How often should I water my yard?

The answer to this question varies as greatly as the climate across the country. The amount needed on the Gulf Coast of Texas would starve grass planted in New Mexico. Region, grass type and soil all play a part.

I’ll attempt to give some general answers first. Then I’ll try and get more specific.

An often used rule of thumb is that your lawn should receive at least 1 to 1 ½” inch of water per week. However, how often you water also depends on weather, area restrictions, grass types and more. Under watering is as common as overwatering. It may be more common, especially during high heat times. Under watering causes shallow roots, making the grass more vulnerable to stress. Eventually the grass turns brown and dies.

Many are not aware of the problems caused by over watering. Your lawn needs moisture, nutrients, and air to grow. If you water too much, you can saturate your soil to the point where air cannot get to the roots. The lawn basically suffocates. So a water balance is very important.

Generally you want to water in such a way that the water penetrates 6” to 8” into the soil. This helps establish deeper roots for your grass. On a recent test in a public park in Houston, Tx, a generally well watered area, grass roots were found going down more than 12”. This is an example of the difference between a little every day and a lot on one or two days a week in absorbent soil. Look at the root depth chart that follows.

Daily versus weekly watering chart

Another consideration is how short you cut your grass. Taller grass helps shield the soil from heat and retains moisture better. Try to avoid extremely short settings on your mower.

After all this I still haven’t told you how often to water your yard. Ok. Here’s my answer, sort of. Figure that your grass needs about 1” to 1.5” per week. You also want to water in such a way that it soaks into the soil to enough depth to encourage root growth but does not run off due to non-porous soil or sloped yards. Look at this illustration:

How to water different soil types chart

In clay you might want to water three or four times a week, about ¼ inch per time, twice a day. Since clay absorbs water so slowly you won’t risk water runoff. With sand you can have water absorb past the depth the grass can use it. In this case you might water ½” at a time, three times a week. This should keep it moist. In loam you can often get away with twice a week, ½” to ¾” at a time. The loam will absorb and hold the water for a long time. Remember to water in the early morning, before the wind and sun comes up to dry out the yard.

There really is no set rule – every other day, once a week, or every third day. The best thing to do is be in tune with your lawn. By doing so, you will notice signs when your lawn needs a drink.

I would like to offer one piece of advice that I know is good: get to know your local nursery or your area county agent. Also, most areas have a college that does research into local growing patterns. Their information is very valuable and usually free. The lawn in Maine varies greatly from that in Louisiana and that in Oregon. You local experts are your best resource.

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How to Program a Sprinkler System Controller / Timer

All too often, homeowners invest in topnotch sprinkler systems and timers – but never quite learn how to use them effectively. As a result, wasted water and other issues can abound. One of the primary benefits of using a Programming an Irrigation Controller / Timerfirst-rate sprinkler system controller is being able to create a watering schedule that keeps your plants and lawn looking great, without wasting exorbitant amounts of water. In this day and age, water conservation is a legitimate concern; besides, over-watering plants is a surefire way to damage them. If you’d like to enjoy the convenience of a sprinkler system, while maintaining an efficient watering schedule, the following information is sure to help.

The Basics

Before delving into the intricacies of programming a sprinkler system timer, it helps to familiarize yourself with the basics about how these devices work. Whether you’ve owned your timer for a while, or if you’ve just purchased one, it never hurts to learn everything from the beginning. That way, you create a sound foundation from which to base the rest of your sprinkler system programming. Learning the basic components and working your way up to more involved issues is also a smart way to keep confusion at bay.

So, you own a sprinkler system controller. That’s a great first step, but there’s still plenty to learn. We’ll begin by learning about the basic terms and features that are associated with modern sprinkler system timers.

Important Terminology to Know

Valve – This is probably the simplest thing to learn. Simply put, a valve is the part of the sprinkler system that receives signals from the timer. Those signals prompt the valve to open, letting water flow. A sprinkler system timer works by telling these valves when to open and operate. It is important to familiarize yourself with where each valve is on your property and to map out the types of plants and foliage that exist around each one. For best results, you should actually put pen to paper and draw a map that outlines where each valve in your sprinkler system is located.

Station – On the controller itself, the term “station” refers to the valves that are being controlled. In most situations, one station will correspond to one valve; however, for very large properties a station could control two or more valves in a given zone. Since most properties have one valve per zone you can think of the station on a time as the same thing as a zone or valve in a certain area of their property. When programming a sprinkler system timer, you are usually going to have to specify which stations to activate. This is convenient, of course, since certain stations require more watering than others – and some require a lot less.

Zone – While the region that gets watered is typically referred to as the “station” on a timer, most landscaping guides will refer to the actual area that’s receiving the water as the “zone.” For example, a flower bed might be considered one zone; a large expanse of lawn might be another. When mapping out your yard and pinpointing its valves, then, it is smart to break things up into zones. This will simplify the process of programming your timer, since you’ll have a clear visual idea about the zones that each valve waters.

– Most timers have three programs available, and they are typically named program A, program B and program C. These programs hold the actual settings that control when and how long each station is watered. You might set program A, for instance, to water only the flowerbed areas and have them watered twice a day. Program B might be used to water only the lawn areas two or three days a week. Program C could be used to water plants or shrubs with a drip system, if you have one, a couple of times per week.

Typical Timer/Controller Features

The next step in programming a sprinkler system timer is learning all about its basic features. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the following terms before attempting to program your sprinkler system timer. Don’t forget to refer to the manual that was included with your sprinkler system controller to make sure that there aren’t any unusual features involved.

