General FAQs

  • What are Fairfax Water Rates, Fees, and Charges?

Water meter costs and links for Fairfax County:
5/8″ meter is currently $4,100 will increase to $4150 in 2018- that’s the cost of the meter only.
Service hookup charge currently $11,685 will increase to $13,450 in 2018.
There is also an additional $1,240 charge to set up a new account.

https://www.fcwa.org/rates/index.htm
https://www.fcwa.org/rates/Current/Fairfax%20Water%20Rate%20Schedule%20Effective%204-1-2017%20(adopted%20-%20final).pdf
https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpwes/navbar/faqs/watersewer.htm

 

  • What are the top reasons why to choose Affordable Lawn Sprinklers versus some of your competitors.

Affordable Lawn Sprinklers and Lighting is the complete package.  We are experts in lawn sprinkler systems and low voltage lighting systems.  Here a 5 huge reasons why we are a great pick:
1)  We are Certified Irrigation Contractors, believe it or not, many companies are NOT certified
http://www.irrigation.org/directories/default.aspx?pg=certification.ascx&id=53
2)  We were the only lawn sprinkler and lighting company to receive the prestigious Super Service Award for Angie’s List in 2009
3)  We have straight A’s on Angie’s List, Washington Checkbook and the BBB
4)  We have a huge service department that is dedicated to providing outstanding service
5)  We have 4 dedicated office people to help answer your questions and schedule your service needs

When selecting your irrigation contractor, one must look long term.  Who is going to be able to properly service this system for the next 10-20 years.  If you are going to spend thousands of dollars, you need to make sure you are putting in a system that is going to last a long time.

Do your research, look at the BBB, subscribe to Angie’s List or Washington Checkbook, check references, ask for a detailed drawing of your plan, look at their website, call their office and make sure someone answers your call, just remember

“The sting of low quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten”.  

 

  • Do you offer an extended warranty?

Yes.

 

  • How long have you been in business?

We incorporated in January 2002.

 

  • How many customers do you have?

We have over 3,000 customers as of Fall 2009.

 

  • How many service technicians do you have?

Yes, we currently have 10 full-time service technicians, we believe having professional, capable and well-trained service technicians is essential to providing outstanding customer service. This is something many companies can’t offer and you will see a dramatic difference in the quality of service. Lawn sprinkler systems are put through rigorous wear and tear. Most systems are in use over 300 hours per year. They are exposed to the natural elements (heavy rainfalls, snow cold, etc). In addition, most customers landscaping plans change over time so it is important to choose a company you feel comfortable with. Choose a company that calls you back promptly to schedule a technician. Providing outstanding customer service is our commitment to you.

 

  • Do you have people in your office answering phones?

Yes!  We have 3 people our office to ensure you have a great customer experience.  Our office hours are 7:30 am to 5 pm Monday through Saturday.  Nothing is worse than leaving countless voicemails, having broken appointments, etc.

 

  • Do you carry insurance and is that important?

Yes, we have a very comprehensive insurance program. We have the following insurance protection:

  • General Liability (covered up to $2,000,000)
  • Workers Compensation on every employee
  • Auto Insurance

Unfortunately, there are some lawn sprinkler companies that do not carry insurance and the risk is transferred to the property owner (You!) should any problem arise or if an employee is hurt. We highly recommend you validate that any company which you do business with carries a comprehensive insurance program.

 

  • Do you offer a warranty?

We offer a comprehensive warranty for two year from the installation date.  Our warranty covers poor workmanship and defective parts.

 

 

Irrigation Systems

  • How can I save water and be GREEN?

A sprinkler system is only as effective as the operator.  On average turf needs about 1″ of water a week and plants need between 1/2″ to 1″ depending on the plant type, grading and sun exposure.  An operator needs to adjust his/her control box weekly as the rainfall and temperature changes throughout the year.  The three biggest ways to save water are the following:
1)  Not activate the sprinkler system until May (if you have new plants, you can activate the system for the plant beds but it isn’t necessary for the grass).
2)  Listen to the radio and if you receive an inch of rainfall, turn the system off for 5-7 days or until you see signs of dryness on your property.
3)  Use soak and cycle strategies to reduce water run-off.

