It’s easy to take a well-designed landscape for granted. When we’re looking at a landscape, we shouldn’t be focusing on the placement of the sprinkler heads or the presence of a backflow prevention device. Instead, we should be commenting on how green, lush and beautiful the landscape is. Everything that helps keep it that way should be completely forgotten.

Enclosures make landscapes more aesthetically pleasing by hiding the distracting mechanical devices involved with irrigation, such as backflow preventers, pumps, meters, and controllers. They’re the protective cage-like or box-like structures of various sizes that you’ve seen scattered around city parks or commercial landscapes. Some are stainless steel, some are green fiberglass, and some are even disguised to look like rocks.

Enclosures are also used for protection from vandals and the weather. The last thing you want is a prankster tampering with your carefully-adjusted irrigation schedule. At the same time, vandalizing a backflow prevention device could create a serious health risk. The use of an enclosure can protect controllers or backflow devices from either type of interference.

Weather can be problematic, too. In warm climates, high temperatures can affect the electronics of controllers; in cold climates, low temperatures can freeze pipes. The right enclosure can protect irrigation equipment in either scenario. The American Society of Sanitary Engineering (ASSE) has created three classes of enclosures to help in choosing the right product for the right application.

Photo courtesy: V.I.T Products

Freeze protection enclosures are heated and insulated to prevent the freezing of the devices contained within. “If the outside air temperature drops to -30?F, these enclosures are designed to maintain a temperature of 40?F inside,” explains Brian Devine, southeast regional sales manager for Hot Box, Jacksonville, Florida. They contain a heating device to maintain this temperature.

Freeze-retardant enclosures are not heated, but are heavily insulated. They slow heat loss to retard the rate of freezing for the devices within them. Non-freeze protection enclosures don’t protect against freezing at all—rather, they simply protect from vandals and tampering.

Open mesh, cage-like enclosures would certainly fall into the last category. However, their open structure means they’re not as completely tamper-proof as solid enclosures. But cage-like enclosures do have their advantages, as seen in areas with a graffiti problem. “There’s no surface to graffiti,” says Karen Moore of V.I.T. Products, Inc., Escondido, California. “This can really protect the ambiance of a landscape.”

If temperature and vandalism are such concerns, you might wonder why irrigation equipment isn’t simply buried below ground. The answer here is simple: safety.

“When equipment is installed underground, that means workers have to go underground to maintain it,” Devine says. “Men end up working in pits. There have been numerous accidents in situations like that.” Enclosures provide a best-of-both-worlds scenario, giving equipment the protection of being underground and workers the safety of being aboveground.

Some materials used to construct enclosures include stainless steel, aluminum, fiberglass, and plastic. Materials subject to rust, such as aluminum, are treated for rust protection, because all enclosures are meant to be durable. “They have to stand up to baseball bats, cars, all kinds of things,” says Moore. Devine chuckles, “They’re durable, but I can’t tell you how long they last. We’ve never had one go bad.”

Different manufacturers offer enclosures with different features to fit a variety of needs. A drain port can be important in case a pipe bursts. Some enclosures have two drain ports, so that if the assembly is tilted or installed on a slope, it can still drain. Additionally, if debris blocks or clogs one port, the enclosure is still capable of draining.

Hot Box makes enclosures that come pre-assembled so that they can be installed in less than one hour by two people. V.I.T. Products offers enclosures with a removable backboard and pre-drilled holes so it’s easier to install controller equipment.

Photo courtesy: Hot Box

“You can take the backboard off and attach the controller in the shop rather than in the field,” explains Moore. This is also helpful for changing equipment—you can switch controllers without having to buy a new enclosure.

Enclosures are typically installed on a concrete slab under the irrigation component. However, several manufacturers now make bases that are easier and less expensive to install, because they require no concrete.

A manufacturer can help you decide what size enclosure you’ll need, as there are a wide variety and can even be custom-designed to accommodate particularly large components. Prices range from just over a hundred dollars to several thousands of dollars, and are well-worth the investment for your customers. Not only will enclosures protect a client’s landscape by keeping components safe and warm, they make the landscape more aesthetically pleasing as well.