Blu-Lock Buying Guide
Blu-Lock systems have rapidly gained in popularity since their introduction and release by Hydro-Rain. Contractors and homeowners alike have made the switch. Contractors appreciate the ease and speed at which Blu-Lock systems can be designed and installed. The labor hours spent on a Blu-Lock system are significantly lower than that of traditional PVC systems and they are able to pass these savings down to their clients. Homeowners appreciate the ease of installing Blu-Lock systems, which means they often do not have to hire outside assistance to install a professional, functional, efficient, and durable home irrigation system. Perhaps the most important reason people are turning to Blu-Lock instead of PVC is the lack of toxic primer and glue needed to assemble the system. Anyone who has worked with PVC can attest to the fumes that are created during this part of the process.
One of the best features of Blu-Lock tubing is its flexibility. Blu-Lock can be installed in a traditionally buried manifold and incorporated directly into a PVC mainline system. It is not rated for constant pressure so it must be placed after all zone valves and relieved of pressure when the system is not in use. Hydro-Rain has a line-up of fittings, adapters, and tubing that can create an entire system, from the ¾” and 1” headers to the ½” swing pipe and swing fittings and a release tool that releases the “teeth” on Blu-Lock fittings so the tubing can be removed from a fitting for maintenance or replacement; even valves with Blu-Lock specific outlets are available which makes planning, designing and installing a Blu-Lock system extraordinarily easy compared to traditional systems. For the first time, Blu-Lock allows the homeowner to feel and look like a professional.
This guide will walk you through the process of designing and installing your own Blu-Lock irrigation system. In the interest of staying on topic, some factors will be skipped or only briefly mentioned, such as backflow prevention (required in every residential irrigation system), tapping into the water supply (if it is not already done), pressure loss (in small residential systems this will generally not be a concern) and installing a water meter. If you would like more information on any of these topics, please Contact Us.
As with other systems, the best place to start when designing an irrigation system is right at the water source. Like water that travels through a channel, every portion of the system originates and flows from the water source that feeds it. Start by determining your water pressure with a Pressure Gauge. Knowing the water pressure of your water source is very important; if your pressure is too high, components can become damaged; if your pressure is too low, the performance of the system may prove inadequate. When you test the water pressure, be sure no other water fixtures in the residence are running, as this will influence the results and it is important to get an accurate reading of your static water pressure. Once the water pressure is known you can compare it to the PSI rating of the components and determine if you would like or need to regulate the pressure of the system.
Once you know your water pressure it is time to determine your water source’s flow rate. This step is crucial as it will help you determine how many emitters can be fed at one time. For example, if your water source flows at 5 GPM (5 gallons per minute) but you have ten 1 GPM emitters in the zone, those emitters will be starved of water and most of them would be unlikely to function as they should. Determining a close approximation of your water source’s flow rate is quick and easy, all that is needed is a one or five-gallon bucket and a timer. Time how long it takes to fill the bucket with water and then input the numbers into our Flow Rate Calculator. This will tell you your approximate flow in both gallons per minute and gallons per hour. It should be noted that the pipe size of the water source to the house should also be taken into consideration. If you create an irrigation system that is too much for the pipes of the house to handle, conditions such as water hammer can occur and cause damage to the pipes. It is important that the irrigation system stays within the specification of the house’s existing plumbing even if the flow and pressure are sufficient for more. An irrigation system needs flow (GPM) and pressure (PSI) to operate, but it also needs to account for the existing pipe size so that it can enjoy a long lifespan.
With the water source’s pressure and flow rate known, the solid foundation for a successful irrigation system has been laid. The next step is the sketch and design phase; this step will build upon the foundation you have already created and is where you can begin to see the project really take shape. For this step in the process, you will need graph paper, a writing utensil (a pencil is preferred so that errors can be erased), and measuring tape. This part of the process is not difficult, however, errors in this step can cause significant issues later down the road so it is important that this step is performed extensively. There are apps and programs that can be used for this step, however, the understanding and interaction with the irrigation area gained by DIY will prove invaluable.
