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Like your lawn, your sprinkler system is dormant during the winter. The process of preparing for this long layoff includes turning off the water as close to the source as possible and blowing out the pipes to avoid freezing, cracks, or breaks.
While most sprinkler system owners know how to prepare for winter, they don’t know how to turn on the sprinkler system in springtime. Also, they aren’t aware of the common issues that lead to the sprinkler not turning on after the winter.
Here is a closer look at how to turn on the sprinkler system in spring and how to troubleshoot if the sprinkler is not turning on.
How to Turn On a Sprinkler System in Spring
There are two main steps to be aware of before running a test run of your sprinkler system.
Step One: Vacuum Break
Before turning on the water, it’s important to take a look at the vacuum breaker. This is located outside the house, where the pipe passes through the wall before the line goes underground.
Here, you will use a screwdriver to close the two test valves, which let air into the system to keep the pipes from bursting during the winter. After securely tightening both screw heads, you can turn on the water valve, which is usually a lever on the opposite side of the vacuum breaker from the test valves. Some systems have two valves, one before the vacuum breaker and one after. You will need to turn both into the on position.
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Step Two: Main Shutoff Valve
When turning on your sprinkler system in spring, the next step is to find the main shutoff valve. It will usually be in the basement or crawlspace of your home. It will be in the off position, so you will have to turn it on. Most outdoor sprinkler systems have ball values, and you push or pull a lever to open the valve and start the water flow again. Most plumbers will tell you to turn this valve very slowly. Opening it too quickly could create a water hammer from the water rushing into the empty pipes. This could damage the system and lead to leaks.
You are now ready for a test run. Many sprinklers have a “test” or “manual” setting that allows you to run the system for a few minutes to ensure that it works properly. When you start the system using this setting, it will usually take a minute for a full water flow. You will hear air hissing out of the sprinkler heads and then a mist before the water starts to come out regularly. This is normal and not a sign of any malfunction.
During a test run, you should check all above-ground pipes and valves for leaks. If there are none, you can set the automatic watering schedule for the season. Most systems have a keypad and LCD for this part of the process.
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Troubleshooting When Your Sprinkler Is Not Turning On
You might encounter some issues when turning on your sprinkler system in springtime. Some problems have simple fixes, while others will require the help of a professional.
If the system works, but water is not coming out of specific sprinkler heads, the issue might be dirt built up during the winter. There are different cleaning methods for different head designs, but your owner’s manual should tell you how to remove and clean it. If you remove the head and notice that it is broken, you may be able to order a replacement.
Both of these steps are possible if you have an owner’s manual and the time to do the job. You can also hire a professional to handle it for you.
You may notice leaks when testing your system. These often occur at joints or valves. If you have the time and tools, you can try to tighten the valve or joint or remove a section and reapply plumber’s tape to try and create a seal that will stop the leak. These steps require turning off the main valve and draining the water from the system to ensure it does not spray out when you loosen the valve or pipe.
Before you call a professional, one final option is to retrace your steps and ensure you followed the correct process for turning on the system. Make sure you didn’t simply miss a step before investing in an expert’s service call.
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When to Call an Expert for Your Sprinkler System
If the problem is not apparent or you lack the tools and knowledge to fix a leak or replace a sprinkler head, you can call in an expert to check your system.
Problems such as a broken pipe or line underground can be difficult to repair on your own. Even if you have the know-how, you might have to dig up a large section of your lawn to find the leak and patch it.
However, if you call a sprinkler system specialist, they can find and fix the issue with minimal disturbance to your lawn. Once the job is done, you can be confident the system will work for the rest of the season.
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