 

  • What are the TOP 5 MOST IMPORTANT QUALITIES in a good contractor?

1)  Tenure as a company, 95% of most companies go out of business in 5 years.  New companies are learning on your job, their mistakes become your problem.  We recommend looking at companies that been in business for a minimum of 5 years.
2)  Reputation, references are great but even better are public sites such as Washington Checkbook , Angie’s List and Service Magic.  These sites validate companies have the right licenses, valid insurance and give customers the ability to express their feedback on how their experience was with their contractor.

3)  Do they actively do work in your area  The actual installation is just the first step towards a good solution for your lawn.  Next you need the company’s resources to train and retrain you on how to use the system and also how to properly maintain the system.  If you live in Mclean, it doesn’t make sense to hire a contractor based out of Maryland or Fredericksburg Virginia because servicing your service will always be difficult if they don’t service many customers in your area.

4)  How many systems do they install in a year  Every year, we receive hundreds of new customers who want a reliable company to service their company.  The typical reasons are vast ranging from the company went out of business, doesn’t return their phone calls, service technicians aren’t experienced, etc.  But the type of company is always consistent, small contractors!  The owner typically wears all the hats and there are too many (sales, project management, parts manager, accounts payable, accounts receivable, service manager, billing, receptionist, etc).  More often than not, they do a great job at sales and a decent job at installations but stink at the rest.  Remember, a warranty is only as good as the company.

5)  Are they certified irrigation contractors?  This is a national certification which contractors must sit for 2 days of class and pass a 4 hour exam.  The test covers:  proper backflows and installation, how to analyze water flow rates and pressure, irrigation design, safety, troubleshooting, etc.  We are surprised it isn’t a state law to be a Certified Irrigation Contractor, most states mandate contractors are certified.  Regardless, it is a great criteria to consider when selecting the right contractor for your system.

 

  • Does having a sprinkler system really save time?

Yes. You won’t have to spend another minute of your valuable leisure time watering the lawn. Your new system will do all the watering for you – even when you’re away from home.

 

  • Will the water from my landscaping spray heads hit the foundation of my house?

This is another area we are very unique.  We stagger are spray heads (some heads in front of the bed facing the house and other heads at the base of the house spraying away) for two reasons:  1)  It eliminates water shadowing (where plants/shrubs block water from hitting other plants) and 2) It reduces the amount of overspray on the foundation of your house.  Typically, it will increase the cost of the total system, but it is the best application for your landscaping today and tomorrow.  Nothing is worse than returning from a summer vacation and finding expensive landscaping dead from lack of water.

 

  • Will you know where my underground utilities are located?

Before we begin working on any property, we will contact Ms Utility of Virginia 72 hours before we begin your project to mark the following utility lines:  water line will be marked in blue, gas will be marked in yellow, power will be marked in red, and cable and phone will be marked in orange.  Typically, the cable and phone lines are the only shallow utility lines, they are often only 2-3” deep in the ground.  As a measure of precaution from hitting your cable or phone lines, we will hand dig around all utility lines.  But, there are no guarantees that you phone or cable line won’t be damaged.  There is no way to guarantee that the line was accurately marked or we won’t hit the line hand digging with a pick and shovel.  If a utility line is hit, our project manager will promptly inform you and instruct you on how to resolve the issue.  Typically the cable and phone companies are very reactive in providing great service and schedule a service tech to your property right away and do not charge a fee.

 

  • What is a backflow preventer?

A backflow preventer’s purpose is to protect your drinking water from the possible contaminants from your lawn. Think of the how an inflatable raft works, you can blow air in, but no air can escape. The backflow works the same way, water can feed into your sprinkler system, but it cannot return back to your drinking water. This is a required device for ALL installations in Northern Virginia.

 

  • What is the recommended watering schedule?

