Lawn Sprinkler Systems: Identifying Common Plumbing-Related Problems


An obvious sign that your lawn sprinkler or irrigation system is on the blink is when sprinkler heads don't pop up and spray water. Since there are some commonly-occurring problems you can identify yourself, a simple, do-it-yourself fix may be all that's required. Even if you have to call in a professional to do the job, knowing what the problem is beforehand can be a helpful start.

Problem: Low Water Pressure

If the sprinkler heads aren't shooting much water, low water pressure may be the problem. Before calling a professional, check to see whether the valves to the backflow prevention device are open all the way. Backflow devices keep contaminated water from getting into the potable (drinking) water supply by allowing water to flow in only one direction.

Look for a valve that's at least 12 inches above the highest sprinkler head. Most systems have a valve located on both the horizontal and vertical pipes. You'll know a valve is in the open position if the handle is parallel with the pipe. When valves aren't all the way open, turn the valve on the horizontal pipe and then the vertical pipe.

If the valves to the backflow device are fully open, a blocked or broken pipe may be the cause of low water pressure. Tree roots can grow around the water line squeezing it closed. Or, vehicles driving over the area where the line is located can compact the soil and crush a section of the line.

Locating the line requires digging; therefore, you may want a professional to do the job. But before anyone starts to dig, call 811 to have underground utility lines, cables, and pipes marked.

Once the damaged section of pipe is located, it will need to be replaced. If tree roots are responsible for the problem, it may be necessary to reroute the line away from the tree.

Problem: Clogged Sprinkler Head

If dirt gets inside a sprinkler head and clogs it up, the head may shoot a poor spray or not spray water at all. Always turn off the system before you clean or change a sprinkler head. Dig a hole around the head so you can see the riser -- the fitting that connects the pipe carrying the water to the sprinkler head.

Remove the head from the riser. You will need to unscrew the top from the sprinkler canister, turning it in a counterclockwise direction so that you can clean it. Use pliers to pull out the plastic screen basket (filter) at the base of the head. Rinse the filter and sprinkler head with water to remove dirt.

Problem: Broken Sprinkler Head

If you suspect a broken sprinkler head is the problem, look for a head that doesn't pop up, has a cracked or broken plastic casing, or is broken off. It's easy to hit a head that is set too high with your lawn mower.

Unscrew the broken head from the riser by turning it counterclockwise. If it's too tight, use a wrench to remove the head from the riser. Attach a new sprinkler head -- which you can buy at a home improvement center -- to the riser, turning it tight with your hand. Reset the sprinkler pattern before filling in the hole.

For problems beyond these with your sprinkler system, contact a professional landscape irrigation company who can help you out.


27 April 2015

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