Happy Cinco De Mayo Everyone!!


Hello everyone in sprinkler land!! We here at Sprinkler Warehouse  are back in the office and set for another fun filled week. And what better holiday to kick off the week than CINCO DE MAYO!?  This time of year we start thinking about getting out sprinkler systems up and going. It’s likely only a week or two longer before we will have to start mowing the grass again!  So lets get our prep on and order up those things we need to get your lawn irrigation situation right.

 

Cold Weather: Prepare or Repair


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The backflow preventer is a costly part of your sprinkler system, and despite its tough looking construction, it can be surprisingly fragile under freezing temperatures. If you live in a part of the country where freezing temperatures are common, you should take the time to prepare & protect your backflow preventer (and other components) from freeze damage. The good news is that backflow preventers are surprisingly easy to winterize or even repair! In fact, most can be winterized in less than 5 minutes or repaired in under 15 minutes using tools any home owner would have on hand!

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Step One

Start by first shutting off the water supply to the sprinkler system.

Step Two

 Next, ensure that the ball-valve controlling the incoming water is closed and the ball-valve controlling the water going out to the sprinkler system open.

backflow freeze prev diag

Step Three

Locate the test cocks (i.e. test-ports) located on the side of the backflow preventer and remove any caps of protective covers from the ports.

Step Four

Locate the adjustment screw on the side of the test cock and using a flat head screwdriver, turn that screw (to the right) approximately one quarter turn and leave the screw in the 45° position. (Repeat this procedure for the remaining screw(s). As you do this some valves will expel water, others may not, this is normal).

Step Five

Finally turn the ball-valves to a 45 degree angle. This ensures that water will not become trapped behind the ball valve while in the fully open position, while at the same time allowing for continuous flow in and out of the backflow preventer.

Step Six

INSULATE-INSULATE-INSULATE!!! If you are unable to winterize your Backflow preventer or just want another layer of protection, be sure to insulate your exposed devices (hydrants, Backflows, pipes etc)  from direct exposure.

(Directions apply to the common pressure vacuum breaker style of backflow preventer)

 

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The process to repair your backflow preventer if it has sustained freeze damage is very easy, so long as the housing of the device did not crack under the pressure. It’s most likely that the bonnet and poppet assembly within the device broke under the pressure from the frozen water. They are designed to give way under pressure to protect the backflow preventer from more extensive, expensive damage. 

Step One

Start by turning off the water to your sprinkler system. This can be done at the primary shutoff valve. It is not uncommon for this valve to be located underground, in which case you would use a long metal key handle to turn the valve and shut the water off. If this valve is by chance located in an area where it can be exposed to the cold temperatures be sure it is insulated and/or protected from the cold.

Step Two

At the backflow protector, find the valve handle controlling the incoming water. This is usually locate on the pipe coming up from the ground into the base of the backflow preventer. Turn the handle ro-degrees to the right, shutting off the flow of water into the device. You will know the handle is in the off position because it will be positioned horizontal and parallel to the ground. Next locate the valve handle for the water coming out of the backflow device. Turn the handle 90-degrees just as you did the previous handle. When closed this handle will be vertically aligned, going up and down.

backflow partsStep Three

Using a flat head screwdriver locate the Test ports (i.e. test cocks) located on the side of the device and turn the screw slightly, allowing any pressure being held inside the device to be relieved. Repeat this for both screws.

Step Four

Using an adjustable wrench, carefully remove the nut on top of the bell cover. Lift off the bell cover d to access the bonnet and poppet assembly. Remove the nut on the top of the plastic bonnet and remove any and all plastic bits and pieces that have broken. Once the inside of the device is clean and free from any debris, carefully take your new bonnet and poppet assembly and screw it down into the place where the old one was. Be sure to only tighten the new parts down into the device hand tight.

Step Five

Replace the nut on top of the bonnet and poppet. Next replace the bell cover and nut. Additionally replace the bell cover on top of the the backflow preventer and tighten it moderately.    Also close the test ports on the side of the device using your flat head screwdriver.

 Step Six

Cover your backflow preventer pipes with insulating tape and take time to cover the entire device with some kind of insulation. Perhaps an insulation sleeve or a decorative cover 

 

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Even if your backflow preventer is not damaged, you may want to have a bonnet and poppet assembly on hand just in case your get caught off guard! Surprisingly, backflow repair kits are an item that is highly susceptible to the supply and demand curve. When they are in demand, they are in HIGH demand. Which means you may not be able to find one locally or they may be severely overpriced as a result of the demand.

