System Operation and Maintenance (toggle)
Initial start-up, system checks and preparation for the new season
Checking your head assembly, AC valve, DC valve, backflow device, filter, pressure regulator, and injector, if used
Flushing the system
Emitters & Microsprinklers
Checking for leaks, inspect the drip hose, drip line and fittings
Visual checks of water flow
Irrigation controller check
The head assembly is the brains and the 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, rinse each part under water, and make sure that all washers are in good condition. 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.
Checking head assembly
Check each individual component of the system:
Valve: The valve should only need to be rinsed out, and have the components on each side reattached. Make sure to use only Teflon tape on threads going into the valve. Please note: Do not have any Teflon tape hanging into the water flow or off the threads being screwed into the valve. Even if small pieces of tape get into the valve, it could compromise its correct operation. See arrow on side of the valve for water direction and correct installation
Battery Operated Controllers & Valves: First, make sure to check the batteries, if the batteries were used in more then one season, replace the batteries. The manual ON/OFF lever on the solenoid is in the upright position; this is the auto position. 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.
Battery Operated Solenoid Assembly Relieve the water pressure on the valve by using the manual run via the controller 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) that 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 part of the solenoid that came off) 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 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 water. It should shoot up from where the puppet was installed and 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 the valve open will dislodge any debris, but it might need some help. 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! Click here to get replacement parts!
If the blockage cannot be cleared surgery is needed! Start by 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 the 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. This might clear any debris from inside the valve. Reassemble and test. Do not use any glue or Teflon tape on the thread, as the "O" ring will seal the connection.
To reassemble, 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.
Backflow Device: Look out for any debris, which might hamper its operation, and make sure that the washer is in good condition. 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.
Filter: Take the filter apart and remove the screen. Use an old, soft toothbrush, and clean the screen under clean water. Try to make sure no debris is hanging loose on the screen as it may come off and enter the drip system. You can use soap if you like or dip it in a 2% chlorine solution for a few hours. Rinse it thoroughly to get rid of any 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 the "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 or silicon around the "O" ring and it will screw together like silk!
Both ends of the screen also have "O" rings. 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, and then wrap new Teflon tape before reinstalling into the head assembly.
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 and make sure that the washer is in good condition. 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 for flow control. It is a pressure reducer and it must have backpressure on it to work. Unless you have drippers and fittings coming apart, the pressure regulator is working fine, or you can test the pressure at the end of line using a pressure gage.
Fertilizer Injector: Make sure the property or the system is equipped with a Backflow Prevention Device.
Installing your injector system improperly can cause risk of water contamination and pose health risks. Do not connect your unit to a sprinkler or drip line that is not protected by a backflow device that separates the sprinkler or drip system from the water systems.
The EZ-FLO System requires water pressure to operate but does not produce pressure; thus the system is considered a venture-driven "Proportional", not an "Injector System" when defined for backflow requirements. Do not install if pressure exceeds 80 PSI.
The proportioning cap of the unit must be above the highest level of the irrigation system in order to create sufficient pressures to draw fertilizer out of the tank. Zones with elevation above the unit may require the use of a special ball valve in order to compensate for the weight of the water going to that elevated zone. Excessive tees and elbows in the irrigation system and the use of volume reducers, except those specified by EZ-FLO, may cause the unit not to flow properly.
To make sure that the system will work correctly, first, remove the cap and wash the fertilizer tank with clean water. Second, use an old soft toothbrush, and clean the inside of the fertilizer tank. Make sure no debris or dirt is left inside the tank. Third, remove the microtube from each side of the cap and also wash with clean water. You can use soap if you like, or fill the tank with water, and add 2% chlorine solution, let it sit for a few hours, then rinse it thoroughly to get rid of any residue. Fourth, after cleaning the tank, place the threaded cap on the tank, and make sure that the cap is sitting tight. Lastly, reattach the microtube to the cap and pressurize the system.
Swivel Adapter: Swivel connectors come in many styles so just make sure that they are not cracked and the threads are not stripped. Also make sure the washer or screen is still in good shape.
Once you have the head assembly checked and installed back to 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" drip hose or drip line or larger size polytube and open the ends.
Flushing the system
If you have flush valves or a flush cap on the line ends, unscrew the valve or cap part, and take it off. Make sure not to lay the flush valve in the dirt or it may get clogged, defeating the whole purpose of having the flush valve on a line. With all the line ends open, 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 - basic physics - so one line end will always have more flow then another.