Start Time – The start time feature on a sprinkler system controller allows you to specify a time of day for a Program (A, B, or C) to start. Once it starts, it will begin irrigating the stations or zones that are associated with it. Once it works its way through all the stations or zones that are associated with the Program, the controller stops watering.

Run Time – This is sometimes called “Station Duration.” It is the time, in minutes, that a valve will remain opened. If you set a run time for fifteen minutes, then, the valve that it controls will remain open and water a zone for that length of time.

Run – When “run” is enabled, your scheduled programs will run as planned. As long as you have everything programmed to your liking, then, you’re usually going to want to have “run” enabled.

Off/Stop – If you need to prevent your programs from running, you’re going to want to toggle over to “off” or “stop.” There are many different reasons that you might want to do this; for instance, you may want to stop programs while you are programming your sprinkler system timer. Many people keep their systems on “off” during the winter months, too.

Semi-Auto – From time to time, a zone may require a supplemental watering. In that case, the semi-auto function is very convenient. This function allows you to run a specific program – A, B or C – whenever you want. For example, if your area has been having unusually dry or hot weather, you may want to use supplemental waterings to keep everything healthy.

– This button lets you run a specific valve for whatever length of time you want. Also, on controllers that do not have a Semi-Auto button, this is used to manually turn on a zone or run a program (depending on the model controller) to water an area of the property if it looks a little dry. It is used to temporarily water the property at will without reprogramming the controller. It can also be used to spot-check an irrigation system while performing repairs or during a Spring Check Up (looking for broken heads, misaligned heads, or other problems) of the sprinkler system.

Getting Started

Before you begin programming your sprinkler system timer and set up various programs for different zones, you’re going to need to make sure that your controller is set up properly. The most important part of doing that is ensuring that the current day and time are correct and accurate. Nothing can throw a kink in the works quite like having the incorrect day, date and time set on your timer, so take care to be as accurate as possible. It’s never a bad idea to periodically check your controller to ensure that it’s still set to the right time, too.

Entering a Program

Now that you have the right day and time configured, it’s time to enter a program.

1. Select the Program (A, B, or C) you want to program. For each program, you will need to set up the Water Schedule or “Days To Water”, Start Time, and Station Run Times.Programming an Irrigation Controller / Timer

2. Select the “schedule” function (Days To Water). Use it to select the specific days that you want the irrigation to run. An Example would be Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. In some cases, you’ll need to specify the number of days between waterings.

3. Select “start time” and specify the time that you’d like the irrigation to begin. An example would be 5:45 am. If you have newly planted flowers, you may want to water a second time in the same day since the root zone may get dry by late afternoon. If you want to schedule a second start time at say 4:00 pm. Just remember that the second start time is for the Program you are setting up so all the zones you are watering on this Program will be watered a second time.

4. Select the “run time” or related function. Select the station of your choice and enter the run time for that valve. Continue selecting stations and entering run times until you have entered a run time for all the stations you will be watering on this Program.

Important: do not set a run time for the stations that will not be watered using this Program.

A general rule to follow if you have no idea how many minutes to water per station, you can start with the following times and either increase the time if you see you are not getting enough water or decrease the time if you see you are applying too much water:

3 – 10 minutes for spray head zones

20 – 40 minutes for rotor head zones

5. Program setup is complete once you have entered in the Water Schedule or “Days To Water”, Start Time, and Station Run Times.

6. To set up additional programs select a Program (A, B, or C) other than the one you just set up using the steps above. Repeat the steps listed above for each Program you want to run. You will want to set the Station Run Times to zero for the stations you already have running on another Program (A,B, or C). Only add Station Run Times for the stations you want to water using the Program you are setting up.
Please note that different sprinkler system timers have different controls and features. Some use dials, while others are 100% digital. Make sure to read through the specific instructions that have been outlined by the manufacturer.

What’s the Deal with the Seasonal Adjust Button?

Some late-model sprinkler system timers have seasonal adjust buttons. These buttons offer a convenient solution to unseasonal weather patterns by allowing you to make across-the-board adjustments to watering programs on a percentage-based basis. During the summer, for example, most people keep their seasonal adjust buttons set at 100% for 80-degree days. When the temperature shoots up to 90 degrees, the seasonal adjust button can be switched to 120%. In turn, run times will be lengthened by 20%. This saves you from the tedious hassle of having to reprogram everything – only to switch it all back a few days later. If your system has this feature, be sure to learn it and put it to good use when needed.

Understand What Different Sprinkler Heads Do

Different sprinkler heads are suitable for different purposes. When you understand what each type is best-suited for, you’ll be able to program your sprinkler system timer more efficiently.

Sprinkler System Spray Head

Spray Head

Spray Heads – These sprinkler heads dispense high volumes of water in short periods of time. They are best suited for flat, even areas; do not use them on slopes. They are also suitable for small,

hard-to-reach areas of lawn,and they are practical to use in areas where you’d like to avoid spraying a house, cars or the street.

Sprinkler System Rotor Head

Rotor Head

Rotor Heads – When you need to water large expanses – especially of grass – rotor heads are the best option. They have a much lower application rate than spray headsdo. Rotors are used to save labor on installation since they cover a larger area than spray heads so you can space them out much further apart. They are also a better choice for sloped areas or for areas that are made up of clay soils since they apply water at a slower rate than spray heads and thus help prevent water run off.

Irrigation Drip System

Drip System

Drip Systems – A drip system consists of a series of tubes that have small holes in them. These holes dispense small amounts of water to specific areas. This helps promote water conservation. Drip systems are best suited for flowerbeds, shrubs and groups of cacti since individual root systems can be targeted with ease.

