Drip, Drip, Drip
June 27, 2011 9:01 PM   Subscribe

I just moved into a new home. There are at least three watering systems of differing ages and non-usage throughout the property. I am trying to understand what works and what does not. Specifically I am trying to understand how these work.

There is a very old watering system timer box in the garage. Zones 1 and Zones two trun on sprinkers in the front yard. Zones 4-7 do nothing that I can see.

The is no help from the owners, they left no information and clearly they are people that continually added things rather than fix or repair an existing system. The sprinklers I do not really care about, but the drip system I am interested in ussing again. When we arrived theywere on, servieing some potted plants on the front porch.

I turned the x shaped handle on top to off and did hear the water system shut off, but since then I cannot seem to get them back on again. They are wired into some system, but there is no indication that the timer in the garage enables or disables any part of this system. The drip lines encircle the entire house and some look dryer and have less use than others. Here are two more images of the type of system. Any guidance on how to understand and rehabilitate this system would be greatly appreciated.
posted by silsurf to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
They're solenoid valves, I'm guessing the x shaped handles are some sort of manual shut-off. They look pretty old to me, it might be easier to replace them.

I went through this last summer and it's and endless PITA. I started by trying to get a handle on where all the wires are and how they're connected. After that I would replace the controller(s) with a single one. Then start working your way through getting control of all the valves. After that all that's left is finding leaks and replacing broken and missing heads.

It took me most of the summer to work it all out, but it's a real pleasure once it's all working. Memail me more questions if you want.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:15 PM on June 27, 2011

The x shaped handles are manual open valves. To manually close if the solenoid is open you can sometimes rotate the solenoid clockwise.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:44 PM on June 27, 2011

Hmm.. looking at those other two fotos, I might be wrong.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:47 PM on June 27, 2011

Those are brass irrigation valves with a built in anti-siphon. The black thing with the wires is the solenoid. The big fat screw on top is the bleed screw: by loosening it you can bypass the solenoid to test the delivery system/figure out what valve goes to what lines . The big X is the flow control handle; if you turn it down all the way, no water will run through the valve. If you've shut this off, there's no way to tell if your timer is working without a multi-meter, so open it back up. The wires on the solenoid should go to a timer somewhere- you may just have to follow the lines if you can't get your timer to work.

I would start by looking at your timer box and seeing how many connections there are/valves you have. Most modern digital timers swing open so you can access the back, or there may be a panel with a door. You'll see a bunch of screws with wires running to them. This helps you figure out how many valves you need to find in your back yard- there will be connections to each zone, plus a ground wire. Then go out and locate and test each valve one at a time by opening the bleed screw and then seeing what happens. Mark each valve so you know what goes where. Look for leaks in your dripline, check the flow, &c. Then when you've done that, go back and see if you can start the valves with the timer. There's usually a dial that you turn to the valve in question, and a manual start that may or may not let you set a minute or two (if not it will manually start the programmed time). Go see if something comes on, then if not, check at the valves and see if the solenoids are buzzing. Check that the wiring is intact. Do this for every valve. If that still doesn't work, see if there may be a shutoff valve somewhere in the line leading to the brass valves and make sure that's open. Double check that all wiring connections in the valve box are still intact. This is all 12-volt, BTW. If you still can't get it to run and everything seems connected, you may need to test the wiring with a multi-meter.

Usually brass valves don't need replacing: you can get new solenoids and gaskets for them.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:06 PM on June 27, 2011

It does sound like you've got some wiring/ electrical problems. Unfortunately, those are the hardest to troubleshoot in an irrigation system.

oneirodynia is right that the brass valves are pretty sturdy. They're also probably pretty old, so there's no telling what sort of shape their guts are in. You may need new diaphragms or other components.

I'm stumped as to why you were able to shut off the water with the flow control, but can't get it back on. have you opened the flow control and let the thing sit for a day? If you're getting power to the valve, and everything is working properly, then you should have flow at some point during the program. I would open the valves back up then check them (and the controller) periodically to see if anything is running. It might take a few days, actually, depending on the program that the previous owners had set.

If worse comes to worse, you can invest in some new irrigation wire, and run it over the ground from the controller to the valves for testing purposes. If you can get it to work that way, then you know your problem was with the buried wire.

I'd also try to find out all the information you can on the timer. You should be able to google the model number and find something. Probably. That could be a good place to start, though most irrigation controllers aren't too complicated after a little bit of study.

You're probably better off reading up and trying to tackle this yourself. A professional irrigator is likely to want to install an entirely new system. In Texas, you can work on your own system without being a licensed irrigator. I'm not sure where you are, but the laws may be similar.
posted by Shohn at 5:24 AM on June 28, 2011

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