The heart of any underground irrigation system is the valves. And just like the human heart, if your valves have problems, the rest of the system can suffer. Luckily there are a handful of simple tips you can follow to make sure your valves stay in top shape.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is ensure your system is winterized properly. We see more valves broken because the water was not cleared and froze during the winter, than any other problem. Valves are built to withstand immense water pressures, but frozen water can break even the most ridged materials. For more tips on how to winterize properly, see our winterization guide.
Next, keep the internals of your valves free of obstructions by ensuring your lines are clean. Besides large debris like rocks, even small substances like sand or seeds can tear apart valve diaphragms. If you’re using secondary water, ensure you have a filter before the valve to catch possible obstructions. You may also want to open your valves (if possible) to clean them out by hand at the end of each season.
Solenoids are another big problem area. Most problems result because connections from the wiring and the solenoid is not properly sealed and moisture causes shorting out. If a short happens, the solenoid is dead and will have to be replaced. Thankfully, it’s not that difficult and solenoids aren’t very expensive. But still, you can get years, or even decades of use out of a solenoid if it’s properly wired. Use grease caps to connect wiring, this will keep moisture out.
Making sure connections are solid is another top tip. When the valve is connected to the main line and then out to the individual zones, your connections need to be secure otherwise you’ll get leaks over time, which can have a big impact on your water bill. Orbit offers many solutions, including our PVC-Lock, screw on preassembled manifolds as well as traditional glue together fittings. When installed correctly, each provides a secure connections.
Finally, part of the overall health of valves is where they’re housed. A valve box functions like a ribcage for your heart. An impact resistant box can keep out water, animals that might chew on your wires and prevent being stepped on. But inside the box is equally important. Using a few inches of gravel, you’ll be able to prevent muddy buildup, instead allowing any moisture to drain. This can also mean that if any repairs are necessary, it will be a clean, easy to access environment, which eliminates possibly hours of frustration.