How Much Should A Lawn Irrigation System Cost?

I used to think that managing a yard would be easy, nay… a pleasure, but little did I know that a lawn is very much like a very old, fragile, sedentary dog.

It needs tons of care and attention just to keep its ticker going, and, sometimes, although you don’t like to think it, it can be a bit of a burden.

Thankfully, there are things you can do to ease the weight on your shoulders and streamline your lawn management, one of which is to install an irrigation system.

How Much Should A Lawn Irrigation System Cost?

These nifty sprinkler networks can be tailored to your outdoor space, ensuring that your little green children get all the water they need to thrive without you having to lift a finger.

Sounds good, right? But also… expensive, so let’s take a look at how much a lawn irrigation system could set you back.

The Cost Of A Lawn Irrigation System

I see no virtue in burying the lead here, folks, so I’m going to get right to the meat of the article and start throwing some figures your way.

The cost of lawn irrigation system materials and installation differs significantly based on a few key variables (more on that in a minute), but generally speaking, you should be preparing your savings account for a $500–$5000+ hit.

That’s not exactly pocket change, is it? The question is, will you see an ROI in the form of the value it brings to your life?

Variables That Influence The Price of Lawn Irrigation Costs

Okay, so now you have an idea of the price range of irrigation systems, let’s look at some variables, so you can whittle costs down to a more precise figure.

lawn irrigation system

Yard Size

If you’ve got a veritable golf course out back, you can expect a comprehensive lawn irrigation system to cost a pretty penny. The more vegetation there is to maintain, the more materials you’ll need, and the longer installation will take.

Irrigation systems for smaller yards are a lot more affordable, but once you get down to a certain size, you may as well just continue watering your yard yourself.

Targeted Zones

It may be that you need to dedicate certain aspects of your irrigation system to one specific plant, tree, or section of your garden, but the more targeted a sprinkler is, the less ground it covers, meaning you could end up needing a larger irrigation network.

Yard Gradient

Yard gradient has more to do with the running costs of a lawn irrigation system than it does with material or installation costs, but it’s one of the most important things to consider before making your final decision.

It’s normal for lawns to slope ever so slightly downwards away from your home to facilitate proper drainage and prevent flooding, but if your yard looks more like the drop of a Disney World rollercoaster, you may have a problem.

Steep gradients lead to faster and more thorough drainage, so fast and thorough that your lawn may not even get a chance to quench its thirst before the water has been and gone.

This means that your irrigation system will have to work overtime and use A LOT of water to keep your greenery hydrated.

And while we’re on the topic of water consumption, you can use this handy equation to figure out how much water you’ll need to keep your lawn healthy and happy.

  • Length x Width of your yard = Square Footage
  • Sq. ft. x 0.623 = Water Consumption in Gallons

Yard Location

Location is another factor that affects the cost of running an irrigation system.

For example, if you live in a particularly arid climate where water is quite scarce (comparatively speaking), every last drop that feeds through your sprinklers is going to cost more than it would if you lived in, say… Hawaii or Washington.

Type Of Lawn Irrigation System

This one’s a biggie! You may not realize it, but there are actually 4 main types of lawn irrigation system. Here’s a brief rundown of each one and what you can expect to pay for them based on the size of your yard.

Type of Lawn Irrigation

Traditional Surface Sprinkler Systems

Surface sprinkler irrigation systems are generally what come to mind when you think of automated lawn hydration. They consist of a sequence of standard omnidirectional sprinklers, and although they’re capable of covering lots of ground, a lack of targeting limits their efficacy in certain scenarios.

How Much Do Surface Systems Cost?

  • ⅓ acre (roughly 14,500 square feet) ≈ $2000–$3000
  • ½ acre (roughly 21,700 square feet) ≈ $3500–$5500
  • 1 acre (roughly 43,500 square feet) ≈ $6000–$8000

Drip Irrigation Systems

Even though drip irrigation systems cover less ground than their surface sprinkler counterparts, they can actually help you save water, as their output is steady and targeted, minimizing run-off, wind drift, and evaporation. Being that these sprinklers are so accurate, they facilitate superior growth.

How Much Do Drip Systems Cost?

  • ⅓ acre ≈ $250–$500
  • ½ acre ≈ $500–$750
  • 1 acre ≈ $750–$1000

Furrow Irrigation Systems

A form of localized irrigation, furrow systems are usually only employed in commercial horticulture, but hey… if you have some wicked broad-acre row crops on the go, who says you can’t get in on the action?

The process involves funneling water through a gated pipe installed at the highest peak of a lawn. As the water travels through the pipe, the gates release water into a target furrow.

furrow irrigation system

Gravity then takes the reins and shepherds the moisture ever so slowly towards the lower reaches of the yard.

As well as being more hydro-efficient, furrow systems require less energy for pumping, so they’re not quite as expensive to run than, say, a surface sprinkler system.

How Much Does Furrow Irrigation Cost?