Begin by measuring the length and width of the property and draw this basic shape on the graphing paper as you go; ensure that each grid on the paper is equal to a specific length. Common lengths are 1 square = 5’ or 1 square = 10’. Once the overall length and width are obtained, measure important landscape features so they can be included accurately in the sketch. These may include a house, garage, shed, garden bed, flower bed, trees, lawn, driveway, sidewalk, walkway, fountain, and any other features that will need to be accounted for. Draw these to scale on graph paper. The drawings need not be professional in quality, scale is the most important factor that needs to be observed; the basic overall shape is more than sufficient so long as the scale is accurate.
Once the sketch of the property is completed it is time to begin planning the Blu-Lock system itself. This part of the process intimidates many first-time irrigators, however, it can be broken up into several easy processes. The first step is to divide your project area into zones. Below are some of the factors to keep in mind when zoning your system.
Plant Type vs Watering Needs
It is best for each zone to have plants with similar needs. For example, one zone could be strictly for lawns while another would be designed to accommodate perennials. Since the two types of plants have different irrigation needs, it makes sense to have them in different zones of the system. While this may seem more complicated in that it requires planning for more than one zone, it reduces complexity in the long run as you can plan each zone around specific watering needs. As noted previously, it may be necessary to zone a system that is watering the same types of plants with the same volume needs if the flow of the emitters is too great to be fed by the same water source.
Sometimes plants with the same watering needs can still end up in two separate zones due to sunlight exposure. Grass in the part of the yard that receives the most sunlight will require more water than that growing in the most shaded portion of the yard. If there is a significant disparity in light received their watering requirements could vary considerably. If they were located in the same zone and being watered by emitters with the same flow, either the sunny portion of the yard would not receive enough water or the shaded portion of the yard would receive too much. Planning these as two separate zones makes it easy to ensure the needs of both are adequately met.
The size of different areas in the irrigation area can also influence whether they should be in different zones. This is common with parts of the yard that have strip shapes, such as along the side of the house or in the area between the sidewalk and the street in the front. Dividing these different sizes and shapes into separate zones makes each one easier than if taken as a whole.
Zoning by soil type can also make planning your system easier. Sandy soil, for example, prefers high-flow emitters as the application rate needs to be fast enough that the water can spread to the root zone via capillary action. Likewise, clay soil prefers the low-flow emitters; this provides the water time to be absorbed by the soil instead of accumulating on the surface where it can be subject to evaporation or runoff. Think of this as the application rate versus the absorption rate.
This guide will focus on a simple 2-Zone lawn irrigation system, but the information included here will give you the necessary knowledge to plan for many zones of different types of plants and conditions. The two zones this guide will focus on are two lawn watering areas in a residential backyard. The concepts here can be translated to larger systems with ease. When approached individually, no zone is too complex for even the most novice of irrigators.
Once the sketch is complete and the zones are planned, it is time to choose the emitters that will be used to deliver water to the area. It is best that each zone use the same emitters with the same flow rates; this is why it is important to determine watering needs and organize the system into zones where each zone has the same needs. It is perfectly acceptable to use different emitters in different zones; one zone can even be dedicated to drip irrigation while another is designated for high-pressure lawn irrigation. As one can imagine, drip irrigation tubing and emitters would not do well in the same zone as the high-pressure lawn tubing and emitters. It is also perfectly acceptable (and even recommended depending on design needs) to use different brands of emitters on different zones. There may be one zone where rotors from one manufacturer would be a perfect fit, and another zone where spray bodies from a different manufacturer would be a perfect fit; the choice is yours and the flexibility of a Blu-Lock system can accommodate many emitter types, brands, and styles.
From the nozzle’s item pages, use the specifications of the nozzles to see how far the nozzles will spray water depending on incoming water pressure and nozzle choice. The specifications can be found in the PDF links under the heading “Product Files.” With this information add circles (or half circles or quarter circles) to your sketch that indicate the watering or wetted area for each spray body. Add circles until the lawn has full coverage; for strips and corners use the side strip or corner nozzles and add them to the sketch until those locations also enjoy full coverage. Once you feel comfortable that the entire lawn will be covered, it is time to add the Blu-Lock tubing layout to the sketch. It is important that the emitter layout is completed first so you know where the tubing will have to go so that the emitters can be placed in the correct locations.