Without knowing your property, it is difficult to recommend the perfect watering schedule for everyone. But here is good starting point:

  1. Calculate the total time needed to water your entire property (take a sheet of paper, write down the time you will be watering each zone, add up the total time)
  2. Evaluate what time your family begins using the water source in the morning (showers, dishwasher, laundry machine, etc). Take this time, subtract the total time needed to water your lawn and there is your recommended water time for your residence. We don’t recommend watering at night due to the possibility of getting fungus.
  3. We recommend watering spray zones less minutes per week than rotors due to the constant water flow on spray. During the fall and spring, we recommend watering shrubs 2 x’s per week for 10 minutes, during the peak of summer, try watering 3x’s per week.
  4. For rotors, we recommend watering in the fall and spring 3x’s per week for 15 minutes. During the summer, you should probably add 2 more watering sessions per week.

Please note, these are only recommended watering times, the best way to ensure the best program is to closely monitor your plants and lawn. If you find your plants and lawn starting to dry out or brown, you should add minutes. If you find your lawn to be really mushy and soggy, turn the watering time down.

 

  • How much maintenance is required with a sprinkler system?

Maintenance is important to ensure the system continually runs smooth. The most important service is the Fall Turn Off and the Spring Turn On. In the fall we will blow all the water out of the system to eliminate the risk of freezing pipes over the winter months. We also remove any pieces that have the risk of freezing and cracking. In the spring we come back out and hook the system back up and get it turned on. We also make sure no equipment or parts were damaged over the winter. Finally, we make sure that the system has overlapping coverage and all rotors and spray heads are aimed correctly. Please check out our service section for details on our Annual Service Agreement.

 

  • Will an automatic sprinkler system use more water than I’m currently using?

Well that depends if you are currently watering your lawn and shrubs. If you are, then no. Many customers have found decreases in their water bill after installing a lawn sprinkler system.

 

  • Should I install a separate water meter for my sprinkler system?

If you are a resident in Northern Virginia then you may not need a separate meter for your lawn sprinkler system. Many water authorities in northern Virginia use your average water sewage rate during winter months and apply this rate for your summer months. This is a logical solution to avoid having to pay sewage for the water you use outside your home during the warmer months. Please check with your local water authority for information on your specific situation.

Here are a few counties that we know that offer separate meters:

City of Alexandria

Arlington (budget $4000-6000) reduces water rate about $8 per 100 minutes of water usage

Town of Vienna (fairly simple and inexpensive, budget $500-1000)

City of Fairfax (fairly simple and inexpensive, budget $500-1000)

Montgomery County (WSSC) (budget $2,000 – 3000)

Please see the following FAQs on this subject: Fairfax County: http://www.fcwa.org/about/sewer.htm
Loudoun County: http://www.loudounwater.org/About/Understanding-Your-Water/Sewer-Bill/
Prince William County: http://www.pwcsa.org/documents/rates%20and%20fees/Cust_Ratebook_12pp_r5FNL08.pdf

 

  • Poly Pipe vs. PVC

Although you will find a mixture of companies using both types of material in the Northern Virginia area, we feel Poly Pipe is a superior product. PVC is recommended for warmer areas such as Florida, Georgia, California, etc. Poly Pipe is recommended for areas susceptible to long freezes. If you go to North Carolina, you will find all companies using PVC. If you go to Pennsylvania, you will find all companies using Poly Pipe. Northern Virginia is in the middle and that is why you find a mixture of both. We not only double clamp all our connections, we also use stainless steel clamps and screws to prevent possible leakage.  Poly pipe is also a flexible pipe which holds up better to rocky soil climates.  Lastly, it comes in rolls of 300′ which reduces the amount of connections needed.  PVC requires primer and cement every 20′ to connect the two pipes and this creates an opportunity for workmanship errors or glue to fall apart and clog the valves over time.  Lastly, we carry the longest warranty in the area for our pipe, 5 years!

 

  • What is better, Rainbird vs Hunter?

