Useful Irrigation System Maintenance Information
Summer Sprinkling Restrictions
Residential water consumption almost doubles during the summer months. It is therefore necessary to conserve water, and watering demand, by sprinkling with care. Read on to find out when, why and how to use water wisely all summer long.
When can I water?
Greater Vancouver has twice-weekly lawn sprinkling regulations in effect from June 1 to September 30. When you can sprinkle depends on where you live. If you live at an even-numbered address, lawn sprinkling is allowed Wednesday and Saturday, from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. If you live at an odd-numbered address, lawn sprinkling is allowed Thursday and Sunday, from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
When is the best time to water?
Water in the morning rather than in the evening. It is recommended that residents with automatic irrigation systems set them to operate between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., to minimize peak period demand on the water system.
How do regulations apply to flower beds and gardens?
Under sprinkling regulations, only lawn sprinkling is affected. If a total sprinkling ban is imposed, then the watering of vegetable gardens, flowers and shrubs must be done by hand using containers or a hose with a spring loaded shut-off. Drip irrigation systems (or low volume systems) are the most efficient method of watering clusters of plants, and are exempt from sprinkling regulations.
Why do we need regulations?
Greater Vancouver does receive a lot of rain but most of it falls in autumn and winter. Much of the rainfall and snowmelt in the watersheds cannot be captured for later use when dry weather comes.
Recent population growth in the Lower Mainland has led to increased demand for water. That’s why the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD), since 1993, has implemented twice-weekly lawn sprinkling regulations.
Sprinkling regulations provide a fair system for lawn watering throughout the Lower Mainland, while controlling summer water demand. By taking measures to conserve water throughout the summer, we can also avoid more restrictive measures in the event of drought conditions.
How much water do Greater Vancouver residents use?
Residential water use accounts for more than half of total regional water consumption. On average, residential consumption is about 350 liters (about 77 gallons) per person per day.
On a hot summer day, outdoor watering of lawns and gardens can cause consumption to double.
Valve Trouble Shooting
The following should give you an understanding of how an irrigation valve works, and some trouble shooting tips.
An irrigation valve is very simple inside with few moving parts. It is a normally closed valve, meaning it will not open unless manually or electrically told to do so (or if it needs servicing!).
The Electronics (Solenoid):
On the top of the valve is the 24 volt solenoid. It is a cylindrical (usually black) item with two wires coming from the top. This is an electromagnet with a plunger and a spring inside. When the valve is told to open electrically from the controller, the plunger is pulled up into the body of the solenoid. When the power is shut off the spring pushes the plunger back into a down position.
When you remove the bonnet of the valve you will find inside it a rubber diaphragm with a spring sitting above it. When the valve is open water flows under the diaphragm pushing it up and out of the way.
How it Works:
When a valve is first installed and the water turned on, water enters the valve and sits above and below the diaphragm exerting equal pressure on both sides. The additional pressure of the spring above the diaphragm, keeps it closed.
By opening the bleed screw on the top of the valve, water sitting above the diaphragm is vented to the atmosphere thereby relieving the pressure above the diaphragm and allowing it to be pushed up by the water pressure below so water can flow through the valve.
When opening manually only turn the bleed screw until water starts to bleed or you may lose it on a stream of water and only close finger tight or you may strip the screw.
When the solenoid is activated and the plunger sucked up inside it a port is uncovered that the plunger sits on when in the down position. Water sitting above the diaphragms bleeds through this port and into the piping down stream. The valve will now open.
On some valves the manual on/off is achieved by a quarter turn of the solenoid.
The solenoid can be removed entirely by simply unthreading it from the bonnet.
If the valve won’t open
Check the electronics and wiring. To check the solenoid have someone turn the valve on at the controller while you stay by the valve. Did you hear the plunger click as it went up? Has there been any work done around the garden where the wire between controller and valves may have been cut? What are your inground wire connections like? Are they waterproof?
If the valve won’t close
It is not likely to be the electrics, but something physical. Shut off the water supply then open the body of the valve. Check the diaphragm for holes or being misshapen. Check that there is no debris in the valve or any of its ports. Debris in the valve can prevent the diaphragm from sealing on its seat when closing. Remove the solenoid for inspection (careful the plunger doesn’t fall out and get lost) make sure the plunger is not hung up on the spring or missing, both will cause the valve to stay open.
Sometimes you won’t find anything, but on reassembling the valve find everything in working order. Valves can stick after a winter of unuse and debris is often dislodged when the valve is taken apart.
We hope you found this informative. If you have any questions we would be happy to try to answer them.
Below is a generic picture of an exploded valve.
