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Why Won’t My Sprinkler Turn On?

Why Won’t My Sprinkler Turn On?

As spring is here and summer is approaching in Austin, you have probably already started your sprinkler system. Perhaps you have already noticed that your sprinkler system isn’t turning on, or you have faulty areas on your irrigation system. 

There are many reasons why your irrigation system may not turn on automatically or work at all. Simple things like checking to see if the sprinkler heads are dirty or clogged is probably the first thing you should do. If this hasn’t handled the problem then most likely, a deeper issue exists:

Faulty Master Valve

Having a faulty master valve can prevent water from entering the system.

This may be the problem, and could obviously cause the whole system to go down. The master valve will turn off water completely, this could be done for winterizing or for performing certain maintenance tasks. Solving the problem may be as simple as checking to make sure your system can access water in the first place.

Spinkler close up

Wiring Issues

Sometimes it is a matter of the wiring, to check this on your own you will need an electrical multimeter which can measure electrical resistance (ohmmeter). A professional irrigation specialist can also help to check for the exact issue and rapidly fix this. 

One Area of the System Turns On

If you are noticing one or perhaps a few specific areas of your system are turning on then you may be dealing with a cut common wire. This wire is usually white in color and runs from your controller to your master valve and then to each other valve on your system in turn. If there is a break in your common wire, then every valve after it will no longer turn on.

How to Fix This:

You can use the multimeter at your controller, place one probe on your white common wire, and the other at each zone. If the areas are working properly you will see little to no resistance and there would be infinite resistance after the break (not connected).

If the above is not the problem it may be a problem with your dedicated wire. This wire runs from your controller to each individual valve. This gives you control over each individual area. 

One Specific Area Isn’t Turning On

If you are finding that one specific area isn’t working, then you may be looking at a cut dedicated wire.

How to Fix This:

Use your multimeter to check this. Probe the common wire and that zone’s dedicated wire and this should reveal that the connection is broken, meanwhile the other areas would be working fine.

Water Supply Issues, Low Pressure/Volume

This can present itself when sprinkler heads barely spray water. It may be that the heads themselves won’t even pop up. 

How to Fix This:

1. Check the Backflow Device

To know if the backflow device is not working properly, make sure the water valves at the backflow device are turned on.

2. Look for Leaks in the Water Pipes

It could be that there is a leak in the water pipe somewhere along one of the underground irrigation lines. These problems are usually found somewhere between the valves and the first sprinkler head. Signs that this may be the problem will be areas of soggy lawn where the water is pooling. It will be necessary to dig down to repair the water line itself.

3. Other Issues in the Irrigation Line

It may be that the irrigation line had been crushed or compressed which is restricting water flow. The way to find this is to systematically dig up the lawn until you find the bad pipe and replace it.

4. Faulty Controller (Least Common)

Here we come to the last and probably not the most likely. However, failing all the above it would be wise to check this one: Using your multimeter, you can run one probe from your white common wire and the other to your master cylinder wire at the sprinkler’s controller. Your resistance numbers should be reading between 20 and 60 ohms. If it shows infinite resistance then that is the area of the problem.

Hire a Professional

Although you can do some of these checklist actions yourself, as you can see some dedicated work may be required. Hiring a licensed professional to perform a complete and thorough inspection and tune-up is recommended. Also, the professionals at Smart Earth Sprinklers are trained to spot any potential problems, and can make recommendations to keep costs down, and your landscape healthy.

Watering Tips for Austin Lawns

It is recommended to start watering your lawn when the weather is dry, and the rain is no longer sufficiently providing enough water for your lawn. The best time of day to water your lawn and landscape plant material is early morning or late evening when winds are calmer and temperatures are lower, resulting in less water loss to evaporation. 

Call the licensed irrigators at Smart Earth Sprinklers at 512-694-1147 or contact us online for your sprinkler system inspection, repair, and maintenance needs.

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