Once the system is flushed out and all end lines are closed, take a walk along all the lines and look at each of the drippers and microsprinklers to make sure they are all working correctly:
Emitters & Microsprinklers
Drippers should all have flow coming out of them. The amount of water being dispensed depends on the flow rate of the dripper; it could be a low flow 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.
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 polytube 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.
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 its way into microsprinklers. Removing all the sprinklers is not an option on an existing system unless you have lots of time on your hands. Even then we do not advise it. Taking microsprinklers off the 1/4" tube can disturb the threads and cause microsprinklers to pop-off when 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 on and then see if the flow has been corrected. If not, some adjustable microsprinklers can be taken apart and cleaned.
For fixed flow microsprinklers first check for any deflectors that 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 microsprinkler is still not working correctly turn off the water to the system, remove the microsprinkler head by twisting it counter clockwise. Check and see if anything is blocking the microsprinkler orifice; if debris has accumulated, try to blow into the sprinkler. Install the head back by twisting it clockwise and turn the system back on. If the microsprinkler works fine for a few seconds and then quits it proves that dirt is inside the line. Flush the 1/2" line again to make sure that all debris are out of the line and then turn the water on for a few seconds to make sure that the microsprinkler is working correctly. If none of these solutions work it may be the time to replace the microsprinkler.
Once the system is turned on, flushed, and everything seems to be flowing correctly, it is time to check for leaks that 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 in shallow dirt, some good sized wet spots will show up.
Checking for leaks
Leaks located above ground can easily be seen but leaks in the buried polytube are more difficult to locate. Hopefully the simple fact that the polytube is buried will protect it from any damage.
If you find a leak in 1/2" polytube it may just be a hole and the first thing to try is a goof plug. Always try the small side of the goof plug first, but if this does not work, take it out and turn it around to the large side and insert it. This should seal the hole.
If you have a larger hole or the polytube is damaged you will need a coupling. You do have some extra couplings on hand right??
If any of the leaks are at the threaded fittings like LF013 line ends just try to tighten them, making sure that the washers inside are not cracked or broken. Repair, using the coupling: most of the time you can cut the damaged section out, and then use a coupling to reconnect the two pieces. If the piece you are forced to cut out is longer than the coupling, use some spare polytue and two couplings to fix the section.
If you have leaks at the fittings, check to make sure that the polytube is pushed in enough.
Make sure to use the correct size fittings that will fit your drip tube
Repair, using the 1/4" fittings: Leaks at the connections where 1/4" barbs or tee are inserted into 1/2" polytube may just need to be pushed in or turned around in the hole. If this does not solve the problem, remove barb or tee and seal the hole with a goof plug, and then reinsert the barb into a new hole using the punch.
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.
Visual checks of water flow
How do the microsprinklers work? Do they all look like they have adequate water supply and a nice firm stream and uniformity? If the flow seems anemic at the end of the line check to make sure some other valves are not open at the same time, which might cut down on the flow available. If the uniformity from the last microsprinklers on the line is not sufficient, you may have too many microsprinklers on the polytube. Review the maximum flow allow on the 1/2" polytube.
The first thing to check on an AC or Battery Operated Controller is the batteries. The AC models use batteries for a backup in case of a power outage. The battery operated controller uses batteries for a main power source. Both models use 9-volt style batteries and also have a "Low Battery" display on the LCD screen.
Irrigation controller check
The "Low Battery" display is the first thing to check, followed by a visual check. Make sure there 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 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.
Next, check the actual programming, and working condition of the controller. Looking at the LCD screen, make sure that you are at the screen which displays the current time and day.
Change it, if needed, to reflect the correct time. Move on through the programming by pushing the left button, and check each of the settings: Watering duration, Watering frequency, Start time and Number of Daily Starts Per Day. Depending on the type of programming your controller offers there will be "ON" and "OFF" display. Turn the controller ON using this function and make sure the valve turns on, then turns off the system. 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. Make sure the flow control is always open.
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 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.
This is an optional test you can do to make sure you have enough pressure at the end line. The minimum pressure for a drip system at the end of the line should be 10 PSI, and for microsprinklers, 25 PSI.
After inspecting the system, make sure to run the system using a manual run via the controller, to review the duration and start time (water early morning).
Congratulations! Your system is ready for the season.