  • ⅓ acre ≈ $250–$500
  • ½ acre ≈ $500–$750
  • 1 acre ≈ $750–$1000

Rotor Irrigation Systems

Rotary irrigation systems are similar to surface sprinkler systems, but their targeted output gives you far more control over hydration schedules. They also feature rotating heads, so even though they’re designed for precision irrigation, if need be, they can cover a lot of ground.

How Much Does Rotor Irrigation Cost?

  • ⅓ acre ≈ $250–$700
  • ½ acre ≈ $700–$1000
  • 1 acre ≈ $1000–$1500

Other Types Of Irrigation

The irrigation systems detailed above are the most common, especially in residential settings, but there are quite a few other forms, such as center pivot irrigation, lateral move irrigation, and sub-irrigation, used on farms that you may want to look into.

However, be warned… these are complex systems for industrial-grade cultivation, so prices can get pretty scary.

DIY Vs Pro Installation

Although I recommend it, you don’t have to hire a professional to install your irrigation system. If it’s a small network and you’re pretty hot on your plumbing, then there’s no reason you can’t fit it yourself and save a few bucks in the process.

That said, I’m assuming you’re looking into irrigation systems because you’re already a busy individual, and a DIY installation is going to completely devour your time.

Depending on the system, it can involve a lot of physically demanding labor, so make sure you think twice before taking on the project.

Paying for professional installation will certainly be more expensive, but it frees you up to live your life, correct installation is guaranteed, and the system will be in place quicker. If you have a particularly large lawn, you’re going to want to hire a pro… trust me.

System Quality

Irrigation systems aren’t all made equal. Much like anything in this world, there are good ones and, well… not so good ones. Buying an advanced system from a reputable manufacturer may cost more out the gate, but the reliability and efficacy will pay off in the long run.

Cheaping out on an inefficient, poorly crafted system will save you in the short term, but the additional maintenance and repairs fees, combined with inefficient water consumption, may end up leaving you out of pocket in the future.

I’d recommend holding off as long as you can in order to maximize your irrigation budget, then investing in a high-quality system that won’t let you or your lawn down.

Don’t Forget About Lawn Irrigation System Maintenance Fees

It’s easy to get caught up in purchase costs, but it’s just as important to consider the post-purchase costs of an irrigation system.

We’ve already talked a little about water consumption, but something you may not have thought of yet are maintenance fees.

lawn irrigation system

You can do a lot of simple system maintenance yourself by checking for leaks and clogged sprinkler heads, but at least once a year, you’ll need a professional plumber to come in and check things out, which will set you back something to the tune of $115 before repairs.

Then there’s winterization to consider. When irrigation season comes to an end, it’s critical your system is ready to handle the approaching cold weather.

A professional will charge between $100 and $125 for this service. The other side of the seasonal coin is re-activation, which will cost a further $40–$150.

Key Considerations Before Purchasing a Lawn Irrigation System

As you can see, even if you settle on a fairly modest irrigation system, the maintenance and running costs can set you back a small fortune over the years, so you have to be sure it’s the right move before breaking ground.

Do You Really Need One?

An irrigation system is certainly a nice-to-have, but it’s not often that we truly need one.

We may find it difficult to shoehorn watering sessions into our busy lives, but a properly regimented watering schedule can help you take care of your lawn in a streamlined fashion, and cut down on wasted time.

Can You Afford One

Irrigation systems aren’t cheap, and although some of them are incredibly efficient, you won’t see a financial return on your investment in the same way you might by installing a top-of-the-line smart thermostat or solar panels.

What’s more, financial circumstances change, we hope for the better, but that’s not always the case. If you’re hit by sudden money troubles, you may not be able to afford to pay for the running and maintenance costs of your system.

This is why, when thinking of installing an irrigation system, you should contemplate your future financial standing as well as your present outlook.

Does your future look comfortable, or do you foresee some tight times ahead?

Your Receipt: A Summary of Lawn Irrigation Costs

Let’s bring this article to a close with a receipt of all the possible up-front and annual costs of an irrigation system.

Product/ServiceUp-Front CostAnnual Cost
Installation$500–$8000$0
Water Consumption$0$100–$125
Maintenance$0$115(ish)
Winterization$0$51–$113
Activation$0$40–$150
Replacement Parts $0$0.50–$52 (excluding labor)
Total =$500–$8000$306.50–$555

Summing Up: Should You Invest in a Lawn Irrigation System?

Considering the average American spends about an hour a week hydrating their lawn, an automated irrigation system could free up well over 48 hours a year.

That’s time you could spend hanging out with your kids, napping, pursuing a passion, or focusing on other yard-based activities!

This is the true value of a lawn irrigation system. It’s not going to save you a ton of money, but it is going to give you the most valuable commodity in this life… time.

So, if you have a larger than average yard, and your finances can shoulder the costs, I highly recommend investing in an irrigation system.

Actually, when I said an irrigation system won’t make you money, I wasn’t being completely truthful. An irrigation system boosts the curb appeal and value of your property a great deal, so when the time comes to move home, you’ll be cashing in, my friend!

An automated irrigation system is also a wise move for green thumbs entering the autumn of their lives, as the physicality of lawn maintenance can be a little overwhelming, and, again, the time it will free up is truly and utterly precious.