This guide will go more in-depth on this topic in the sample design section.
Begin your tubing layout in the same place the project started, at the water source. Plan the tubing run and add its path to the sketch; be sure the tubing run is both efficient and is run to each location an emitter is planned. If you have more than one zone, consider using a manifold and solenoid valve set up so that each zone can be automated and operate independently of the other. If the manifold and valve setup is new to you, visit this link for a brief introduction: Introduction to Irrigation Controllers, Manifolds, and Valves.
The portion of the system that runs from the water source to the manifold system is the one location that cannot be constructed from Blu-Lock tubing as this part of the system will be under constant pressure. This does not mean you have to glue PVC together, however. Hydro-Rain, the manufacturer that produces Blu-Lock, also manufactures PVC-Lock. PVC-Lock works similarly to Blu-Lock in that the fittings are push-fit which means they can be used with PVC pipe without toxic primer and glues. Not only does this result in less exposure to these chemicals but it also saves considerable amounts of time and effort. You simply push the pipe into the fitting and the teeth and EPDM seals inside will create a sound seal. In addition to standard PVC fitting styles (couplers, elbows, tees and crosses), there are PVC-Lock fittings specifically for manifolds. To make the design of the manifold as easy as assembling it, manifold kits complete with the fittings and valves are available for 2, 3, and 4 zones. Here is a link to one of the kits, notice how all of the fittings are either threaded or push-fit, and no glues or cement are needed: 2 Zone 24 VAC 1" PVC-Lock Manifold Kit. Be sure to note on your sketch which zones each tubing path belongs to if there is to be more than one zone.
Fittings and Finishing Touches
Once the tubing layout is planned and included on the sketch, the design process is near completion. The final step is to determine how many and what types of fittings will be needed to achieve the sketched design. If you have followed the steps above this will be an easy process if you keep a few simple rules in mind:
If your tubing run needs to turn at 90° use a Blu Lock Elbow Fitting.
If your tubing needs to go in 3 directions use a Blu Lock Tee Fitting.
Every location where the tubing comes to an end requires a Blu-Lock Cap. The exception to this is when the tubing ends at an emitter.
Every location there is an emitter will require at least one Swing Adapter (covered in more detail later in this guide).
These are by far the most common fittings used in an irrigation system, but there are others that are designed to meet specific needs. These include Y Fittings, 45° Elbows, Reducers (to reduce a tubing run from one size to another), and Adapters that can adapt a tubing run to a threaded connection or even a different type of tubing or pipe.
Now that you are familiar with the overall design concepts, let’s do a sample design to put those concepts to use. This sample design will be for a simple system featuring a rectangular backyard. This will be a 2-zone system that uses both 180° and 360° sprayers and follows the steps outlined above. While most landscapes will be a bit more complicated than the one used in this example, the design concepts illustrated here will assist with almost any landscape complexity.
Step 1: Water Pressure and Flow Rate
With all the fixtures in the house off, our sample water source gives us a pressure reading of 75 PSI and the flow rate test returns a flow rate of 700 GPH. These numbers will be important during the design process so they will be recorded for reference later in the process.
Step 2: Taking Measurements and Initial Sketch
Using a tape measure we’ll measure the length and width of the irrigation area of the property. The property in this sample measures 120’ x 60’. We’ll use a scale of 1 square = 5’ on our grid paper and be sure to note any major landscape features and the location of the water source. Now that we have begun sketching, our initial sketch should look similar to the one below.
Step 3: Zoning for Plant Needs
Looking at the project area we can determine that, based on sunlight, plant needs, soil, and size we will not need to zone the system for any of these reasons. The area receives the same amount of sunlight, the plants we are watering is all the same lawn, the soil is the same type throughout the area and the size is not so large that we’d need to zone for that reason. We cannot determine that the system does not need zoning entirely, only that it will not need to be zoned for the reasons above.
