Sprinkler Valve Problem

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  #1  
Old 12-07-08, 03:38 PM
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Unhappy Sprinkler Valve Problem

I've been having a persistent problem that is driving me crazy and I hope someone here could possibly help.

I have a 9 zone sprinkler system run automatically via a timer in my garage. I am having an issue with one of the zones. When the sprinkler is activated automatically, it can take up to 5 minutes (for this problem zone) for the sprinklers to actually start coming up from the ground. Once they start to come up, it can another minute or two for them to get enough pressure to come up fully. All other sprinkler zones come up immediately and fully when it is there turn.

If instead of using the automatic method I engage the valve manually by using the bypass screw, the sprinklers will come up immediately and fully. This may lead one to believe the issue is with the solenoid, however, it is not. The reason I say this is as follows:

1. I had replaced the solenoid with a new one.

2. I took the solenoid system from a different working zone and put it on the zone that didn't work. I also took the solenoid system from the non-working zone and put it on a zone that had worked. The result was the same where the zone that I've had problems with continued to have the same problems and the zone that worked before continued to work normally with the other solenoid system.

3. I removed the solenoid from the non-working zone and then turned on the water. This has the effect of basically starting that zone just like the automated system would. That is, without the solenoid piece that goes up and down it is just like it is in the retracted position when the automated system controls it. I still had the exact same problem as when the automated system was fully engaged.

So from the above three tests I think it is apparent that the solenoid is not the issue here.

Lastly, I removed the top of the valve to check for damage or debris. It is perfectly clean. There is not a screen there but there is a rubber gasket. I cleaned everything (even if it already was clean) and I checked that there was nothing blocking the small hole where the solenoid is. None of this helped.

I am confused because if the issue was the valve I would assume I would also have this problem with the manual release screw and as mentioned above, I do not. Given that I have also ruled out the solenoid as well leaves me really scratching my head.


Please help!

Many thanks.
 
  #2  
Old 12-08-08, 07:58 AM
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that rubber gasket you mentioned is often called a diaphragm. I probably spelled that wrong. Anyhow, they can become stiff over time and not allow the water to open fully or get past them. This is the part you need to replace. However, nobody really sells them alone so you will probably have to replace the whole valve or at least buy one.

What brand of valve is this? And, is it composed of plastic or metal? I dont mean the screws, i mean the whole body.

Sounds like this comes from a pressurized water source such as city water.

Since the solenoid works fine on other valves you can re-use it, or keep it for a spare in case one fails... which eventually,they all do.

If you partially unscrew the solenoid does the water/zone open up fully and pretty much immediately every time? You may have to 1/2 spin it off to see. You do this the same was as you open that bleeder screw you mentioned.

If you can take a picture of the valve that would help to let you know where you can find a replacement or replacement parts. Hundreds of models out there.
 
  #3  
Old 12-08-08, 10:22 AM
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Thanks very much for your reply, Captain!

You are correct that it is the diaphragm. I had a brain lock on the name of that part. I can tell you that when I took this rubber diaphragm out, it was still very pliable. Now I have no idea what it is supposed to feel like, but it certainly wasn't what I would call stiff. Also, doesn't the manual bleeder screw have to use this same mechanism? If the diaphragm is the issue shouldn't I have the same issue with the manual method? Not saying you aren't right, but just trying to understand this.

The valve looks to be made by a company called "Superior". I have some pics below. As you can see from the pics it is metal. I did not take pics of the inside of the valve but can if you think that will help. Essentially inside there is a little metal tube coming up from the center. Sitting on it is a metal washer. On top of that washer is the rubber diaphragm and on top of the diagram is another washer and a nut to hold it all down.

Yes it is coming from a city water source.

Yup, I've already had to replace other solenoids.

If I unscrew the solenoid a bit water will start to come out around the solenoid. I haven't tried it, but I am sure this will work as you suggest. However, I cannot leave it like that lest I have a consistent water leak as a result. This is also why I cannot leave the bleeder screw open partially. It is only at the point that water starts to come out of the bleeder screw or the solenoid that the system works.

I should also add that I have now noticed that the valve itself is making a lot of loud noises including knocking sounds. The sprinklers of that zone will start "pulsating" as well. It is clear that the pressure on that zone is inconsistent. Of course this all stops the second I open the bleeder screw when, as described before, everything works perfectly.

