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Troubleshooting a Sprinkler System
Posted by: space-time
Date: August 16, 2020 05:25PM
This house we bought has a sprinkler system. It was not listed in the sale disclosure, and I had no idea if it works or not.

I plugged it in and programmed it. I think we figured it out how to program it.

I opened 2 quarter turn vales, one in the basement and one right outside. Then I heard a lot of water flowing. We tried to turn on the sprinkles in manual mode from the control panel. The panel said 1 ON, no water coming out. we tried all 10 valves. Nothing. Went back to the pipes and I still heard water flowing. I checked the water meter and the flow rate was 14 GPM. That was only the sprinklers, as soon as I shut off the valve it dropped to 0. It's not like someone was taking a shower and I had laundry running at the same time. 14 GPM that is Gallons Per Minute. I could't believe it. Seems like a lot.

After about 15 min I shut it off. I have 200 gallons that went into the ground somewhere, but I don't see anything. Sump pump is dry.
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Re: Troubleshooting a Sprinkler System
Posted by: macphanatic
Date: August 16, 2020 05:34PM
Probably not disclosed because it didn't work.

My guess is that the line from inside to outside the house is broken somewhere. Not sure what the pipe size is or your water pressure, but 3/4 inch pipe at 30 psi will flow around 15 GPM.
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Re: Troubleshooting a Sprinkler System
Posted by: GGD
Date: August 16, 2020 05:51PM
Do you know where these 10 sprinkler control valves are located. Often they're clustered together. How far are they from where you think the water line exits the house? Look for wet soil between the house and the valves, that seems like the most likely place for the pipe break.

Also, in preparation for winter in your area people often have a sprinkler service that comes out and blows compressed air through the system to get all of the water out of the outside pipes so they don't freeze. Possible that wasn't done one year and a pipe froze.

Maybe that home warranty that came with your purchase will cover the repair.
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Re: Troubleshooting a Sprinkler System
Posted by: space-time
Date: August 16, 2020 06:26PM
yes, water pressure is 60 PSI. Pipe is probably 3/4 or even 1", I could measure it.

I saw some small manholes, that is a good point, I need to check those to see what is inside. But they are only in the front of the houses and a few sprinklers are in the back, not sure if there is a control valve in the back as well.

I didn't think about home warranty, I am not sure if they would cover, and it I could even make a claim since it was not part of the sale. It was a freebie IMHO.

yes, I know you need to blow them out. I will look into this.
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Re: Troubleshooting a Sprinkler System
Posted by: GGD
Date: August 16, 2020 06:55PM
How big are those "Manholes"?

I think you said you had a septic system, those might be access covers for a septic tank riser. They're often green plastic covers, 24-36" in diameter. You probably don't want to open them.

Sometimes sprinkler valves are in smaller underground boxes with rectangular removable covers. With openings that you can get your hands into, not your entire body.
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Re: Troubleshooting a Sprinkler System
Posted by: space-time
Date: August 16, 2020 07:03PM
those "manholes" are only ~6' diameter. They are labeled "irrigation system control valve". I already opened them, I see wires, (and slugs), no valves. OK maybe if I dig there are valves under, I don't know yet. One is on one side of the brick walkway, with only 3 thick wires, the other is right across with a few smaller wires and wire nuts.

And they were both dry, no way I had 200 gallons of water spilled in any of these.
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Re: Troubleshooting a Sprinkler System
Posted by: space-time
Date: August 16, 2020 07:06PM
This is what I have, not sure if that is 3/4 or 1".

Anyway, what is the "mushroom" at the top?

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Re: Troubleshooting a Sprinkler System
Posted by: GGD
Date: August 16, 2020 07:11PM
Do you see wire nuts and connections to thinner wires, both possibly black? If so following those should lead you to the top of the control valve, where the solenoid is, the rest of it might be buried.

But my guess is that the pipe break is before the valves, possibly close to the house.

There also might have been a cap on the pipe close to the hose for hooking up the compressor hose, possible that's missing, but I would have expected to see some waterworks if there was an above ground leak.
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Re: Troubleshooting a Sprinkler System
Posted by: GGD
Date: August 16, 2020 07:18PM
That mushroom might be an anti-siphon valve to prevent sprinkler water from backflowing into drinking water. Or maybe that's the access cap for the compressor hookup.

