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non-functional irrigation system

Posted by Sinataly AZ (My Page) on
Thu, Apr 24, 14 at 16:33

Hi everyone! It's my first time posting :)

We bought our house a year ago and finally are getting to figuring out the irrigation system problem. We were told that 'sprinklers never worked' with no further explanation.
We hired a landscaper, who claimed he can fix that, but all he did - replaced the valves, charged us several hundreds for that, and then quoted $1700+ to finish the job.
As far as I know the system has not been tested to figure out what was wrong with it.

So the valves were replaced. We have seemingly working control panel.
We are now digging out the pipes and it looks that they have been in an OK condition (before we broke some while digging)...
So what can be wrong with the system?
The guy who worked on the system was going to do what we are doing now - dig out the pipes and replace them. But how would it help?

I cleaned up the area around valves and it looks like such a mess - but what do I know about how it is supposed to be! I will try to attach a photo of what it look like right now.

We are at a loss of what to do next. Any advice will be appreciated. Is there a way to test the system to figure out what is wrong and what needs to be done?

Thank you!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: non-functional irrigation system

Sin,

Yes, It will be a slow process because I can't tell you everything at once. First, is this picture before the valves were replaced? They haven't been it the picture shown. Is there more than one source of water? It looks like two in the picture. Do you know where the water is coming from (the source or sources)? If you do, is there a shut off valve (ball or gate valve) at the source? More to come with answers. Aloha


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RE: non-functional irrigation system

Lehua,

Thank you so much for your response!

This picture is after whatever the landscaper did - he said he replaced the valves.
It's been about 7-8 month ago that he did the work. After that this area got completely covered with grass and burr clover. When I was clearing up the area I accidentally broke off one of the solenoids (the right-most one), but otherwise that's how it looked after 2 or 3 sessions of work by the landscaper.

I believe there is only one source of water, and the shut off valve for it is just about 6 feet to the right of the valves - on the other side of the fence.
I know this because after I broke that solenoid off I got a fountain of water going from where the solenoid was. I had our regular yard maintenance guy find the water source and shut off the water to this system. It still leaks a little bit.
I attached the picture of the shut off valve - I don't know if this helps, but just in case :)

How do I know if there is another source of water?

Thank you again, good night!


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RE: non-functional irrigation system

Lehua,

Thank you so much for your response!

This picture is after whatever the landscaper did - he said he replaced the valves.
It's been about 7-8 month ago that he did the work. After that this area got completely covered with grass and burr clover. When I was clearing up the area I accidentally broke off one of the solenoids (the right-most one), but otherwise that's how it looked after 2 or 3 sessions of work by the landscaper.

I believe there is only one source of water, and the shut off valve for it is just about 6 feet to the right of the valves - on the other side of the fence.
I know this because after I broke that solenoid off I got a fountain of water going from where the solenoid was. I had our regular yard maintenance guy find the water source and shut off the water to this system. It still leaks a little bit.
I attached the picture of the shut off valve - I don't know if this helps, but just in case :)

How do I know if there is another source of water?

Thank you again, good night!


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RE: non-functional irrigation system

Hmm, hard to fix when we haven't figured out the problem! Lets figure that out then. It seems your mainline is intact and your valve manifold is in working order (assuming you fixed the kicked selonoid, if you haven't, you should do that next, so the water can be turned on) the next step is to run each valve to see what happens. Let us know.


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RE: non-functional irrigation system

This says the same but gets into more detail. It looks like the water comes in on the smallest of the three pieces of pipe on the right. It originally ran to four valves, two of which went to the right (the two highest pipes on the right) and two to the left (the two pipes at mid picture on the left).

An additional two valves were added later by teeing off the main line (on the far right) and then going to two valves with a stub left on to make it easier to continue on from that point. The original four were carefully laid out. The added two were slapped in there.

Unknown: you may have an electrical master valve somewhere between this spaghetti and the main shutoff. It might be labeled on the irrigation controls clearly or the terminals may may say something like “pump”. If so, it could be buried anywhere!

Count the low voltage wires going into the control. If it isn’t “6”, that might be one problem.

If I were chosen by the hand of Fate to test these valves, the first thing would be to turn each one on individually by hand. Do you have a clear close up pic of one valve (assuming they’re all identical)? I’ll assume for now that each has a movable solenoid, a flow adjuster knob or shaft, and a bleed screw.

Sit on the soon to be muddy dirt and turn each bleed screw out (anticlockwise), one at a time, and look for anything to happen. At the least, they should all behave the same.

Then go another round, this time by doing the same turn-y thingie with the solenoid valves, assuming they’re turn-able.

