November 4, 2011

Sprinkler Valves

My good friend, The Rain Maker published an awesome post today about sprinkler valves titled What's Wrong with my Sprinkler Valve. The Rain Man went over what has to be every possible reason why your sprinkler valve might be malfunctioning and what you can do to test it and, of course, fix it. It's a great post and I highly recommend you check it out.
Most of The Rain Man's post might seem like another language to some of you beginners out there. He does do an excellent job at the start of the post by explaining the basic function of an Orbit sprinkler valve, otherwise referred to as a solenoid valve.
Also known as a station, zone, or solenoid valve, your automatic lawn sprinkler system has a remote control (rc) valve for each watering station.
When the connecting solenoid is energized by your controller, it opens the valve mechanically, allowing the water source to flow through to all the sprinklers connected on that circuit.

What is a Solenoid Valve?

Solenoids are found all over the place, not just in watering systems. They are a little complex but are basically consist of 2 parts: An electrical part and a Mechanical part.
The valve is controlled by an electric current through a solenoid:
  • in the case of a two-port valve the flow is switched on or off
  • in the case of a three-port valve, the outflow is switched between the two outlet ports
  • Multiple solenoid valves can be placed together on a manifold
Solenoid valves are the most frequently used control elements in fluidics. Their tasks are to shut off, release, dose, distribute or mix fluids. Solenoids offer fast and safe switching, high reliability, long service life, good medium compatibility of the materials used, low control power and compact design.

Choosing the right Sprinkler Valve

Valve Types

When choosing a sprinkler valve, you must sift through the different types and determine which one is for you. There are many different types of sprinkler valves:
  1. Anti-Siphon

  2. These valves help ensure that your drinking water stays safe.
  3. In-line

  4. These valves are usually installed below the ground and do not feature built-in backflow protection. This type of valve is generally used in conjunction with a 'backflow preventer'.
  5. Emergency Shut-off

  6. Cut the water supply to all or part of the system temporarily to prevent damage or to allow for maintenance and repair.
  7. Built-In Pressure Regulators

  8. Valves with pressure regulators control the pressure level directly, rather than relying on a system regulator that may be too far away to effectively regulate pressure at far ends of the line.

Also consider:

  • Size
  • Does the valve "bleed" internally or externally?
  • Does the valve prevent backflow?
  • Local laws and regulations may dictate which types of valves and backflow preventers you can or cannot (or must) use, so be sure to consult them prior to installing your sprinkler system.


Phil Goold is a retired landscaper of 30 years. He loves being outside more than anything else, except maybe pie. He enjoys connecting with other landscapers and gardeners because everyone brings something new and fun to the table. Connect with Phil on Twitter and Google+.

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