How to Start-Up and Turn On a Lawn Sprinkler System
Turning on a sprinkler system in the spring is much easier than many homeowners think, and many choose to do this themselves. The time required to turn on the irrigation system may be as little as 30 mins up to a couple of hours depending on the size and complexity of the system. The average professional service call to turn on the sprinkler system is $125, and depending on the size of the system, it could be as low as $75, or as high as $1,000 or more. The spring turn on provides a good opportunity to look at all the components, and see what is working correctly, what is broken, and which sprinklers may need to be adjusted. If the sprinkler system has broken components than it could be time to call in a professional.
- Flathead Screwdriver
- Channel-lock (pliers)
- Sprinkler Adjustment Key/Tool
How Do You Know It Is Time to Turn on the Sprinklers?
Sprinkler systems are turned on at different times of the spring, in different parts of the country, based on the area’s last frost date and projected spring and summer weather. It is typical to wait until a few weeks past the last frost date when all danger of freezing pipes has been eliminated. This will be earlier for the southern states, and later in the spring for the northern states.
Slowly turning the water on is critical so that pipes & fittings are not damaged due to water velocity & water hammer.
Spring startup for an irrigation system is easier than you may think. Slowly turning the water on is critical so that pipes & fittings are not damaged due to water velocity & water hammer. By turning the water on too fast, it can cause problems, and this can damage the pipes or sprinkler heads. Whichever valve you are turning on, it is always safe to manually turn on sprinklers and make sure to open it slowly, give it time to pressurize before opening it all the way. This guide will help you through the process to start a sprinkler system.
Checking Lawn for Frozen Ground
Opening up your sprinkler for the spring may take a couple of hours, depending on the area of the property, the number of sprinkler heads and the status of the system. Shutting down the system for winter and reestablishing it in the spring are two reasonably tough duties. But if done well, the only thing to worry about should be avoiding the sprinkler heads with the lawn mower.
Before starting up the system, it is required to make sure the lawn agrees that winter is over by utilizing a shovel to dig at least one foot into the soil in a remote part of the yard. If the ground is still frozen, it is too early, and you should wait a few more weeks before trying another dig test.
Activating the sprinkler system when the ground is still frozen can result in cracked & damaged components. If watering can no longer wait, it might require to hook up the hose and perform the old-fashioned method while the soil thaws.
2. Turning on the Valves
Most of the solenoid valves turn 90 degrees in a counter-clockwise direction to turn it on. This solenoid valve will sometimes leak a little at first when turned on, although for only a short period. Always check it and assure that the valve is not continuously running.
Pressure vacuum breakers are turned on with two ball valves that are positioned on each side of the vacuum breaker valve. The valve is ON if the ball valve is in the parallel position, while if it is in a perpendicular position, the valve is turned OFF. A quarter turn is all that is required to turn on a ball valve. Make sure to turn on the valve as slowly as possible. This is the perfect time to monitor the individual sprinkler valves.
3. System Maintenance
Take adequate time to check each of the sprinkler heads locations. If a line is broken or damaged underground, it may take time to discover. Dig and fix any leaks then repair or replace any sprinkler heads that are broken. Make any necessary modifications and adjustments to the spray pattern of the sprinkler heads and let it run for some time and check the coverage. Some of the spray heads might require cleaning or might need to be adjusted before it works properly again.
Follow this helpful guide for each sprinkler head:
- Inspect the sprinkler head assembly for any damage. If it is damaged, unscrew the nozzle from the head and get a replacement. However, if there is more significant damage to the entire head assembly, the repair could be a bigger project that may require the help of an irrigation maintenance professional.
- Thoroughly clean the nozzles. A small brush or toothbrush greatly helps with this task. Any blockage will affect the spray pattern, and that could result in unbalance of sprayed water in a specific area.
- Always assure that the sprinkler valve is closed unless it is the valve distant from the main water source. Leave this valve open then remove the sprinkler nozzle to allow air to escape when you turn on the water. If your system has multiple branches feeding off a mainline, you should open the valve and remove the nozzle of the last sprinkler on every branch line.
4. Check Irrigation Zones
When the sprinkler system is ready for its initial watering of spring, you might not need to make any adjustments to your sprinkler nozzles. However, it is still beneficial to test the irrigation of each of the zones, one at a time. Check that your spray patterns are getting water where you need it.
Use the control panel to start the irrigation program for a single zone, then keep an eye on your sprinklers at work. If you have any broken sprinkler heads, this is when you will most likely notice them. And if your sprinklers have unusually low pressure, that is often a sign of a water line break. You should watch for soaked areas to develop in your soil to pinpoint the area of the break, then turn off the sprinkler system until you can get it fixed.
5. Setting the Timer
Familiarize yourself with the basics of your timer. Most instruction manuals can be found online and printed if needed. To begin with, start programming the sprinkler system timer and set up various programs for different zones, and always make sure that the controller is set up properly. The most important part of doing that is ensuring that the current day and time are correct and accurate.
Set the watering times when you can see the watering, particularly at the beginning of the season to make sure the sprinkler system is working correctly. If you water at night you may never see potential issues. If everything looks good and works smoothly, follow the guidelines for programming the irrigation controller.