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Garden Hoses 101

Being a City Boy for the most part, my first sight of our over-sized fire pit evoked memories of gigantic high school graduation bash bonfires, with dozens of "warm and toasty" teenagers gathered around the blaze, feeding the flames with any available logs, small trees, broken picnic tables, shelving units, get the idea. 

The reality of the situation is that even a moderately-sized treed lot can generate a remarkable amount of yard waste over the course of the year in the form of grass, pinecones, leaves, needles and deadwood.  In many, if not most, regions the common practice is to gather up this vegetation in one place (be it a fire pit or a 'burn barrel') and, on a not-too-dry and not-too-windy day, incinerate the lot of it.  It was in the interest of the safe practice of this time-honoured tradition that the man we call 'Neighbour Dan' (we call him that because his name is Dan, and he's our neighbour) recommended that I acquire a "good hose".  Now, being a chronic home-renter myself, I've never had occasion to buy any kind of hose, good or otherwise, and so I set out to become knowledgeable in the Ways of the Hose (no really, I did).

It turns out that, when you boil it right down the bare essentials, there are only three simple factors that you need to concern yourself with when shopping for a hose: the diameter, the length and the material it's made of.

The diameter we're referring to here is actually the interior diameter of the hose, and the bigger the better when it comes to minimizing pressure loss over the length of hose.  Most of the on sale hoses you'll see advertized will be 1/2" and these should be avoided for all but short-haul, light-duty situations (which means pretty much never, as far as cottages are concerned).  Even the 5/8" option, a perfectly respectable choice for the typical home garden may not suffice over the long-haul (anything beyond 100 feet), especially if you're drawing water up a slope, or if your water pressure is below the ideal 40-60 pounds per square inch.  If one or more of these conditions apply to you, do yourself a favour and spend the extra dollars on the 3/4" hose.

The most obvious (yet insidious) factor is the length of the hose.  The temptation is always there to get longest hose possible (just in case), and the lower marginal cost of the longer hoses doesn't help ("Pay 50% more for twice as much hose?  Great deal!"), but you'll pay for it in lost water pressure.  Figure out far you really need the hose to reach, and don't go any farther beyond that than you need to.  Should your needs change in the future, you can always buy a 25 or 50 foot extension hose and add it on when you need it.

The material your hose is made of will determine its ease of use and durability.  Two materials are in common use in the manufacture of garden hoses: rubber and vinyl, or some combination thereof, the better ones with additional reinforcement (usually knit or belted nylon or polyester).  Rubber hoses tend to be less maneuverable, becoming rigid in colder weather and more easily kinked when warm, so these might not be your best choice if you think you'll be walking the hose around your property a lot (an exception to this is if you're dealing with higher than average water pressures, when rubber actually excels). 

Regardless of composition, you'll need to make certain that your burst pressure is rated at least four to five times higher than your actual water pressure, or you risk rupturing the hose when using pistol nozzles or impulse sprinklers.  For an average household, this means choosing a burst pressure of at least 250 psi, just to be safe.  Greater reinforcement also usually translates directly to greater kink-resistance and durability, so don't take it for granted.  Also, avoid plastic couplings as they are far more susceptible to cracking and crushing, and the threads are easily damaged.  Opt instead for brass couplings, full-flow preferably (internally expanded to the full diameter), so as not to constrict the flow of water and cause water pressure loss.

The most important thing is to be willing to spend an extra few dollars to get a quality hose.  If you shop around and buy at the right time you can get some very good deals, and end up with a quality hose that will last for years to come.

Happy watering,


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