Setting up a soaker hose is a great way to slowly deliver steady water to the base of plants so as to conserve water and not lose too much of it to evaporation. The trick however is to understand how much water the soaker hose puts down per hour so as to not underwater your plants on accident.
All soaker hoses are a little bit different structurally. They are all similar to that of ordinary garden hoses except that they have small pores all along their length and are closed on the end.
Each soaker hose will use a little bit less or a little bit more water per hour depending on hose PSI, hose diameter, and quality of the hose itself. In my garden I measured the amount of water used by my soaker hoses before I installed them in the garden using an 18-gallon container and a stop watch.
A 50-foot 1/2″ soaker hose will use 216 gallons of water per hour when regulated down to 10 PSI. For each foot-long segment that equates to 4.32 gallons of water per hour or .072 gallons of water per minute.
If you are irrigating a standard 32-square foot garden bed with a 50-foot soaker hose, using the same pressure regulator that I used for my experiment, then each square foot of garden space would receive approximately 6.75 gallons of water per hour.
Depending on the length of your soaker hose the PSI inside will decrease as it’s length increases. With all things being equal a 25-foot soaker hose will have a higher internal pressure than a 100-foot hose, however most soaker hoses should be used with the water PSI set between 10-20, that’s a little lower than normal household water pressure.
A soaker hose is liable to put down too much water near the spigot and too little water near the end of the hose if the pressure (PSI) is either too high or too low.
Basically each hose will put out water along it’s whole length when the pressure is just right… but just how much water can you expect to go down when they are setup properly?
Soaker hoses typically put down about one-inch of water along their lengths in about 200 minutes time when the flow rate is in the hoses rated pressure range. Many larger soaker hoses take water in at 1/2 GPM while smaller diameter hoses take in less water and use less per hour.
If you set your spigot to release 1/2 a gallon of water per minute then that means you are using 30 gallons of water per hour. If the soaker hose puts down all 30 gallons in an hour then that water is spread out over the full length of the hose. Obviously this means that a shorter hose will water deeper than a longer hose at the same flow rate but as the hose gets shorter the flow rate and PSI should be a tad lower anyway.
Longer hoses usually generally need a higher flow rate or PSI to work well and it’s why most soaker hoses are not rated to be used in lengths above 100 feet – the consistency in seepage gets harder to get right.
Obviously there are tons of variables that can affect the usage of water in a soaker hose every hour but once you take the time to figure out your products and system then they become set-and-forget systems.
A Few Main Differences In How Soaker Hoses Are Made
Soaker hoses are mostly made of rubber and polyethylene plastic. However, BPA free ones are now on offer in the market for eco-friendly gardeners.
Soaker hoses are often referred to as the “poor man’s drip irrigation system” due to their low set-up and installation costs. There are several benefits of installing soaker hoses in your garden which you may already be aware of.
- The porous hoses supply slow and steady water to plants at ground level which can prevent plants from developing fungal problems with their foliage.
- Soaker pipes of all kinds are easy to install in most outdoor gardens as they are simply connected to an outdoor faucet with regular garden hose connections.
- Most soaker hoses do not need pressure regulators installed as PSI (or flow rate) can be easily regulated at the source of water supply by simply opening the spigot valve partially.
- Low installation costs of soaker hoses make them an economical option for average home owners who want to conserve water especially when they are used in combination with hose timers.
How to Gauge Water Consumption In Your Soaker System
Soaker hoses do suffer from a few limitations but in my opinion they do not seem to overshadow their benefits. One significant question that many people do forget to consider is the amount of water that soaker hose uses and similarly, how much time the hose has to be on to get enough water on the ground.
In developed countries, water consumption is taxed. Hence it is crucial to evaluate the water consumption of a soaker hose, to decide whether the installation actually proves to be economical or not for the gardener or homeowner.
In some locations there are watering restrictions that have nothing to do with the amount of water applied but the amount of time allotted for irrigation. If you are only allowed to water for 30 minutes at a time then you may not get enough water out of a soaker hose to adequately irrigate your garden or planters.
