Monday, May 28, 2007

Wiring Valves And Controller In A Sprinkler System

Using Multi-Strand Wire-
This is an illustration of how you would wire your zone valves to your controller using multiple wires all inside of the same sheath. Multi-strand wire has 2 or more different colored wires but only one common wire, usually the black one. Notice that the black wire runs to each individual valve, and each colored wire is run to only one valve (you can use whatever color you want for your common).

(The illustration here shows the wires only, outside of the sheathing)

Using Single Strand Wire-
This illustration shows single strand wires run to the valves. Same principal applies- the one black wire runs to each individual valve while each red wire runs to only one valve (again, use whatever color you want for your common).

When using multi-strand wire it is a good idea to get a wire with more wires in it than are actually required. For example:

You have a three zone system (like the illustration above). Only 4 wires are required for a three zone system- The black common wire that runs to each valve, and the three different colored wires that run to one individual valve each.

If you want to have a back-up strand or 2 (in case some-one nicks a wire or one gets cut too short to work with) then buy a multi-strand wire with 5 or 6 multi-colored wires. This will allow you to add another valve or two in the future as well.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

One sprinkler zone not working

Got a zone that is not turning on? All you need to do if figure out if it is the timer, wire, or valve at fault. The way you do this is by a simple process of elimination. First off, you will need a volt meter (get one cheap here). Set your volt meter to DC Volts.

First, go to the controller and turn on the zone in question and see if you have 24 Volts at the zone valve in question by touching the leads from the volt meter to the wires at the solenoid (make sure your wire nuts are tight and the connection is free from corrosion). If you have 24 volts here, then you have a solenoid or valve problem. Now, disconnect the solenoid wires from the timer wires and turn your volt meter to OHM's. Place your leads on the solenoid wires- you should get a reading of 20 to 60 ohms. If you get 0 your solenoid has a short in it and needs to be replaced. If the solenoid checks out, remove the solenoid and check the plunger in the bottom of the solenoid for dirt or debris. Also make sure the tiny hole where the solenoid screws into the valve is not clogged. If it is, poke a small paper clip into the hole to remove the debris. If this checks out, take the top off of the valve and check the diaphragm for holes or wear. If it has holes or shows signs of wear, replace the diaphragm. If it looks ok, check inside the body of the valve for rocks or debris.

If you did not get 24 Volts at the solenoid, go to your controller and find the wires that go to the zone in question. Turn on that zone. Set your volt meter for DC volts and check the connection for 24 volts. If you have 24 volts at the controller with the zone on, your wire to the zone valve has a short in it and you will need to run new wire to the valve (unless your original wire is a multi-strand sprinkler wire with an extra set of wires in it, in which case you can simply use the extra set of wires).

If you have no voltage at the zone valve or controller, you have a controller issue. If it is a modular controler, pull out the module and re-seat the module, then try to get a reading again. If you still have no voltage, replace the station module. If nothing still, replace the controller.

Sprinkler heads on a zone do not completely shut off

If you have a zone where some or all of the sprinkler heads are still trickling water even after the zone is finished its watering cycle, there are a couple of things you need to check.

  1. Are the sprinkler head(s) that are leaking located downhill from the zone valve? If so, what may be happening is that the water left in the pipe after the valve is shut off is slowly draining downhill and out of the sprinkler head(s). If this is the case, the water should stop trickling after the water is completely drained out of the zone. If this is a problem for some reason, you can replace the spray heads with the kind that have check valves installed inside of them. The RainBird version is called a SAM (1804-sam, 1806-sam, etc). The check valve keeps the water from leaking out when there is little or no pressure in the line. Check with your local irrigation supply house or, if there is nobody else around, try Lowe's.
  2. If your heads are not downhill from the valve and are trickling water even after the zone is shut off, your valve may have issues. The first thing you can try doing is removing the solenoid and looking for dirt or debris in the solenoid. Rinse the solenoid to remove any debris from the plunger (located on the bottom of the solenoid). Also, where the solenoid screws in is a tiny hole. This needs to be unobstructed in order for the valve to work properly. If there is dirt in the tiny hole, use a small paper clip or something to poke it out of the hole. After replacing the solenoid, turn on the zone for about 30 seconds, then turn it off again. If the head(s) are still leaking, you need to next check the diaphragm inside the valve. Do this by removing the cover of the valve and inspecting the diaphragm for holes or debris. If there are holes or it is worn out, the diaphragm will need to be replaced. If there is debris or dirt, the diaphragm needs to be washed and put back into place. If this does not work, replace the valve entirely. You can usually find these parts at your local irrigation supply house, or Lowe's if there is nobody else around.