Putting a Sprinkler System Timer to Efficient Use

You may know the basics about entering programs and setting up a sprinkler system controller, but that doesn’t mean that you know how to use one efficiently. The following tips, tricks and advice can help you make the most out of your sprinkler system timer.

Group Programs for Maximum Efficiency – Once you’ve mapped out the locations of all of the valves in your yard, you’ll be able to devise a sensible programming scheme. You should use one program to handle the needs of your lawn; it should control all of the valves that irrigate areas that consist primarily of grass. Another program should be used to irrigate sections of flowerbeds or ground cover. Another program should be used for drip systems.
Invest in an Automatic Rain Shut-Off Device – Some sprinkler systems come with automatic rain shut-off sensors included. If yours doesn’t, be sure to invest in one right away. These handy devices can be

Sprinkler System Rain Sensor

Rain Sensor

programmed to turn off your regularly scheduled programs whenever a specific amount of rain has fallen. Most people set these devices to kick in whenever a half an inch or more of rain has fallen. After all, it hardly makes sense to water your property when plenty of rain has recently fallen. This is a great way to avoid wasting valuable water and to reduce your water bill.

Water Early in the Morning – While you have full control over the times of day that each program runs, it is almost always best to perform irrigations during the early morning hours. During the middle of the day, the wind can carry off water droplets or the blazing sun can evaporate a lot of the water that is produced by your sprinkler system; in turn, the plants that its intended for don’t receive nearly as much of it. Wind can also significantly disrupt the spray pattern of the sprinklers causing wet and dry spots.

If you water during the early morning, you’ll be able to use a lot less water, which is another smart way to reduce your water bills and help the environment. Furthermore, watering at night promotes plant disease and fungus growth.

Avoid Over-Watering Your LawnAvoid Over-Watering – If you think that it’s impossible to over-water plants, think again. Over-watering can be just as detrimental to plants as under-watering. By programming your sprinkler system controller the right way, you can provide the exact right amount of moisture for the various plants on your property without inadvertently over-watering them. The key thing to avoid is creating water run-off; if you see it happening, you know that you’re overdoing it.

Get the Most Out of Your Sprinkler System Timer

As you can see, programming a sprinkler system controller doesn’t have to be a mind-boggling experience. By learning about the way that your system is set up, familiarizing yourself with its valves, learning about the different types of sprinkler heads that are involved and understanding the needs of different types of plants, you can achieve a suitable and sensible irrigation schedule with a minimal amount of hassle.

Where to Buy a Controller / Timer

For more information about irrigation system repair, troubleshooting irrigation systems,  irrigation controllers, options and features, or to purchase a new irrigation controller or sprinkler timer, go to

What is an Irrigation Master Valve?

Irrigation System Supplies Guide

When consider installing irrigation system, you might want to consider a master valve. A master valve is an electric valve installed at the supply point which controls water flow into the main piping system. When this valve is closed water will not be supplied to the irrigation system.

A master valve will greatly reduce any water loss due to a leaky station valve because the leaky station valve can only leak while the master valve is providing pressure to the system. Also, if you damage the irrigation main line, a master valve will control water loss so the main can be repaired without shutting off the water supply.

A master electric valve is typically the same type of valve as you would use for your station valves, but rather than being installed downstream from your main line and connected to a station output in your controller it is installed upstream at the front of the main line and connected to the “master” or “pump” connection in your controller. Not all controllers support a mater valve or pump- be sure to check the features before buying a controller.
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How to Install a Sprinkler Timer

Irrigation Instructions on How To Install A Sprinkler System, Irrigation System Supplies
Tools Needed to Install Irrigation Controller / Timers

1. 3/8″ electric drill, cordless or with cord
2. Masonry bit, if drilling holes in stucco.
3. Metal center punch. If drilling into wood, the punch isn’t necessary.
4. Wood type drill bit – to drill holes through the timer cabinet
5. Black sharpie or felt-tipped marker
6. A hammer
7. A level
8. Screws, with matching plastic wall anchors
9. Screwdriver

How to Install, Wire, and Set Up a New Irrigation Controller

  1. Decide on the location for the sprinkler controller. Consider factors such as power supply, whether the sprinkler timer is an indoor or outdoor model, whether it will plug into an outlet or needs to be hard wired. Also consider convenience of operation, and ease of access for the user.
  2. Unpack the timer. Some hardware and supporting documents will be included for the installation.
  3. Remove the clock/timer face from the controller. The face should snap out easily. Look for clips or plastic tabs along the front or sides of the unit. Also detach the ribbon connector. If desired, remove the cabinet door by taking out the steel pin connecting the door to the main cabinet.
  4. For extra stability, drill extra mounting holes through the back of the cabinet. Irrigation controllers usually come with pre-drilled holes or mounting hardware in the back, so this step is optional.
  5. If hard wiring the timer, cut electric power. Turn off the breaker to the wires. Double check the wires to be sure the electricity is off, by using a volt-meter or ticker. The volt-meter gives off an alarm if it detects electricity in a line. An active electrical current can cause injury to the user, or throw off sparks that can damage the irrigation controller.
  6. Mount the cabinet at a comfortable height, usually about eye level. Place the cabinet against the wall, and use the level to check that it is even. Use the felt tipped pen to mark the wall through the holes in the back of the cabinet.
  7. If drilling into stucco, use the metal center punch. Line the punch up to the marks on the wall, and give it a firm whack with the hammer to make a small indentation in each mark. This keeps the stucco drill bit centered and stable. Drill holes into the wall at the marks.
  8. Put the plastic inserts into holes. Tap them flush against the wall with the hammer.
  9. Using screws, mount the timer cabinet to the wall. Connect the station wires. Make notes of which wires are responsible for each zone or valve of the sprinkler system, to avoid guesswork in the future.
  10. Re-mount the timer face and re-attach the ribbon connector to the board. Do not turn on the power until these steps are complete. Replace the cabinet door. The controller is now ready for programming and operation.

