For all the clever folks out there that have an irrigation system installed in their lawn and planting beds... when was the last time you watched it work? By watching it work I mean taking the time to go through each zone to ensure it's functioning as it should. Don't be embarrassed if the answer is 'never'.
If your system is programmed properly, it comes on in the wee hours of the morning and is likely done for the day by the time you're up and about. In addition, if you have a company that shuts it down each winter and sets it up each spring, 'never' is probably pretty close to the mark. This has to change if you want your system to water as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Let's look at a typical homeowner with an irrigation system. They have an annual service contract with a qualified sprinkler company to come out two or three times a year. In addition, they get a sprinkler audit done as recommended every three to four years. Your sprinkler, however, is working 100+ days each year. Problems large and small can pop up at any time and shouldn't be left unnoticed till the next visit from your contractor. Ignorance might be bliss, but these issues can cost you money in wasted water and/or damage to your precious lawn and landscape plants.
Many of the day-to-day problems you'll find have simple fixes. Sometimes a low-lying bush has grown over a sprinkler head, blocking its spray. Perhaps a head has gone out of alignment and is spraying into the street. Or mulch has piled up on a head, preventing it from popping up.
Other problems will require repair or replacing a part. For example, if the seal on one head has failed, water will leak out around the riser even when your sprinkler is off. Core aeration done on your lawn could put a hole in a too shallow section of pipe. Or if a valve is stuck, one zone could stay on the entire time the system is programmed to run.
So, every few weeks during the growing season, go outside and watch your sprinkler run. I prefer to do it with a beverage in hand, but that is optional. All sprinkler control boxes have the capability of turning on each zone whenever you wish. Most have a test program where each zone will run from one to five minutes, so you don't have to go back and forth from the control box clicking through each zone. It really is that easy.