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Initial Start-up and System Checks

  • Initial Start-up
    1. Checking your head assembly, AC valve, DC valve, backflow, filter and pressure regulator
    2. Flushing the system
    3. Emitters & Microsprinklers
  • System Checks
    1. Checking for leaks
    2. Visual checks of water flow
    3. Irrigation controller check
    4. Pressure check

Initial Start-up

  1. Checking head assembly
    The head assembly is the brains and heart of any drip system. Checking the components is vital to ensuring correct operation and longevity of any drip system. There are many different components to a head assembly and each system can be different, so we will talk about all possible components here and you may choose the information for the parts you have. In general all components need to be free of debris. If your assembly has been stored in a garage it is a good idea to take it apart and rinse out each part. This may seem like more work than is necessary, but by reassembling it you will ensure each part is newly sealed and tight to prevent leaks. It is much harder to tighten up parts on a head assembly once it has been reinstalled into a system. Beyond that here are the finer points on each component.

    a) Backflow
    Look out for any debris which might hamper its operation. You may also test it by blowing air into the water inlet side; air should pass through freely. Blowing into the water outlet side should not allow any air through. If it does, there is a chance the backflow is broken or the diaphragm is not seated. Try shaking it back and forth and blowing again. If it still lets air through from the water outlet side consider replacing it to safeguard your drinking water supply.

    b) Filter
    Take the filter apart and remove the screen. Using a old soft toothbrush, clean the screen under clean water. Try to make sure no debris is hanging loosely on the screen as it may come off and enter the drip system. You can use soap if you like, but rinse it thoroughly to get rid of any soap residue before reinstalling. Also take the flush cap off the bottom of the filter body and rinse both sections completely. Sediment can lodge itself on the inside of the flush cap and body so look carefully. Do the same with the upper body part. On our simple "Y" style filters there should be an "O" ring on the top filter body piece just below the threads in a slot. Sometimes this "O" ring will dry out and make it hard to screw the filter body parts back together, if it does, place a LITTLE Vaseline around the "O" ring and it will screw together like silk! Both ends of the screen also have "O" rings and these help to seal the screen inside the filter body. When placing the screen inside the filter body, push the screen gently in until you feel it slip into the screen slot, if installed correctly the screen should stay in place without any help. Now screw the two body parts together. Try to take off any old Teflon tape from the threads on the water inlet and outlet, then wrap new Teflon tape before reinstalling into the head assembly.

    c) Valve
    The valve should only need to be rinsed out / off and have the components on each side reattached. Make sure to use only Teflon tape on threads going into the valve. Also do not have any Teflon tape hanging into the water flow or off the threads being screwed into the valve. Even small pieces of tape getting into the valve could compromise its correct operation. See arrow on side of the valve for water direction.

    AC Valve DC Valve
    Controller Valve

    c) Battery Operated Controller & Valve
    first make sure the manual ON/OFF lever on the solenoid is in the upright position, this is the auto position and the controller can only operate the valve in the auto position. You can leave the valve installed and turn off the water going into the valve. Relieve the water pressure on the valve and then take off the solenoid by gently unscrewing it a quarter of a turn. Be careful when you lift it off as there is an "O" ring (#1) which fits between the solenoid and the bayonet (#3) it screws into. This "O" ring could stay in the bayonet but most of the time it stays on the bottom of the solenoid. Make sure to keep this "O" ring clean.
    Now look inside the bayonet the solenoid came off of and you will see a small round yellow piece (the "puppet" #2). Using tweezers or a very small pair of needle nosed pliers take this piece out and "hold onto it!". Some bayonets have small colored (green or yellow) pieces in slots on each side of the round yellow puppet, these should be taken out first and can be kept or discarded. They are just to keep the yellow puppet in place during the assembly process at the factory.
    With all this done slowly turn on the water to the valve just a little and water should shoot up from where the puppet was installed, this should be a smooth round stream of water. If the water sprays out all over, something is blocking the water passage. Normally just running the water with it open will dislodge any debris, but it might need some help and this can be done with a pin. Turn off the water and check if you can see and dislodge the blockage. Try the water test again and if the stream is smooth the blockage is gone and you can reassemble the parts.
    Click here to get replacement parts!
    If the blockage cannot be cleared major surgery is needed! Start with unscrewing the bayonet from the valve, BE CAREFUL when doing this! The bayonet can become brittle from exposure to sunlight so try to only use your hand. Once you unscrew the bayonet lift it off gently and look for a small "O" ring (#4) in the bottom of the bayonet (it may stay in the valve). Hold onto this because the valve will not work and can leak without it. Now try blowing through the bayonet to clear any blockage, look at the two openings to see if you can spot anything. Also try turning on the water to the valve again and it might clear any debris from inside the valve. Reassemble and test. Do not use any glue or Teflon tape on the threads, the "O" ring will seal the connection.