Wiring the Controller to the Valves

  1. Purchase sprinkler or irrigation wire. Buy one strand more than the number of zones desired. Usually, the white wire is the common wire, and the others will lead to individual sprinkler valves.
  2. Turn off the power to the controller. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when attaching wires. Look for a terminal on the controller that says “C”. Attach the white or common wire.
  3. Run a wire from the solenoid on each zone valve back to the controller. If the valves are underground, the wire will run alongside the PVC pipe leading to the valve. Be sure the connections are waterproof. Water leakage will damage the solenoid.
  4. Each wire will regulate a different zone from a station on the controller terminal. Delegate the stations as desired and attach the individual wires. Make a written plan or diagram of the setup, to avoid confusion in the future. One can also mark the wires as Zone 1, Zone 2, and so on.
  5. Do not turn on the power until wiring is complete.

How to Replace an Existing Irrigation Controller:

If you already have a controller that is giving you problems and find that you need to replace it with a new one, let me reassure you that it is very easy to replace a controller and most any homeowner or irrigation repair person can handle this task. First, if possible, it makes your job easier if you can write down all of your existing programming from the old controller. Specifically, you want to write down the specific days scheduled for watering, the start times and how long each zone is scheduled to be watered. You will need to use this information to program the new controller. If the old controller is completely dead and you can not get this information, no worries, as you can program the new controller to water a few days a week and the rotor zones for 20 minutes and the spray head zones for 5 to 8 minutes each time they come on. A good start time is 4:00 or 5:00 am so that all the watering is completed before you need to start using water in the house in the morning. Then you can adjust these settings later as you find that the yard is getting watered too much or not enough.

Make sure to unplug your transformer from the wall, if you have an indoor system, or turn off the power to the timer at the breaker box, if you have an outdoor system. Use that volt-meter to verify the power is not reaching the controller. The next step is to label each of the control valve (hot) wires on the old timer. Label them according to the zone they are connected to, zone 1, zone 2, zone 3, etc.  Also label the common wire connected to the common connection and the pump start wire if you are using a pump. Now you are ready to disconnect the wires.

If possible, buy the same model and brand as the controller that was already in the system. If you can not buy the same model, that’s ok, just get one that has the correct number of stations or zones that you had on your old timer and make sure you get all the features you want. Now is a good time to upgrade to a better more feature rich timer. Take the old controller out and mount the new one on the wall. Reconnect your wires as they are labeled and reprogram your controller with your watering schedule. Turn the controller on and make sure all zones are working properly.

I told you, replacing a controller is very easy as long as you label the wires before removing them from the old timer.

Differences in installing an indoor controller and an outdoor controller

Sprinkler system controllers come in interior or exterior models. Indoor sprinkler system timers plug easily into an electric outlet. The interior models have a power supply or transformer that converts 110/120 volts of standard house power to the 18-24 volts required for sprinkler system operation. Exterior sprinkler system controllers are housed in sealed weather-resistant cabinets. The exterior controller has a transformer inside the cabinet, and must be hard wired into the power supply.

Indoor irrigation controllers can also be installed outside. Weather-resistant cabinets are available separately, to convert indoor controllers to outdoor use.

How to install a controller when a pump is also going to be used

  1. A pump brings water from a well, pond or nearby water source to the sprinkler system. When using a pump instead of a municipal water supply line, choose a sprinkler timer that will work best with the pump.
  2. Electric sprinkler system controllers can turn the pump on and off at pre-programmed times. Most irrigation controllers have a pump circuit built in. The timer uses a voltage relay to start and stop the pump. The relay allows the controller, which operates on 18-24 volts, to communicate with the pump, which uses standard house voltage (110/120v).
  3. Do not connect the irrigation controller to an existing relay. If the pump already has a starter circuit with relay, the user will need to install a new one for the controller.
  4. To hook up the pump, connect the wires from the pump start switch to the pump start terminal(s) on the controller. Some irrigation controllers feature zone-by-zone programming for more effective pump operation.
  5. Use a flow switch with the sprinkler timer relay. The flow switch turns off the pump if there is no water flow, preventing the pump from overheating in case of a system malfunction or water supply interruption.
  6. A delay feature is helpful when installing an irrigation controller with pump. The delay allows slow-closing valves to shut down completely in one zone, before the next zone starts operating.
  7. Check with local authorities to be sure of bylaws and water codes. Some areas have regulations regarding the operation of pumps and lawn sprinkler systems.