Lastly, if I do need to replace the valve itself for any reason, I am not sure how to do this. From the pics you can see how they attach and obviously it doesn't screw in since there are two attachments that can turn together. How do I get this off and what would I need to put a new one on? Hopefully it doesn't come to that and I suppose if it is the diaphragm and I have to buy a whole new expensive valve, I can just replace the diaphragm with the one from the new valve. However, if the issue requires a new valve be put in, I'd like to understand this better.

Here are the pics and I GREATLY appreciate the help!



 
  #4  
Old 12-08-08, 11:32 AM
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Edit: something quick you can try is to unscrew that "handle" shaped like an X a few turns or all the way open. Then try this again and see if it opens better for you. This is your flow-control and its the equivalent of turning your shower open fully, closed or anywhere in between. Opening and closing it all the way can sometimes fix something that is "sticking" such as is your case. If this doesnt work, then keep going on in my post... Some of what I said earlier does not apply because of the type of valve you have. And those are made of brass in case you are into recycling.


And actually, the pics are of great help and they offer one more insight as to what I think is wrong. What you have are called "atmospheric valves". Most city and state ordinances have made these illegal and require you to have a vacuum breaker or backflow prevention device (two names--same thing) installed instead. Now that I have covered my legal bottom....

There is most likely something wrong with the outlet chamber on these and not just the diaphragm. This is not something that modern valves have. Replacing the diaphragm won't fix that--only replacing the entire valve will. Because of that, your questions made sense.

I was thinking of a traditional valve in which reacts differently.

You can replace this with a like-kind valve. Rainbird still makes a valve of this kind as do other manufacturers. Not all of the box stores carry them, but many do. This would be your least expensive way to do the repair but may not be legal where you live. The store won't know if that's true or not, believe me.


To replace it you will need a bottom feeding valve to make this easiest. Get a replacement valve of the same size that has a threaded female opening on the bottom. You will need 2 MA's (male adaptors) of the same size pipe (looks like 3/4"). A small chunk of 3/4" pvc and at least one 3/4" coupling. I suggest you get a few extra parts in case something breaks when you do this. PVC is not made for direct sunlight and it gets brittle over time. You will also need a couple of grease nuts or grease packs for the wires.

Put teflon tape (not pipe dope!!) onto the male adaptors and screw them in by hand into your new valve. Then tighten them with a wrench or channel locks, etc. With the water off, cut the pipe as closely to the old MAs as possible and as straight as possible. Let everything dry overnight and test by turning on the water SLOWLY. Then, if it holds you can connect your wires.

Glue it back together as best you can, and hopefully the replacement valve matches the size/distance of the old stuff, or things will get a bit tricky on you.

I suggest total valve replacement and keep your old solenoid in case one of your other valves ever goes bad. The one that is having trouble turning on will eventually fail and either not open at all or never close.
 
  #5  
Old 12-08-08, 07:03 PM
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Thanks again Captain for all of your fantastic help.

I stopped at at Lowes today and discovered they have a brass valve just like mine, however, made by Orbit. The guy at Lowes advised me to cut my old one out and bring it in so they can match up what I need. I cut it off this evening and will bring it to them tomorrow. Not the straightest cut in the word, but hopefully it is still okay. I'll pick up the stuff tomorrow and hope that does it.

Thanks again for your time and thorough responses!

P.S. I played with the handle many times before and it does not solve the issue unfortunately.
 
  #6  
Old 12-09-08, 07:41 AM
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The reason you want a straight cut is so that you can get as much of that pipe into the fitting as possible for the glue to take hold.

Buy extra parts--you can always return them. Dont forget teflon tape, pvc primer and pvc glue.

before you glue this all together, flush out that pipe to keep any debris (pvc shavings) from going into your valve once you turn the water back on.

the primer and glue come with instructions on them, and the only problem you could face would be that the valves are slightly longer or shorter than one another... since your pipes going in and out are parallel.

good luck.
 
  #7  
Old 12-09-08, 09:59 AM
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Captain,

One question I have is the height of the valve relative to the other valves. Having to cut off the old valve off means that there is less PVC to mount to. In this case the new valve would then be sitting slightly lower to the ground than the other valves. Is this just an aesthetic issue or is there a plumbing/pressure type problem I will experience as a result?

The PVC of the old valve is sticking 4" out of the ground as it stands now. The distance from the ground to the other valves is 5.5". I need to take into account the size of the coupling I will have to use, but I probably lost about 1/2" or so from cutting.