Thirdly, if you can get any water to show anywhere, test the voltage. Use a voltmeter at the solenoid leads with something sharp like pins or needles into the wires, and see what the voltmeter says. It should be in the vicinity of 24 volts. If there’s no voltage at a valve that has been triggered by the controller to be open, try to feed it 24 volts (got a spare wall wart you can strip the wires of?) through those pins/needles.

With all that information I’d bet this can be diagnosed in nothing flat.


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RE: non-functional irrigation system

PS: when you rebury the valves, don't do it with dirt directly on them. Use something like landscaping fabric to cover them and THEN cover that with the gravel, mulch, dirt, or what have you.


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RE: non-functional irrigation system

Thank you Silverdraggon and Cold weather!

Looks like we have stuff to accomplish this weekend and a plan to follow :)

I will post close up photo of the valves and a better picture of the whole area tomorrow. I cleared the area a lot more now and it's easier to see what's going on there. I will also make my husband dig around the pipes going to the shut off valve, maybe we'll find something there.

We were planning on putting 3-4 inches of gravel underneath the valve area, and then cover it with some sort of cover when it's done. It's too big for the standard irrigation box, so we'll have to figure something else out. But after digging around this mess for 3 days, I'm not letting it get back to the same condition!

Thank you again for responses and help, I really appreciate it!


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RE: non-functional irrigation system

More pictures.
The whole area, more cleared than before, the valves close up, and the inside of the control panel - seems like we have all 6 wires.

I am going to buy the solenoid today and replace it and then try to do the tests that were 'prescribed'.

Thank you everyone for you support and help!


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RE: non-functional irrigation system

Photo 1


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RE: non-functional irrigation system

Photo 2


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Photo 3


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RE: non-functional irrigation system

Sin,

I am so glad we have forum members pitching in to help you and all the advice I think is great. Since so much info has been put out there, here is what I recommend and it is what I would do. Remove all this piping and redo the manifold completely into two valve boxes that hold three valves each and re-wire the new valves with waterproof screw caps. Replace all the auto-valves as well instead of replacing them one at a time in the near future. I the boxes fill the bottoms with gravel below the valves to absorb the runoff from the valves and you can spot leaks easier. You can look for all your sprinkler heads from the old system either before or after this work. Also recommend replacing the heads too. These are not expensive recommendations but will save you a lot of maintenance hassles in the future. If you need help with these suggestions, everyone will help out. Be the master of your own fate not the victim. JMHO Aloha


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RE: non-functional irrigation system

Thank you again, Lehua!

We didn't get to work on this during this weekend. Bought the wrong solenoids and then other stuff got in the way.

I will keep you posted.

Good night :)


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RE: non-functional irrigation system

These valves are only 8 months old, and never used? Why don't you figure out how to activate them manually, turn them on one at a time, and see what happens? The name of the manufacturer will be on them somewhere. You should be able to obtain a detailed description of how your valves work at the manufacturer's web site. If the system functions manually, you can then address the electronics.

I don't offhand see how you're going to replace the solenoid (if that's what it was) without "make and model" identification.


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RE: non-functional irrigation system

Sin,

Following up with Whitecaps comments. Make sure your main is on and broken solenoid is repaired and all the large circular handles on the top of the valve are turned counterclockwise (Open). Looking at the close up of the valve, there are two ways to turn the water zone on manually at the valve with out the need of the controller. 1. Turn on by turning the solenoid counterclockwise slower until the zone sprinkler comes on (try not to unscrew all the way). If you have unscrewed the solenoid completely it can be screwed back on. If the water zone did not come on then check the lawn for gurgling water or wet spots. 2. There is a small screw knob on the main body behind the large circular handle. Turn this screw counterclockwise slightly until the zones come on. This is the same as turning the solenoid. Follow the same thought process. Let us know what happens. Aloha


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RE: non-functional irrigation system

Whitecap, Lehua - thank you for all the info!

Work has been crazy the last several days and we had no chance to work outside. I'm sorry for my silence, we are really looking forward to doing all the tests to figure out what is wrong.

I will keep you posted, hopefully on Thursday we will get back to it.


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RE: non-functional irrigation system

Ok, report from the field :)

We replaced the solenoids and tried to test the system manually.
First zone didn't come on, I was turning the little screw behind the big round knob on valve and I had water spraying from under this screw, but nowhere else.

Second zone - at first I got some spraying from under the screw too, but then the sprinklers came on!
Then I tried to close that zone... I turned the screw, again, again, again, and then the connection between the elbow and the t-connectors on the very right came apart and I got a huge fountain of water from there.

So we shut the water off and I am back here to report and see what we will have to do to move forward.

I didn't get to test the remaining 4 zones.

Do we rebuild the manifold area as was advised by Lehua?
When we went to the sprinkler store they advised to basically rebuild the whole system - starting with doing all the tests with water pressure and figuring out how many zones, how many sprinklers we will need.

