How To Troubleshoot a Faulty Sprinkler System

A well-installed sprinkler system is a great way to keep your lawn looking its best, but with buried pipes and complex construction, many homeowners may quickly become in over their heads when they suddenly stop working. However, there is hope because the problem is often quite simple for homeowners to solve. Often the issue is as simple as a clogged sprinkler head, a loss of power, or a back-flow preventer that has been shut off. Here are a few steps to take to troubleshoot your sprinkler system.

Clogged or Broken Sprinkler Head

The first step you can take to determine why your sprinklers won’t turn on is a quick review of your sprinkler heads. It is quite common for these devices to become clogged with dirt and debris as they remain close to the soil. Fortunately, your sprinkler’s user manual should have detailed information on how to remove the sprinkler heads and give them a good cleaning.

If they are unclogged, it is still possible that the sprinkler head may be broken. This is not uncommon as the plastic casing can easily become cracked. Also, when these devices rest a little too far above the ground, they can be run over by a lawnmower or car. If your sprinkler head is busted, it can easily be replaced with the same or similar head.

Loss of Power

In most yards, a sprinkler system is divided into a series of zones with distinct irrigation needs. Each of these zones is controlled by its own electrical valve, which can be the cause for sprinklers not turning on, particularly if the issue is unique to one zone. This may be caused by a circuit breaker in the main panel being shut off or a transformer that is disconnected.

Check to make sure that the breaker is turned on and that the transformer is plugged in, and if this does not solve the issue, consider checking the voltage on each of the zone lines with a multimeter. The controller’s user manual should indicate the required voltage, and if your reading is off from this, it is likely time to replace the controller.

Shut Off Back-flow Preventer

In some cases, the issue may be as simple as a back-flow device that has not been turned on. If the valves on your sprinkler system’s back-flow prevention device have not been fully set to open, it can cause low water pressure or a complete failure to turn on. There should be two valves for you to check and make sure are fully turned on, one on the horizontal pipe and one for the vertical ones.

Leaking Pipes

Unfortunately, if none of the previous issues were the cause of your problem, this could indicate that a leaking pipe is at fault. Unfortunately, this could mean a lot of digging to solve the problem. Often the cause of damaged underground sprinkler pipes is tree roots growing around the pipe, crushing them. So, if you know that some of your pipes run next to a tree, this could be a good place to begin your search for a damaged pipe. Otherwise, it can be a good idea to start from your last functioning sprinkler head, if any still work. Once you locate the leak, use a hacksaw to remove the damaged portion of the pipe and replace it.

Final Thoughts

Sprinkler systems can be confusing, but if you work progressively through these common causes, you can often diagnose the issue on your own and solve it surprisingly easily. However, if this seems like too much work or you can’t seem to pin down the cause, don’t hesitate to call in professional help.

Contact Us

For general plumbing services or issues with your irrigation back-flow preventer, contact J Griffin Heating & Plumbing. Our professional team of plumbers has more than three decades of experience with heating and plumbing services. Call us at 781-520-1212 and connect with us on Facebook.