2. Nut Cap
3. Bleed Screw
4. Cover Assembly
8. Manual Bleed Assy
9. O Ring
October or November is usually when it’s time to shut down and winterize your irrigation system for the year.
Most systems are installed with either a blow out connection or as a self-draining system.
If you have a blow out connection, either:
- 1. Call a contractor to come by with a compressor to winterize
- 2. Do it yourself
To do it yourself you need access to, or must rent an air compressor. Your compressor must have a large enough tank to be able to fill your irrigation lines with air all the way to the last head, and blow all the water out. The pressure is of lesser importance than volume, 30 or 40PSI will do the job.
When you have the compressor hooked up, blow out the system one zone (valve) at a time, by opening the valves either using the controller or manually. Blow thru each zone until no more water comes out of the heads then go thru the entire system a second time. Be careful not to leave the compressor running for too long without any valves open, as heat can be generated at the compressor to PVC connection and the PVC fitting soften and blow under the pressure.
If you have a self draining system
Shut off the valve at your main connection. Open the manual drain (if you have one), between the main shut off and the electric valves and leave it open all winter. That’s it! Your automatic drains will take care of the laterals (pipes after the electric valves).
If you have a hose, battery operated timer
Disconnect your timer and take it inside for the winter. When storing, make sure the unit is completely empty of water, in a frost-free environment and remove batteries. Even a slight frost can cause freezing of any water that may be sitting in an exposed timer.
Generally speaking drip systems, built with polyethylene pipe, do not need draining in the wintertime.
Deepest darkest winter is not the time most of us are thinking about our irrigation system, or lack of it. In fact, it’s the time of year to think about holidays in the sun. But, if you are thinking of changes or additions it’s a good time to come in and see us, and get organized for spring, “cause in winter we got time”.
Feel free to call with any questions or concerns.
If you have been thinking of cheering up your garden during our long winter nights, we now carry a line of landscape lighting. Lighting can be installed to enhance your property, provide a sense of security or make the surroundings a little safer for everyone. With low-voltage systems, a landscape lighting system can be installed in a matter of a few short hours complete with timers and/or photocells.
We carry the HADCO brand of lights. You can chose from fixtures made of powder-coated aluminum, plastic composite or solid brass. HADCO also has a wide variety of fixtures with which to create a system personalized to your garden and taste, including path lights, up and down lights, underwater lights, driveway lights, bollards, both recessed and surface mount deck and wall lights, and more!
What is Backflow & Why Is A Protection Device Necessary?
Backflow is the unwanted reverse flow of liquids in a piping system. The usual causes of reverse flow are back-pressure and/or back-siphonage. A backflow prevention device has internal, one way, spring loaded valves that allow water to flow through the device but seal closed under backpressure.
In irrigation systems this prevents the possibility of contaminated water sitting in the irrigation piping from back siphoning, past your main water connection, into your drinking supply.
Double check valves (DCVA), dual check valves (DCV), are effective against back-pressure and/or back-siphonage. Pressure vacuum breakers (PRV) are designed to prevent back-siphonage only and not effective against backflow due to back-pressure. All three devices are used to protect the water system from substances which are not hazardous to health, (low hazard).
A hose connection vacuum breaker (HVB) consists of a positive seating check valve and an atmospheric vent. This device is designed specifically for use on hose thread outlets
Irrigation Controller Programming Tips
Almost all multi station automatic irrigation controllers have at least 2 programs with multiple start times within each program. The most common problem when programming the controllers is understanding the multiple start times.
For instance: You have a 6 station (valve) controller, each station (valve) operates a group of sprinkler heads.
Lets say: Valves 1, 2, and 3 operate heads in different lawn areas Valves 4, 5, and 6 operate heads in flower gardens
Programs: We will group valves 1,2 & 3 into program A which will water twice a week according to water restrictions. We will group valves 4,5 & 6 into program B which will water every other day.
Run times: In program A we will put in a run time for each valve i.e. 30 min. for valve 1,the sunny side of the garden and 15 min each for 2 & 3 the shady side. Then zero out the time for valves 4,5 and 6 as they will be in program B.
Start times: Put in a start time for program A. This will start the sequence of valve 1 (30 min) when it shuts down valve 2 will start(15min) then valve 3 starts. DO NOT try to program a start time for each valve. They run in sequence the 2nd start time will start the sequence (1 then 2 then3) again. Go to program B, zero out valves 1,2 and 3, then program valves 4, 5 and 6 as above.
Some of the new controllers will allow independent programming for each valve.
Vancouver Irrigation Supply Ltd., is a member in good standing
of the IIABC – Irrigation Industry Association of British Columbia