Buy a bonnet and poppet assembly to keep in case of emergencies. You never know, it may just save the day when you least expect it! Or perhaps you can help to save the day for one of your neighbors in distress. Nevertheless, its a good idea to have one on hand and be prepared with a backup plan. 

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Polar Vortex the New El Nino ?


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When I moved to the great state of Texas from the Pacific Northwest, I was excited to escape the cold weather and all the icy annoyances that made life in Idaho really cold and really dangerous! And wouldn’t you believe it…the first winter I have in Texas turns out to be one of the coldest on record!

The reason the nation is experiencing colder than usual conditions is largely due to a phenomena called a Polar Vortex.

But we are not out of the woods just yet!– Meteorologists are predicting another polar vortex experience in the near future.

What the heck is a polar vortex!?

The first thing to know is that (ironically) it has to do with global warming. That’s right, the recent nationwide cold-spell…the same exact cold spell responsible for blizzard like conditions and freezing temps in all 50 states…is an indirect consequence of global warming!

I will do my best to explain this as simply and accurately as possible, here we go…

The far north is warming at a rate nearly twice as fast as the middle part of the planet.  The result is a diminished difference between the Arctic temps and the temperature of the central part of the planet where continents such as North America are located.

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Directly above the arctic north pole is a giant mass of swirling cold air moving above it  in a counter-clockwise direction. This circular motion is created by the difference in temperatures between the arctic and the central part of the planet.

However, as the average temperature of the Arctic is rising at nearly twice the speed as the rest of the planet the difference in these values is changing the way the cold air mass over the north pole behaves. The larger the difference in temperatures the

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tighter that swirling pattern stays. But, as that temperature difference grows closer together, the pattern grows wavy and more erratic. Occasionally the mass of air shifts further beyond the norm and we experience a cold spell like what happened during the first week of January.  

In other words, we experience a Polar Vortex.

We can expect to see this kind of thing happening more and more frequently, because it is directly related to global warming.

Prepare your home for the cold weather.

Whether you live in Texas like me, or you live in another part of the country…last week’s polar vortex experience proved that NO ONE is safe from the freezing temperatures (Hawaii included!)

Take special care to put your animals indoors during potentially cold days, or prepare a warm place for them to weather the storm.

Make sure you have a first aid kit and some supplies with you in your car at all times…cold weather can cause your car’s battery to be as much as lose 33 percent of its power when the temperature dips below freezing, and over 50 percent of its power in subzero conditions! So be sure to have a warm blanket or sleeping bag inside your car just in case you are stuck in the cold longer than you plan to be!

Lastly, prepare your home for the cold. Where we are outside of the growing season, it’s unlikely that you have flowers or plants that need protecting, but if you do, be sure to cover them  to prevent the frost from damaging them. If you have any exposed pipes, be sure to wrap them with insulating tape or buy a insulating cover for them.  If you have a sprinkler system installed in your lawn you need to locate your backflow preventor and protect it by winterizing it! (a broken backflow preventor can cost you hundreds in parts and labor if the housing is cracked)

Backflow and the Polar Vortex



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Almost every lawn in the United States is subject to severe winter weather, especially the new Polar Vortex that has hit the states. This Vortex has caused many people to rethink their pipe protection and backflow prevention devices. In order to make sure that your home is prepared for when the polar vortex is over and everything starts to melt, you might need to run out and do some shopping.

Recent history shows that areas most vulnerable to damage from sudden frozen temperatures are those in the southern portions of the country because they are not prepared or acclimated to long periods of freezing temperatures. For this reason, it is critical that every home owner prepare for problems during the winter weather.

As you might expect, the most common types of sprinkler problems during the winter months are freezing water in your pipes. Two problems that are most prevalent: water accumulating in sprinkler systems from the compressed air in the sprinkler pipes, and improper insulation of backflow devices.

When a backflow device is not winterized and freezes, it will expand along with the frozen water inside of it, causing a few different things to happen; the bonnet and poppet assembly could freeze causing it to blow apart and water will run all over until it is shut off, if your valve brakes, it will be another problem and will be extremely costly to fix.  When you go to turn on your irrigation, water will flow freely from the broken backflow and you might even have non-potable water rushing into your potable water inside of your home. If you do not become aware of any breakage with your backflow, this will lead the way for a very unsatisfactory year of lawn maintenance and possibly health care bills if you ingest any water from the backflow device.