    To reassemble, just put the parts back together reversing the above instructions. A couple of notes here. The spring on the round yellow puppet faces downward toward the valve. The "O" ring is easiest to keep in place by installing it on the bottom of the solenoid, if it will not hold in place use just a LITTLE Vaseline to make it stick. Now put the solenoid back into the bayonet. Take note which way the manual on-off lever is facing so it is easy to get to. If it faces the body of the valve it is harder to turn. Face it outward away from the valve.

    d) Pressure Regulator
    There is no real test which can be done on this part without it being installed so just make sure it is rinsed out and clean. Make sure any Teflon tape on threads does not hang loose which could fall off and become lodged inside the regulator.
    Once the head assembly is installed do not test the regulator by checking the water flow it releases, a pressure regulator is not a flow control. It is a pressure reducer and must have back pressure on it to work. Unless you have drippers and fittings coming apart the regulator should be fine.

    e) Swivel Adapter
    These come in many styles so just make sure they are not cracked and the threads are not stripped. Also make sure the washer is still in good shape if one is used.
  2. Flushing the system
    Once you have the head assembly checked and installed in the system you need to flush out the lines in case any dirt has gotten into them. Go to all the line ends on any 1/2" or larger poly tube and open the ends. If you have flush valves on the line ends unscrew the valve part and take it off. Make sure not to lay it in the dirt or it may get clogged and defeat the whole purpose of having the flush valve on a line. With all the line ends off turn on the water to the system and let it run for a moment. While the water runs look for the line end where most of the water comes out and check to make sure it looks clear. Close off this line end and then find the next one with the most flow, repeat the process until all the line ends are closed off. The reason for doing this with multiple line ends is that water always takes the path with least resistance. This is basic physics so one line end will always have more flow that another.
  3. Emitters & Microsprinklers
    Once the system is flushed out and sealed back up take a walk along all the lines and look at each of the drippers and microsprinklers to make sure they are all working, here's how:

    a) Drippers
    Drippers should all have some flow coming out of them. Depending upon the flow rate of the dripper it could be a fast dripping or a steady stream. If a dripper seems clogged try covering the water outlet with a finger to stop the flow and then release, repeat this a few times and check the flow. Normally this will work, but if not you may need to replace the dripper. Make sure to always check the flow of a dripper against one of the same model and flow rate.
    Depending on the style of dripper you have other alternatives.
    Flag drippers & some adjustable drippers can be taken apart and cleaned. Button drippers in compensating and non-compensating styles can be taken out of the tubing and blown through from both sides and then replaced. This may or may not clear the blockage. Make sure to check the water inlet side of the dripper for any debris, this is a common reason for water blockage. In fact it is the number one reason when starting up a new system.

    b) Microsprinklers
    When starting up a new system we advise customers not to install microsprinklers until after the initial flushing. We have found that some debris still finds is way into sprinklers. Removing all the sprinklers is not an option on an existing system unless you have lot's of time on your hands. Actually even then we do not advise it. Taking microsprinklers off 1/4" tubing can disturb the threads and cause microsprinklers to pop-off after being reinstalled.
    If you do find microsprinklers which are not working correctly here is how to clear them. For adjustable flow sprinklers move the adjustment from off to full on and then see if the flow is correct. If not, some adjustable microsprinklers can be taken apart and this is advised.
    For fixed flow microsprinklers first check for any deflectors may be missing or knocked loose. Then try running your finger over the water outlet, sometimes the blockage is just external and only needs to be cleaned off. If the sprinkler is still not working correctly turn off the water to the system and try to blow into the sprinkler. Turn the system back on. If the sprinkler works fine for a few seconds and then quits it proves that dirt in inside the line. Take the sprinkler off and blow through it from the outlet side and then turn the water on for a few seconds before replacing the sprinkler. If none of these solutions work it may be time to replace the sprinkler.

