How much does it cost to maintain an underground sprinkler system? 

If you are considering having an underground sprinkler system installed at your home or buying a property that, like many in Calgary, Alberta, already has one, this is an important question. Naturally, we here at Naiad Irrigation Systems have a lot of good things to say about our expertly designed, water-conscious, set-it-and-forget-it lawn and garden watering solutions – but depending on your financial situation, an underground sprinkler system might not be your best option overall. 

One of the biggest mistakes buyers make with underground sprinkler systems is assuming that if everything is installed correctly, nothing else can go wrong. One of the biggest mistakes irrigation companies make is failing to disabuse their clients of this notion before they perform an installation. Much like a home or vehicle, irrigation systems have both an up-front cost, and a cost to maintain them year-over-year.  

Water is one of the most destructive substances on earth. It’s harmless in a glass, but less so in a tsunami. Given enough time, it will carve tunnels through mountains and canyons through plains, so it’s no surprise that in the grand scheme of things, it makes short work of even the most robust plumbing and hydraulic systems. Like any automated system that runs multiple times a week, your underground sprinklers will undergo serious wear and tear, and require regular maintenance to continue operating efficiently and cost-effectively. 

For quick reference, consult our pricing guide. However, if you need a more detailed breakdown of not just how much, but also what and why, you’ve found the right place. Note that all prices and estimates listed below are not including GST. 

This cost breakdown will be divided into three parts. First, your region likely has legally mandated inspections that your system must undergo each year. Second, there are some recommended services that we and other irrigation companies provide to prevent seasonal damage to your system. Third, if something goes wrong, your system will need repairs in order to function properly, whether it has become less efficient, less effective, or stopped working altogether. 

Legally Mandated Inspections: $120-$153 per year

Cross Connection Testing

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In Calgary, Alberta, where we’re located, you are required every year to have a cross connection test performed by a backflow technician who has been certified by the City of Calgary. As per the National Plumbing Code of Canada, you should expect any other municipality in Canada to require the same thing. In fact, pretty much any place where you can get your hands on an underground sprinkler system will likely require cross connection testing, in order to protect their water sources from irrigation backflow. 

At Naiad Irrigation Systems, our base price is $152.38 to book a single cross connection test. For members of our annual cross connection testing program, we can charge either $119.25/year or an equivalent $9.94/month for a recurring annual test, automatically scheduled each spring. Note that our monthly subscription model does require an initial payment of $119.25 after your first service – but no matter when you sign up, your monthly payments do not begin until May 1st that year. 

Many other irrigation companies provide this service as well, but make sure they are sending a certified tester with the necessary paperwork. Because a backflow certified technician is required, some irrigation companies will not offer this service, and some non-irrigation-specific companies will. 

Recommended Services: $270-$320 per year

1. Winterization (Sprinkler Blow-out): $107-132 per year

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In cold climates like Canada and much of the United States, winterization (often called a “fall blowout”) is strongly recommended to prevent serious damage to your underground sprinkler system. Essentially, a large, powerful air compressor is used to blow nearly all of the water out of your underground sprinkler system. The small amount remaining can then freeze without bursting pipes – and they would otherwise burst wide open. Here in Calgary, Alberta, the soil freezes as far as three feet down most winters, and most underground sprinkler pipes are only six to eight inches underground. You might expect your sprinkler system to drain enough on its own after you’ve shut it off, but in most cases the pipes are the lowest point in an underground sprinkler system. In Calgary, Alberta, we recommend scheduling your fall blowout between mid-September and mid-October. 

Naiad Irrigation Systems charges a base price of $131.55 to book a single winterization for an irrigation system with 1-4 zones, plus $7.74 for each additional zone. For members of our annual winterization program, we can charge either $106.53/year plus the $7.74 surcharge for each zone after the fourth, or an equivalent monthly charge starting at $8.88. Members are automatically scheduled for a winterization each year. Note that our monthly subscription model does require an initial payment equal to the annual cost after your first winterization – but no matter when you sign up, your monthly payments do not begin until October 1st of that year. 