What To Do:

Turn the water off

Replace broken part

Drain the backflow

Turn the valve handle at a 45 degree angle

Wrap the device with a towel

Wrap everything with a plastic bag then tape or secure in place.

backflow parts

Broken Septic System


Broken Septic System

Septic System

Now I know no one likes talking about a septic system… I mean it’s poop, that’s what it comes down to…. However when that poop is all over your yard you might change your mind. I bet that’s why you are reading this right now isn’t it!? I figured just as much. You want to know first if you can fix it yourself, and second if not how much it’s going to cost, right?

1. No

2. A Lot

Once your conventional system fails, most home owners are recommended by professionals to install an aerobic septic system. These systems have a 98% clean out of the tank when applied with their irrigation system. You are really hitting two birds with one stone,  a fertilized lawn and getting rid of your poo.

Of course an aerobic system is not cheap, but it will last between 40-60 years and maybe even longer if you keep up on annual maintenance and treat her nice. No chemicals or any “foreign” objects. There is oxygen loving natural bacteria in your tank that feeds on the…um… effluence… and it cannot digest your child’s army figurines.

Shop around for a quality, cheap septic cleaning company. You need someone that knows their stuff, but you also don’t want to pay that much. Most homeowners don’t factor in the annual cost for a septic system or the debt they might incur if their system fails. Installing a new one yourself is almost always out of the question since it requires a lot of knowledge experience and is a huge hassle if installed incorrectly.

You may be out of luck, but after following my tips you can dig yourself out of that disgusting effluent-filled hole and go find a reliable aerobic septic system.

Septic System

The heart of your irrigation system: the irrigation valve.


If the controller is the brains of your system the valves are the heart. They control the flow of water through the lines. They are very simple in both principle and design.

This is an example of a typical valve. Details may vary but execution is the same.

Valves have water both above and below the diaphragm. The upper chamber pressure is greater than the lower due to the combination of spring pressure and trapped water. They also have an air space under the solenoid with a bleed hole that is opened when the solenoid plunger is retracted (zone turned on).

Opening this hole lowers the pressure above the diaphragm, the water below forces the diaphragm up and water flows through. Most valves will not open with less than 15 to 20 pounds per square inch of pressure. This is only a concern with extremely low pressure; usually on gravity feed water tanks.

Picking a good valve is simple: stay with a name brand. After that you have few decisions to make. Most people use 1” valves. Simple reasons are they are the most economical, readily available, both new and parts, and provide the flow most residential and small commercial designs need. Even if your design calls for a ¾’ valve use 1”. It doesn’t cost more and if you make changes or expansions in the future you won’t be restricted by the smaller size. A 1” valve will allow up to 25% more flow than a ¾” valve.

The next choice is flow control. Flow control is separate knob or screw on top of the valve and allows you to regulate the water going through the valve. In most cases flow control is not necessary but it does have advantages. If a valve sticks open, one of the more common valve failures, the flow control allows you force the valve closed. If your water pressure is low, either because of supply problems or overlapping valve operations, partially closing the flow control will help the valve close faster and more reliably. It’s cheap insurance to have.

Valves fail in consistent ways. It may not close completely. This could be due to debris, the most common reason, or worn diaphragms. Check out FILTRATION for how to prevent debris. Diaphragms do wear and age, generally resulting in a tear in the diaphragm. Just replace. For a very short video on how to do a repair look at VALVE REPAIR. Valve bodies rarely fail unless suffering freeze damage or shovel hit.

Solenoids will fail over time or the connections to the control box could have become corroded. Check the connections; make sure they are clean. For a simple way to test the solenoid:

 Steps in Creating a Portable Valve Activator.

  1. Take three 9-Volt Batteries
  2. Connect in a series
  3. Connnect one valve wire to the negative pole
  4. Then connect the other wire to the positive pole to activate the valve
  5. If the solenoid is functioning properly, you should hear a “click”

For a more involved but very easy and thorough way to test the solenoid and all wiring look at USING A MULTIMETER.

You filter your coffee, you filter air. Really should filter your irrigation water.