Also after cutting the PVC yesterday I saw some debris from that exercise in the pipe so I flushed it then. I put some rag in both pipes to keep everything out of them until I need to connect the new valve.
 
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Old 12-09-08, 11:44 AM
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I didn't realize until I got the new valve home that the valve actually comes apart. Given that I wonder if I could have just unscrewed and replaced the valve without having had to cut the pipe, etc. Granted with the old valve off I cannot get the thing to budge so perhaps it would have been too stuck on there, but knowing this I probably would have tried.

I've got everything though and I am about to give it a whirl.
 
  #9  
Old 12-09-08, 01:02 PM
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replacing it without swapping parts was a good idea.

there are a few reasons those valves were higher up in the air. 1. makes them easier to see/work with. 2. since they are acting as your backflow, they are supposed to be a minimum of 12" above the highest head in the yard.

I would guess that they were either installed by a homeowner, or a less professional company. But since the city has not yelled at you for them yet, if you have to lower it, go ahead so long as you have room to work with.

If these things are an eyesore, look into a plastic "rock" at a local garden center. They are lightweight and can cover these without hurting anything in the ground.

Glad to hear its all working out well.
 
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Old 12-09-08, 01:32 PM
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Thanks, Captain. In looking at the entire valve, the portion that actually connects to the two pipes coming from the ground is basic and doesn't have any parts. The other two portions of the valve screw out. This is why I think I could have replaced them (assuming I could strong arm the old valve open). I could be wrong though as obviously I am no one's idea of a plumber.

I am quite sure it was done by a contractor when the house was built in 2002. My neighbors have similar setups.

It is not an eyesore as they are pretty well hidden in the back corner of the yard behind some trees. Unless you are looking, you don't know they are there. I was just wondering about the height to be sure a plumbing issue wouldn't occur by one valve being slightly lower than the others. Having first done a dry fit I can see that the difference is negligible so I am not worried and this new valve looks the same (although newer) as the others so from a looks department we're good.

I have since connected the new valve. Actually I connected the lower portion and will screw on the upper portions in a bit. I may have been a bit messy with the primer and glue, but it seems to be okay and again it is well hidden anyway. My white pipe is a bit more purple now (that primer really runs!) It has been drying and I'll let it do that until tomorrow. The bottle says to wait an hour and then you can test to 75psi, however, I have no idea what pressure the water is at so I figure I should play it safe and just wait the full 24 hours.

I'll post again the outcome which I hope doesn't require me to ask more questions!
 
  #11  
Old 12-09-08, 10:59 PM
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when you turn on the water, fill it slowly. Open the water part-way in the basement or wherever it is. Wait for the water to stop filling 1-4 minutes. Then, open it full if it stops. If it doesnt, you have a leak somewhere.

Dont worry about the purple, it wont hurt anything but it wont get you into the museum of art, either.

In a neighborhood where that kind of thing is common its usually one neighbor who does it himself (or the contractor) and then helps others do it... or they all hire the same irrigation guy who doesnt know the local laws/codes or doesnt care. Personally, I wouldn't worry about it but I just wanted to make you aware.


After this holds water, connect your wires then and protect them from water with grease nuts, or grease packs. Grease nuts have this disgusting white grease inside of them. Grease packs are what you shove the wire nuts into and they have a disgusting clear silicone in them. Either way, dont wear your best clothes when you put them on the wires.

Taking apart valves is seemingly harmless and typically causes no problems. However, older valves, just touching them seems to make them break for some reason. So dont take them apart unless you have to.

Good luck.
Kirk
 
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Old 12-09-08, 11:02 PM
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I realized I never answered your "hammering" question.

That can be fixed sometimes with a hammer arrester installed on the water line feeding the irrigation system. You will need a plumber or some handy plumbing skills to install one and its been my experience that they have a 50/50 chance of stopping that slamming sound.

You probably have over 40 psi if you are hammering.

My water sits at a static 80 psi, which is unusually high. However, I never have problems running the sprinklers and taking the shower, either. Its has its advantages.
 
  #13  
Old 12-10-08, 01:04 PM
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Captain,

I tested the system today and I have a lot of good news, but one piece that isn't so good.

First, the pipes are solid and withstood the pressure without any leaking. The second piece of good news is that the zone now works correctly in that it comes up immediately and fully. However, there is one piece of bad news.

