Drip irrigation buying guide

Guide written by:
Michael, Professional and passionate welder, Sheffield

Michael, Professional and passionate welder, Sheffield

65 guides
T-joints, elbows, cross-pieces, fittings, tap heads, controllers, polyethylene pipes, hair connections, sprinklers, misters, drippers: these are the stock in trade of drip irrigation! For simple installations, go for microporous pipes! The pressure's on...

Important features

  • Controller
  • Fittings, Elbows, T-joints
  • Dripper
  • Sprinkler
  • Microporous hoses

What kind of drip irrigation to choose for your home?

For indoor or balcony plants, a basic system consisting of a dripper connected to a simple water tank (similar to a drinking water cooler) will do the trick.

For larger numbers of plants, a large capacity tank can be connected to different rooms via a network of 4 or 5mm pipes (capillaries), t-joints and manually adjustable drippers.

This kind of automatic indoor watering system doesn't require a power supply - as long as there's water, it will keep dripping!

What kind of drip irrigation to choose for the garden?

Depending on the size of your garden, you can choose between the classic watering can, a conventional surface watering system or a buried watering system with microporous pipes.

These installations are also relatively simple: a control unit (electronic box with solenoid valves) connected to the domestic water supply (or a separate water source) on one end, and to any number of microporous pipes or drippers at the other.

Frequency and duration of irrigation is programmable via the control box. The range of settings available will vary from model to model - so shop around!

What do the different components do in an irrigation system?


Like any gardener worth their salt, you must ensure each plant receives exactly the right amount of water at appropriate intervals. Of course, it's also important to consider environmental impact and avoid wasting water. Automatic irrigation will provide you with all the answers.

Control box

The controller is the brain of the outfit, and they're a real triumph of technology. At one time a simple timing device, programmable analog and later digital control systems became available.

This miniature computer can be combined with a weather probe, humidity sensor and rain gauge to avoid unnecessary watering during rainy weather. The latest innovation is a Bluetooth device that lets you connect to your smartphone or tablet using a specialized app, to manage the watering programme remotely. Watering duration, remaining running time, and even battery status are all accessible at the touch of a button! 

Distribution centre

The distribution centre is to irrigation what a sorting depot is to the Royal Mail. Many combinations are possible, thanks to solenoid valves and output connections that can be adjusted as desired. It modulates supply pressure and may also include a filter.

Polyethylene pipes

Rigid polyethylene pipes (resistant to UV, low temperatures and algae growth) differ from conventional pipes in that they operate at low pressure. With an internal diameter of 13 or 16mm, they carry the water to the irrigated area. Branching 4-5mm flexible pipes then distribute the water to individual plants. You can get pipes with built-in drippers (often placed at 30cm intervals). Pipe lengths of up to 50m can be obtained - ideal for hedges!

To connect up your spider's web of a watering system, a variety of accessories are available - such as stopcocks, fertilizer spreaders, cross-pieces, t-joints, plugs, elbows, filters, quick connectors, etc. On small diameter pipes, the fittings are called capillary couplings; at the end of each of these you'll find the famous drippers that will ensure the wellbeing of your plants. Drippers come in different types:

  • Drippers for targeted watering (2-4 l/h);
  • Multi-sprinklers and sprinkler-drippers for vegetable plots and flowerbeds (40-120 l/h);
  • Misters for creating a fine mist needed by certain plant species (16 l/h).

Drippers are installed in series and have a precise function:

Components of a drip irrigation system

To boil things down so you don't forget anything, a drip irrigation system will require:
  • A controller, to schedule times and durations for watering (the brain);
  • A distribution centre, or feeder (the nerve centre);
  • 13 or 16mm rigid polyethylene pipes to carry water to the irrigation site (limbs);
  • 4-6mm flexible capillary connections to distribute water among individual plants or beds (fingers and toes);
  • Drippers of various types;
  • T-joints, cross-pieces, elbows, straight joints, bungs, pipe clips, tap valves, stopcocks and pipe stakes to hold your network of pipes together - as well as a water supply or a pressure reducer to feed the system in the first place!

Installation advice

To attach the capillaries to the main pipes, you'll need a small tool called a perforator, designed specifically for installing capillaries and drippers.

If you need to modify the network, remove the dripper and replace it with a bung to seal that part of the system. Don't pierce your pipes with inappropriate tools - a certain level of precision is required to keep your system sealed! And think ahead by installing a shut-off valve at the end of the line to let you bleed the network in preparation for winter (to avoid freezing damage).

Choosing this type of irrigation system could save you 70% of the water you might otherwise use - not to be sniffed at! Immerse yourself in a world of pipes and drippers, give free rein to your creativity and you will be able to divide the waters like a Biblical hero... And save resources at the same time!

Learn more about automatic irrigation systems...

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Guide written by:

Michael, Professional and passionate welder, Sheffield 65 guides écrits

Michael, Professional and passionate welder, Sheffield

I was trained as a pipe worker and welder and worked in the industry for 15 years, going all over the UK for large-scale projects. When I decided it was time to stay closer to home - to have time for my own DIY - I took over a local metal shop and eventually went on to become head of a professional engineering firm.

I'm retired now, but I haven't stopped working with my hands. I recently built my own metalwork studio at home - a lifelong dream! I use my welding skills to make sculptures and bespoke furniture. With my studio, I managed to find a piece of paradise where I can let my imagination run wild.

I also love going around to local auctions and boot sales. I always find some interesting old object or tools that I can add to my collection or transform into works of art.

Now that I have the time, I've turned my hand to decorating, painting on canvas and gardening. I'm always developing new technologies and tools to bring my ideas to life. And I'm always happy to give others advice on how they can make their dreams a reality, too!

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