Items to Consider Adding to The Controller

  • Extra Stations
    Many lawn sprinkler system timers can be adapted to add extra stations, in case of expansion or amendments to the lawn sprinkler system.
  • Remote Control
    Remote control allows the user to operate indoor or outdoor sprinkler system controllers from a distance. If the system doesn’t come with a remote, the user can add a remote control transmitter & receiver to most lawn sprinkler system controllers. The remote control comes in handy if the user wants to do work or maintenance on the sprinkler system, or operate the controller from a remote location. It makes spring check ups and maintenance much easier. You can turn zones on and off without walking back and forth to the timer.
  • Computer Control
    The user can control the sprinkler timer and features from a computer.
  • Weather Devices
    Some irrigation controllers have built-in rain sensors. If not, adding a rain sensor or other weather device to the controller is a practical option for most home and property owners. Weather devices also sense outdoor temperature to guard against freezing. A solar power converter is a handy add-on feature available in some sprinkler system controllers.
  • Mounting Pedestal
    Instead of mounting the sprinkler timer to the wall, the user has the option of mounting the controller on a stand-alone pedestal. Some irrigation controller pedestals include a separate wiring board.
  • Rain shut off devices or other weather devices
    Rain sensors and rain shut-off devices automatically adjust the system’s function when rain is detected. Some sprinkler system controllers feature seasonal adjustment options. Other weather devices include wind sensors, which shut down the system in case of high winds, or temperature-sensitive features to regulate the function of the lawn sprinkler system.

Where to Buy a Controller / Timer

For more information about irrigation system repair, troubleshooting irrigation systems,  irrigation controllers, options and features, or to purchase a new irrigation controller or sprinkler timer, go to

How to Choose an Irrigation Controller

Sprinkler System Guide

Irrigation controllers are essential components of a Irrigation Sprinkler System.When DIY sprinkler system, the following article can help you better understand how to choose, install and replace a controller / timer.

What is an Irrigation Controller?

Hunter Pro-C Timer

Hunter Pro-C Timer

Irrigation controllers, also known as irrigation timers or lawn sprinkler system timers, are the nerve centers or brains of the sprinkler system. Sprinkler system timers send electric signals to the irrigation valves. The valves regulate the flow of water to the sprinkler system.

Irrigation Sprinkler System timers are the devices that allow you to set a watering schedule to meet your needs. You can set the days you want to water, the time of day you want the sprinklers to come on, and how long you want them to apply water.

Sprinkler system controllers may be mechanical, partly automatic, or fully automatic. Although irrigation sprinkler system timers are largely maintenance-free, the home or property owner might wish to upgrade and replace irrigation controllers or install irrigation controller parts or extra features. Sprinkler timer installation or replacement is very straightforward and easy and can be done by either the homeowner or by an irrigation professional.

How to Choose an Irrigation Controller / Timer

The only important decisions you need to make when selecting a controller / timer are as follows:

  1. Controller mounting location: indoor or outdoor
  2. Number of stations or zones – must be at least as many zones or areas your sprinkler system is broken up into.
  3. Number of programs (1, 2, 3, or 4) – should have at least 2 or more programs to give you the watering flexibility you want or need. The programs on a controller are very different from the number of stations on a controller. This is explained below.

IMPORTANT: The rest of the features you can choose from on a controller are just for added benefits or increased flexibility.

Indoor vs. Outdoor models
Sprinkler system controllers come in a wide range of makes and models. Choose lawn sprinkler system timers depending on the size of the sprinkler system and the user’s needs. Lawn sprinkler system timers come in two different types: indoor models and outdoor models. Indoor sprinkler system timers need to be sheltered from weather, and can be conveniently plugged directly into a 110-volt outlet. This is because they come with an external transformer as part of the plug-in cord that converts the 110-volts to 18 volts. Typical locations for mounting indoor timers are in the garage, building, covered patio, shed, pump house, closet, etc. Outdoor lawn sprinkler system timers are convenient, weather resistant, durable, and typically need to be hard wired for power instead of plugged into a 110-volt outlet. This is because the transformer is located inside the protective weather resistant cabinet and it is assumed that the electrical connection will need to be weather resistant also.

Outdoor controllers can be used as indoor controllers just by adding a pig tail (3 prong plug and power cord) to the power wires of the timer. People do this all the time to be able to get all the benefits of an outdoor timer with a weather resistant cabinet and typically all kinds of added features. An example of this is the Hunter ICC model controller which is one of Hunter’s best controllers. It has so many nice features that people will just add a pig-tail and make it an indoor timer.

Controller Stations
Typically, residential systems use irrigation controllers with 2 to 9 stations, while systems for commercial or public properties can have 32 – 48 stations or more. Each station regulates one zone or area of the lawn sprinkler system. When selecting irrigation controllers, know how many stations the system needs. Choose a sprinkler timer with extra stations, in case of later expansion.

Controller Programs
The number of programs a controller or timer typically has can range from 1 up to as many as 4. They are usually labeled as Program A, B, C, and D. Some controllers only have 1 program while most have at least 2 or more. A program is a set of watering instructions for stations that will run on the same days. When you set up Program A on the controller, you are setting the days you want to water, the time of day you want to start watering, and how long you want to water. If you have a controller with two programs, the lawn areas can be set up to be watered every day on one program and the flowerbeds and shrubs every other day on the second program. When a controller starts a program, it will go through the entire program before stopping or repeating the program.

Types of Controllers – Mechanical or Solid-State (Digital)

Some irrigation controllers are fully digital, including easy touch screen features. Digital sprinkler system controllers with basic features are suited to a more conservative budget. Other lawn sprinkler system controllers have an array of features and options for convenience and ease of operation.

Mechanical sprinkler system timers use manually-operated sliders and switches for programming. An electromechanical controller uses both an electric clock and mechanical switching. That is to say, they are made of a motor, wheels, dials, gears, and pins. These controllers are typically, easy to understand how to operate and program, and are less susceptible to power spikes and surges, but are much more limited in features than solid-state digital irrigation controllers.

