators, they get the job done in different ways.

Adjustable pressure regulators (on Amazon) are the more flexible ones, as they allow you to adjust the pressure of the water flowing into your irrigation system. If you buy an adjustable pressure regulator and set it to 25 PSI and later find that this pressure is too high, you can simply lower the PSI of your adjustable pressure regulator. However, this same thing can’t be said for preset pressure regulators.

Preset pressure regulators (on Amazon) change the water pressure of your system to a water pressure determined by the regulator’s manufacturer. You can’t adjust the output water pressure on a preset pressure regulator.

In our same hypothetical scenario as earlier, if you were to buy a 25 PSI pressure regulator and later find that this pressure is too high, you would need to go to the store and buy another preset pressure regulator set to a lower PSI.

All of this info may have some of you wondering: Why would anyone ever buy a preset pressure regulator if an adjustable pressure regulator is just better? The answer to this is simple: price. Preset pressure regulators cost less than adjustable pressure regulators.

If you’re trying to save money, or if you’re just confident in the necessary water pressure for your system, using a preset pressure regulator may be an option worth considering.

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