Making rain… of sorts, or how to build a cheap house sprinkler system

With the new (second hand) carport meeting our 80% completion rule, the strong hot dry winds brought another project into sharp focus.  With much of the state affected by catastrophic bush fires, and with no rain on the medium term forecast, we critically looked at our bush-fire plan, and decided to make a few changes.

We upgraded the water pump on our mighty AU falcon ‘fire truck’.  We had previously stored the tank on a trailer, but the falcon struggled to tow the trailer having no weight over its back wheels.  A new larger capacity Honda fire pump with a 6 metre suction hose also allows us to fill the tank from a dam or the creek.  As a bonus, I can hold the hose in my right hand and water our new trees from the driver’s seat, making that job a lot easier too.

The falcon fire pump upgrade was an easy fix, however the next part of the project was much more complex.

We wanted to install a sprinkler system on the roof of the house.  The first step was to come up with a plan.  Using our CAD (cardboard aided design) template, we came up with a plan for a series of sprinklers that would maximise coverage.  Noting that our worst fire weather comes from the west, we biased the sprinkler sites to the west of the house to allow for drift.

Initially I wanted to install a galvanised steel system, however with a roll of 1 inch rural pipe hanging on the shed wall, I decided to use resources to hand.  What I forgot to factor in was the cost of the compression fittings.  I spent a few minutes at Bunnings laying out the fittings in order to make sure I had all the bits I needed.

A couple of early mornings work, and I had the fittings in place and all the pipe laid out.  The 1 inch pipe was a bit difficult to work, but I soon had it tamed and looking reasonably neat.  The one advantage of a flat roof is that you can’t see much of my work from the ground!

The water comes from our house water tank, which uses a petrol pump to transfer water to our shed tanks, which supply the house.  I simply traced the pipe and installed a T piece and a couple of valves to allow water to be diverted onto the roof of the house when required.  I was a little nervous when I started up the pump for the first time, but I was more than happy with the results.

The pump is the same model Honda as is on the back of the mighty AU falcon.  The Honda small engines are unbelievably reliable, and easy to start.  The whole family are able to start the pumps – which make me far more comfortable this time of year.

One important element of our fire plan acknowledges that if there is a fire nearby, there is a very good chance I won’t be around to do much about it.  Lending a hand last weekend with our local brigade reminded me how many volunteers give thousands of hours protecting the property of strangers.  And how many volunteers also provide logistic support – it might have been late when we took a break in at Braidwood, but we left with full bellies.

Unfortunately I can’t make it rain – but what I can do is hopefully lessen the impact of one of the consequences of ongoing drought – bush-fire.


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