Solid-State controllers have digital readout screen, have no moving parts, and use integrated circuits for the clock, memory and control features. These controllers are adaptable, offering many more features at a reasonable cost. More advanced Solid-State controllers such as Smart Controllers can adjust the watering schedule automatically throughout the year. Still other controllers operate solely on battery power, for areas with limited or no electricity. Solar-powered controllers are also available.

Features Available on a Controller

Some controllers come fully loaded with features for efficiency and convenience of operation. In others, extra features may be optional. Key features available on a controller can include:

  • Clock and calendar settings
    The user can program watering times, control watering cycles, and make seasonal adjustments.
  • Manual start and manual station operation
    The user can operate the stations or start the automatic cycle without affecting the programmed start time. This is helpful when you need to do some maintenance to your system. This feature makes it easier to check for leaks, misaligned or broken sprinkler heads and even perform basic tune-ups steps such as adjust spray patters and replace nozzles.
  • Master Switch
    The master switch overrides the automatic functions of the stations.
  • Master Valve Control
    The master valve prevents flow to the system, in case of water problems or system failure.
  • Station Omission
    The user chooses which stations operate, and which do not.
  • Pump Start Lead
    This turns on a pump start relay whenever a station activates, to combine irrigation and pump control. A Pump Start Relay is an electronic device that uses a signal current from the irrigation controller to activate a pump to provide water to the irrigation system. Never connect the controller directly to a pump as damage to the controller will result.
  • Rain Sensor
    A rain sensor shuts down the irrigation system if it detects rain. The purpose of a rain sensor is to stop watering when precipitation is sufficient. Most controllers allow for a sensor to be connected directly to the controller and allow you to easily override the sensor by using a Rain Sensor Bypass switch on the controller.
  • Battery backup
    The controller reverts to battery power in case of power interruption or outage.The battery typically will just allow the timer to maintain the time, date, and watering schedule. On some controllers it allows the user to program the controller without AC power. IMPORTANT: watering will not occur without AC power. The battery only keeps the time, date, and watering schedule in memory until the AC power is restored or the battery dies.
  • Non-Volatile Memory
    The controller retains its program data without a battery, even if the power fails.  The non-volatile memory allows the timer to maintain the time, date, and watering schedule indefinitely. IMPORTANT: watering will not occur without AC power.
  • Delay
    The delay feature allows time for valves to close fully in one zone, before opening the valves in another zone.

Where to Buy a Controller / Timer

For more information about irrigation controllers, options and features, or to purchase a new irrigation controller or sprinkler timer, go to
If you need more irrigation help, questions about irrigation system repair, or how to install a spinkler system, please visit

Parts of an Irrigation Valve

All The Parts of an Irrigation / Lawn Sprinkler Valve

Irrigation System Repair

Hunter 33-2100 - Valve Diaphragm Assembly for Hunter PGV 1

Hunter Diaphragm

Valve is an essential part of the irrigation sprinkler system. The main components of sprinkler valves are the diaphram, solenoid, springs, and various gaskets or O-rings. The solenoid, an electric cylinder, is a crucial part of an automatic valve. The solenoid receives electric message from the sprinkler system controller, and in turn controls the movement of the diaphram. Manual irrigation valves don’t require a solenoid.

The diaphram is the rubber plug inside the valve, responsible for opening or shutting off the flow of water. Behind the diaphragm is a wire spring. Some irrigation valves have a jar-top lid; in others, the lid may be held in place with screws. Many valve designs feature a bleed screw, which can be tightened or loosened to manually control the flow of water to the valve.

Rain Bird 208588-01 Solenoid - Replacement Solenoid for all DV, DVF, ASVF, JTV Series Valves

Rain Bird Solenoid

If one of the lawn sprinkler valves needs repair, it;s usually not necessary to replace the entire valve. The valve can be disassembled, and the components separately replaced. Major manufactures of sprinkler valves also make replacements parts, and it’s often easier to replace the parts than to cut the entire valve from the pipe.
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If you want to buy parts to DIY srpinkler system, please visit

Types of Irrigation Valves

Irrigation / Lawn Sprinkler System Valves – What Are They

Irrigation Sprinkler System Guide
Irrigation valves or lawn sprinkler valves are an essential component of lawn sprinkler systems. They control the flow of water in lawn sprinkler systems. Sprinkler system valves come in a variety of models, including below ground inline valves and above ground anti-siphon valves.

Available in solid brass or durable plastic, sprinkler valves operate from a manifold above or below ground to regulate water flow to the lawn sprinklers.

Anti-Spihon Valve vs. Inline Valve

Shop for Anti-Spihon Valve or Inline Valves

Lawn sprinkler systems may be manual or automatic. Automatic lawn sprinkler systems consist of the controller / timer, the sprinkler valves, the pipes, and the lawn sprinklers. Each valve controls a different zone, or area, of the lawn sprinkler system. The controller sends electric low voltage (24 volt AC) signals to the valves, telling them to open or close.

Sprinkler valves come in many different styles. Globe or angle irrigation valves work with a separate backflow preventer, and anti-siphon valves have the backflow preventer built-in. Rain Bird valves, Toro valves, Hunter valves, Irritrol valves and Weathermatic valves are all reliable, well-known products that, with proper maintenance, will last for many years.

Irrigation Valves – Types of Valves and What They Are Used For Shut-off Valves

Emergency shut-off valves stop the flow of water to the irrigation system. If repairs are needed to the sprinkler system valves or any other part of the irrigation system, the shut-off valve prevents the need to turn off the entire water system to the house or what ever else the water feeds.

