The Drip Line
On-line, single outlet, point-source emitters, (once available in only a few non-pressure compensating types) are now produced by many manufacturers, and are available in a wide variety of designs and flow rates. The most common type installed in commercial installations are ‘pressure compensating’ (PC) emitters, which are specified by a majority of designers, mainly due to the fact that the prescribed flow rate will remain relatively constant regardless of changes in dynamic pressure within the system. These hydraulic conditions may be present on drip systems with long runs or significant changes in elevation. PC emitters are also often selected due to their self-cleaning capability.
In most situations, PC emitters are the best choice, but not always. PC emitter design usually incorporates a diaphragm, which fluctuates in response to incoming pressure, thereby providing more uniform flow than a non-PC emitter. Because of this design, PC emitters usually have a minimum operating pressure requirement of 8-12 psi. If the inlet pressure never reaches the minimum level, the emitter may enter the “flush mode,” where the diaphragm is opened to allow increased flow. Non-PC emitters generally have a lower minimum pressure requirement.
So in certain situations, non-PC emitters may actually be the better choice. These time-tested, economical, on-line emitters are usually produced in a .5-, 1-, 2-, or 4-gallon-per-hour pre-set models. Most utilize a “turbulent flow” design (no diaphragm) where the water is controlled and accelerated by forcing it through a labyrinth of small passageways. They can be utilized on relatively level systems with little elevation change (20 feet or less) and still achieve excellent uniformity. Although these durable emitters lack some of the added features of PC emitters (like built-in check valves), they are more economical and may hold up better over time, especially when used on systems supplied with non-potable, or re-claimed water.
Non-PC emitters of one form or another are also a good choice for gravity flow systems, which frequently operate at pressures less than 10psi.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Stuart Spaulding, CLIA, is Technical Service Manager for DIG Corporation.