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Thread: Sprinkler valve mystery

  1. #1

    Default Sprinkler valve mystery

    Okay, here goes.

    Five years ago bought a house w/ a 3-zone Richdel system. The analog controller is so old I think it was once used by Moses.

    We turned the system off when we bought the place and waited until we could turn our attention to the back yard landscaping (after 5 years of interior refurb...another story).

    In first attempts to re-start, 2 of the three zones are fine.

    The third is not working. I don't have a tester, but I rigged a cheap-o activator w/ 3 9-volt batteries. Nothing. Just a kind of rushing sound, like water through a nozzle. (Not really an electrical "buzz" as I've heard described.) But no water from the sprinklers.

    I did notice that two of the pop-up heads in that zone were leaking a small bit, and I unscrewed the collar a bit to see that there was at least some water pressure. I cleaned and reassembled that head. Still nothing but a tiny leak.

    I even swapped the wiring from another valve. Nada. I even changed the solenoid. Still nothing. Just the rushing sound.

    Any ideas? Should I try cleaning the valve? Should I just save the time and replace it? While I'm at it, should I chuck this antique controller?

    Also, in another zone using a low-pressure above ground line, I swapped out two spray heads and put in two drip lines which are not dripping. As I'm thinking about it, you probably can't put drip lines on the same hose as sprayers... Am I right?

    Thanks y'all.

  2. #2
    Electrical Engineer Andrew P.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Near San Jose, California


    You won't hear a buzzing sound from the solenoid when you power it from three 9-volt batteries in series. The buzzing only occurs when the solenoid is powered from AC, provided by the transformer in the valve controller. However, if you're next to the valve when you apply 27 VDC, you should hear a "click" as the solenoid pulls in. You may want to check the voltage of your batteries under load, to make sure that they're providing 26-27 volts initially and at least 18 volts continuously after the solenoid has been energized. If the batteries are fresh, this shouldn't be a problem. If you have an AC voltmeter handy, check the voltage at the solenoid while it is being operated by the controller. The controller should produce at least 24 VAC "open circuit" and at least 18 VAC continuous under load at the solenoid.

  3. #3

    Default Yeah, but...

    Thanks for the suggestion re: the volt meter. I've been waiting for an excuse to buy one.

    HOWEVER, your suggestion doesn't take into account the fact that I changed the wiring to use the power from a working valve/zone and still had the same results - nothing. Which (especially since I'd changed the solenoid) leads me to believe that the problem must be somewhere in the valve itself.

    Anybody else? Anybody got a comment on the "whooshing" noise?

  4. #4


    Check the diaphragm INSIDE the valve

  5. #5
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Cave Creek, Arizona

    Default valve

    If the diaphragm has a hole or tear in it, or is jammed so it cannot lift, the valve will not operate.

  6. #6

    Default Valve cleaned - still sounds like Niagra Falls

    I pulled the valve apart yesterday and everything seemed fine. No tears. Not much gunk either.

    I ran the water and flushed the line. Cleaned and reassembled the valve.

    Started it back up and I've got the same thing. Dribbling from the pop-up heads.

    At this point, logic is telling me that I've got a break in the line. Still, after hours of running it, I can't find a swamp.

    But the real mystery to me is the noise that's coming from the valve. Very loud sound of water rushing through. None of the others sound like this, so it reasons that the noise has something to do with the problem. I don't understand how a break further down the line would cause that noise at the valve.

  7. #7
    DIY Senior Member upper's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Fresno, CA

    Default sprinkler valve

    Cut the outlet side of the valve,turn it on,check flow.No flow,replace valve.Good flow ,broken pipe.Easy deal Upper also check the flow control
    Last edited by upper; 05-30-2009 at 06:46 PM.


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