Emergency shut off valve: You should install this sprinkler system valve as close to the water source as possible and should be the same size as the pipe you are installing it on. If you do not install this valve, you will have to shut the water off to the entire house when you want to make repairs or work on the irrigation line. You only need to install one of these shut off valves for your irrigation system and it will either be installed under ground in a valve box or in the basement depending on where your water supply connection is located.

If you are using a water meter from the city as your source of water, it is best to tee off the pipe coming out of the water meter (the one headed to feed the house) as close to the meter as possible and use the tee to start the water supply to the sprinkler system. In this case, you would install the shut off valve close to the tee on the line headed to feed the sprinkler system. Some people will put the tee close to the meter but then install the shut off valve just before the backflow device which may be installed on the side of the house. If you are in an area that freezes and you will be using the basement water supply piping as your sprinkler system water supply, install the shut off valve in the basement on the piping before the backflow device.

The most popular valves used for this purpose are the gate valve, ball valve, disc valve or butterfly valve. The gate valves are the most inexpensive and tend to NOT Close completely plus they are typically metal and corrode quickly making it difficult if not impossible to use. Your best bet is to use a PVC ball valve (highly recommended) since they are a more reliable choice. They close completely and they do not corrode or rust which means you should always be able to open and close them easily even when buried under ground in a valve box.

Control Valves (as known as Zone Valves)

Irrigation control valves are used to turn the irrigation system on and off and there are two different types to choose from:
1.) Globe and Angle Valves
2.) Anti-Siphon Valves

The globe and angle valves come in any size and are usually installed under the ground or in a vault or valve box. Since there is not a backflow preventer attached as part of the valve, you will need to add that separately. This is the most common type used in sprinkler systems. However, you may choose to use the anti-siphon valve, which comes only in 3/4- and 1-inch sizes and comes complete with a backflow preventer. The anti-siphon valve absolutely must be installed above the ground and must also be 6 inches higher than that of the highest sprinkler head.

Valves come in brass and plastic; the most common ones used today are the plastic ones. The brass valves will ultimately last longer if installed in the sunlight. Both types are reliable for an automatic system, but for manual systems the manual brass valve is the best choice because it lasts much longer. Valves today are fairly maintenance free.

As for pressure losses and valve size, the automatic valves should be sized based on the manufacturer’s flow range chart and will not necessarily be the same size as the pipe. However, it is more common that it will be the same size as the pipe it is installed on. A manual valve is much more adaptable than the automatic and you do not have to depend on electricity to power it, rather it is done manually, hence the name. A manual irrigation control valve needs to be either an angle or globe type with replaceable rubber seals and not the gate type as the gate valve is not made to be opened and closed regularly.

Above Ground Anti-Siphon Valves

Anti-siphon valves have a built-in backflow preventer to keep irrigation water from washing back into the household’s main water supply. Use Anti-Siphon valves in locations where the use of a pressure vacuum breaker (PVB) or double check valve is not required by city codes. Some areas of the country, such as in California and Arizona, require backflow prevention for every zone. Check your local city codes to determine what type of valves are required. The Anti-Siphon valve is a combination valve that has an atmospheric vacuum breaker and an electronic control valve all in one unit. It provides backflow prevention on every zone, saving costs by eliminating the need for a separate backflow preventer. Anti-Siphon valves are installed above ground and will prevent back flow if properly installed. Anti-Siphon valves should always be installed at least 6” above the highest head on the valve line, and should never have another valve installed further down the line from the main valve

Below Ground Inline Valves

These valves are often globe valves or angle valves. Inline valves are installed underground, protected by a valve box. Below ground inline valves require a separate backflow preventer, installed to meet local bylaws and regulations. However, the great thing about inline valves is that they are typically less expensive than anti-siphon valves and you can install them in the middle of each zone (or section) of your sprinkler system which keeps the pressure loss in the zone more balanced and uniform. Furthermore, you save money on pipe since you end up with one mainline traveling through your yard supplying all you valves instead of having multiple runs of pipe in the same trench heading from the anti-siphon valve manifold to each zone. Plus you only need one backflow preventer device protecting the whole sprinkler system instead of paying for one on each anti-siphon valve. Using a single backflow device with inline valves is a better way of installing your system and it will last longer than the anti-siphon valve plastic backflow device which relies on gravity and has no other parts to assure it functions properly. One other important note: anti-siphon valve back flow vales can not be tested to see if the backflow prevention is functioning, however, backflow devices purchased separately to be used with inline valves can be tested to assure they are functioning correctly. Using inline valves is a more professional way of installing your sprinkler system.

Globe Valves

Globe valves once had a spherical body, but modern globe valves have changed in shape, and only the name remains. Water flows through the valve without changing direction. The two halves of the valve body are separated by an internal baffle. A movable plug, or disc, screws in to shut off the valve. In manual globe valves, the plug connects to a stem which operates by hand wheel. In automatic globe valves, the stem is smooth.

Angle Valves

Named for their angular design, angle valves direct the flow of water at a right angle to the valve. Water flows into the valve, then changes direction 90%.

The Valve Manifold

The manifold is a group of control valves attached to a pipe. Water enters the manifold from the main water supply line. The water is then routed through the control valves. The valve manifold may be below or above ground.

To build the valve manifold, use a length of PVC pipe. Space the valves about three to six inches apart. The number of valves determines the overall length of the manifold pipe. Include an extra connection or two, for possible expansion to the system later. Save time and work by purchasing a ready-to-install manifold kit, which includes the sprinkler valves and all necessary parts and instructions. Many manifold kits have a flow control feature, to help conserve water.