Looks like it switches to PVC pipe as soon as it enters the ground.
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Re: Troubleshooting a Sprinkler System
Posted by: Cary
Date: August 16, 2020 07:58PM
The mushroom Is a backflow prevention valve, I believe.

Where is the sprinkler timer/controller? Follow the wires from there to the valve manifold (could be more than one manifold, but usually, except in massive properties, there's one manifold).



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/17/2020 09:01PM by Cary.
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Re: Troubleshooting a Sprinkler System
Posted by: space-time
Date: August 16, 2020 08:33PM
Thanks folks.

The valve and pipes that I posted above is on the North side of the house.

the control panel is on the South side, in the garage, about 60' away

the 2 small manholes are on the West side, in between the N and S end of the house.
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Re: Troubleshooting a Sprinkler System
Posted by: Filliam H. Muffman
Date: August 16, 2020 08:35PM
I am a little surprised your home inspector did not find this.

My impression from the single picture is one of the previous homeowners was responsible for the installation, or they hired one of the neighborhood kids to do it.

If snow stays on the ground there for weeks at a time, I would look for pipes split by freezing under/next to driveways or walkways. Next would be running over sprinkler heads with a riding lawnmower.



In tha 360. MRF User Map
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Re: Troubleshooting a Sprinkler System
Posted by: space-time
Date: August 16, 2020 08:55PM
Quote
Filliam H. Muffman
I am a little surprised your home inspector did not find this.

...

(4) The home is equipped with an automated sprinkler system. We did not inspect the system ,but we do recommend having the system tested for any leaks and functionality before winterizing prior to cold weather to reduce the risk of damage to the system.
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Re: Troubleshooting a Sprinkler System
Posted by: Markintosh
Date: August 16, 2020 09:13PM
Its possible that there is a low point drain that was left open to drain the system last winter. Typically we leave that open until late spring, when we get things running again. On our installation, that drain valve can eject a lot of water under pressure. Find the lowest sprinkler in your yard and look for a small valve box with a drain valve in that area.



“Live your life, love your life, don’t regret…live, learn and move forward positively.” – CR Johnson
Loving life in Lake Tahoe, CA
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Re: Troubleshooting a Sprinkler System
Posted by: space-time
Date: August 16, 2020 09:23PM
Thanks, will hunt again tomorrow.
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Re: Troubleshooting a Sprinkler System
Posted by: Speedy
Date: August 16, 2020 11:21PM
My guess is that it froze in the winter. That’s a back flow prevention valve.

Call the sprinkler company to diagnose and fix it. Ask the previous owner what they know about it. Don’t forget to blow it out now that there is water in the system.



Saint Cloud, Minnesota, where the weather is wonderful even when it isn't.
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Re: Troubleshooting a Sprinkler System
Posted by: WHiiP
Date: August 17, 2020 07:13AM
If sprinkler system is running off City water you should look into investing is a well, just for the system. Most city supplied supplied water costs $$$ and will keep increasing.

.02¢



Bill
Flagler Beach, FL 32136

Carpe Vino!

Fermentation may have been a greater discovery than fire.
— David Rains Wallace
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Re: Troubleshooting a Sprinkler System
Posted by: macphanatic
Date: August 17, 2020 02:23PM
As others pointed out, there may be a drain plug or valve that's open.

If you have city water, you may not be allowed to bring well water into the house. Many municipalities prohibit doing this. I have friends who were forced to remove their well connection when they got city water.

From your photo, it appears that you have a lightning arrest (rods) system. If so, has it been inspected and tested? If not, don't count on it working. The systems are sacrificial and need to be maintained regularly in order to provide proper protection.
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Re: Troubleshooting a Sprinkler System
Posted by: space-time
Date: August 17, 2020 08:47PM
Quote
macphanatic
As others pointed out, there may be a drain plug or valve that's open.

If you have city water, you may not be allowed to bring well water into the house. Many municipalities prohibit doing this. I have friends who were forced to remove their well connection when they got city water.

From your photo, it appears that you have a lightning arrest (rods) system. If so, has it been inspected and tested? If not, don't count on it working. The systems are sacrificial and need to be maintained regularly in order to provide proper protection.

no plan to get a well. I assume that would be 10-15k (?) and we plan to keep the house 120-12 years. I am not sure it will pay off.

Thanks for pointing out about the lightning rod. I will look into it.
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