Step 4: Emitter Selection and Emitter Layout
Now that we know the area that needs to be irrigated we can get down to selecting emitters. As noted previously, these can be almost any brand from any manufacturer that meets our needs. Blu-Lock’s flexibility allows us to focus on the needs of our project rather than matching brands.
Having researched many emitters we have decided to use Hunter Pro Spray 40 with MP Rotator Nozzles. The throw radius of the nozzles is a good match for the size of the lawn and the Pro Spray regulates pressure to 40 PSI and is rated for up to 100 PSI which means we will not need to reduce the 75 PSI we have at the water source. Using the MP Rotator Specification and Design Sheet we see that the 360° Hunter 3000 MP Rotator has a throw radius of 30’ and each 180° also has a throw radius of 30’ at 40 PSI. Since the Hunter Pro Spray 40 regulates pressure to 40 PSI we can plan accordingly.
Now that we know the emitters we’re using, let’s add them to our sketch in the locations we plan to place them.
To irrigate the lawn optimally the spray design requires head-to-head coverage. This means that the water from one spray head should reach those adjacent to it; this ensures there are no dry spots around the emitters. While this project only requires 180° and 360° nozzles, for more complicated shapes there are Side Strip and Corner nozzles available. In addition to these, many of the Hunter 3000 Series MP Rotators have an adjustable arc, from 90° to 210° and 210° to 270°. Every model of MP Rotator allows for radius adjustment of up to 25% without sacrificing its automatically matched precipitation feature.
Now that we have the emitters selected and their locations planned, we’ll want to add their spray distances to our sketch to make sure we have complete, head-to-head coverage. Since we know the operating pressure (40 PSI) we also know the spray radius (30’) of each spray body. Each square on our grid represents 5’ making this an easy task to sketch.
Let’s start by adding our 360° sprays to the sketch:
As you can see in the sketch, our 360° sprays have head-to-head coverage, but we still have some dry spots remaining where we planned our 180° sprays. Let’s add those and see if we achieve full coverage:
As you can see on the sketch, each spray body’s spray will hit the adjacent spray bodies, allowing for complete coverage and efficient irrigation. Now that the emitters are planned, it is time to plan for the Blu-Lock Tubing run.
Before we add the tubing layout to our sketch, there is one factor we want to account for as it will influence the design of the tubing run. Using the MP Rotator Spec Sheet we can see that at 40 PSI each 360° nozzle will flow at a rate of 3.64 GPM (218.4 GPH) and each 180° nozzle will flow at a rate of 1.82 GPM (109.2 GPH). If we add these up, our 360° spray bodies will create a demand of 655.2 GPH, and our 180° bodies will similarly create a demand of 655.2 GPH. As we recall at the start of this project, our water source provides 700 GPH. This means we will have to zone our system into a minimum of two zones as the combined 1310.4 GPH demanded if the entire system were to run at once would be too great for the water source to feed.
With this in mind, we will add our tubing run to the sketch in two zones. To keep things simple we will plan for Zone 1 to feed the sprays on the Western side of the yard while Zone 2 will feed the sprays on the Eastern side of the yard.
Amend and revise your tubing layout until you are satisfied with its design. The more efficient the design the less tubing overall will be required. Blu-Lock tubing is semi-flexible so it can bend an “S” shape in an area so long as it is not over a short distance; this can allow you some latitude in its design. Be sure the tubing run passes by each emitter so they can be fed and try to avoid superfluous lengths of tubing.
There remains one aspect to consider before our tubing layout is complete: tubing size. Blu-Lock tubing has two lateral line sizes to choose from, ¾” and 1”. Like PVC and Poly Tubing, significant pressure loss will be encountered if the flow passing through the tubing is too great. For example, at 11 GPM (660 GPH) 10.6 PSI would be lost in the ¾” tubing, a significant loss of pressure. While the system we are designing here could probably get by with that level of pressure loss, there would not be much room for growth or expansion at a later date; for this reason, we will use 1” Blu-Lock as our lateral line. At the same 11 GPM, 1” Blu-Lock tubing will only lose 3.07 PSI which leaves us plenty of room for growth, expansion or pressure fluctuations we may not have accounted for. A buffer for uncontrollable variables should always be considered. While this particular system will not have to account for it, the length of the lateral runs should be kept within reasonable limits. ¾” Blu-Lock should be no longer than 480’ in a single run and 1” Blu-Lock should be no longer than 960’ in a single run.