Valve Boxes

A valve box is a plastic cover that protects the valves and wiring from damage and debris. Above ground, the valve box also protects the valves and manifold piping from harsh sunlight and inclement weather, or damage by accident, animals or vandalism.

Backflow Prevention Devices

Backflow prevention devices will prevent irrigation water from lawn sprinkler systems from backing up into the drinking water. Irrigation water may contain contaminants such as pesticides and other chemicals, as well as waste products and dirt. While these elements don’t harm the lawn, they create health risks in public or household drinking water.

Understanding Lawn Sprinkler System

Are you looking for irrigation help? need a sprinkler guide to get started? These are the basic components of a residential irrigation sprinkler system, aside from design standards and techniques, I hope this will help you understand the individual components of the irrigation system and the function they perform.

a) Water Source

Familiarize yourself with where the water comes from for your irrigation system. Many areas are now using recycled or “reclaimed” water for the purpose of watering turf grasses and landscaped areas. Ask your builder or homeowners association if your home uses this type of water and where you would expect to shut it off in the event of an emergency or for maintenance issues.

Some areas are still using municipal or “city” water for irrigation. If this is the case, instead of one, there will be two, back-flow prevention devices near the water meter itself. They are typically at least 12″ off the ground and are made of bronze. One of these two devices would be for the sprinklers and the other one would service the home. This is where you would turn off the water for your sprinklers.

Even though they are becoming a little more restricted, some homes have their own well and pump or they may pump water from an adjacent lake. In either case there will be related pumping equipment to supply water for your sprinklers. If you are not sure how to stop the water flow from the pump, be sure and speak with your irrigation professional. If the system is not shut down properly severe pump damage or failure could occur.

Finally, some areas or developments have a large pumping station that delivers water to the entire subdivision. As with the reclaimed water scenario, make sure you know where to shut the water off for your individual property.

b) Controller/Timer

Your sprinklers will either operate from a controller located on the interior or exterior wall of the garage, or they may operate from a central control system. In some cases where a single residential property has its own pump, the controller could be located near the pumping equipment.

In the event that you have an individual controller for the property, familiarize yourself with how to switch the power off to the controller. Sometimes this will eliminate an emergency situation in the event that the sprinklers will not shut off. Irrigation controllers require high voltage to operate them, you should not have to remove any screws or take anything apart. If a malfunction of the controller is suspected, it should only be serviced by your irrigation professional.

c) Rotary Sprinklers

Any given property may or may not have rotary sprinklers installed. They are generally used in large turf areas that are 20′x 20′ or more. They will shoot a large stream of water and will oscillate back and forth slowly. Rotary sprinklers operate on the same basis as the older impact or “knocker head” sprinklers, but most of them are gear driven these days, which makes them much quieter.

d) Stationary Sprinklers

Stationary sprinklers or “spray heads” are used in smaller turf areas and may be used in landscape beds as well. Spray heads pop up out of the ground but do not move. They spray more of a mist, compared to rotary sprinklers. Spray heads come in 4″, 6″ and 12″ heights. The size that is used depends on the type of turf grass or the sprinklers specific location in a landscape bed. The landscaped areas of the home may also have what is referred to as a standpipe. These are nothing more than a spray head nozzle attached to a fixed riser in order to attain sufficient clearance over the closer plants so the water can reach the distant plants.

e) Drip/Low Volume Irrigation

Low Volume or “Drip” is commonly used in landscape and planting beds. Most drip irrigation products use numerous emitters that are closer to the root zone of the plants. However each emitter lets out a very small amount of water compared to a spray head. This makes the watering process a very efficient operation, because you are targeting only the specific areas that you want to water. The water is applied at a much lower rate, reducing run off and you don’t lose your water to the wind or evaporation. Drip irrigation is mandatory in many areas. If you don’t see any water spraying in the planted areas around the home chances are that drip has been installed.

In almost all cases, drip irrigation zones require a pressure regulator and filter. The orifice that emits the water is very small, therefore making it very prone to clogs from foreign matter in the water. More on the filter will be covered in the maintenance section.

f) Flood Bubblers

Flood bubblers are only used under certain circumstances. They come in fixed rates and there are also adjustable bubblers. A fixed rate bubbler is ideal because you actually know how much water your going to apply to the plant it’s designed for. Bubblers may be used where large trees are located on the top of a berm where run off, or good saturation is a concern. The most common place you would find one on a residential home would be in a very small planting area. These areas are generally under the coach light on the same side of the garage, as the font door of the home.

g) Rain Sensing Devices

Rain sensing devices or “rain sensors” are devices that cease all watering in the event sufficient rainfall is detected. They are usually located near the controller, sometimes on the eave of the roof or mounted on conduit pipe in the landscape bed. Rain sensors have been mandatory components of an irrigation system’s in many states for several years now and should be checked for proper operation regularly.

h) Control Valves

Almost all irrigations systems have an individual control valve for each station or “zone”. They are usually located at random intervals around the home with only the lid visible. The lid on most control valves will be about 6″ in diameter and green or purple in color. The purple lid indicates that the water comes from a non-potable source; most often this means it is reclaimed water. If there is a considerably larger box that is rectangular in shape it may house multiple control valves or the filter for the drip irrigation if applicable. Aside From filter maintenance, the control valves should only be repaired by qualified persons.

Again, I hope this is of some value. More irrigation instructions and sprinkler system help articles will be posted, please check back regularly. As always, please help preserve our water resources, and irrigate responsibly.