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05 Jan 2023

How to Turn On a Sprinkler System

Sprinkler system turned on by a Sprinkler Master technician

Whether you maintain your sprinkler system yourself or hire someone to do it for you, everyone should know how to turn on and off their sprinkler system. They are complicated though so how do you control your sprinklers?

There are multiple ways to turn a sprinkler system on and off. Older systems often have a valve that is turned manually with a key. Newer systems are controlled electronically by a timer in the building. Specific zones can also be turned on and off manually at the zone valve. 

Sprinkler Systems are complicated and every system is a little different. We’ll go over all of the basics so that you can be prepared to control your sprinkler system if you ever need to. 

Electronic Timers

There are a lot of reasons you may want to be able to turn on or off your sprinkler system. A common one might be that you’re going to have a party outside or maybe you have a project and you don’t want your sprinklers turning on in the middle of the event. You may want to turn on the system if it’s been dry and your plants need extra water.

Most systems around American homes and businesses are controlled via an electronic controller or timer. This allows you to program the system to automatically run on specific days at specific times. 

The timer in your house will typically be located either in your garage or in your basement. Sometimes it might also be located on the outside wall of your home, but this isn’t as common. Once you’ve located the timer you’ll be able to turn on and off your sprinkler system. Every system is different, but here are the typical steps to do that: 

Steps to Turn Off a Sprinkler Timer

  1. If the controls on your timer are under a plastic cover open the latch on the side of it. In rare cases, you may need a key for this step. Especially if the box is outside or in your garage.
  2. Turn the dial to the off position. Every sprinkler system is a little different but most of the time the timers have a dial as the main control. If your timer has buttons there should be an off button you can press. 
  3. You’re done! Your entire system won’t start again until you go back and turn it on again, so don’t forget to do that.

Steps to Turn On a Sprinkler Timer 

  1. Locate the timer
  2. Turn the dial from off to auto-run. If you previously turned your timer off for some reason and want to go back to your automatic watering schedule you just need to turn the timer to the auto-run position. 
Example of Sprinkler Timer on the outside of a home. Can be used to turn on a sprinkler system.

Manually Turning On Your Sprinklers Using a Timer

You can also manually start your sprinkler system from your timer, if there’s no test option this is how you would do that. To manually turn on your sprinklers you’ll want to select the manual start option. On some timers, there will be separate buttons to start just a zone and one for the whole system. Other timers will just have one option and then you select what you want to run on the screen, Orbit timers are like this. 

You’ll then be able to use the buttons to tell the timer how long you want the sprinkler zones to run manually. If you’re just testing them you can run them for 1 to 2 minutes. This will be enough time to determine if the zone is turned on and to note any problem areas in each zone. If you’re manually watering the area because it’s looking extra dry you could set each zone to manually run for 10 minutes. On some timers the timer will go back to the regular schedule after manually running, on others you need to switch the dial back to auto-run. You’ll need to research what your timer will do. 

Many systems also have a separate setting to test all of the zones. There should be an option to test all zones. If your goal in turning on the system is to check for problems, select that option and then walk around your home or have a partner there to walk around and make sure all of your zones are working that way. 

If this is your first time turning on your sprinkler timer you may need to program the sprinkler schedule. You do this by first entering the date and time. You’ll then be able to set each zone to a specific start time and run time. 

Manually Turn On and Off a Valve

You can also turn a zone on and off without using the timer. This is especially useful if something needs to be repaired or if you just don’t want to mess with the timer. 

Sprinkler Valve box opened to manually turn on sprinkler system

Steps to Manually Turn On and Off a Zone

  1. Find the Valve Box: the valve box will be in the ground often level with the ground and will have a plastic lid that you can lift up. The lids are usually green rectangles with rounded corners or circles. The best place to start looking for your valve box is outside of where the timer is in your house or near where the water line enters your property. Smaller properties will often have all of the valves in the same box, while larger properties may have separate boxes for valves closer to the zone they control. 
  2. Take the Lid off the Box: Often this can be done by hand. If the lid is stubborn use a screwdriver or some pliers to pry the box up at the hole on the side. 
  3. Find the Right Valve: If you have multiple valves in the same spot box you’ll need to determine which is the correct valve for the zone you want. Hopefully, the valves were labeled, but if they haven’t you’ll need to test each one to see which the right one is. If you do that you may want to take the time to label each valve. 
  4. Turn the Solenoid ¼ Turn to the Left to Turn On the Sprinklers: The solenoid is the small black cylinder or box that is on top of the valve and has the wires going into it. It should have a small handle on the side to help you turn it. The sprinklers should come on after doing this. 
  5. Turn the Solenoid ¼ Turn to the Right to Turn Off the Solenoid

That is how you would manually turn off or on a zone. If you want to turn off the water to a zone for an extended period you can turn the flow control screw down to shut off the flow even if the timer opens the solenoid. Just remember to open it again when you’re ready. 