The pressure loss incurred at various flow rates can be found at this link: Blu-Lock Spec Sheet.
Fittings and Finishing Touches
With the bulk of the planning completed, it’s time to focus on a few of the smaller details. While these may seem like minor details they are just as important to a successful design and installation and it is important to plan for them as accurately as possible. There’s nothing like receiving all the tubing, spray bodies, and valves just to discover you cannot complete your installation because you’re missing an integral fitting. Fortunately, it is easy to calculate the type and quantity of fittings from the sketched design.
At every location on the sketch the tubing run makes a 90° turn you will need a Blu-Lock Elbow Fitting. At every location the tubing goes in three directions, a Blu-Lock Tee Fitting will be required, and at every location, the line comes to an end a Blu-Lock End Cap will be needed so the lines can pressurize when filled. As noted previously, if the line ends in an emitter an end cap will not be needed. This will be explained in greater detail later in the guide.
These fittings do not necessarily need to be added to your sketch. If the design is particularly complex it could be beneficial to do so, but it is also acceptable to keep a tally of needed fittings in the margins of the sketch or on a separate record. An accurate accounting of the needed fittings and adapters is important, but a cluttered sketch can cause problems of its own; as you can see below if too much more were added to the design sketch it would quickly become difficult to work from.
One fitting you will always want some of, even if the design does not call for it is Blu-Lock Couplings. These are typically used to join two sections of tubing together; since Blu-Lock commonly comes on 100’ rolls these will be necessary for many designs, but even when they are not called for by design they will still be used. Couplings are also used to repair damaged sections of tubing. You simply cut the damaged portion of tubing out and join the two remaining, undamaged sections together with one of the couplers.
In the previous section of this guide, swing adapters were briefly mentioned; this is the point in the process where we will determine how many we need and why we need them. Swing fittings and adapters are the fittings used to deliver water from the Blu-Lock lateral lines to the spray body emitters. Since the Blu-Lock tubing will be buried, we need fittings that will elevate the water to the emitter. This is where 1/2" Blu-Lock Swing Pipe and Swing Pipe Fittings/Adapters will be used. For this project, one 1" Blu-Lock x 1/2" Blu-Lock Swing Pipe x 1" Blu-Lock Swing Tee Adapter (SKU #8147), a short length of 1/2" Blu-Lock Swing Pipe (SKU #8084) and one 1/2" Blu-Lock Swing Pipe x 1/2" MPT Adapter (SKU #8095) will be needed at each emitter that does not end the tubing run. The ½” male threads on the end of the last adapter are where the spray body itself will be threaded. The illustration below shows how these fittings and adapters connect the spray body to the lateral line.
In our design, there are three emitters that will be set up like this. The six 180° spray bodies represent locations where the tubing run comes to an end. While we could set it up the same and use a Blu-Lock Cap to close the run, we can reduce the number of fittings needed by going a different route and using the spray body to close the run.
We can use a 1" Blu-Lock x 1/2" Blu-Lock Swing Pipe Coupling Adapter to convert our tubing run-over to the swing pipe. Just as we did with the swing tee, the short run of the swing pipe could run to the Swing Pipe x ½” MPT Adapter (SKU #8095) to which the spray body threads. This not only connects the spray body to the lateral line but also closes off that run, precluding the need for an additional end cap.
Note that you are not limited to these specific fittings. There is a wide variety of swing adapters available to accommodate almost any situation, from greater depth to a larger emitter inlet size.
The completed sketch for a design should look similar to this:
Before threading the spray bodies to the risers (or installing the nozzles) and capping the ends with end caps, the system must be flushed. This will flush any debris that got into the line during installation. It is not uncommon for some dirt to get in the line while it is being buried and fittings installed, Run the system for a few moments with everything uncapped to allow debris to be washed out. It is acceptable to thread the spray body first but do not install the nozzle. The nozzle has a very small orifice that can be easily clogged by debris in the line, but without the nozzle, it has a large opening that debris can pass through.