Sorry again for the long silence! Today was the first day we got time to work on this.


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RE: non-functional irrigation system

Sin,

A question comes to mind. Do want to rebuild the manifold yourself? Do you know how to glue the pvc pipe and fittings together? I believe you can rebuild a new manifold system which is more organized and takes up less room. It is not that expensive to do if all the existing valves work. You will have to test that out. It is easy to do. Do you know where all the sprinkler heads are located? As I said before it will be slow process telling you what to do next. Of the type of heads you can see, what type are they? Is this the location you want for the valve boxes or do you want to be closer to the source of water or a place less visible? Is the the irrigation system coming from a outdoor hose faucet or directly from an underground main pipe to the house? More pictures may be necessary for better understanding. Aloha


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RE: non-functional irrigation system

Are you saying the PVC line detached from a PVC elbow? That the connections weren't even glued?

Valves may be opened by turning the bleed screw. It may take them a few minutes to close, however, when you tighten the screw. You would do well to devote an hour or so to determining just how your valves function, before you persist in trying to feel your way here. This information will be useful, even if you elect to replace the entire system.


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RE: non-functional irrigation system

Whitecap, yes, it appears that this connection was not glued together. And I agree that I need to spend some time figuring this out - it's actually fun to learn all this :)

Lehua, I will try to answer your questions (and ask more questions :):
Yes, we are open to rebuilding the manifold ourselves and yes we know how to glue the pvc pipes and the connectors.
To test the remaining valves - will I have to first fix the broken connection, that happened today when testing the other valve?
We dug out all of the pipes on one side of the back yard, so we know the layout here (and it's a total mess). We see the sprinkler heads on the other side of the back yard and some in front, can easily locate all of them.
How do I find out what kind of sprinkler heads they are?
We are open to replacing all the heads, as the ones we have are very old and as far as we know have not been used since very long time ago.
We like the place where the valves are located, it's out of the way and at the same time easily accessible.
The water comes from the main pipe to the house, as far as I know. How can I be certain?
Let me know how I can help you help me :)

Thank you for your responses, I feel like we at least are moving somewhere, instead of sitting on this problem as we did for months before! Good night.


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RE: non-functional irrigation system

I wonder how many other sections of your valve manifold weren't glued together. I don't see the purple stains at the connections, in your photos, one would expect to see, had they been glued. Is there some reason you can't simply glue the detached connection, and continue testing?

Most of my sprinkler heads have been in service 15+ years. They are quite durable. This shouldn't be an issue.

Why are you digging up your underground lines, when you don't know whether your valves are working?


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RE: non-functional irrigation system

Whitecap, most of the connections are glued, it looks like the one that broke has some remains of glue too, but it looks like it wasn't applied correctly, it seems that it was just smeared over the seam after it was assembled.
You can't see the glue in pictures because the pictures are before I washed off all the mud, so it covers it.
As somebody above noticed, the 2 valves on the left were added later than the original manifold was built. This added system seems to have been put together really quick and without much concern for quality. I won't be surprised if we'll see more failures from it.

WHy we dug out the pipes -- when landscaper who worked on this system quoted us $1700 to finish the job, we asked why it was so expensive, and he said that the next step would be to dig all the pipes out and that what drives the price up.
So we thought we will do the digging ourselves and then invite the landscaper in question back and see what he will say.
It's only when I cleared up the valve area we realized that it's a bad mess there and that the landscaper never really tried to figure it out. And that's when I came here to ask for advice :)

I will glue the broken connection later today and will test the remaining valves. Thank you!


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RE: non-functional irrigation system

It looks to me like people are trying to fix a whole lot that isnt exactly broken.That manifold isn't the prettiest i've seen, an certianly if i were doing a fresh install it would look closer to what lehua described with gravel and well placed ..well everything. But as long as water is getting from the source to the valves without leaking, there is no need to rebuild your mainline /manifold. Your choice to repair the current pipe leak or re-invent the system... either way you need that mainline to hold water before the next steps.

After that are back to testing valves. You are on the right track with the bleed screw. Its supposed to leak water when open, and allow the valve to open. The black flat knob is the flow control, if it is all the way down, the valve wont typically open at all, so make sure it is up. you should be able to hear the valve activate when you open the screw. Did you hear that with the first valve? If so, let it run until you see water somewhere.. it can sometimes take a while for a leak to show itself.

As far as exposing all the lateral lines, totally no need for that. the nice thing about irrigation is that the water will tell you how things connect, you dont actually need to see the pipe to know where it is running, just work slowly and methodically from the water source out. Even worse case, you forget the current system and build a new one from scratch, nothing wrong with leaving sections of the old pipe in the ground. Certainly more cost/ time effective.


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