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Thread: Problems With In-Ground Sprinkler System -- First Time Use

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member agoodman82's Avatar
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    Default Problems With In-Ground Sprinkler System -- First Time Use

    Hi all,

    I was wondering if someone could help me out here because I have no prior experience with using/troubleshooting an in-ground sprinkler system. I am a new home owner and about a week ago I turned my water on for the first time this season after the prior home-owners had properly winterized the system. The system itself is set up in 5 different zones with 25 sprinkler heads total. After turning on the water (by moving two valves parallel to the water pipe) I could hear the water flow through the pipes.

    I ran a test cycle of all 5 zones and other than a few heads which didn't pop up, and a damaged head that resulted in decreased water pressure for a single zone, everything seemed to be working fine. I set a program to run which seemed to work flawlessly for 3 days straight. However, today when I tried to run a test cycle this morning... nothing happened. The controller box indicated a cycle was running, but no sprinkler heads had popped up, and I could not hear the water flowing through the pipes like I had in the past when a zone was running. I tried checking the power to the controller box, which was fine -- I even hit the reset button on the box just to be sure, but no luck there. Then I checked the wiring from the controller box to the 5 valves (don't really know what to call them) which were in an "irrigation control box" in the ground. The wiring seems fine and there were no loose wires or any cuts. I don't know why for a few days the system was working, and then without me doing anything (no digging or gardening which may have accidentally cut a wire or pipe in the ground etc) the system just stopped working.

    If anyone has any ideas as to what might have caused this, or what I can try looking at, I would be grateful. Again I have never had any experience with this kind of system before, and I'm hoping I'd be able to fix it myself rather than call someone in to do it for me. I can get the names of the equipment in the system or try to give me details on specifics if that would be of any help to anyone trying to help me out here. Thanks!

    - Alex

  2. #2
    DIY Member
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    HAve you had any rain since last using the system?. It could be that your rain sensor, if you have one, has you shut down. Look at that first. Most newer controllers have separate terminals in the wiring compartment just for the sensor. They also have bypass switches. The reason I say this is I know the New York /East Coast area had rain these past few days.

  3. #3
    DIY Junior Member agoodman82's Avatar
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    Hi BRD,

    A few hours after I posted here, I decided to try another test cycle, and it worked! I do have one rain sensor for the system, and yes, it did actually rain here the very recently like you thought. How exactly does the rain sensor work? The only manual I have is for the controller box itself -- nothing regarding the actual irrigation system with the rain sensor. I know the sensor is supposed to stop the system from watering once it starts raining, but how long after it has stopped will it prevent the system from watering again? Thanks again.

  4. #4
    Irrigation Contractor Fireguy97's Avatar
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    Kamloops, in Beautiful British Columbia
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    It depends on the type of reain sensor that you have and the setting of that rain sensor. Most of them have a felt like disks that are different thicknesses. Because of the thickness differences, each disk absorbs water (and dissapates) at a measured rate. The adjustment of the sensor ranges from 1/8", 1/4", 1/2", 3/4", 1", etc, is mechanical and stops the controller from watering during the 'trip' period. Drying out of the sensor depends on temperature and humidity. If you have warm and sunny weather after the rain, it will dry out faster than an cool cloudy days.

    When the sensor does dry out it will 'allow' the controller to start watering on the next programmed water cycle. If your watering day is Monday, and it rains on Sunday, but doesn't dry out until Tuesday, your next cycle day will be the following Monday.

    Check your sensor to see what it's set at.

    Mick

  5. #5
    DIY Member
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    Most of these rain sensors have have what they call hygroscopic discs, which when they absorb rain water will expand slightly. In a "normally closed" switch, which I believe most sensors are, these discs expand and in doing do they open a switch and break (disconnect) the sprinkler system ground temporarily until the discs dry out and the switch is released back to its closed (completed circuit) position. Very simple and reliable if mounted in the correct location.

  6. #6
    DIY Junior Member greenbaypackersfan's Avatar
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    Also, many of the controller have an ON/FF rain sensor switch. Mine in particular, I can turn the sensor on or off if I desire to (in case it's a little shower and I decide to still continue with the sprinkler schedule.) I can also ajust the sensor sensitivity. Check your controller box, I believe you should have one as well.

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