System Checks

  1. Checking for leaks
    Once the system is turned on, flushed out and everything seems to be flowing correctly it is time to check for leaks. These can be caused by animals or garden tools. We have waited until now with the system running for a little while because if any of your lines are located under mulch or buried shallow in dirt some good sized wet spots will show up by now. Leaks located above ground can easily be seen but buried tube is harder to locate leaks. Hopefully the simple fact the tube is buried will do what is is supposed to and protect the tube.
    If you find a leak in 1/2" poly tube it may just be a hole and the first thing to try is a goof plug. Always try the small side first but if this does not work take it out and turn it around to the large side and push like you mean it! This should seal the hole but if not....... its time for a coupling, you do have some extra couplings on hand right??
    Most of the time you can cut out a small portion of tube and place a coupling in to reconnect the two pieces. If the piece you are forced to cut out is longer than the coupling use some spare tubing and two couplings to fix the tube. You do have spare couplings right??

    If you have leaks at fittings check to make sure the tube is pushed in enough. Leaks at connections where 1/4" barbs go into 1/2" poly tube may just need to be pushed in or turned around in the hole. If this does not work try taking out the barb and sealing the hole with a goof plug, you do have spare goof plugs right? Then reinsert the barb into a new hole made with a punch.
    You do still have a nice sharp punch right?? If the tip is dull try rubbing it on some fine grit sandpaper. Thought we were trying to sell you a new punch, huh?

    If any of the leaks are at threaded fittings like LF013 line ends just try to tighten them. Also make sure any washers are still inside and not cracked or broken.
  2. Visual checks of water flow
    Now is time to step back from the close-up inspections and take an overall look at the performance of the system. Do you see any large puddles running off from an area? This could be a leak you have missed.
    How do the sprinklers look? Do they all look like they have adequate water supply and a nice firm stream? If the flow seems anemic check to make sure some other water is not on at the same time which might cut down on the available flow or pressure.
    Best of all do you see any large streams of water shooting 10 or more feet up into the air? No? Then it looks like your ready for the next step!
  3. Irrigation controller check
    he first thing to check on an AC or Battery Operated Controller controller is the batteries. The AC models use batteries for a backup in case of a power outage and the Battery Operated Controller use them for a main power source. Both models use 9-volt style batteries and also have a "Low Battery" display on the LCD screen. The "Low Battery" display is the first thing to check and then a visual check should be done. Make sure there is no leakage out of the batteries and no corrosion at the connections. Also check for moisture or water in the battery compartment. If there is, check for the "O" ring around the battery compartment cover. If the "O" ring is there try rubbing a little Vaseline around it before replacing the cover. Make sure to dry out the battery compartment before closing it.

    Now we should check the actual programming and workings of the controller. Looking at the LCD screen make sure you are at the screen which displays the current time and day. Change it if needed to be correct. Now go through the programming and check each of the settings. Watering duration, Watering frequency, Start time and number of daily starts. Depending on the type of programming your controller offers there will be a "ON" and "OFF" display at one step. Turn the controller ON using this function and make sure the valve comes on, then turn off the system with the same function. This will check your valve and the connections to it. Remember that there is a flow control on most valves which may need to be adjusted; if the flow control is completely or mostly closed the controller may not operate the valve correctly.

    Next, visually check the wires from the controller to the solenoid. Look for any bare spots and fix as needed.

    If you have any problems with the Battery Operated Controller operating the valve check the manual ON OFF lever on the solenoid, straight up is in the auto position. The controller will only operate the valve if this lever is in the auto position.
  4. Pressure check
    This is an optional test you can do to make sure you have enough pressure at the start and end of your system.