The water going to your irrigation system is probably not as clean as you think. Even if you have municipal water from the best city supply in the country (Austin, TX, Des Moines, IA, Sioux Falls, S.D.) that water has to get to you through old pipes. Many cities still have cast iron pipes as their main lines, some dating back over 100 years. Most homes built before the 1960s have galvanized piping.  Pipes tend to fail from the inside, losing minute rust and other particles into the water. Add in the occasional sand particles that get in the water when pipes or pumps break and are fixed, plus the minor debris caused by cutting and repairing pipes, and there is a whole flotilla of little particles floating in your water.

At this point you are probably thinking “Wait a minute! I drink that stuff! All that garbage goes into me!” Yes, it does. However, your body is better adapted to handling it than your sprinkler system. Besides, didn’t your doctor always tell you iron was good for you? Back to the pipes…

All of these particles go into your irrigation system and accumulate in valves, sprays and emitters. This causes decreased performance and a steady increase in maintenance. It also costs you money in ways you might not expect.  The thing to do is stop it before it happens.

A common problem with irrigation valves is failing to close completely. This leads to water seepage through the spray heads, wasting a great deal of water. Many times the problem is just grit or debris keeping the diaphragm from seating.

What you didn’t know it cost you: paying to fix something that is not broken. When you call a service tech (me) out for a leaking valve chances are good the first thing I will do is replace the valve. Generally I won’t even bother to see if it just needs cleaning. This is not done to save time. It is far quicker and easier to open and clean a valve than it is to cut the pipes and replace the valve.

I do it because people tend to be unhappy paying for service. People get really unhappy when charged for a service call and I look at them and say,  “Nah, I didn’t have to replace anything. I just wiped it off with a rag. It’s fine. Please pay me for one hour labor.” People like seeing things replaced. New is always better, right?

The debris also accumulates in your spray nozzles, causing pattern changes, reduced coverage distance and eventually complete blockage. These are easy to clean: tooth pick, tooth brush and running water. A tech will never clean them. It does take longer to clean these than to replace them.

The best thing to do is avoid these problems all together. Install a T-style filter.

The Vu-Flow screen filters keep out sand and debris. The body is clear so you can instantly see when the filter needs purging or cleaning. To purge, just open the valve on the bottom. The trapped dirty water flows out. If the filter needs washing unscrew the body, remove the screen and clean. You don’t need to dry it off, it’ll get wet anyway.

Various screen sizes are available for different debris sizes.

Sediment
In Water

Use
To Protect

Type To Use:
(Mesh; Micron; Inches)

Coarse Sand; Shell

Sprinkler heads

30 mesh; 533 micron; .021″

Medium
Sand/Grit
Pipe scale;
Well Cuttings

Solenoid Valves
Gear Drive Sprinkler
Domestic Water

60 mesh; 254 micron; .010″
60 mesh; 254 micron; .010″
100 mesh; 152 micron; .006″

Fine Sand/Silt

Poultry drinkers
Household well water
Drip Irrigation
Fogger Sprayer

140 mesh; 104 micron; .004″
140 mesh; 104 micron; .004″
250 mesh; 61 micron; .0024″
250 mesh; 61 micron; .0024″

T-filters are easy to install and maintain. Filtering your water extends the life of your valves and nozzles. Maintenance becomes less frequent, saving time and money.  All in all, a relatively minor investment with pretty good return.

PVC Pipe Leak Repair


Irrigation systems are designed to put water where it is needed in an effective manner. When water appears in new, unexpected places there is a good chance you have a leak. Fortunately, with most systems being made out of PVC, repairing the leak is relatively simple. We’ll go over a number of products and explain how each works, including one that handles galvanized. The first step is to make sure the system is turned off. Having a system come on while you are kneeling over it repairing a leak is an experience to avoid.

There are two important things to remember when you dig up the broken pipe. The first is BE CAREFUL. Don’t try to get all the dirt in one scoop. First, it’s bad for your back. Second, if you push too hard and end up hitting the pipe you could cause a brand new leak. When digging up a pipe it is best to take smaller, careful cuts to ensure that no other damage occurs.

Second, when you find the damaged area make sure to dig a few inches deeper and to each side. The system will have water in the pipe, waiting to get out. This water will want to flow out the handy opening you have just revealed. Digging extra deep allows for the water to drain below the pipe. Also, regardless of the type of patch you put in, you will need clear access to the bottom of the pipe. If you cannot dig deep enough to bring the water level down you will have to bail or pump it out. You will also need to dig to each side a little to give yourself working room for the repair.

