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I've been struggling getting a simple drip water system running.

I don't think the specific brand matter, but I'm using Rain Drip components from Lowe's.

I have 10 rose planters I'm trying to connect together. I'm using a faucet mounted timer/pressure regulator.

The system comprises of 1/4" tubing, with assorted outlets: drippers, "bubblers", sprays. I cut the tubing, insert barbed T-connectors, and then use short (3-4") tubes to reach the outlets. The last item in the chain is just connected straight to the tube. All of the tubes are the same (vs a 1/2" feeder to 1/4" branches).

I tried working with the drippers, but it was inconsistent. I've since switched to sprayers. These are small, adjustable sprayers and cast water out in 8 or 10 streams (vs a classic sprinkler head that actually sprays).

But, simply, I don't get consistent pressure across the system. The first sprayer is "ok", but the rest mostly just gurgle along regardless of how I adjust them.

I've tried removing the timer to use the full pressure of the house water, and it didn't make any difference.

This all seems just far too complicated for such a simple system. Cut the tube, plug in the fitting, move on. I don't believe it's clogged with anything but, honestly while the system is pretty trivial to put together, taking it apart is a real pain (most likely a feature, not a bug long term -- but short term, it's pain).

So, I feel like I must be missing something fundamental to these drip systems.

I guess what I should do next is go to each sprayer, remove the head, and turn it on and see if I get the same height from each one. But I can use any advice from folks with more experience with these systems.

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  • I may not fully understand how you are hooked up. I had +20 rhododendrons on my system at my last home. A 1/2” main line to each in a loop and then a 1/4” and single spray or dribbler. All the 1/4” lines went back to the 1/2” main line. Several were 20’ higher than the lowest so they had less flow. I ended up using a larger flow head on 2 and for the last one 2 separate 1/4” lines, be careful full line pressure can damage your heads and cause leaks that once they start you have to cut the 1/2” and splice it then put the tap in another spot. I did that and blew 3 or 4 heads completely apart.
    – Ed Beal
    Sep 3, 2019 at 19:01
  • I tried full pressure "just to see". These are all on level ground, right next to each other. The stations are only a could feet apart (imagine 10 roses in half oak barrel planters). The only tubing I have is the 1/4" tubing. Sep 3, 2019 at 21:12

3 Answers 3

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The problem is that pressure loss in 1/4" tubing is relatively high. You'll have much better results if you use larger tube for distribution and use the 1/4" only for branching to single emitters (maybe two, but likely not more than that).

Pressure loss in a tube is a function of flow (gallons per minute, or other similar unit) and tube diameter. As tube gets smaller or flow gets larger the pressure drop increases. This happens remarkably quickly with 1/4" tube.

I suggest building your system by working from the most distant emitter back toward the source. Pick an emitter and measure off the length of tube needed to get to where you want the next fitting to be. Instead of connecting to that fitting, connect to the water source. Verify the flow from the emitter is satisfactory - this confirms that the 1/4" tube is adequate for the flow that lone emitter requires. Add the next emitter, tube, and tee, and test with the water source again. After a few iterations you'll have an idea how many emitters a length of 1/4" tube can supply. It's at this point that the system needs to transition to a larger tube.

Since the system is already assembled, you could repeatedly break it down into smaller pieces until it becomes a set of subsystems that each work well on their own. These would then be joined to a larger distribution tube from the water source.

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  • I like the way you started, but then lost it. Plumb the mains with large and branches with smaller. Maybe two simplified but with drip systems is a fact of life. Most are less than 30 psi by design so a large feeder or main line is needed.
    – Ed Beal
    Sep 4, 2019 at 1:01
  • Totally agree - the idea of larger distribution and smaller branches is familiar to anybody who has done design of a natural gas system in a home or engineered a yard irrigation system. The approach in both is to get actual flow numbers and work out the math to find minimum pipe sizing. The experimental approach I described achieves a similar result in a qualitative way. It allows a person to convincingly troubleshoot a system, see the effects of flow and pressure loss, and demonstrate the need for larger pipe.
    – Greg Hill
    Sep 4, 2019 at 19:02
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Ok now I see, I had several hundred feet to deal with. To get 10 different sprayers or medium drips that would support most plants like roses you need a main line to each plant at 1/2”. connected to a 1/4” tube from there to the plant or rose in your case. What you need to do if get a coil of 1/2” to run close to each of the plants , SAVE all the 1/4 inch because you can use it later. Once you have a main 1/2 inch line to supply each rose your problems will be gone on flat ground with only 10 taps. Yes it will take a coil of 1/2 inch that and a couple of fittings should be all you need to get the flow at each plant. Now for the good news all those 1/4 “ parts can be reused, and you can add more taps to the main new 1/2 inch line.
Your problem with 1/4 inch is there is not enough area to provide flow and that’s what you need with “drip systems” did your “feeder” or “main line” and all the other parts will still work infact they will work like the sales info and pics show.

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  • After a first bad experiment with 4/7mm hoses (equivalent to 1/4"), I have oversized to 25mm (1") to cover 200m², but I know now that 16mm (between 1/2" and 3/4") would have been enough.
    – lalebarde
    Mar 27, 2022 at 10:40
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Bit late here, but if the system is still set up you can turn it on, and adjust all the dripping/spraying heads to just dripping - not spraying. But start closest to the faucet. the heads that sprinkle out in 8 directions and are adjustable ("shrubbler") are very good. The system might end up being just dripping, but if the drip rates are similar you can just run for longer.

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