This has been a hot topic for debate for years, very similar to trying to decide whether Bud Light taste better than Miller Light, truth is most people could never tell the difference if you hid the sprinkler device from view. We feel both companies offer great products, this is why we are willing to customize your order. Often the quality level is more important than the brand name and both companies have different quality products. Think of Toyota, they manufacture the Tercel, Camry and Avalon. Make sure you are always getting the highest quality parts from both companies.  For my house, I went with the Rainbird ESP control box, DV100 Rainbird Valves, Rainbird 1800 Spray heads and Rainbird 5004 rotor heads.

 

  • Will your estimate provide a drawing of my sprinkler design?

Yes, customers should request this from all contractors. A drawing will help you visualize and understand your system. Frequently, first time buyers are unaware of how to select the best contractor so they focus mainly on the number of sprinkler heads and price. What the fail to consider is an improperly designed system is very difficult can be very expensive to fix. Here are things you should look for:

  1. How far apart are the sprinkler heads (does the system provide head to head coverage)?
  2. How many rotor and spray heads per zone?
  3. Where are you going to install the valve boxes?
  4. How many valves will be in each box?

Every one one of our estimates will include a hand drawn picture of your plat and our proposed sprinkler design.

 

  • How much will a lawn sprinkler system cost?

It is difficult to give an exact price without reviewing your property’s needs. Here are a few things that affect pricing:

1)  Plumbing:  The easier it is to connect to a main water line 3/4″ or greater, the cheaper the plumbing. There are three categories for plumbing:  inside, outside and outside with a sidewalk.

2)  Shape of your property squares and rectangles are cheaper than trapezoids

3)  Type of terrain:  amount of landscaping, terrain (rocky soil or areas with a large number of tree roots), and

4)  Hardscaping (driveways, patios, walkways).

A general price range is listed below:

  • 1/8 acre (6,000-8,000 sq ft including house) $2,800-$3,500
  • 1/4 acre (10,000-12,000 sq ft including house) $3,500-$4,500
  • 1/3 acre (14,000-16,000 sq ft including house) $4,000-$5,500
  • 1/2 acre (20,000-24,000 sq ft including house) $5,000-$6,500
  • 3/4 acre (34,000-36,000 sq ft including house) $5,000-$6,000
  • 1 acre (44,000 sq ft including house) $7,000-10,000

 

  • How do I prevent my system from watering in the rain?

We install a free rain sensor with all of our systems. This device will deactivate your sprinkler system after ½ inch of rainfall.

 

 

Artistic Night Lighting

  • What should I look at when evaluating a lighting contractor?

Unfortunately, the majority of the lighting jobs I see when driving around at night stink.  Either they weren’t designed right from the beginning or the systems haven’t been properly maintained.  Experience is very important, if the sales representative has only been in the business a few years or doesn’t visit his or her jobsites, his jobs probably look bad.  Here is a list of things to ask or do in your research:
1)  Look at their website, how does their portfolio look?  If those pictures don’t look good than there is a good chance your jobs won’t either.  What brands do they list?  The major brand names are Kichler, Hadco, Vista, Unique, BR, and Cast.  If you don’t see those companies listed, they are probably using cheaps knock-off brands made in China or cheap plastic Home Depot lights.

2)  Does the sales representative have any pictures to show of jobs he or she has done

3)  How long has the sales representative been doing lighting?  What training have they received?  Are they Certified?

4)  Ask general questions such as “How many amps will the system need” “How much will it cost me a month” “Will you voltage test my lights to avoid premature burn-outs” “How do you compensate for voltage drop”.  These questions probably don’t mean anything to you at the moment but a great lighting designer will be able to explain what these things mean and why it is important for the longevity and safety of your lighting system.

5)  What brand lights do you use?  Be leary of companies that only offer one brand.  Lights all have different price points.  Some customers may be more value focused, others may prefer to pay a little bit more for a better light if they understand the value.  Also, certain manufacturers manufacturer bettter lights for certain applications.  A good company should carry at least 3 different brands.