If you’d like to know more about how a valve works check out this video explaining how a sprinkler valve works and how you can turn it on or off.

Manual Systems

Some older systems may not have a timer. If your system is like this you’ll have to open each valve manually. There are a few different ways you can do this. 

First, you’ll need to find the valve box. Like we did in the last section. After finding that the valves inside the box will likely just have a handle you can turn to open the valve. If there is no handle, the valve may require a valve key to open it. These tools usually have two handles at one end and then a long section down to either a small box or fork that fits around the valve. You’ll then turn the valve to the left until the water comes on. For deeper valves, the key will be quite large, for valves near the surface it may be small enough to fit in your hand. 

Manual systems like this are rare and can usually be upgraded with new automatic valves and a timer. If you want to upgrade your system consider hiring Sprinkler Master to make the transition seamless. 

Wireless and Bluetooth Timers

Like many other home systems, you can now get timers that you can easily control from an app on your phone. If you have a newer home and aren’t sure if your system has this feature locate the timer in your house. Once you found it you can search the brand and model to see if it will connect to the internet. Most timers that do this will say on them if they do this. From there the apps are easy to use and understand for turning on and off your system. 

If you’d like to upgrade your old timer to a new one that you can easily control from your phone contact Sprinkler Master. Our technicians will get you the right timer for your system and get it set up and working perfectly. 

Hire a Professional

If you need help setting up your sprinkler system to run at the correct times or if it’s not working correctly contact Sprinkler Master. Our technicians work with sprinkler systems every day and have the experience to solve almost any problem you may be having. You can find the location nearest you by visiting our locations page. 

03 Jan 2023

How Long Should I Run Drip Irrigation?

Drip irrigation is a highly effective way to water your plants and garden. But with any irrigation system, it’s important to strike the right balance between ensuring that your plants get enough water without wasting it or flooding the soil. So, how long should you run your drip irrigation system?

Trees that need a lot of water may need about 90 minutes twice a month and the water should reach a depth of 12”. A flower bed may need watering for 60 minutes twice a week. Watering time for drip irrigation depends on the emitters being used and the plants being watered.   

Drip irrigation is a more targeted approach than traditional sprinklers, as the water is delivered directly to the base of the plants, reducing the risk of overwatering and promoting deeper root growth. Keep reading to learn how you can optimize your drip irrigation watering times below. 

Benefits of Drip Irrigation

Before we dive into specific recommendations for different plants, let’s take a quick look at the benefits of drip irrigation:

  • Water efficiency: Because drip irrigation delivers water directly to the plant’s roots, less water is lost to evaporation and runoff. Most drip systems are between 85% and 90% efficient. This makes it a more efficient way to water your garden, especially in dry or hot climates.
  • Plant health: As mentioned, drip irrigation promotes deep root growth, which is essential for the overall health of your plants. Deep roots help plants to withstand drought conditions and recover more quickly from dry spells.
  • Pest control: Using drip irrigation can also help to reduce the risk of certain pests and diseases. For example, wet leaves are more susceptible to fungal infections, and standing water can attract mosquitoes and other pests. By watering at the base of the plants, you reduce these risks.

Drip Irrigation Time for Different Plants

Now that we’ve covered the general benefits of drip irrigation, let’s look at how long you should run it for different kinds of plants:

  • Annuals and perennials: Flowers typically require more frequent watering, as they have shallow root systems. As a general rule, aim to water these plants once or twice a week, depending on the weather and soil conditions. These flowers need approximately an inch of water or 5 gallons per square yard. You need to make the calculations for your situation, but if you’re using a dripline with ½  gallon/hour emitters, You’ll want to water your flowers about 60 minutes twice a week. 
  • Trees and shrubs: These plants have deeper root systems and are more drought-tolerant, so they can typically go longer between waterings. Aim to water these plants once or twice a month for about 90 minutes or when the water has reached over 12” deep, depending on the weather and soil conditions. When planning the irrigation for a tree make sure that your irrigation is on the outside half between the edge of the canopy and the trunk. Having the irrigation too close to the trunk will not lead to healthy root growth. 
  • Vegetables: Vegetables have different water needs depending on the type of plant and the stage of growth. For example, young seedlings and fast-growing plants like tomatoes and cucumbers may require more frequent watering, while root plants like potatoes and carrots can go longer between waterings. The time depends on the plants you plant but 60 minutes twice a week is a good starting point. 
  • Lawns: Drip irrigation is not typically used for lawns. Since a normal drip system can’t be completely buried without getting clogged, it has to be on top of the surface in the grass which would make the lawn unpleasant to walk on and could potentially be damaged during lawn maintenance or if anyone drives onto the grass. That said your grass needs about 1” of water per week, so if you’re irrigating with a correctly installed drip system you’ll want to run your system for about an hour every other day. 