Soaker hoses are popular among homeowners and gardeners with average size gardens because of their water efficiency but for people with huge gardens it can be hard to layout a soaker hose system without losing pressure in certain areas of the hose network… and if you want to figure out how much water your soaker hoses are putting out it can get complicated the larger your setup.
The answer cannot be answered in a straight forward way either as the water consumption of a soaker hose depends on so many variable factors. In the simplest terms possible you can calculate your water usage based on the pressure or flow rate of water at the tap, the size and the length of the hose, and the actual specs of the hoses you own.
Soaker hose use can be calculated either per minute or per hour and most people go by the hour because they emit water so slowly.
The flow rate decreases with the increase in the length of the hose. If you are not sure of calculating it on your own, then there are online calculators to help you.
Soaker hoses are durable and usually non-collapsible with variable lengths between 25 and 100 feet. You can easily can buy a soaker hose of 100ft, 75ft, 50ft or 25ft depending on your requirements or even shorten a hose to a specific length if you know how to cut and reattach fittings to the ends.
Water consumption can also be conserved by using pressure regulators, adjustable adapters, and spigot timers.
Here is one of the most common pressure regulators on Amazon, as you can see they are quite affordable.
And if you want to water at regular intervals then you can’t skip on a timer when they are so affordable and automatic. This Melnor digital timer on Amazon is the same one sold at my local brick & mortar store and it’s almost always priced lower on Amazon too.
Your water usage needs will also vary so make sure to figure out how much water your flower bed needs per week before you set your soaker hose on a timer. Factors will depend on plant type, plant size, garden soil structure, and the size of the garden area.
There are also two types of soaker hoses available on the market normally; the flat hoses and the round hoses, both of which are better for certain things in certain situations. This post compares flat and round soaker hoses if you are curious.
Many soakers also come with flow regulators inside the soaker hose in lieu of a stand alone regulator that you can buy and install yourself. These regulators you can buy are generally better but the pre-installed plastic regulators will also slow the water flow to a more reasonable flow rate.
Finally it is also advisable to connect a backflow preventer to ensure water doesn’t backup into your household water supply. With pressurized hoses this is even more important.
Do Soaker Hoses Save Water?
A soaker hose is a basic version of a drip irrigation system that will help in saving time, money, efforts, and water in the garden.
These hoses are similar to that of a regular watering hose but they have pores (not evenly punctured holes) for the water to leak out with a end cap closing it up. The porous hoses are ideal for small and average gardens and free you from carrying heavy hoses until the end of the garden for watering the plants.
The hose is left on the ground near the roots for watering the plants and does not spray water on leaves and stem unlike sprinklers thus preventing fungus growth. The water leaked from the pores is good enough to keep the ground under the plant, moist round the clock preventing water logging or drying of the soil.
Watering the plants using a soaker hose saves water consumption when used along with timers. The timers control turn the water supply on/off depending on the settings.
You do have to periodically check your soaker hoses for blockages and even water distribution but they do run relatively passively once you have them installed.
Using a Soaker Hose to Conserve Water
A soaker hose is used for saving water, as the water is supplied directly to the roots of the plant instead of wasting it by spraying into the air. The dripping water system of the soaker hose facilitates water conservation as there are less evaporation and over-spraying.
Here are few tips for saving water using a soaker hose:
- A soaker hose will work more efficiently on a leveled ground than on an uneven surface. Make sure that the land is leveled when using this style of hose.
- Choosing the right length of soaker hose will prevent water circulation and leakage from unused length. Hence, next time purchase a soaker hose with the range that is perfect for your garden size.
- Attaching water timers to your soaker hose will ensure that your garden gets enough water without waste.
How Much Area Do Soaker Hoses Effectively Water?
How much area do soaker hoses effectively water is the most common question asked by the homeowners and small gardeners? Although one cannot accurately mention that a soaker hose can serve a specific length of the garden, but can help small and average length gardens.
However, the efficiency of the soaker hose in medium and large sized gardens can be ensured using a pressure regulator. A pressure regulator attached to the hose with a setting of 10 or 12 psi can provide the right amount of water supply to the garden. However, this can be checked at regular intervals by digging a spot near the roots of the plants. The plant’s roots area should be half-covered with water when water is run for 40 minutes with a pressure of 10 or 12 psi.
