Spring has come and it is time to open our doors, clean our houses, and prep our lawns. One of the necessary spring chores we have to check off the Spring Start-Ups Checklist is opening your sprinkler system. Making sure you follow the proper steps when opening your winterized irrigation system from the dormant season is important to prevent damage to your system and personal property.

At Clearwater Irrigation, we wanted to share our expertise to provide a basic 7 steps to open a sprinkler system in Spring. These simple steps are for anyone to be able to understand should you choose to do it yourself. We are always available to help with this process and provide professional and expert services to ensure a safe opening.

How to open a Sprinkler System in Spring?

Opening your sprinkler system can be made much easier by making sure you have all the proper tools you will need on hand. Most irrigation systems do not require specialized tools, however, this is dependent on the system installed on your property. The basic tools you will need ready are:

  • Flathead Screwdriver
  • Small Thin Object to Clear Debris from Sprinkler Eyes (Needle, Pencil, etc)
  • Pliers
  • Sprinkler Valve Key
  • Ground Probe Rod

Sprinkler valve keys depend on your system and may not be required. Inspect your system to see if you have the tools needed to open and close all the water valves before starting this process.

Check Your Soil

We are not the only things thawing out after a long winter chill. Before considering opening your sprinkler system, you have to check your lawn’s soil permafrost. Introducing water into your sprinkler system before the ground is thawed can cause damage to your pipes and lawn sprinkler resulting in expensive repairs. Use a ground probing rod to determine the depth of frozen soil. A minimum of 12 inches of thawed soil is required for a safe irrigation system opening. Be thorough in your inspection by probing several areas of your lawn for safety.

Close All Valves

After your soil is thawed, you are ready to start prepping your lawn sprinkler system. Closing ALL valves of your sprinkler system is a critical step to ensure a safe sprinkler system opening. There are multiple valves to close and inspect for any sprinkler system. Before filling your pipes with water, closing the valves will prevent excessive pressure build-up which can cause damage to the system, your property, or even yourself.

Most irrigation systems share common valves you should look for:

  • Main Shutoff Valve
  • Backflow Preventer
  • Sprinker Head Valves

The main shutoff valve is located commonly within your home in a crawl space or basement. This will be the first valve to locate when ensuring your valves are closed and the last valve to open. Closing this valve prevents all water from being able to enter your system. Turning this valve off before checking the backflow preventer or sprinkler valves prevents unexpected pressure build-ups which could cause issues.

The backflow preventer is located above ground on the outside of your home. This valve serves as the line to prevent potential contaminated external water from your sprinkler system from flowing back into your home’s water system.

Sprinkler head valves are located at the base of the sprinkler heads on your lawn. Some sprinkler valves require a key to close the valve. After you have ensured all valves are closed, you are ready to begin inspecting your system for any debris or damage caused during the winter months.

Examining Your Sprinklers and Valves

An up-close visual inspection of all valves and sprinklers is the next step in opening your sprinkler system in spring. Start by inspecting each sprinkler head individually. Ensure all heads are straight and clear of any debris. Check for dirt, rocks, or other debris that could be obstructing the sprinkler eye. The sprinkler eye is the small mechanic on the top of your sprinkler head that opens when water is pressurized dispersing the water supply onto your lawn.

Checking your valves is equally important. A close visual inspection of all seals and valves for cracks or breaks in the seal will prevent them from becoming major issues when water is reintroduced into the sprinkler system. If any cracks are found, the use of a plumbing grade sealant to patch them could save you headaches and money.

Filling the System

After inspecting, you are ready to begin pressurizing, and reintroducing water, to the system. Begin by reopening the backflow preventer first. You are now ready to return to the main shutoff valve. SLOWLY open the main turnoff in increments to prevent a rush of water and/or quick buildup of water pressure. Opening the water valve too quickly can cause your sprinkler heads to burst off, burst your pipes, or break your seals. You should hear the sound of flowing water as the system fills which will come to stop after a short time.

Check for Leaks

When you have confirmed that the system is fully filled, you need to reinspect your sprinkler heads and valves for water leaks. When you are filling the system from the main shutoff valve, listening for the flow of water is an important trick in checking for leaks. If water does not stop filling into your system while all sprinkler valves are closed, you could have a leaking or broken pipe.

Begin Opening Your Sprinkler Valves

Begin reopening sprinkler valves while inspecting so you will be ready to test your system. No visible or audible leaks mean you are ready to do a test run of your system.

Perform a Test Run of Your System

When testing your sprinkler system, it is best to perform a manual run of 3 to 5 minutes. A visual inspection that your sprinklers are providing an equal spread of water to your lawn is crucial to ensure a healthy lawn for the coming seasons. You want to make sure:

  • All sprinklers are working
  • All sprinklers are evenly distributing water
  • All sprinklers close properly after the determined testing cycle
  • There are no leaks coming from the sprinklers while the system is off

You have now reopened your sprinkler system for Spring watering and are ready to enjoy a healthy, even lawn throughout the hot months to come.

Clearwater Irrigation by Landsburg Landscaping are experienced irrigation professionals and ready to help you with your lawn sprinkler system needs. Whether you are installing a new system, getting ready to open a sprinkler system in Spring, or need to repair your current one, The Clearwater Irrigation team is ready to be at your, and your lawns’, service. Contact us today and have your lawn happy and healthy throughout the warm season!