Nearly all irrigation companies provide blowouts, since the necessary equipment is too expensive to rent or buy for one job, but pays for itself after just a few dozen bookings. 

2. Spring Activation: $160-$186 per year

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After a long winter of lying dormant, your underground sprinkler system will require a spring activation. This means opening the valves, inspecting the system, testing each zone, and programming the irrigation timer/controller. While this can be done without any specialized tools, it needs to be done carefully. If you wish to do it yourself, we provide detailed instructions for a basic residential system. However, we recommend booking a spring activation with a professional so you can be confident that your system will not be damaged during the activation. 

One point of pride here at Naiad is that we provide a thorough, professional-grade inspection of your underground sprinkler system when we activate it. If any damage has occurred over the winter, or we note any serious wear-and-tear, we can offer same-day repairs for most issues. (A good rule of thumb is that we can probably fix it the same day if it doesn’t require rare parts,  

We charge a base price of $185.50 to book a single spring activation for an underground sprinkler system with 1-4 zones, plus $8.75 for each additional zone. Through our membership program, we charge either $159/year plus the $8.75 surcharge for each zone after the fourth, or an equivalent monthly charge starting at $13.25. Members receive recurring annual activations, automatically scheduled for early May. Note that our monthly subscription model does require an initial payment equal to the annual cost after your first activation – but no matter when you sign up, your monthly payments do not begin until May 1st that year. 

If something goes wrong…

Repairs and Replacements

The services recommended above are best seen as preventative maintenance. Like owning a car, preventative maintenance will greatly extend the lifespan of all sorts of important parts, saving you lots of money on a long term basis – but it doesn’t mean you’ll never spend another dime. Sooner or later, something is just going to break, simply because the thing is being used.  

Unfortunately, it’s much harder to answer “how much does it cost to fix an irrigation system?” for the same reason no one asks “how much does it cost to fix a car?” – the answer is just “it depends.” Like a car, an automated sprinkler system has many parts and just as many different types of repairs it may need. It’s also important to have minor problems fixed before they become five-car pileups. In the past, we’ve seen everything from leaky pipes washing away literal tons of soil and causing tens of thousands of dollars in public property damage, to outdated timers short-circuiting and creating fire hazards.  

As mentioned above, our spring activation service also includes an in-depth inspection, and we offer on-the-spot repairs whenever possible. While we can’t predict the cost of a more complex job, listed below are the typical costs for some of the most common repairs and improvements we make. For spring activation members, we can also waive our $120 minimum charge, and offer a further 10% discount on parts and labour. (Also rest assured that for non-members, this minimum charge comes once per trip at most, not per item.) 

*Prices do not include GST
*Minimum charge is $120.00 for all non-member service calls

  • Installation of a 6-Station Hunter Pro-HC Hydrawise WiFi Controller: $560 + $120.00 = $680.00 
  • Installation of a Rainbird Wireless Rain Sensor: $290.00 + $120.00 = $410.00 
  • Adding in a 4″ Residential Spray Body Sprinkler Head to an existing zone (includes less than 5ft of pipe; does not include nozzle): $225.00 + $120.00 = $345.00 
  • Repair of a Sprinkler Head Connection: $70.00 + $120.00 = $190.00 
  • Repair of a poly line (plastic pipe), less than 5ft: $110.00 +$120.00 = $230.00 
  • Replacement of a Rotary Nozzle: $59.00 +$120.00 = $179.00 
  • Replacement of a Spray Nozzle: $54.00 +$120.00 = $174.00 
  • Replacement of a 4″ Spray Body Sprinkler Head: $94.00 +$120.00 = $214.00 

Book a service or call us today @ 587-200-3994. We provide top-notch services from Irrigation Association-certified professionals.