For a more exact calculation of watering times, check out this equation for calculating water time with drip irrigation from the Utah State University Forestry Extension. 

Landscaped flower bed that could be watered with Drip Irrigation

How Does Soil Composition Affect Watering Times?

Different Soil Types have different watering requirements and will affect how long you need to water your beds. 

Clay-like soils have very fine particles and tend to be very dense soil. This soil can take a long time to absorb the water, but it will stay moist for longer. Water will also spread out more in clay soils, which makes it so you can spread out that your emitters can be spaced further apart. Generally, you’ll need to water the area longer than in other soils, but not as often.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are sandy soils. This soil has larger particles and is less dense. This means that it doesn’t hold water very well, so it needs to be watered more frequently, but it doesn’t need to be watered for as long each time. 

How Does Rain Affect Watering Times?

Getting rain is almost always a good thing for your garden and trees and means that you don’t have to run your system as long during the week. It also means that you can save water which is good for the environment and saves you money. 

When it rains during the week, you’ll want to look up how much it rained and then you can subtract that from the amount you need to water during the week. Doing this will ensure that you are as efficient as possible and don’t overwater your plant. 

Some irrigation systems, like Rainbird, have smart controllers which can connect to wifi and will adjust your watering schedule automatically based on rainfall.

If you’d like to upgrade your system, Sprinkler Master can help you find one that will work for you.

Hire a Professional

Drip irrigation is a highly efficient and effective way to water your plants and garden. By following the guidelines outlined above, you can ensure that your plants get the water they need to thrive.

If you have questions about drip irrigation or need help with sprinkler repair, don’t hesitate to contact Sprinkler Master. We’re here to help keep your irrigation system running smoothly and efficiently.


“Drip Irrigation.” URI HomeASyst, University of Rhode Island, 5 Aug. 2014, https://web.uri.edu/safewater/protecting-water-quality-at-home/sustainable-landscaping/drip-irrigation/

Goldy, Ron. “Soil Type Influences Irrigation Strategy.” MSU Extension, Michigan State University, 21 Jan. 2022, https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/soil_type_influences_irrigation_strategy

Kuhns, Mike. “Drip Irrigation for Trees.” Utah State University- Forestry Extension, Utah State University, https://forestry.usu.edu/trees-cities-towns/tree-care/drip-irrigation. “Tree Watering Guidelines.” Canopy, Canopy, 28 Oct. 2016, https://canopy.org/tree-info/caring-for-trees/trees-and-water/watering-guidelines/.

03 Jan 2023

How to Adjust the Rainbird 5000 (EASY)

Sprinkler Master Technician adjusting a Rainbird 5000 rotor.

Rainbird 5000 rotors are some of the most popular and reliable sprinkler rotors you can get. If you’re a homeowner with a sprinkler system, you know the importance of maintaining it to keep your lawn healthy and beautiful. Knowing how to adjust your Rainbird 5000 rotors can save you time and money in your quest for a perfect lawn.

We’ll go over how you can adjust your Rainbird 5000 rotors step by step below. Keep reading to learn more. 

Just want a professional to fix it for you? Contact your nearest Sprinkler Master by clicking Here.

1. What Tools will I need?

Before adjusting your Rainbird 5000 rotor, you’ll need to gather the essential tools. If you just need to adjust the spray, all you’ll need is one of the Rainbird adjustment tools. These tools look like small flat-head screwdrivers, except the screwdriver ends in kind of a cross at the end. This tool will allow you to easily pull the head up and then use the flathead to make all of your adjustments.

If you don’t have one of those tools you can also use a flathead screwdriver. It will just be harder to use without the pull-up tool. If you are going to be frequently adjusting sprinklers you’ll probably want to get one of Rainbird’s tools. You can get one of the tools at Sprinkler Warehouse for under $5. Most places that sell Rain Bird products will also sell the tools. 

Rain Bird also makes a tool to hold up the head while you work on it. These can be nice to have but are not strictly necessary for adjusting your system. 

The only other tool you might need is a shovel if your rotor has sunk too low into the ground and is sitting at the wrong angle.

2. Adjusting the Arc of the Rotor

These are the steps to adjust the Arc of the Rotor. The Arc is how far the rotor turns from side to side while operating. Rainbird 5000 rotors can be adjusted anywhere between 40 degrees of rotation and 360 degrees of rotation. 

