Homeowners generally don’t consider using a pressure reducer for their drip irrigation system, but they should. Drip irrigation directs water to the root ball of the various plants, which saves water. Instead of spraying water over a wide area, the drippers direct water at the root ball.
Another big difference between sprinklers and drippers is that drippers don’t use adhesive to hold the system together. Instead, drip systems use black tubing and the fittings are barbed which is enough to hold the system together…unless the pressure is too high. Drip systems generally like pressure at or below 25psi. Your home’s water pressure should be between 40-80psi which is far more than a drip system likes. Consequently, you need to install a pressure reducer.
The order of parts is the water enters and exits the irrigation valve, then the filter, then the reducer, although some systems have a filter/reducer combination.
You can buy reducers at different pressure levels, and some have an adjustable reducing feature.
To connect everything, the filter threads into the valve and the reducer (if it is a separate piece) will either screw onto it. Then you will need a barbed insert and glue it into the output side of the reducer. From there the black poly hose pushes into the barbed insert.
A sprinkler valve is the gate keeper for water rushing to your sprinkler heads. If there is a problem with the valve either the water won’t turn on or it won’t turn off.
The problem is usually with either the diaphragm or the solenoid. Both of these parts can be changed quickly, but you need to get the correct parts. There are small differences in these parts which can make your repair fail.
You can get the make and model number of the valve and bring it with you. Turn the water off and let the pressure out of the system. The solenoid will just unscrew from the top of the valve. To access the diaphragm, you will need to remove all of the screws that hold the top of the valve to the bottom of the valve. Lift off the top of the valve and install the new diaphragm, then replace the screws.
If you are replacing both of these parts, you might just consider buying a new valve and installing the new top half of the valve onto the body of the old valve. In this way, you are basically getting a new valve, without all of the work of digging out the old one and gluing the piping together.
If you have a leaking sprinkler valve, you may be able to pull off a handyman quick fix, if the leak is in the right spot. A sprinkler valve is made up of two halves, a top and a bottom. If the damage to the valve, usually a small crack, is in the bottom half of the valve, you will have to cut out the valve and replace it. If the damage is in the upper half, you can buy an identical valve and just replace the upper half of the valve. The benefit with this method is that you don’t have to cut out the valve and splice a new one in. This saves a lot of aggravation because working in a sprinkler box, a foot below ground, is very tight quarters which sometimes leads to removing all of the valves just for access.
By being able to replace just the upper half you can gain access without cutting out the valve.
Turn off the water to the sprinkler system and loosen the bleed screw to remove the water pressure. Then remove the screws that hold the top half to the lower half. You will also need to remove the wire nuts that hold the sprinkler valve wires to the timer wires. Pull off the top with the rubber diaphragm and replace the parts from the new valve top onto the old valve bottom. Tighten the screws with uniform pressure and then reattach the wires back together. Turn the water back on and check for leaks, then run through the timer to make sure everything functions.
When you are working on a sprinkler repair you will likely have to dig up the ground to some extent. This is going to get messy and when you start repairs to the sprinkler system, you invariable will allow dirt and debris into the system. Even if a sprinkler head needs to be replaced, even the act of unscrewing it from the riser will cause debris to fall into the riser. If this debris isn’t removed from the system, the water pressure will push it to the sprinkler head and it will usually block water from exiting the head. That means dead landscaping.
The key is to remove this dirt and debris before you put the system back into operation. If you have to repair an underground pipe, after you make the repairs to the pipe, go remove some of the sprinkler heads and turn the system on. This will shoot water and whatever debris is in the system out of the risers where the sprinkler heads have been removed, clearing the system. If you are just replacing a sprinkler head, before you reinstall the head, turn the system on to blow the debris out. Then screw the sprinkler head back on.
PVC pipe repair isn't that difficult. Once you find a broken PVC sprinkler pipe, you need to clear out the area around the break or crack so you can work on repairing it. Make sure the water to the area is turned off so the hole doesn’t continue to fill.
If the pipe has a small crack in it, you may be able to glue a repair sleeve on it. To do this, you need to thoroughly clean the damaged area of the pipe and make sure it is dry. A repair sleeve comes in two halves and basically is like a suit of armor for the crack. Once the pipe is clean and dry, prime the area with primer and apply PVC glue to both the exterior of the pipe and to the inside of both sleeve halves. Fit the pieces of the sleeve around the pipe and push them together. The two halves have a little notch in them to line up the pieces and hold them together. Glue will ooze out as you squeeze the pieces together. Wait until the glue has dried to pressurize the pipe.
