What is a Pressure Regulator and How Does it Work in a Drip Irrigation System?

What is a Pressure Regulator and How Does it Work in a Drip Irrigation System?

Sep 28th 2023

Drip irrigation is a highly efficient way of delivering water and nutrients to plants. By providing a precise amount of water directly to the root zone of each plant, the drip irrigation system saves water and cuts energy costs while helping gardeners maintain lush gardens and achieve high yields. At the heart of this system lies a key component - the pressure regulator.

A pressure regulator lowers water pressure and maintains consistent pressure and water flow throughout the drip system. Without one, your drip system could face issues like leaking, popping off of drippers and fittings, and irregular flow from your emitters. Pressure regulators make for a much better and more effective drip system because drip irrigation needs to run under less water pressure. The low water pressure ensures that the drip system runs smoothly without wasting water. So, it is one of the most crucial components of a drip irrigation system.

In this blog, we'll delve into the details of pressure regulators, understanding what they are, when they are required, how they work in a drip irrigation system, and the role of pressure regulators in boosting the performance of a drip irrigation system. So, let's get started!

What is a Pressure Regulator?

A pressure regulator is an essential device in drip irrigation systems. The primary function of a pressure regulator is to control and stabilize the water pressure through the system. It ensures that the water flows at a consistent and controlled pressure level.

First, the pressure regulator decreases the water pressure coming in from the main water supply. Next, this device creates a constant low water pressure and maintains this pressure even when the water pressure from the main supply changes. As a result of uniform pressure, the pressure regulator helps boost the performance of the drip system and prevent damage to other sensitive components.

Why is a Pressure Regulator Necessary, and when is it needed?

A drip irrigation system delivers water directly to the roots of plants through drip tubing, pipes, and emitters, unlike traditional sprinkler systems that use high pressure to distribute water over a large area. This precise water delivery method demands a lower and consistent water pressure, which is why the pressure regulator is always required.

A drip system pressure regulator is used when the inlet pressure is high for the emitters or fittings. It serves as the backbone of your drip irrigation system by protecting it from wear and tear. For example, if there is high water pressure in the system, it may cause leaks, system damage, emitter blowouts, and uneven water distribution.

Drip irrigation systems have to run at a lower PSI compared to sprinkler systems. In most situations, drip systems need water pressure between 15 to 35 psi to run effectively because their components are designed to work under low pressure. Pressure higher than 35 psi can harm the system.

Therefore, when selecting a pressure regulator for your drip system, always be familiar with its ideal operating pressure range. Pressure regulators that provide 25 psi perform best in most drip systems. In contrast, if you are using a thin-walled drip tape, you should choose a regulator with a maximum pressure of 15 psi to ensure that your drip tape lasts for the long term.

How does a Pressure Regulator work in a Drip Irrigation System?

A pressure regulator has several primary parts, including the inlet, fixed seat, T-stem, diaphragm, and spring. It is installed at the entry point into the system, generally right after the main water source. Here's a step-by-step process of how a pressure regulator works in a drip irrigation system.

  • First, the water flows from the main water source to the regulator's inlet.
  • Water flows around the fixed seat and then passes through the T-stem. The T-stem, or throttling system, is a hollow cylinder that is attached to a diaphragm. The diaphragm is present at the outlet end of the regulator, while the T-stem is surrounded by the spring.
  • The diaphragm activates when high-pressure water flows through it, which causes the spring to compress. The spring adjusts according to the incoming water pressure. The greater the incoming PSI, the more compressed the spring and the more tightly controlled the water flow.
  • The compression forces the T-stem towards the seat. The outgoing water is a consistent PSI regulated by a balance between the diaphragm and the spring.
  • Then, the regulated water is supplied to the drip tubing and emitters at a uniform pressure. It ensures that each plant receives the right amount of water with no over or underwatering.

Benefits of Using Pressure Regulator in Drip Irrigation System

Now we understand how the pressure regulator works in the drip irrigation system, let's look at the benefits these components bring to your drip system and plants.

Plant Health: Constant water pressure ensures that each plant receives the right amount of water and nutrients, which promotes plant health and yield.

Water Conservation: Pressure regulators minimize water waste by maintaining steady pressure through the system. This makes drip irrigation one of the most water-efficient irrigation methods.

Prevent System Damage: By preventing pressure fluctuations, regulators increase the lifespan of drip system components such as drip tubing, emitters, and fittings.

Energy Efficiency: Pressure regulators also contribute to energy efficiency. Reduced water pressure means less energy is needed to pump water, which results in energy savings.

Buying a Right Pressure Regulator

Pressure regulators are easier to select when installing a drip system. If you're new to a drip irrigation system, a drip irrigation kit can be the best and least expensive option for you. Many drip kits include the essential components like drip tubing, emitters, and the pressure regulator, so you won't have to find a separate regulator.

When choosing the right pressure regulator, ensure it matches your water system's flow rate. At DripWorks, we offer quality pressure regulator options, including low-flow, medium-flow, and high-flow, to ensure they meet your irrigation needs.

We carry the best types of regulators for drip irrigation systems: Senninger Pressure Regulators and Netafim Pressure Regulators. The regulators from these leading brands are able to meet your unique demands and are designed to ensure uniform pressure.

If you're looking for a specific regulator that fits your drip system requirements, tubing and hose thread sizes, feel free to contact our team at 1-800-522-3747. Our irrigation experts will help you choose the right regulator according to the flow rate of your system.