  1. To adjust the arc of the rotor you’ll first want to go turn on your system. You’re going to adjust the sprinkler while it is on so you may get wet while doing this. 
  2. Check the current arc. Stand behind the water spray and grab the head of the rotor below the spray. The rotor will easily turn from side to side. First, turn the head to the left until it stops easily turning. This spot is the start of the arc. Then turn the spray to the right. Wherever it stops on this side will show you the current end of the arc.
  3. First set the start of the arc in the right spot. To change the starting point of the arc, turn the rotor head to the starting point and then, as gently as possible, force the rotor head to turn to the desired starting point. This will be the new starting point of the rotor. 
  4. Find the arc adjustment screw. The ark adjustment screw is on top of the rotor head, in the back of the head. Most heads will have a plus sign on the left side and a minus sign on the right side. Once you find that you can insert your adjustment tool or flathead screwdriver into the rubber slot there.
  5. Adjust the arc adjustment screw. To narrow the arc of the rotor, turn the screw counterclockwise. To widen the arc of the rotor, turn the screw clockwise. You’ll want to adjust this and then test the arc by turning the head again. Adjust this until the arc ends at the correct stopping point.
Rainbird 5000 rotors

3. Adjusting the Distance of the Spray

The distance of the spray or the radius is how far the rotor can throw the water away from itself. The Rainbird 5000 had an adjustable radius between 25 and 50 feet or 7.5 and 15 meters. The distance depends on the maximum range of the nozzle you have in place. The nozzles are replaceable and come in 5 feet increments.

These are the steps to adjust the distance of the spray. If you already have the correct nozzle skip to step 4. 

Changing the Nozzle

  1. First, choose the correct nozzle. You’ll want to choose the nozzle that is just larger than the distance you want the water to go. If you want the water to spray 32 feet for example you’ll want to choose the 35-foot nozzle. 
  2. Second, remove the current nozzle or space holder from the sprinkler. To do this you’ll want to use your adjustment tool to lift the head of the rotor. You’ll then need to either hold up the head with your hand or use a Hold-Up tool. Unscrew the radius adjustment screw. The radius adjustment screw is located at the front of the top of the rotor. Usually, it is inside an arrow that points in the direction of the spray. You’ll want to unscrew this screw counterclockwise until you can remove the nozzle. 
  1. Now add the new nozzle you’ll be using. You can simply push this nozzle into place and then tighten down the screw by turning it clockwise. You can now let go of the sprinkler head since you’ll need to turn on the system to make the fine adjustments. 

Adjusting the Distance of Spray

  1. Turn on the water. For the fine adjustments, you’ll want to have the water on so that you can see exactly how far the spray is going. If for example you need the spray to go 32 feet and you already put the 35-foot head in we now need to reduce the range. 
  2. Use your screwdriver to adjust the radius adjustment screw. Turn the screw counterclockwise until you see the distance of the spray shortening to the correct distance. Turning the screw counterclockwise will lengthen the distance of the spray.
  3. Make adjustments until the sprinkler hits the right distance. 
Sprinkler Master Technician digging to adjust the height of a Rainbird 5000 sprinkler

4. Adjusting the Height of the Rotor

Sometimes your rotor sinks into the ground over time as the soil settles and you need to raise it back up. To do this you’ll need to dig around your sprinkler head. You’ll want your sprinkler head to sit about even to the ground so that it’s not sunken down, but still low enough that nobody trips over it and the lawn mowers blades won’t catch it 

To dig up your head you can use either a regular shovel or a garden trowel. You’ll then want to use the shovel to cut into the grass around the head. You’ll want to be able to replace the grass afterward so set the chunks of grass carefully to the side. 

Be very careful when digging around sprinkler rotors not to damage the rotor itself or to cut the tubing connecting the rotor to your PVC.

Once you’ve removed some of the grass and dirt you can adjust the sprinkler height if the rotor has sunk a lot you may need to add a bit more dirt to the spot. Sometimes you can raise it just by pulling it up a little bit and letting some of the surrounding soil fall into place beneath the rotor. 

Once you’ve done this carefully replace the soil and the grass. It’s okay if the grass is sitting a little bit higher than the surrounding grass since it will settle over time. 

Hire a Repair Company

If the problem is bigger than you thought or if you just don’t have time to adjust and maintain your whole system yourself it’s time to hire a repair company.

Sprinkler Master has locations all over the country that are ready to help you. We’re experienced with Rain Bird products and can help you fix even the most complex sprinkler system problems. 

Click here to contact your closest Sprinkler Master and give us a call!


“Rain Bird Support: 5000 / 5000+ Series: Rain Bird.” Rain Bird Support: 5000 / 5000+ Series | Rain Bird, Rain Bird Corporation, https://www.rainbird.com/products/5000-series/support.

“Rain Bird Rotor-Adjustment-Tool.” Rain Bird | ROTORTOOL | Rotor-Adjustment-Tool…, Sprinkler Warehouse Inc., https://www.sprinklerwarehouse.com/rain-bird-rotor-adjustment-tool.