Soaker houses work efficiently for average and small sized gardens with a leveled ground. The start-up cost of soaker hose is low and installing the hose is easy and just needs snaking around the plant beds. Raised beds are ideal for soaker hoses.
Can Soaker Hoses Be Connected Together Without Changing Water Output?
Another commonly asked question about soaker hoses is whether the hoses can be attached together to cover the length of the garden without changing the water output.
Yes, soaker hoses can be connected together using hose connecting fittings to make the length of the hose to fit your garden length. However, the maximum length of all the connected hoses should not usually be more than 100ft unless you are using very specialized products designed for extended lengths.
If you intend for the hose to serve different directions in the garden then you can use hose splitters to save on the length of the hose. If the faucet is far away from the plant bed, then an ordinary garden hose can be used for connecting the soaker hose from the faucet to the garden bed. This will save on the soaker hose length and also water.
Here is our post reviewing a few of the best (and longest) hoses on the market that can all be used to connect a soaker system to a far away faucet.
Two planter beds separated by a lawn or a piece of the paved path then running a regular hose in this area is the best way to save water and soaker hose length.
How Much Pressure is Needed to Use a Soaker Hose?
As discussed, earlier soaker hose works efficiently at a low water pressure. If you use one with high water pressure this can often result in bursting of the pipe, backflow, and uneven watering.
Installing a backflow preventer can make water conservation possible while also protecting your home’s water supply. Used in conjunction with a hose attached pressure regulator should be the best possible setup.
This is a very popular backflow preventer sold on Amazon that I recommend at least checking out. It’s price is so low it’s almost a rounding error.
If you are unsure whether your pressure setup is delivering water to your planter beds sufficiently or not, you can test it by checking the water distributed in the first 3ft and last 3 ft of the hose. If there is a lot of difference in the quantity of water delivered, then you may need to recheck the entire system.
It is always recommended to maintain a low pressure throughout your system no matter it’s length or complexity as high water pressure results in failures that can sometimes cause severe damage to your garden.
See this post for some ideas on how to increase your outdoor water pressure.
Are All Soaker Hoses the Same?
Now that we have discussed everything crucial related to using and setting up a soaker hose, you should also know which type of hose best suits your garden requirements.
Before deciding on the type of soaker hose, it is also crucial to understand whether all soaker hoses are the same or are there different types available on the market.
Although all the soaker hose types basically work the same way there are different types made of different material on offer in the market.
The Most Common Types of Soaker Hoses
Plastic or Vinyl Soaker Hoses
Soaker hoses made of plastic or vinyl are more affordable for homeowners when compared to heavy rubber ones. However, one cannot guarantee the quality as plastic and vinyl are the most inferior materials of all used for soaker hoses. These hoses are perforated throughout the length and come in variable lengths of 25ft, 50ft, 75ft, and 100ft. The diameter of the hose ranges from ½ inch to ¾ inch. One major disadvantage of plastic and vinyl soaker hose is that they tend to break when exposed to extreme hot or cold weather conditions.
Fibrous Soaker Hose
Soaker hoses made of rubber material is robust and last for a longer time when compared to plastic and vinyl material. The fibrous material is sturdy and can withstand the rough conditions of the garden. The holes punched into the hose allows water to seep slowly into the soil. The fibrous rubber hose is priced a little higher than the plastic/ vinyl hose but is worth the money.
Soak and Spray
The soak and spray soaker hose do two watering jobs simultaneously. The soaker hose when left on the plant bed soaks the ground below the plant in the water at the same time sprays the water upward onto the plants nearby. The height of the spray can be adjusted by adjusting the pressure. One good thing about this is that there is no fear of pipe bursting at even high-water pressure as spraying will relieve the pressure of the hose.
Sprinkler type of soaker hose features an oval-shaped hose on which a line of perforations is made. The hose when laid on the ground, the water is sprayed onto the plants through the holes. The pressure of the water controls the height of the spray. The hose can be turned into a soaker hose when turned around.
Soaker hoses are known for water conservation and the efficient watering of plants in small gardens. Low set-up cost, easy installation and improved water conservation makes them popular among households and small gardens.