How to Turn On a Sprinkler System
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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Locate the timer
- 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.
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.
Steps to Manually Turn On and Off a Zone
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.