Conserving Water With Artificial Turf

artificial grass

August 15, 2017

A perfect lawn requires an investment of both time and money. In drought-prone areas, a green, thick lawn may require frequent watering sessions. In all climates, it will need to be mowed and weeded without damaging the grass.

According to Popular Mechanics, most natural turf grasses need around one inch of water per week. If they fail to receive this amount from rain, then sprinkling is necessary. Lawns may also require fertilizer, which can be effective yet costly, and make the yard off-limits to children and pets following treatment. 

Artificial grasses, on the other hand, can provide an attractive, green lawn without the need for frequent watering, fertilizers, or weekly cutting and weeding. Aside from decreasing water bills, synthetic turf also helps conserve water while freeing up a homeowners time otherwise spent on lawn care.

Below are some tips and information if you are considering artificial grass.

What is Artificial Turf?

Made from different materials such as nylon and polyethylene, artificial lawns have several components. Every “blade” or filament is threaded into a porous base, which allows water to pass through and reduces the chance of pooling in heavy rains.

Each carpet-like section of turf is placed over a layer that allows for further drainage. This sub-turf section is often fabricated from gravel or sand and is usually packed down, so the surface appears clean and even. It is essential that the “drainage layer” allows rainwater to seep downward so that the turf can dry out just like natural grass.

The edges of the turf-covered area are fastened to the ground with stakes to prevent the entire lawn from blowing away in high winds. Some artificial lawns mix sand or rubber pellets (made from recycled tires) in between the blades of grass to further protect the turf from lifting.

Cost and Financing Options

The cost of installing an artificial lawn varies. The need for a compacted drainage layer and properly fastened turf makes this a difficult do-it-yourself project. Many installers recommend several inches of drainage layer to ensure proper water runoff while thwarting weeds.

The average upfront cost of an artificial lawn ranges from $10 and $20 per square foot when fully installed, with $5 per square foot being the lowest end. Compared to grass seed or sod squares, artificial turf is expensive to install.

However, because of the potential for significant long-term savings on water, most artificial lawns qualify for property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing. This option enables property owners to pay for their upgrade over time on their annual property tax bills, instead of paying for their improvement upfront. Because of the savings on watering and other maintenance costs, many homeowners find that the upgrade pays for itself throughout the years.

Caring for an Artificial Lawn

Artificial lawns do not require watering or mowing, but a homeowner does need to perform occasional cleaning—especially if they have pets that go outside. A broom or leaf blower can be used for basic cleaning, while spraying the lawn will help keep it pristine. Homeowners with dogs will need to clean up the pet’s waste frequently and use disinfecting sprays.

Stains and burns from firepits or barbecue grills are other issues to consider. Stains can be treated and removed with special sprays; turf installation companies sell products that are specific to the type of turf that they install. Burn marks can be patched, but people who want a fireplace directly on their lawn may be better off exploring other options because of the potential for melting or other damage to artificial grass.

Is Artificial Turf Good for the Environment?

There are several environmental benefits of artificial turf—the greatest one being water conservation. In drought-prone areas where water is scarce,  the ability to have an attractive yard without the need for watering helps conserve precious resources.

The absence of fertilizers eliminates the chance of polluting local waterways with pesticide and chemical runoff. Furthermore, local air pollution from lawn mower exhaust is inherently reduced. 

As for the end of an artificial lawn’s life cycle? Grass is organic, but turf is not, so it ends up in a landfill where it does not easily decompose. On the other hand, the pollution caused by mowing or fertilizing grass is a potential drawback of natural lawns.

In terms of the environment, each option has a similar number of pros and cons. As far as lowering water usage (and water bills), artificial turf is the better option.

Why Professional Installation is the Best Choice

Natural grass provides a cooling effect. If you have ever stood in the grass in your bare feet on a hot day, then you have felt this for yourself. Healthy grass can even make the air above the lawn feel cooler.

Artificial turf does not always have this quality. Depending on the materials that the surface is made from, it may become hotter when exposed to sunlight and high temperatures. But, this is not necessarily a deal breaker. Lighter shades of turf handle direct sunlight better than darker hues, whereas the state of the ground beneath your turf will also affect its surface temperature. Professional installers experienced at installing artificial turn can create a setup to keep your turf as cool (or nearly as cool) as natural grass.

Runoff is another important issue that homeowners may not think of when considering artificial lawns. Natural lawns allow rain to seep down into the soil. Artificial grass is designed to allow the same kind of absorption. However, the ground underneath the turf needs to be compacted to give the turf a smooth appearance. Gravel or some other similar substrate that will allow the water to continue seeping downward is necessary: if you simply level the existing soil, it could become too compacted and unable to soak up water. For these reasons, installing artificial turf is a job best left to professional installers.

Find out if PACE is available in your area; contact Ygrene at (855) 901-3999 or check your eligibility online.