Once the system is thoroughly flushed complete the installation and cap the ends (if caps are needed), and install the spray bodies and nozzles. You can now give the system a test run by beginning a manual watering cycle via the irrigation controller. Test each zone on the system and look for leaks, make sure the emitters are delivering water, and ensure the valves open and close completely. If the test is a success you can program your controller to automate the watering cycle and rest easy knowing your lawn will be lush and green.
A Quick Note on Manifolds
push-to-fitThe manifold and valves are the last portion of the system to take a brief look at. As you’ll recall from the start of this guide, Blu-Lock tubing cannot be used for the portion of the system that comes before the manifold and valves as that portion will be under constant pressure. For this part of the system, we will use PVC, however, even here we want to avoid toxic primers and glues. For this reason, we will use PVC-Lock fittings upstream of the zone valves. Like the Blu-Lock fittings, PVC-Lock is push to fit fitting and requires no other substances to make a tight seal.
This project will use Hydro-Rain Valves and PVC-Lock components, however, like the rest of a Blu-Lock system it is flexible enough that different brands can fit right in if they are a better fit for your needs. Do not feel constrained by specific brands, choose what best fits your irrigation and design needs.
For this 2-Zone manifold, all that will be needed is two PVC-Lock Manifold Tees, two Hydro-Rain Push Fit Valves, an End Cap, and a PVC-Lock Release Tool. These items are conveniently available in a kit whose item page also lists them individually if the manifold needs to be customized or modified to include more zones: 2 Zone 1" PVC-Lock Push to Fit Manifold Kit.
Below is an illustration that exhibits how the manifold will look once the upstream portion of it is assembled. Notice how the components are easily assembled with the push-fit technology.
The manifold system is typically installed close to the water source; large systems may have more than one manifold and more than one valve box, however, most residential projects will only need one.
The manifold is the heart of an irrigation system. For this reason, we will place the manifold in a buried valve box. This helps prevent damage from exposure to the elements, animals, and foot traffic; it also helps keep the aesthetics of the landscape in place. There are both Round Valve Boxes and Rectangle Valve Boxes available to accommodate manifolds of many shapes and sizes. The valve boxes are durable and long-lasting, even with frequent foot traffic.
When this part of the process is completed the Blu-Lock design is essentially done; at this point, double-check the work to make sure nothing was missed and place your order. While the parts are in transit you can prepare the landscape for installation.
While not technically required, the accessories listed below assist in keeping the installation process easy and efficient. While these parts are not necessary, it is strongly advised that some of them are included. This guide will note which tools are strongly recommended.
Irrigation Controllers: Any project using automatic solenoid valves will need a controller to operate them. Controllers are available in AC (when connecting to the house power) and DC (when using battery power). AC controllers are compatible with AC valves, and DC controllers with DC valves. Strongly recommended if automation is desired.
1" Poly Pipe Cutter by Hydro-Rain: While not necessary, this cutter makes cutting the Blu-Lock Tubing very easy and gentle on the hands as the blade is specifically designed for this job.
Blu-Lock Release Tool: This tool is used to get Blu-Lock Tubing out of a fitting. If used correctly, both the tubing and the fitting are completely reusable when removed with this tool. Strongly recommended.
18 AWG Wire: This is the wire that will connect the valves to the controller so that they can be automatically operated.
3M Direct Bury Splice Kit: These are splices specifically designed for outdoor, buried use in irrigation and lighting systems.
Weather Proof Silicone Filled Wire Nuts: These provide a secure electrical connection for two or more pre–stripped copper wires and seal the connection for use in damp or wet locations, and direct bury applications.
Cable Stripping Tool: This tool is used to assist with the removal of the insulation and outer jacket. Using this tool prevents damage to the insulation of the inner conductors.
Congratulations! You now know how to easily design your own Blu-Lock irrigation system. Installation is even easier than design, so once everything arrives you will have the confidence needed to keep your lawn lush and green and the envy of your friends and neighbors.
If any portion of this guide needs more clarification or if there is any information not included that you would like, please send us feedback at Customer Service.