If the pipe is damaged at a fitting, you will have to cut out the fitting and re-pipe that area. You may need to cut the straight pipe back, add a straight coupling and a length of pipe, and finally a new fitting in place of the damaged one.
A sprinkler repair to a drip system is pretty easy. If you have a drip system that uses black poly tubing you won’t even need glue to make repairs. These systems run off a standard sprinkler valve, pressure reducer and filter…this delivers water to typically a ½ inch or ¾ inch black poly tube which further branches off to microtubes. These deliver water to the individual plants.
Yesterday, I was investigating a leak in the irrigation. I found a very common problem. When terminating a water line at the end of a run, instead of using a fitting and cap, a lot of landscapers will fold the black poly tube over to stop the water from leaking out of the end of the tube. The fastener I’m presuming is whatever is on hand. In this case it was a piece of wire. The wire corroded and broke which allowed the water pressure to open the tube and flow out of the end. This is also why the homeowner had a higher than normal water bill.
The correct fix for this was to buy a fitting and cap. The fitting has a barbed end and the black poly tubing pushes into this and is held by the barb. Then the cap is screwed onto the fitting to stop the flow of water. You can also remove this cap temporarily to purge the tubing of any debris that may have entered it.
If you have a drip system for your landscape, invariably you will have to make repairs to it. Sprinkler repair for drip lines is not complicated as you don’t need pipe glue at all. It is all held in place with barbed fittings which works due to a pressure reducer at the beginning of the system.
Most of the repairs you will see will be when a drip line blows off of the larger hose. If the drip emitter or line has blown off of the hose, the hole is likely frayed and I wouldn’t use it again. Instead, use a goof plug to plug the hole and poke a new hole into the tube and reinstall the drip line.
If a drip emitter has blown off of a micro tube, you may be able to push the emitter back in, or if the tube is stretched out a bit, you may have to trim the tube slightly before pushing the emitter back in.
Occasionally, a ½” fitting will separate and leak. I see this with “T” fittings more often than straight fittings. The barbed sleeve will separate from the fitting and leak. I would replace the fitting. You will need to remove the broken fitting from the tubing by pulling as you twist it off of the pipe. There really isn’t a lot of options here as there is not much play in the tubing for you to cut it and hope that it will still be long enough to connect.
If you lift up the cover to your sprinkler valves and they are covered with water you likely have a leak at a sprinkler valve, or maybe a fitting. If this sprinkler repair is at the sprinkler valve, it typically will be in the top of the valve. This is where the mechanics of the valve are. The bottom of the valve is just a housing, but the top contains the diaphragm, solenoid, wiring and screws.
If you can isolate which valve is the problem, rather than replacing the entire valve, buy a exact replacement for that valve and just replace the top half of it. This will save lots of gluing and problems due to the cramped area you are working in. The valves are usually placed so close together that you can’t replace one without disturbing the others. So by just replacing the top of the valve, you are basically getting a new valve (at least the mechanics) without the hassle of actually digging and cutting.
Make sure after you replace to top half that you tighten all of the screws to the same torque. In many cases, it will create a pressure imbalance that will prohibit the diaphragm from sealing and stopping the flow of water.
With the heat of summer approaching, people are running their sprinklers more often. You can see issues develop quickly when part of the lawn in brown and the rest is green. There are many times a handyman will see sprinkler heads that have popped up but are not spraying. This tells me that the water pressure is there to force the sprinklers up but that something is obstructing the water from actually spraying.
In this case, you can turn the sprinklers off and inspect the heads for debris. You may be able just to unscrew the sprinkler head from the riser and tap out the debris, or you may be able to poke it out of the orifice with a small paper clip.
Other sprinkler heads are adjustable for spray pattern and distance. You can open the spray head wider to allow water to blow out the debris. If that doesn't work, open the small screw on the top of the sprayer head to allow a higher volume of water through the head, once you have a normal flow, you can re-adjust the sprinkler head.
If you had to remove the sprinkler head from the riser, screw it back on and align it toward the area you want watered.
It may be that debris entered your system through a break in a water line and when the pressure stops, it allows small amounts of sand and debris into the system.