Got a lost sprinkler head?

A sprinkler head that is not popping-up but is not leaking a lot of water can be tough to find. If you can't find it, you can't fix it! So what do you do?

Well, first of all, you need to get in the general vicinity of the sprinkler head. If you already know about where it is but you cannot find it, simply use a hard rake to find it (read more about using the rake below).

You can usually do this as long as the sprinkler head is spaced the same as all of the rest of the heads on that zone. So, first you need to figure out how far apart the heads are spaced (you may get a little wet).

Here is how you find the spacing:
  1. First, go to the timer and manually turn on the zone that the rogue sprinkler is in. After the heads are all popped-up and spraying, step off spacing between each working sprinkler and come up with an average number of steps between each.
  2. Now, step off this average number of steps from the surrounding sprinklers toward the rogue sprinkler, marking the area with a stick or rock or something.
  3. You should have a good idea of where the lost sprinkler is now. So grab a hard rake (not a regular rake, the kind with the short, hard metal ends) and drag the rake in rows across the area, while applying pressure to the rake head. Now, if you run over the sprinkler head with the rake, you will know it. Your rake will either come to a halt or you will feel it hit the sprinkler head.

Winterizing your sprinkler system

To keep your sprinkler system components from freezing when it gets cold, you have to get the water out of the entire system. If you live in an area where it never freezes, there is no reason to do this. But for those of us who do not live in the desert, here is the procedure:

Winterizing your automatic sprinkler system:
  1. Unplug your controller/timer.
  2. Shut off the water at the main valve. This is the valve located between the water meter and the back-flow preventer valve, or whatever back-flow prevention device you may have. If you do not have a back-flow preventer, simply shut off the first valve after the water meter. If you do not have a main valve because you have a separate water meter for your sprinkler system, simply turn off the water at the meter or call your water department and have them turn it off.
  3. Manually open each electronic valve on all of your zones. This is usually done by turning the solenoid (the thing on the valve with the wires attached to it, usually cylindrical in shape). Turn it about 1/4 turn. This releases any pressure in the system and allows the water left in the pipe to flow freely to the lowest points. NOTE- In colder climate areas you should have filter drain valves located at the lowest points in the system. Filter drain valves allow the water to drain out of the system when there is no water pressure (they close when there is pressure, open when there is no pressure).
  4. If you have any above-ground sprinkler heads, they should be removed and stored in a closet in your home or next to the water heater in your garage (not on the floor or on a shelf in a cold garage).
  5. Remove your back-flow prevention device. It should have unions that allow you to detach it and bring it inside for the cold season. If it does not and you cannot plum in your own unions, be sure to insulate it very well. Wrap it completely with a dry blanket, then put a garbage bag around the blanket to keep it completely dry. Please note that your best bet is to bring the back-flow device inside, there is no guarantee that it will not freeze as long as it is outside.
  6. If you have any sprinkler heads (rotors, sprayers or impacts) that are above the ground, these should be removed and brought indoors as well.
  7. Any pipe or exposed plumbing needs to be wrapped and kept dry.
  8. If you have a pump that provides the water for your system, it should be removed and brought in. As with the back-flow prevention device, it should have unions that allow you to do this. If not, remove the drain plug (usually a small fitting on the bottom side of the pump-end) and drain all water from the pump. If possible, remove the suction-pipe (the pipe that goes into the water). This may not be practical, and there is not much you can do to protect this pipe if it cannot be removed. Then, wrap your pump with a blanket and cover it with a garbage bag to keep it dry. If you have a submersible pump, the pump should not freeze as long as it is submersed deep enough into the water.
That is pretty much the size of it. Winterizing your system is basically making sure there is no water in the plumbing and making sure your components stay warm and dry.

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Install Sprinkler Manual

Install your own sprinkler system and save big bucks! Scott Young shows you how with his best selling e-book entitled "How To Build Your Own Automatic Sprinkler System"