There appears to be a slow dripping leak from one of the couplers that screws into the valve. To answer the next question, yes I did use thread tape. The nightmare here is that there is no way for me to unscrew this without again cutting the pipe which we established earlier wasn't exactly sticking far out of the ground. I would be okay with this slow drip if it only occurred when the valve was on and watering, however, it occurs as long as the main water is on so in other words, 24X7.

I just cannot believe after all of this and me worrying about the actual pipes that something this stupid and what would be easy to fix if I could unscrew it, has potentially undone the work. Is there any other way for me to fix this issue without having to cut the valve off again? Also, there is no way to test this even the next time since I cannot put it under pressure until the whole thing is glued down. Any suggestions appreciated.

Also with regards to the hammering. I mentioned that only in context with the problems I had with this valve. The hammering is not a normal occurrence for my setup. Once I replaced the valve with this new one, the hammering went away.
 
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Old 12-10-08, 06:15 PM
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Looks like I may have solved the problem. I went to Home Depot and found some plumbers epoxy putty. I applied this around the coupler and valve area where the slow drip is. Stuff dries in 15 minutes. Turn the water back on and no more drip. I waited quite a while and still no drip. I'm going to keep the water on all night so tomorrow if I still see nothing I will be confident that it is resolved.

My lesson learned with this issue is that I probably didn't apply enough tape to the threads although the other threaded coupler has no leaks. Otherwise that epoxy stuff is pretty neat and handy to have around.

Thanks again Captain for all of your patient assistance. My lawn thanks you as well!
 
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Old 12-11-08, 08:09 AM
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I wrap teflon around about 6 times, others do it 10-15 times. You could, in the future, fix this with 1 coupler. There is probably enough "bend" that you could cut the pipe on one, or even both sides, and re-tighten that down if you need.

If its on the feed (or below) the valve, then yeah, you are going to have to fix it for sure. If its on the outgoing side, you can probably live with it.

Not sure how long that putty will hold, but If it does not you can try JB weld. It will bond to both the metal and the plastic if you follow the instructions carefully. I use rubber gloves whenever I use it.

My personal feeling, though, is never to rig something up like that but to replace any failed portion or repair it properly, but I can understand where you are coming from.

If it fails, scrape that off with paper towels or rags and try JB weld.

Glad to see it worked out for ya.
 
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Old 12-11-08, 05:51 PM
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The putty didn't hold as I found it moist when I checked early today. I can see that small drops are continuing.

I had no choice but to do the unthinkable which was to cut it off again. I see this as a last chance as I don't think I'd want to get any closer to the ground with what pipe is there. I applied copious amounts of thread tape and then I got myself a larger wrench so I could really tighten the coupler fully to the valve. It would be unbelievable if it leaked now. My concern once again is for the pipe itself. This turned out to be no issue the last time as it held perfectly, but this time the pipe was not in as good of shape as before. This is due to my armature gluing efforts. I think it should be on there secure, but we'll see tomorrow after it has its full 24 hours to dry.

This is my last shot before I'd have to call a pro in. I would assume they would have to lengthen the pipe if it were to be cut again. Hopefully I won't have to find out.

We'll see tomorrow....
 
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Old 12-12-08, 12:51 PM
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Twice seems to be a charm. Turned on the main water today and the setup seems water tight. No leaks or slow drips that I could find. Sprinkler zone worked perfectly as well. I'll need to give it the 24 hour test to make sure I don't have any super slow leaks, but for now it is bone dry and looking good. Beer 4U2
 
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Old 12-12-08, 08:37 PM
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Congratulations. A pro would have done the same thing you just did, except they should have highly suggested you install a backflow prevention device.

Next time you do this try to wipe up extra glue as it will eat through the PVC over time. It takes years so don't worry about it.
 
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Old 12-12-08, 08:54 PM
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Captain,

The valve I have on there says it is an "Anti-Siphon Valve" to prevent contaminants from entering the household water supply. Is this the same thing as you are referring to below as "backflow prevention"?

Also, I don't see any extra glue (the blue stuff). I do see the primer which had dripped down the length of the PVC making it look purple. I tried wiping it when it happened, however, it immediately stained it and there was no way to remove it. Perhaps some solvent can, but I don't know.
 
  #20  
Old 12-13-08, 03:41 PM
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what you did is just fine. Those are supposedly backflow preventing valves. Most building codes do not count them as a backflow prevention device such as the Febco Vacuum Breaker or other models.

Your glue will be fine and its all dried now. No worries.
 
 

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