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Prepare sprinklers and air conditioning units for the summer

By: Sarah Wojcik | Metro | Published May 5, 2021

METRO DETROIT — Pollen is in the air and the sound of lawn mowers revving up for the first time can be heard around subdivisions everywhere.

With the advent of warmer weather, experts weighed in on what homeowners should do to prepare for summer in Michigan — the season of sprinklers and air conditioning.


Sprinkler systems
Bill Dorton, owner of Blue Line Irrigation, said his company is busy this time of year doing what he calls the “spring startup.”

“We come out there and turn on the water service, the vacuum breaker, and then from there, we get water out to the sprinkler system, check for leaks and make sure the main line is pressurized,” Dorton said. “From there, we go through each zone of the sprinklers. All sprinklers are made into zones, and we look for leaks, broken heads and make sure the valves are operating properly.”

He said that once the initial once-over is complete, Blue Line quotes the customer for the repairs that are needed, and from there, they fix them.

“We set the timers and set pairing settings,” Dorton said. “There are usually three different settings — spring, midseason and fall — and we set it up with the spring setting then.”

He explained that the spring setting generally waters lawns three days a week on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule.

“In the spring, we always get a lot of rain, so we don’t need to water as much in the spring. We have lower times in the zones, and we make sure the two types of sprinkler heads work,” he said.

The two types are mist head, which remain stationary, and rotors, which move and require more time to cover a specific patch of lawn, and both can be adjusted.

As the months get hotter, Dorton said, the midseason setting provides for more frequent watering as the rain becomes more scarce and plants thirst for water.

“There’s less water and full sun, so that part is usually left up to the homeowner to decide,” he said. He added that, while his company offers a variety of services, homeowners and businesses should be monitoring their properties to decide how much water their plants need to keep them lush and green.

The final setting adjustment, Dorton said, should take place as temperatures begin to cool down through August and the end of September.

“We begin shutting the sprinkler system off and winterizing. We shut the water off, drain the vacuum breaker, and the most important part of winterizing is (using a compressor to blow any residual water out) of all of the lines,” he said.

The most common forms of repairs, Dorton said, include broken heads that had unfavorable meetings with snowplows, improperly operating valves and leaking lines in the ground.

“Leaks create higher water bills, so we make sure to look for things like that and that the main line is secure,” Dorton said. “Puddling is an indication you have a leak.”

He advised homeowners to check their water meters after the sprinkler system finished running to make sure that they are not clocking any extra water — another indication of a leak.

In order to keep sprinkler systems operating most efficiently all summer long, he added, homeowners should use a serrated knife to clear grass and roots away from sprinkler heads.


Air conditioning
Dave Tapling, operations manager for Aladdin Heating & Cooling, recommended having a professional company check on air conditioning units every six months to make sure everything continues to run smoothly.

“I recommend doing it before the cooling season in the spring and before the heating season in the fall,” Tapling said. “Some manufacturers base their warranties on whether or not the appliances have had regular maintenance.”

The risks of not properly servicing an air conditioning unit, he said, include higher heating and cooling bills, which most commonly happens when homeowners neglect to change air filters.

“Not changing air filters can put a lot of wear and tear on the system, and in some cases, it can cause the system to stop running altogether — that return air can’t get back to the furnace, and there’s not enough air running through the system on the heating side,” he said.

He recommended that people who use a 4- or 5-inch-thick filter change the filter every six months and that people who use a 2-inch-thick filter change the filter every two to three months.

“Air filters mostly collect dust, dirt and allergens, such as mold spores, hair and even smoke buildup for people that smoke or light a lot of candles,” Tapling said. “There’s more stuff in that than you think, and the higher efficiency filter you have, the smaller particles get caught in there, and it increases the air quality.”

He also advised purchasing pleated filters. In the case of a 4- to 5-inch-thick filter, he recommended purchasing a filter with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value rating of 11-13.

On the heating side, Tapling recommended pouring a cap full of vinegar down the drain line to clear out any condensation on lines to prevent mold and dirt buildup. On the cooling side, he advised using a garden hose to clear any dirt, leaves and other debris that could clog condenser coils.

He said that while some homeowners opt to cover their air conditioning units, he does not personally recommend air conditioning unit covers.

“The last thing is we take so many calls every year about systems not running, and (homeowners) just haven’t changed their thermostat batteries,” Tapling said. “The thermostat will usually tell you quite a while beforehand, but if you’re not seeing any response, check the batteries.”