Once you have found the leak you need to decide on what type of repair kit you need. All except one needs PVC primer and cement. We’ll discuss the exception first.

Compression FittingsPVC Compression Fitting

This can be used on either PVC or galvanized pipe. A compression fitting relies on pressure on a rubber seal to stop the leak. The compression collar and “O” ring slip on the pipe, the pipe slips in both ends, the collar is tightened and the leak is repaired. They have a number of advantages. Not needing cement means the pipe does not have to be completely dry to repair. If you need to you can do the repair while the water is running. Don’t laugh. It happens. They are quick to install and dependable. The primary disadvantage is they do not work for leaks at or near a fitting.

Leak Stopper Rings

Leak Stopper Rings

If you have a small leak at the junction of a pipe into a fitting, but the pipe and fitting are not cracked, it’s possible you have an area that was not completely glued. Rather than cutting out the entire fitting for a minor leak you can use a Leak Stopper Ring. These go around the pipe, both the ring and pipe are primed and glued, then the ring is pushed hard against the fitting. The glue creates a permanent bond with the ring, the pipe and the fitting, stopping the leak.

Snapper Repair CouplingsPVC SnapLock Repair Fitting

Snapper Repair Couplings are the Duct Tape of PVC: just wrap it up and it will hold. Snapper Repair Couplings are like two halves of pipe split lengthwise. A great advantage of these is you do not need to cut the pipe. The inside of both halves of the coupling and the outside of damaged area of the pipe are primed and cemented. The halves are snapped in place around the break and you have a permanent repair.

Pipe Dream FittingsPIPE Dream PVC Repair Fitting

Like many brilliant ideas this one is deceptively simple. Fittings and couplings tend to be a standard size. If you have a broken line you need to cut the break out. Now you need to reconnect the ends. To do this with standard fittings and pipe you must cut out a larger section of pipe, install fittings and install the new pipe. More work, more gluing. This is particularly hard if a corner or T fitting is involved. The simple idea of Pipe Dream is make the fitting extra long. Because they are longer than the standard coupler, elbow or tee Pipe Dream is able to completely cover the damaged area without the need for additional parts or supplies. Simple.

Kwik-Repair TeesPVC Kwik-Repair Tee

This is another “why didn’t I think of that” product. KwikRepair Tees are simply a replacement section of pipe with the slip fit couplings already installed. The couplings are pushed in to the shortest length. The broken pipe section is cut out to a matching length. The KwikRepair Tee is then put in place, the Tee and pipe are primed and cemented, and the couplings are pulled out to full length. Job done.

Quik-Fix Telescopic Repair CouplingPVC Quick-Fix Telescopic Repair Coupling

A Quik-Fix coupling is simple and quick. Simply cut out section of broken pipe slightly longer than compressed Quik-Fix, apply primer and glue to fittings and expand Quik-Fix to fill the gap. Leak repaired. A great advantage is, because the fitting expands, there is some small room for error in how big a section of pipe you remove. For example, if you cut 1” less than the suggested length the Quik-Fix will still work. You just don’t expand it all the way. However, don’t cut too long, they don’t stretch.

Pipe FixPVC Pipe Fix Repair Tee

Pipe fix give you more options in your repair. It is a section of replacement pipe with the fittings already in place. This provides a one piece, no hunting for parts, repair. It also offers the option of a straight repair or adding a Tee joint, allowing replacement of a failed Tee or the option of installing a new line.

Primer and CementFast Setting PVC Cement

Regardless of which method you choose all of these require a quality primer and cement, excluding the compression coupling.

For More Information

For more information about anything involving irrigation, please visit us at www.SprinklerWarehouse.com.

Repair or Replace an Irrigation Valve?


Hunter HPV Series 1" Valve

Hunter HPV Series 1" Valve

How To Repair Sprinkler System if something goes wrong? Here I am going to tell you a trick on irrigation system repair.

When you have a faulty solenoid, It is better to buy the valve and take the top off the new valve and replace the old valve top. Plus a new valve is cheaper than if you buy the parts separately. This way you will end up with a new diaphragm, solenoid, and internal filters. You will have a new valve since the bottom body piece is only a PVC base and does not go bad. The trick is you must use the exact model valve as the old valve. If you can not find the same valve (if yours is so old that we do not have it online) then we suggest you replace the entire valve. I hope this little irrigation help helps! Please visit SprinklerWarehouse.com for your parts and replacements!